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: Oskar Cartaya
Bands & Artists: Spyro Gyra, Herb Alpert, Willie Colon, Jennifer Lopez, Encláve
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
I’ve been doing more house cleaning than I ever thought was possible! [Laughs] It took me a moment to get in the state of mind of being creative or even picking up the bass.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve always been a believer of “just play.” Unless you have something specific you have to learn, just pick your instrument and start playing. Ideas will come your way and before you know you will have a bass line, a composition, a groove—I promise you something will be going on.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Everyday it’s something new, depending on what I see on TV or social media that sends me down the rabbit hole. I saw on my Facebook Memories a photo I had posted with the late, great Sal Cuevas. That sent me straight to one of my favorite albums, Ray Barreto’s Rican/Struction [Fania, 1979]. The passing of the great Bill Withers had me going thorugh his catalogue, as well.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Right before the lockdown, I got the new MXR Thump Bass Preamp pedal from Dunlop. It’s a real nice boost pedal for passive basses. The microphone company Blue sent me these incredible studio headphones called Mix-Fi, which are terrific. Carey Nordstran’s StarLifter Bass Preamp/DI sounds great, as well—lots of options for different tones and it works great with electric and acoustic instruments.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies, or workout recommendations do you have?
As I was telling a friend, by the time all of this is over, musicians are gonna have two albums worth of material! And on the first gigs, you’ll either see guys playing shirtless because they are all buff, or and you’ll see players whose clothes don’t fit anymore! My son is very into baseball and of course his season is on hold, so we’ve been running drills almost every day to keep him in baseball shape. I’ve been jumping rope for over 25 years; it’s the one workout I can do on the road, no matter where I am. I’ve been doing that most days. You also have to give your brain and emotions a break from all the heavy news content; for me watching comedy is my escape.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I started scoring a full length film at the end of January. I’m trying to finish that project with all the advances of modern technology: Sending tracks to musicians to play on, editing and placing that. I’m constantly writing for no specific reason, but at some point I start to connect the dots and then I have something more cohesive or a direction to go in.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Stay home!! It has become the simplest/hardest thing to do. I know a lot of readers may be young people who feel it’s no big deal, but it is! Trust me, life will figure it’s way back to normal, but for now do all those things you always wanted to do but never had the time: Read, Pray, Sleep, Play, Practice, Laugh, Cry, its all okay!I sincerely send peace and all my love to everyone!