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: Matt McJunkins
Bands & Artists: A Perfect Circle, The Beta Machine, Puscifer, Poppy, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Eagles of Death Metal
Home: Los Angeles, CA
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag, for the most part. I’ve been getting back into writing/recording mode. I’ve been singing everyday and playing through songs on bass and just to keep myself in that mode. So that when I finally can get in that zone again, I’ll be able to dig in and the muscle memory will still be there. I’ve also done some photography, light reading, a fair amount of cooking, some TV, and perhaps being too engaged in meme-heavy text threads for levity.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been enjoying some old songs I used to play all the time. Especially the fingerstyle stuff I haven’t done as much of lately. Like from the days when I was obsessed with Motown stuff or Jaco lines. My fingers are sort of waking up again and remembering what it was like to play through some of that. It feels nice to revisit some old friends!
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
It’s all over the place and varies day to day. In heavy rotation lately is Halcycon Digest by Deerhunter, Marquee Moon by Television, anything Talking Heads, The Road: Part I and Part II by UNKLE, a lot of Pantera, TV on the Radio, and Supervison by La Roux. It has a bright and shiny kind of feel to it, something that offers a nice juxtaposition to the somewhat doom and gloom feeling you may get after reading the news on a daily basis. Also anything by Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I had Of Natural History on in my headphones the other day while cooking and I almost let the kitchen burn down. I was so lost in it and I kept air drumming like an idiot at a silent kitchen disco. Maybe that’ll be a new thing while we all wait to get back out and go to concerts again? Silent Kitchen Idiot Disco or S.K.I.D. for short!
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
On the latest Poppy I was using my 2010 Fender Precison Deluxe—which I have dubbed “Black Dynamite”—running through a Line 6 Helix Floor unit, which is very versatile and has some great sounds. At home, I’ve been trying and loving the Amplitube from IK Multimedia lately. It has lots of routing options and great-sounding effects. Try putting their “Fender Blender” pedal on the beginning of your chain and write some My Bloody Valentine riffs, just for kicks! Two other cool pedals are the Marshmellow pitch shifter and Superball Kinetic Modulator from Alexander.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
Do something everyday if you can—some small workout, a short walk. Anything to keep yourself moving and see the sun, and some slice of nature for a bit. There are so many studies that have proven how important it is for us sentient beings to have some sort of green, living things for us to see and smell in order to be happy and help avoid the inevitable anxiety pitfalls we’re all likely experiencing at the moment. Try to not stare at a screen for too long. Read a book, write a poem, do a crossword puzzle, anything analog! Of course we’re all having some time with our trusty screens, and when you do, check out Big Mouth on Netflix, Better Call Saul on AMC, Tales from the Loop on Amazon, and The Outsider on HBO.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Lots of writing! I’ll be focusing again on The Beta Machine and some other writing projects and collaborations. And when touring and live shows come back to life again, I’ll be there. We had a Poppy European tour get postponed due to Covid-19 concerns, so look for those rescheduled dates to be posted in the future.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Keep busy! Dig into an old song or exercise routine, or learn a new song, or work on improving a new style you always wanted to dig into: pick playing, fingers, thunb, chords, arpeggios. Learn your way around a DAW, that’ll up your practice/writing game in no time! And if you feel creative and want to express something, work on writing a new song. Something you can share with the world or even just a handful of close friends. Whatever it is, just keep moving forward. And stay in touch with people. Call or video chat with people on a regular basis, for your sanity and theirs! And try to find reliable and refutable sources of information. Social media and blog sites are mostly people posting their opinions and whatever they post may not be the most accurate or useful bit of information. Do your homework. Follow up on that information and confirm it yourself. You’ll find often that you can poke holes in a lot of the things being shared online, and the result will be your having a better understanding of what is actually happening and keeping your head on straight. Stay safe and wash your damn hands!
Follow Matt: Here