Bassists who
impressed JJ.
..
Andv Fraser
"When I was 14 or 15, my
parents - who were French
- had a restaurant in
Godalming near Guildford,
and there was a pub there
called the Angel which ran
a blues night every Sunday.
I was smuggled in by my
older friends and I saw
Peter Green's Fleetwood
Mac, and Free before they
were called Free. I saw
Andy Fraser break an E
string, and he was a finger-
picker - I was seriously
impressed! I was privileged
to be there."
Jack Bruce
"We used to listen to
Disraeli Gears
all the time.
I loved Jack Bruce's bass
playing and I still do. All the
bassists I've mentioned
are quite dominant players:
they fight for their own
space at the front. I'm
all for playing interesting
things on the bass, as you
know, but the bass part has
to be the right one for what
the rest of the band are
doing. As long as the bass-
line complements the song,
I'm all for it: I'm convinced
that every generation of
musicians brings a new
rhythm to the fore, and the
song remains intact."
john Entwistle
"The solo on 'My
Generation' was the first I
ever saw. I can only do it
with a pick, and I wonder
if he did too, because he
normally used his fingers.
Let's not forget Ray Brown,
Paul Chambers and Harvey
Brooks, who played the
electric bass parts on Miles
Davis'
Bitches Brew.
I've
nicked the sound for the
Stranglers, although I don't
play the funky stuff."
e sp e cia lly b e ca u se I have to co -o rd in ate the vo ca l lines
I'm talkin g about, w h ich go a c ro ss the rhythm . O ur
reh earsa l tim e s have been gettin g longer and longer,
and the w e ig h t of the old b a ss w a s b e co m in g an
issu e on m y back and sh o u ld e rs. For a tw o -ho ur gig,
the w e ig h t of a Fen der P re cisio n or w h a te ve r isn't a
problem , b e ca u se I'm m o vin g around all the tim e, but
w h e n I'm sta n d in g still in fro nt o f a m ic, four or five
h o u rs is a killer!"
For y e a rs a Fen d er player, J J sw itch e d to Sh u ke r
so m e y e a rs ago on b ein g re co m m e n d e d to the B ritish
luthier by the S tra n g le rs' g u ita rist B az W arn e. H e
c o n tin u e s, "T h e n e w S h u k e r is beau tiful: I've never
se e n an yth in g like the fin ish on it on a b a ss guitar.
It w e ig h s se ve n and a half p o und s: the h o rn s are
slig h tly ho llo w ed and th ey cre a te re so n a n ce . It's a m ix
of three or four d ifferen t w o o d s, p lu s th e re 's carbon
fib re around the m a h o g a n y neck. Th e fin ish on the
fin ge rb o ard is beau tifu l, it's a m a ste r gra d e b ird seye
m aple. It's as stro ka b le a s a cat! I do n't kn o w if it'll
bite yo u , th o u gh .
.. E v e ry th in g h a s been d e sig n e d to
m ake it lighter but m ore reso n an t. It's kickin g out
m ore pow er, even th o u gh it's a p a ssiv e b a ss, b e ca u se
o n e of the A rm stro n g fa m ily m ad e a cu sto m pickup.
H e 's d o n e an a m azin g
job. I'll be playing it live
n e xt y e a r"
A s for the A sh d o w n
rig g lo w in g q u ietly aw ay
behind u s, J J explain s:
"It's m y sign atu re head,
the JJB -5 0 0 . A sh d o w n
have been really grea t to
m e. It's loud.
.. v e ry loud!
T h ere's a lot of cru nch in
the tone, alth o u gh a lot
of that c o m e s fro m the
w ay I play. Th at's w h e re
the disto rted so u n d ca m e
from originally, altho ugh
I like to have a bit of
d istortion on the am p w h e n I need to. Not e ve ry so n g
n e e d s that, of co u rse , but the S tra n g le rs b a ss so u n d is
b a sica lly a bit d isto rte d "
It is indeed, and to find o ut w hy, let's look b ack a
bit. O ur m an, born in 1952, sta rted h is caree r a s a
c la ssic a l gu ita rist before sw itch in g to b a ss in tim e for
the form atio n o f the S tra n g le rs in 1974. S in c e then he's
been a co n sta n t p re se n ce in the band, w h o w e re w ay
too m u sica lly ad ep t to sit co m fo rta b ly w ith the late-
7 0 s p u n k w ave but w h o sh ared e ve ry bit of the p u n ks'
go b b y attitude.
