Beyond the Back Row
An Interview Series
You do a really great job of combining just the baseline and licks -- how do you think about working those two aspects into your playing?
I think that the number one thing that I try to think about, as the bass player in a band -- whether it be you’re playing sousaphone, upright bass, or electric bass -- you have a responsibility to hold down the foundation, and above all else -- above cool licks or above pedals or whatever -- your responsibility is to hold down the bassline so the rest of the band can sit on that. So when we’re in the studio and doing shows that’s the thing that I try to think about the most. You know you have to land the roots of these chords and keep good time so that the band can sit on that. And then, it’s a matter of listening to what everyone else in the band is doing, and trying to react to that. And that’s where a lot of the licks or fills come from. You know, John will play something on the drums, and I'll try to play something that resembles that. Or there will be a moment where the soloist -- whether it be Dan or Chris -- will play or whoever's playing chords on guitar will leave space, and it's like this is a moment I can fill with something, whether it be a bass fill or percussive thing, it's all about being aware about what's happening musically outside of laying down that foundation, and seeing where it makes sense to do those sort of things -- but always where they serve the music. I grew up in a heavy gospel tradition playing in church, a lot of family members were church bassists, church drummers, church organists, and the people that were revered the most in that tradition were the ones that had all of the chops, but chose the right moments to use them. They would have a great pocket in general, but in those couple of moments they would play a lick that really served the music, and made it feel good, and in my tuba playing, I guess I try to channel that, where first is pocket/foundation, and after that where it makes sense you can throw in those little fun things.
So it's all about listening to everyone else?
100 percent, yeah. I mean that's the foundation of what we do as a band, and what makes it fun for people to watch is our interaction. And certainly when I'm playing tuba, it's so important to listen to what everyone else is playing in terms of reaction but also just in terms of time. If I'm not really listening to what the drummer's doing, it's not going to feel it's together. If I'm not really listening to what our keys player is doing or what our guitar player is playing, there's going to be some stuff that doesn't sound good because maybe we're not on the same page. So it's all about constantly listening to each other and making it jell and feel good.