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: Steven McDonald
Bands & Artists: The Melvins, Tenacious D
Home: Los Angeles, California
How have you been passing time during the lockdown?
Catching up on unfinished home projects, listening to audiobooks and learning to play and sing fun cover songs... amongst other activities.
What have you been working on in terms of your bass practice routine?
I learned a Partridge Family song called “I Can Feel Your Heartbeat.” I learned to sing it too, which for me, to do both simultaneously is far more challenging, but an important skill to practice. I love the tune, so it was really fun. Check it out HERE.
What music, songs, recordings, artists, bass players have you been listening to as a source of comfort and inspiration that you can recommend?
Every day I take a skate ride or walk in my neighborhood. It starts with a fun half-mile skate down a street in my ’hood that has a very subtle declining gradient. The road was recently repaved too so its super smooth, and with the quarantine there's next to no cars on the road to have to dodge. It takes about three minutes to skate the length of the street, and I always put on some kind of party song, or heroic music is good, too. I went through a phase where I listened to the Olivia Newton John version of “Xanadu.” Also a lot of ELO—“Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Strange Magic” both come to mind. Motown is always on the playlist. The Supremes are comfort music for me, and I always find James Jamerson's playing very satisfying and inspiring. As mentioned, I’m going through a heavy Partridge Family phase right now. People often laugh when you mention those records. But that’s mystifying to me because even though the project was organized by a television studio, it doesn’t erase the fact that the backing musicians are the Wrecking Crew. Joe Osborn played on most of those record. His melodic, ‘60s flare has always been an inspiration to me.
What bass gear have you been playing and trying out?
I’ve been playing my ’75 Fender Precision a lot. I have a set of flatwounds on it, and it plays and sounds terrific—like a late-’60s studio wringer. I’ve found myself wrestling with my Martin D28 acoustic guitar. It sounds beautiful but the action is high, and it hurts the fingertips after an extended jam. I’m trying to keep the fingertips tough during the lockown—very important! I have a Darkglass bass amp that I love. Highly recommended.
What non-music activities books, shows, movies or workout recommendations do you have?
I’ve finally given in and started meditating. I’ve always known it was an inevitability for me, but I never had the time. So far I’m enjoying the Waking Up and Head Space guided meditation apps. I’ve been listening to audiobooks; I find them especially great to keep me engaged while doing mundane chores like the dishes or folding laundry. My all time favorite audio book is Just Kids, by Patti Smith, read by the author. I’m also listening to a great 12-hour biography, Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. It’s very relatable and great for anyone with artistic tendencies. Autobiographies by comedians are good during this stressful time. I found Dear Girls by Ali Wong to be very funny and well-written.
What projects do you have coming up when the world gets going again?
Redd Kross is supposed to tour Europe and the U.S. We have three reissues coming out this year, two on Thirdman Records and one—a 40th Anniversary of our first, Red Cross—is coming out on Merge Records on June 26th. I’ll also be recording a new album and touring with the Melvins.
What advice can you offer fellow bassists for staying positive and keeping morale high?
It’s time to do all the at home musical stuff you’re usually too busy or too tired to take on. Finish that 8-track casette rock opera you started nine years ago! There’s never been a better time!
Follow Steven: Here
All check-ins compiled and edited by Jon D'Auria & Chris Jisi