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: Justin Chancellor
Bands & Artists: Tool
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
My house has never been so clean! My wife and I have always had a Monday morning cleaning routine where I vacuum and she mops, but recently I’ve dusted surfaces that hadn’t seen the clear light of day for years! I am also an avid gardener—I always wanted to be a farmer when I was a kid—so my vegetable patch and fruit trees have received an uncommonly high amount of attention, and they’re paying us back with abundance. On a more creative note, I’m restoring my 15-foot tall Statue of Liberty head, an old movie prop I purchased years ago on a tipsy impulse, which is attached to my studio. As I rebuilt the spikes of her crown, I couldn’t help hoping that I was fixing the “Corona.”
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
Because we were in the middle of touring when the lockdown happened, my chops, strength, and stamina were up, so I was able to carry that home with me and apply it to new ideas. I’m definitely playing every day and working on using my pinkie a lot more; lots of four-finger scales up and down the fretboard. I plan on breaking out my upright bass to explore a new frontier of low end for me.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I’m inspired listening to the Polish composer Witold Ludoslawski. He lived and died during the 20th Century and he experienced some incredibly challenging times during both world wars. I would describe the music as modern classical, but it seems to capture a huge depth of intense emotion, as harmonies grow and evolve out of seemingly disparate notes! I’m enjoying the melodic heaviness of the french band, Gojira. Simon and Garfunkel, Our Pathetic Age—the latest from DJ Shadow, and the near-six-hours of Underworld’s DRIFT Series 1 are also on rotation.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve been getting to know the small collection of vintage basses I own, finding the right tone for the right piece of music. Having time to experiment, it's amazing to discover the little differences that give each instrument its own unique character. I’ve been enjoying using the prototype of my Dunlop Signature Wah/Fuzz pedal, and an overdrive pedal I was given in New Zealand, called Hot Cake, by Crowther Audio. My favorite preamp that I use at home is the Great River MP-500NV, which will pump up any decent bass sound.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
Having acquired some new essential tools to fix the statue, I’ve started dabbling in carpentry. It’s very time consuming, which is ideal! For reading, it’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf, by Marlon James—which I’d describe as a hardcore, African Lord of the Rings; Bruce Lee: A Life, by Matthew, Polly; and East Is East, by T.C. Boyle. I’ve been spending a lot of time walking the dogs and weeding the veg patch. And I find pushups and squats to be an adequate work out, as well as a great mental pick-me-up.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’m working on tracks for a second MTVoid album/EP with Peter Mohamed, who is in Poland. It looks like it will have some cool guest contributions. I’ve been adding bass lines to a project headed by Canadian director Jimmy Hayward, as well as bouncing some ideas around with Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy. After taking part in a Berklee Bass Department webinar recently, I’ve been invited to contribute to Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten’s upcoming Bass Extremes record. And last, but not least, I’ve written some interesting riffs which will be reserved for Tool!
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Don’t watch too much TV. There are so many different projects and hobbies that you can get into: write music, learn a language, or try your hand at painting, to name a few. There’s great satisfaction to be found using this time for all the fix and repair projects you’ve been putting off for so long!
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi