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: Neil Jason
Bands & Artists: The Brecker Brothers, Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Plastic Ono Band, jingles, soundtracks, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry
Home: New York, NY
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Well, the first thing I did is begin a Lee Sklar starter beard [laughs]; I figure if they keep us inside long enough my beard will be as long as his. Other than that, I got out all of my tools and I’ve been messing with and adjusting all of my basses; trying different things, like which ones are better for tuning down to Eb. That’s been fun and informative. And like lots of people, I must have fifty to-do list projects for the house that I’ve started working on.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been making sure that every day I get in an hour or two of playing. That can mean anything from stream of conscious playing to muscle excercises, like playing 16th-notes on the open G and D strings for three minutes straight without slowing down. The other day I put on iTunes and played along to every song that came on, which is a great workout for the ears.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Well, I don’t know how much comfort it brings to me because everytime I hear a bassist play something great I get crazy and I have to go and learn what it is. I’ve literally been listening to whatever comes on because I just want to hear some different music. I’ve been bouncing between new rock bands and classic straightahead jazz, stuff I don’t get to check out when I’m in work mode touring or recording music at my studio.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Mainly I’ve been messing with my new Seamoon Funk Machine pedal, via a dozen different kinds of basses and my Aguilar Tone Hammer 700 head and DB 112 cabinet. I thought I knew everything about the pedal, having built it, but I’m finding cool, new things about it every day while using it with the different basses. As an analog effect that’s touch sensitive, it reacts differently to almost every bass I have. I’ll find one bass needs to have the boost switch on for the pedal to do it’s magic, and then I’ll plug in another bass and it doesn’t find the sweet spot until I turn the boost off. So it’s given me an insight into how to explain the Funk Machine to players.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
I’ve been walking and getting back on the treadmill. It’s important to keep moving. There are so many movies and Netflix shows I haven’t seen, and now I’ve been binge watching them with my wife [vocalist Brigitte Zarie]. Everything from the documentaries on Miles Davis and the band Chicago on Netflix to Outlander on cable. It’s nice to escape to another world for a little while.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’m looking forward to going back out on tour with Bryan Ferry. I’m at work on the next few pedals for the Seamoon FX company, and I’m working on a line of basses that will hopefully be out by the end of the year.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
We all got into music because we love it; in fact, if we’re honest, it pretty much chose us. So the love that we have for our instruments and our playing careers is not going to disappear anytime soon, even if we have to stay in our homes for a year. I believe that passion and dedication is what’s going to carry us through. Remember, the world has seen this previously—maybe not it in our lifetimes but it has happened before. It’s horrible, for sure, but we will get through it and we will be able to resume doing what we love when this is over with. I’m feeling a big return, from the arts to the economy, with hopefully some lessons learned.