Rev Jones’ riff-blasting, face-melting virtuosity is on full display on Bakwash, his long-awaited debut solo album. Songs like “New Drug,” “Bakwash,” “Long Legged Lady,” and “Candy” feature ample amounts of the pyrotechnic tapping skills and over-the-fretboard-fingering he’s famous for. But the 49-year-old Oklahoma native does not deploy these “tricks” for spectacle alone. Actually, it’s all in service of his seemingly effortless musicality, which is quite possibly his most astounding trait.
Live, Jones is a dynamic performer, both visually and sonically. Whether with ’70s guitar hero Michael Schenker in the Michael Schenker Group (MSG), or classic rock icon Leslie West and recent iterations of Mountain, or ’80s hair-metal stalwarts Steelheart, his seemingly endless array of licks, fills, and musical motifs — while certainly attention-grabbing — never seem out of context with the songs. There’s an old adage that says less is more, but Jones seems to throw such conventional wisdom out the window by successfully employing a “more is more” approach. On Bakwash his playing is tasty, melodic, and deep, even if it is flashy and a bit over the top. What’s perhaps most compelling about Bakwash, however, is that Jones’ seemingly off-the-cuff improvisational skills translate really well to the recorded format.
We talked to Jones in his hometown of Oklahoma City to talk about what went into the making of his debut and how he developed his unique approach to playing bass.
Did you record Bakwash with a band in the studio, or did you file-share via the internet?
Bakwash was recorded in three different studios, two rehearsal rooms, two bedrooms, and a garage [laughs]. All of the parts were recorded at different times in different states, and there remain a few bass and vocal tracks that were recorded on the early demos, which were basically meant to be scratch tracks, but I found no reason to replace them. I applaud [guitarist and mixing engineer] Jim Dofka for managing all these tracks and somehow making it all sound uniform.
How did you go about creating the framework of the tunes for others to cut their tracks?
I recorded all the bass, vocals, keys, and some guitars first; then I sent it to Dofka to record the guitars and solos; then we sent it to Jeff [Martin] to record the drums. I know it seems weird to do the drums last, but it gave Jeff an advantage: He knew exactly what was going on with each instrument and the vocals, at all times. It created the ability to throw in odd-ball drum fills without affecting anyone else’s part.
At what point did you write your bass parts?
What’s weird is I usually write my bass parts last, even though I hear them the whole time in my head. I just don’t commit to anything right away, because it often happens that I’ll be recording the bass track and a new bass line will pop in my head, and then another one, and another one, and before you know it I’ve changed the part to make the song better.
How did you track your bass?
I split my signal in half with a Radial ABY box to two Phil Jones Bass amps, one clean and one distorted. I leave the EQ flat, but I cut 630Hz out; on basses, 630Hz sounds farty. I usually don’t mic my cabs. I just run a direct signal from each head. I feel that I have more control over my sound using DI lines than I would moving mics around until it sounds right.
What are you using to get such killer distortion, and how do you employ it so effectively in the mix?
I actually have the same overdrive sound at all times; it just seems to jump out more on certain parts or blend back on other parts. I use a Maxon ST-9PRO+ Super Tube Pro [overdrive] that has a cool bass boost switch. The amp EQ is exactly the same on both clean and dirty, and the levels are even in the mix. The real secret is making sure that they are both in phase. If they’re out of phase, the sound is very different and most people won’t notice until its mixed — the bass just seems to keep disappearing. So, always make sure they are in phase. When you flip the phase-reverse switch, the bass sound will get louder if they were out of phase.
Live, you seem to incorporate a lot of improvisation into your bass lines.
If I do a bass solo live, it is improvised, with the exception of how it starts and how it ends. If I’m playing with Steelheart or MSG, I still do some improvising throughout the show, mostly bass fills and maybe a bass line here and there. But if I’m playing with Leslie West and Mountain, I am improvising the whole time — I never play the songs the same. It might sound similar because I play similar things that fit over the parts, but whatever pops in my mind gets played. Improvising live not only helps build up second-nature skills, it [improvising] also benefits from those skills.
What are your thoughts on warming up pre-gig?
I do not warm up on bass before a show. If you are at home running scales and patterns, that’s great, and it is okay to warm up a little bit before you play a show — but I’ve seen so many people who warm up way too much. Running scales is not the same as playing a bass line. Practice makes better, playing makes perfect.
Rev Jones, Bakwash [http://revjones.bigcartel.com/]
Basses Dean Custom Rev Cadillac 4- and 6-strings, (all 4-strings) Dean Cadillac w/Kahler tremolo, Dean Custom ML, Dean Demonator, Dean Hollywood Z, Dean Pace Contra electric upright, Dean Pace electric upright, Dean acoustic bass, Dean Espana classical guitar (6-string), Warr Guitars Custom 12-string Touch Bass (fretted/fretless hybrid)
Rig Phil Jones Bass D-600, D-400 and D-200 Digital Bass Amps, Phil Jones Bass 8B & PB-300 cabs
Effects Maxon VJR-9 Vintage Jet Riser, Maxon CS-9 Pro Stereo Chorus, Maxon Overdrive ST-9PRO+ Super Tube, Maxon AD-9 Pro Analog Delay, Maxon DB10 Dual Booster, Maxon BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver, TWA WR-3 Wah Rocker, Emma Electronic Okto Nøjs, Godlyke Power-All PA-9D 9V Digital Power Supply Kit, HAO BL-1 Bass Liner, Radial Bones Twin City A-B-Y Amp Switcher, Rocktron Banshee talk box
Strings Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Nickel Wound (.045–.105), Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Nickel Wound (.032–.130), Ernie Ball Flat Wound (.045–.105)
Picks IntuneGP GrippX Standard (1.0mm)
Bass accessories Kahler bass fixed bridges, Kahler bass tremolos, DMT pickups, Bartolini pickups, Lace USAB Ultra Slim acoustic bass pickups
Additional accessories Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G2 in-ears, Ultimate Ears UE-10 in-ears, Sennheiser EW 172 G4 wireless system, Sennheiser e935 cardioid mic, Sennheiser e835 cardioid mic
Visit Rev online.