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 Rubano
Bands & Artists: Angels & Airwaves, Taking Back Sunday, Lauryn Hill, Glassjaw
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
While the circumstances are obviously not great, part of me has been enjoying the uptick in free time. As someone who has spent the majority of my adult life on the road, it's nice to have a prolonged break from it. I’ve been home cooking, exercising, and keeping in touch with family and friends. I’ve also been practicing, teaching—which I’m discovering I quite enjoy, and recording remotely. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be playing and touring, as normal. But in the meantime, I’m going to make the most of it.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been focusing on acute aspects of my technique and trying to find exercises that strengthen them. That led to my hitting up some of my fellow bass players for how they overcome technique issues, and getting their takes on how to improve—shoutouts to Steve Jenkins, Jacob Smith, and Rufus Philpot. I’ve got a few Bach pieces that I’ve wrestled with over the years, and I’ve returned to transcribing solos. Anyone who feels stuck or in a rut, just reach out to what seems like literally any bass player or musician you admire because they’re probably down to teach you. One aspect that has made this lockdown a lot easier is the Stuck At Home Records project on Instagram. Isamu McGregor created it and it’s one of the highlights of my week. One person at a time lays their part down on a one-minute piece of music. Some weeks you go last, and it's like tracking on a session that doesn't have bass. On others you’re first and you get to plant the seed and watch it grow. I love seeing the choices people make and their interpretations of the piece. It has also introduced me to loads of new cats, and I always love expanding the crew!
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
I’ve been revisiting music from my developing years: James Brown, Tower of Power, Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, The Police, and all the alternative rock that was starting to emerge in the ’90s, like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, and Jane’s Addiction. And I’ve also been listening to all of Miles Davis’ work. I enjoy going chronologically through different jazz musicians' careers and seeing how they developed as player and composers—especially as it relates to what was going on in the world at that time.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Most of my interest in gear these day revolves around recording. I’m looking at some options for DIs right now. I’m also trying to get convincing synth bass sounds on the bass guitar, which is fun. It’s been nice getting to practice through my Aguilar AG700 and SL 410x at home, and I’m pretty sure my neighbors dig it too!
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I benefit from getting active as soon as I wake up. Whether that’s practicing or working out, getting my mind and body moving has a tremendous effect on the rest of the day. It’s not easy to remain motivated and positive during all of this. Some days are filled with doubt and way too much news and info that ultimately is not helpful. Otherwise, I’ve been watching tons of movies, cooking non-stop, and hitting the Xbox One pretty hard.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Like many artists, when the Covid-19 crisis hit the U.S., my entire gig calendar for 2020 went bye-bye. Hopefully the bulk of our touring plans gets rescheduled down the line. Angels & Airwaves has continued working on a new album, albeit remotely for now. AVA’s music and message revolves around love and hope, so I’m anxious to get back out there to play—both because I love doing it but also because I think people are going to need the healing power of music and community in a huge way.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
I think a key is to take advantage of the quiet and listen to what you need at any given moment. If you’re energized and want to be productive, do that. If you want to get stoned and stare out the window, do that. Facetime your friends, listen to the freakin’ birds chirping outside, meditate or whatever makes you feel good. I’m not great at the “We’re all gonna be fine” thing because honestly, I don’t know. The world has slid into dumpster-fire territory and I haven’t experienced anything like this in my lifetime. The ripples and ramifications are still looming out there for us. It’s awesome to have music though because when the bass is in my hands, I’m not feeling any of that darkness. I get a lot of good energy from remaining connected with people in my music community, as well as family and friends. I’m trying to spend my time positively, acting from a place of love as much as possible, and trying to get my cold brew method super tight!
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All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi