As the world continues to recover from the Coronavirus, we're all finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory given the subsequent lockdown that is keeping us off of stages and confined to our homes. Luckily, there's comfort in the fact that we're all in this together, and that there are still many outlets for us musicians to keep us active and sane throughout this quarantine. We're checking in with bass players from all over the world to see what they're doing to stay entertained, healthy, productive, and safe during this trying time.
Bass Player: Ian Martin Allison
Bands & Artists: Eric Hutchinson, Cory Wong, Bora York
Home: Minneapolis, MN
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Curled into a ball, rocking back and forth chanting, “The gigs will come back. The gigs will come back.” [Laughs]. I certainly felt that way the first week. But my family is in a better routine now, and I have dusted myself off and brightened my outlook. I am focusing on gratitude and health, trying to eat well and work out regularly. Honestly, I’m treating my body better than maybe I ever have. I’m also digging into a few recording projects, continuing to record remotely and doing some Skype/FaceTime lessons. Instagram has been an incredible outlet for me to document my process and make content that is (hopefully) valuable for the bass community.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve always tried to make my practice routine short and efficient. I don’t always achieve that, as I love to just have the instrument in my hands! But on my best days, I shoot for 45 minutes and break the session into three segments: Timekeeping/Theory/Improvisation. For timekeeping, I do metronome exercises with missing bars at slow tempos. I honestly love doing this. It’s my zen meditation. For theory, I run scales or modes or arpeggios that I feel rusty and dusty on. These days I’m just trying to internalize a great fingering system for the two-octave diatonic modes. Then the last 15 minutes is like a reward: Improv! This can be anything—learning a new tune, turning on a movie with the sound off and improvising the soundtrack, plugging in a new pedal and thinking about how that sound could benefit your next remote tracking session.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I get the most inspired listening to hip hop, pop, and electronic music. In terms of bass content, there are no other genres that make me more excited. JohnnyBGood just put out an incredible EP called 1up. It’s a deceptively simple electronic video game music soundtrack that is absolutely genius—mostly OP-1 production and beats with a lot of cool synth bass interest. Dua Lipa’s new record, Future Nostalgia, is a banger, and I also love a record called Kids by The Midnight—a synthwave “retro future” band that nails my ’80s kid sweet spot. The title track off of that record makes me cry. The new Childish Gambino record, 3. 15.20, is blowing my mind as well. Incredible production and out of the box thinking in terms of sounds and arrangements.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I just got a new-to-me Kubicki Factor bass that is so rad. It reminds me of an ’80s Ferrari in all the best ways. Dreamy. Also I have a few of the most recent 3Leaf Audio pedals—the Doom 2 and new Proton are especially delicious. For me, I evaluate gear based on what I think it could do for me in a session. I get hired a lot to do synth bass sounds on electric bass, so finding a great new pedal in that vein is like Christmas for me.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
We have a Peloton bike that I ride almost every day. I love the hip hop rides—I always get hipped to great new music! Also my family loves cooking shows and corny Disney teen movies. Trying to keep it light and positive in Allison-land.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I was just out playing bass and MD-ing with Eric Hutchinson in the middle of a six-week tour of the U.S. We got through two weeks before the pandemic. I was part of a fabulous record of his that at this time is still unreleased. It’s called Class of 98, and it’s a tribute to ’90s music. To me it sounds like a combination of Weezer and Elvis Costello. We were doing the tour as a three-piece, so I had a ton of room to use big fuzzy sounds and take some fun guitar solos on bass. Looking forward to resuming that tour!
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
I didn’t want to touch my bass for about a week at the beginning of this. But then the passion came back. Don’t beat yourself up for not feeling inspired, for not wanting to make music or practice. Acknowledge it and let that feeling in. It’s okay to grieve the loss of gigs or tours. Then after awhile, for me anyway, the desire to make music and pick up my bass came back and currently I’m super optimistic about the future of music!
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi