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: Jonathan Hischke
Bands & Artists: Dot Hacker, Cigar, The Sound Of Animals Fighting, EV Kain, Broken Bells, Norah Jones, Hella
Home: Northern California
How have you been passing time during lockdown?
I’ve been shedding my gardening and cooking chops—and enjoying both more than I would have imagined—and my inability to concoct any excuses to avoid exercising or housework is forcing me to do quite a bit of both. These activities are helping me to center myself and “zen-out” a little amid the constant bizarreness we are living though right now. Also, I’ve been busy trying to get my head around this new-fangled idea of “independent contractor unemployment relief,” which is something I’m thankful for the opportunity to be confused by.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
It took me several weeks of adjusting to this new paradigm before I could feel very creative, but fortunately writing and recording parts for a remote session recently got my juices flowing again. Otherwise, I’ve been doing a lot of dry mechanical exercises on the bass just to stay somewhat limber. My last live gig before the lockdown was filling in for the great Menno Verbaten with Annabella Lwin’s Bow Wow Wow, and the gig involved a lot of slapping and popping, which I haven’t had much call to do in several years. I’ve absolutely loved Bow Wow Wow since i was a wee lad and had such a good time getting those thumb chops back together that it’s made me want to continue—because what’s more fun than firing off slap licks when you’re alone with a bass guitar? I’ve also been delving deeper into Latin playing styles and ideas. If anyone has any Latin music study materials or recordings they would recommend, please reach out and hip me to them!
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Far and away the most inspiration and sunshine I’ve experienced recently has been watching from afar my friend (and bass overlord) Juan Alderete’s recovery from a horrible bike accident and coma. He is making such incredible progress every day and I’m so grateful to see him coming back so strong. On a much sadder note, watching this pandemic take so many musicians from us has moved me to visit and re-visit much of their work in tribute. Recently, on the same day I believe, the bass community lost both the magnificent Henry Grimes as well as the magical Matthew Seligman, so I have been spending time with Mr. Grimes via Pharaoh Sanders’ Tauhid, Albert Ayler’s Witches And Devils, and Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures, which are all mind-expanding recordings. As for Matthew Seligman, the Soft Boys catalog and his work with Thomas Dolby are buffets of inspiring ideas. I’ve been going deeper in studying the work of Joe Osborn and Tony Levin, which has been inspiring. The Lee Sklar and Guy Pratt “Lockdown Licks” segments they’ve been posting have been a treat. And this Bass Magazine Check-In series is great and helps me feel connected to our special little community.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Very little; I’m making a conscious effort to get back to the meat and potatoes of practicing, so I’m on a gear sabbatical of sorts. I borrowed a Martin acoustic bass guitar to record my parts for a “long distance quarantine acoustic set” with Cigar, the punk band I’m in. What a beautiful instrument. I’ve gotta track down one of those at some point.
What non-music activities, books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
Viewing-wise, I’ve enjoyed Knives Out, McMillions, Beastie Boys Story, Marriage Story, Cheer, Fleabag, Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise, and I’m about to go down a Kurosawa hole. I’ve been re-watching The West Wing for my personal sanity, if only to remember what a semblance of “normal” American governing could look like. I’m trying to crack the book Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, and Michael Pollan’s How To Change your Mind. I go jogging a few times a week and catch up on podcasts there—mainly news/politics based ones, and I’m looking forward to checking out my friend and bass monster Steve Jenkins' new podcast topically featuring musicians sheltering. Also, I’m getting into yoga and my body is already thanking me.
What projects do you have coming up once the world gets going again?
Since I, like most musicians, watched a busy and exciting 2020 completely evaporate in the blink of an eye, I don’t know what’s next. I’m hoping for a lot what I had on the books to be re-scheduled, but until then I’ll just be “sharpening my tools,” to be better prepared for when we come back from the brink! And I’m hoping to finally release my bass player podcast that’s been brewing forever.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Eat well, be outdoors as much as possible, limit your daily news intake, actively seek out inspiration and beauty, be kind and patient with yourself, love your family and friends, do your best to feel connected, donate or volunteer if you can, send good energy and gratitude to the first responders and essential workers risking themselves every day, and give science, research, and expertise the benefit of the doubt. And please do everything you can to stay healthy. I look forward to seeing everyone in person on the other side of this!
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Read all 180+ Bass Magazine Check-in Features: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi