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: Steve Jenkins
Bands & Artists: Vernon Reid, Screaming Headless Torsos, Dave Fiuczynski, Cindy Blackman, Solo artist
Home: Los Angeles, California
What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied during the lockdown?
Even though the lockdown meant a significant number of gig cancelations, I’ve been keeping busy by teaching Skype lessons, doing some remote sessions, promoting my new TrueFire instructional course, Modern Funk Bass, which dropped on March 3rd (Here), writing music for my third album, and recording my brand new podcast Stir Crazy with Steve Jenkins: Conversations with Creatives During the Quarantine, which is now available to listen to on Apple Podcasts and Spotify (Listen Here).
What have you been working on in your personal bass practice?
Honestly, everything. Even though I already have a lot of facility, I’ve been shedding technique again. Sometimes I’ll let my playing and my ideas during improvisation stretch what I can do technically, but right now I’m striving to play more “impossible” things and go to some new places. It’s a constant balance between playing what I hear and trying to play what I’m not capable of playing, and then trying to somehow bridge that gap. I’ve been transcribing, here and there. I’ve also been messing around with the cool little Teenage Engineering PO-33 Pocket Sampler that I got not too long ago. It’s pretty powerful and fun to create with.
Which bass have you been playing the most right now?
For some reason, I’ve been very into 5-string lately. I’ve been playing my signature Brubaker 5-string a whole lot, as well as my 5-string Strandberg Boden. I’ll also grab a P- or J-Bass here and there just for the hell of it.
What music have you been listening to through this?
I’ve been listening to Car Bomb-Mordial, Testament-Titans of Creation, MFTJ-MFTJ—one of Mike Keneally’s new projects, Frank Zappa’s Over-Nite Sensation and One Size Fits All, Rush’s entire catalog, and the super expanded edition of Prince’s 1999 that came out last fall. I’ve also been getting back into my fusion roots and I’ve been listening to classic Tribal Tech and Allan Holdsworth, which continues to inspire me to shed and stretch the boundaries of what I know. Old, comforting favorites include Pat Metheny’s One Quiet Night, Def Leppard’s Hysteria, Earh, Wind & Fire’s Gratitude, Donald Blackman, Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and Joni Mitchell’s Hejira.
What non-musical things have you been doing to stay busy?
Besides playing a lot of video games—and to be fair, maybe because I’ve been playing a lot of video games—I’ve been going on long walks with the hopes of staying relatively in shape. It’s also been a good way to get out of my apartment.
What books, shows, or movie recs do you have for us?
I finally decided to read the sci-fi classic Dune, by Frank Herbert. It’s a stellar book and I have finally taken the leap. As far as shows, I think if someone hasn’t seen Watchmen yet then they should watch that. That’s probably the best show I’ve seen in a long time. I know we have endless options but I don’t really like watching mindless shit just because it’s there. I want to learn something or be intellectually challenged. But that being said, this latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm has been funny as hell.
What are you most looking forward to when this all passes?
I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and family and I can’t wait to play out again once it’s safe to do so.
What’s the best advice you’d give to musicians during this time?
While I can’t predict what will happen, I get the sense that this isn’t something that will blow over any time soon, and I think people should be realistic and plan for a long quarantine/lockdown period. In a sense, I got a dry run for 2020 literally a year ago in 2019. An eight-week tour that I was on was cancelled three weeks in, and I was home for March and April. It was maddening but it taught me that unforeseeable shit can absolutely happen. It forced me to take an honest look at the current music business and make some sobering decisions about how I want to proceed and ultimately participate. I think we all need to dig deeper. Much of our lives as bass players involves playing other people’s music but I would urge bassists to start thinking of themselves more as artists and less as side-musicians. Start to experiment. Write music. Learn composition. Think bigger. On a positive, personal note, I get instant joy just being able to play everyday. As soon as I pick up one of my basses, all feels right in the world. We’re very lucky to have music in our lives because this is some scary shit we’re living through right now. I find that operating from a place of gratitude helps keep me centered and on a more positive plane. Some days I don’t always get there, but I try to think of five-to-ten things I’m grateful for each day and usually that does the trick.
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