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 Lawson
Bands & Artists: Solo artist, #TORYCORE, LEYlines
Home: Birmingham, United Kingdom
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
As a lot of my music life is from home anyway—I record here, I do some teaching from here, I write at home, I practice here—I’ve been able to get on with a lot of what I already do! But I’ve also been working on getting set up for homeschooling my son for awhile, and my wife’s been doing streaming gigs, so I’ve been teching for her too! A lot of my time has been spent getting up to speed with the online teaching material the college I teach at has adopted for this term. I’m also in the latter stages of a PhD, so at some point very soon I really need to crack on with writing that! Oh, and photography! I bought a very nice new lens for my camera just before the lockdown started, so I’ve become a selfie-generating machine!
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I’ve been practicing a lot! Been working on some of my usual stuff: improvisation and sound design with pedals and toys, but I’ve also been learning an Esperanza Spalding tune. From there ended up back at Funkifying the Clave, a terrific book and CD set by Lincoln Goines and [drummer] Robby Ameen that I worked a lot from about twenty years ago. That’s been a blast to revisit!
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 actually bought a heck of a lot of new music during this time. Weirdly, I’m often most comforted by hearing new music that helps me make sense of what’s going on. Rather than falling back on stuff that I know well, I take a great deal of comfort and solidarity from finding other people that are trying to filter the world through their music. So much of what keeps me moving forward as a musician is about finding fellow travellers. One of my favorite new purchases is an album by a Swedish band called Bazar Blå, featuring the great Swedish bassist Björn Meyer. I also bought the most recent Fountains Of Wayne album after Adam Schlesinger passed away, and I’m enjoying that. And I’m really loving the single by Divinty’s new/old band The OGs; it has most of the musicians she played with in Beyoncé’s band, and they’ve got a single out called “Higher” that’s wonderful.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
Oh man, I just got the new MXR/Dunlop preamp, the Thump—I love it!
Such a great little tone-machine! I’ve been spending a lot of time digging deeper into the Mod DuoX. It’s the most amazing multi-FX device I’ve ever come across, and I feel like I’ve still only scratched the surface of what it will do!
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I’ve been cycling a lot to stay fit, and we just signed up for the new Disney+ streaming thing, so I finally got to watch Agents Of SHIELD, which I’m enjoying. We also watched Moana again, and I absolutely love it—I’ve been playing along with the soundtrack too!
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
I’m constantly working on new solo material, and I have lots of ideas bubbling over right now. I’m looking forward to reconvening LEYlines, my improv trio with Andy Edwards on drums and Phi Yaan-Zek on guitar. I’ve just done some recording for a new project with Aaron Gibson, whose writing, voice, and bass playing I absolutely love. And I’m really hoping that the project that Vernon Reid and I have been talking about for years will finally happen soon.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
Be deliberate in whatever you’re doing, even if that just means being conscious of your need to take time to relax. It’s way too easy when you don’t have to be anywhere in particular to lose any routine, particularly when it comes to keeping your music moving forward. So being deliberate about how we apportion our time, setting aside time for music making and any other kind of creative output that we’re doing, as well making as family time and relaxation, is important. Finding new routines and new ways to find purpose on our own can be a struggle. Be kind to yourself.
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