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: Joseph Karnes
Bands & Artists: Fitz And The Tantrums
Home: Los Angeles, CA
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been spending time with my family and writing and playing music when possible, as well as doing a few remote sessions. I’ve been touring consistently with Fitz & the Tantrums since 2010, and we had to cancel the last two shows of our most recent tour to head home for lockdown. The time since then has been the most concentrated time I’ve had at home during the lifespan of the band. With an 8-year-old daughter, homeschooling is a full-time job, even when sharing the duties with my wife! Add in all the cooking and cleaning, some sanity saving exercise, and you already have a pretty full day there!
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been playing and practicing more acoustic guitar lately. With Fitz, I play acoustic guitar for our stripped down radio promo shows and I’ve been enjoying diving deeper into that. I have a Yamaha A3M guitar that’s fun to play. I’ve also been spending time with my upright bass, going through Ray Brown’s Bass Method and the Simandl New Method for the Double Bass, building my endurance back up. On electric bass I’ve been working with Janek Gwizdala’s All the Good Stuff book; a few of his exercises are staples in my warm up regiment. And I’ve been revisiting the transcriptions in Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Nick Drake is a go-to for me when I want something soothing. Certain songs have grabbed me, like Big Star’s “The Ballad of El Goodo” and the Talking Heads’ “Heaven.” The lyrics seem pertinent and inspiring right now. The latest Tame Impala record, The Slow Rush, is great when taking a walk outside. I’ve been listening to DJ sets from friends on Instagram live, like DJ Hesta Prynn, and having dance parties with the family, which includes listening to such players as Bernard Edwards. I’ve also been enjoying listening to the quiet of the city these days. I can hear birds I’ve never heard before.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve rediscovered my ’67 Vox Sidewinder bass, which had been in storage. I did some recording with it at home recently and I’ve been enjoying the tonal range of it. I’ve been digging into the Kangra Pedal by Walrus Audio. It’s a filter fuzz that was a collaboration between Walrus and my brother-in-law and Saturday Night Live guitarist, Jared Scharff. It was sonically inspired by my ’60s Kay Fuzz pedal, but they expanded on the tonal possibilities. And I’ve been exploring my Universal Audio Arrow interface for recording, which is great.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Fortunately I learned Transcendental Meditation in early January before starting our last tour and having that daily practice to lean on has been incredibly important to my well being. Dancing with my wife to Instagram live dance classes, like Ryan Heffington’s, can get me smiling. Riding my bike outside is great for the endorphins and the sense of freedom it brings. Yoga is always good. We’ve just started reading Harry Potter to my daughter and it’s fun to revisit that series through her eyes. And I’ve watched Miles Davis: Birth of Cool and Ozark on Netflix.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
With Fitz & the Tantrums, we are in the middle of promoting our latest album, All the Feels. It’s a record we’re really proud of that has some very positive songs I think the world could use right now. We’re chomping at the bit to get back out there and share that music. I have a songwriting and production group called Queen Sixties with Jared Scharff and Jeremy Ruzumna, the keyboardist from Fitz. We’ve been working weekly, building up our sample library for collaborations with other producers, mainly for but not limited to, hip hop and trap artists. Jared was visiting us from New York City when the travel bans hit, so he’s been in lockdown with my family and the two of us work remotely with Jeremy via Zoom. We have some collaborations in the works with other artists that could hopefully see the light of day in the near future.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Have gratitude for what we do have instead of focusing on what we’re missing. Working on mindfulness and being present in the moment have all helped me to make the most of being at home. This is a difficult and unprecedented situation we’re in, but the opportunity for stillness in our busy world is something I’m trying to take advantage of. Getting outside when possible is key. Los Angeles hasn’t had such clean air in my lifetime of living here. The sun still shines and there’s so much beauty in the world if you choose to focus on that. A routine is a great thing to get into, but be gentle on yourself if you just need a day to chill. Play what makes you happy.
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi