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 Meldal Johnsen
Bands & Artists: Beck, Garbage, Nine Inch Nails, Ima Robot, Paramore, The Bird and the Bee
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been getting into the kinds of things that musician/producers love to do in those rare breaks: tightening up the studio, updating software, going through the amps, pedals, and instruments, making cables, diving deeper into gear that one is less familiar with, and lastly, doing some writing and recording experiments.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been spending a little time here and working on my fretless playing and intonation. Other than that, not much. I’m not diligent with practice.
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 revisiting the staggeringly good Cocteau Twins catalog of late. Wire and all of their fascinating offshoots over the decades is a constant inspiration source. An interesting black metal/shoegaze artist called Trautonist. Yves Tumor. Deafheaven. The Grace Jones stuff produced by Sly and Robbie. Drab Majesty. Talking Heads. Swans. Stevie Wonder. The new Nine Inch Nails, Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts are great for right now. As you can see, I’m all over the shop.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’m loving my recently acquired Custom Shop Fender Bass VI, I seem to be playing that more than anything right now. I’m messing around with this new Bergantino Forté HP head, my Sunn 200S head, and some Barefaced Audio cabs. I’m also always checking out new pedals—I’m digging the Cooper FX Outward.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I recently watched the new Curb Your Enthusiasm season, which was a cringey good time. I’m also being “forced” to watch Tiger King, which is insane; I feel like it has stolen hours from my life that I’ll never get back, yet somehow it’s riveting. I’ve got a few interesting books and podcasts going, but too much topical stuff concerning the political and societal state of affairs can get me a little wound up, so I’m suspending those for now.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’m midstream on a long-term album project that I’m wearing several hats for: writing, producing, programming, engineering, playing bass, guitar, and keys. It will probably go on for several more months. When I wrap that one up sometime late this summer, I have two other things on deck right after that. Sorry I can’t be more specific. Hopefully, by late this year or early next year, I’ll be able to focus more on just playing bass for a good stretch. That’s my goal.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Take walks, call friends, if you have kids do Lego with them. If you don’t, do Lego anyway. Work in your yard or grow some plants. Jam along to some records you like, but turn your bass upside down!
Follow Justin: Here