Th e band - for m any y e a rs J J plu s sin ge r/g u ita rist
H u gh C o rn w e ll, keyboard player D ave G re e n field and
dru m m er Je t B la ck - co a le sc e d a w h ile back into J J ,
G re e n field , W arn e and B lack, the last of w h o m sp lits
drum d u tie s on sta g e w ith Jim M acaulay. Yo u've heard
the hits, cu lled from no few er than 17 alb u m s to date -
'P e a ch e s', 'N o M ore H ero es', 'N ic e 'N ' Sle a zy', 'G o ld en
Brow n', 'Sk in D e e p ' and to n s m ore. A lo n g the w ay
J J m ad e tw o so lo alb u m s in 1979 and 1988, re le ased
a co llab oratio n w ith G reen field in 1983, p rodu ced a
w h o le bunch o f b a n d s and acq u ired fe a rso m e d e xte rity
as a karate expert, gain in g a sixth dan in the d iscip lin e .
H e's been a b u sy m an.
Th at d isto rte d b a ss tone ca m e fro m n e c e ssity ,
re ca lls J J . "W h e n w e sta rted out, H u gh had a
battered old V o x A C 3 0 am p w h ich w a s fucked," he
ch u ck le s. "In itia lly I had so m e kind o f tran sfo rm er
am p, w h ich w a s p robably u se d for m od el ra ilw ays,
and then I had a H iW att gu itar am p - b e ca u se I didn 't
kn o w the d iffe re n ce - and a big 18" sp e ake r, w h ich
w a s h o rrib le "
H e n ce the o verdriven speaker, h e n ce the distorted
so u n d s. Th e sto ry behind J J 's b a ss tone is pretty w ell
know n even o u tsid e b a ss guitar c ircle s, at le ast partly
b e ca u se it c o m e s from the sa m e D IY spirit that drove
the w id er m u sic sc e n e back then. "W e ju st had w hat
w e co uld g e t our hands on," he adds. "T h e sem i-p ro
m u sicia n s w e knew , w h o w e re w o rkin g at the local
m u sic sto re , all had 20 p e d a ls and brand-n ew gu itars,
G ib so n th is and Fender that, plus the latest haircut
w ith the long sid e b u rn s and the pink sh irts. T h is w a s
the early 7 0 s, rem em ber. Th ey had the sem i-pro
m o u sta ch e s, as w e called them . W e to o k the p iss out
of them b e ca u se they had all th is stu ff and th ey still
didn't cu t it: th ey w e re w e eke n d w arriors "
J J tells the sto ry of the 'P e a ch e s' riff, o ne of the
m o st fa m o u s b a ss in tro s ever. A fter an e ve n in g in
front of a re gga e so u n d sy ste m , w ith its a sso cia te d
stim u la n ts ("T h e y w ere
ju st talking a strea m of
c o n s c io u s n e s s over a
b a ss and d ru m s, and of
co u rse there w a s a lot
of g ra ss being p a sse d
aro u n d !"), he ca m e up
w ith the u n m istake ab le
se q u e n c e of no tes,
explain in g: "I w an ted the
b a ss to be do m inant, and
that's h o w it turned out.
I play quite hard w ith a
pick, and the ro und w ou nd
R o to so u n d s I u se m ake
that particular so u n d "
O n 2015 tour d a tes,
J J w ill be takin g out his tried -and-tested Shuker,
R o to so u n d and A sh d o w n ge ar out w ith him , plus
a backup b a ss. "I'll take out tw o, b e ca u se I e xp e ct
them to be reliable. If a ch a n ge in so u n d is n eeded on
sta g e , I'll do it m yself, or they'll do it out front if I need
su b so n ic s " W h e n w e tell him that w e often enco unter
b a ss players w h o take a w h o le bunch of b a ss e s out
on tour w ith different tu n in gs, strin g co n fig u ratio n s
and so on, he la u g h s and replies: "I've go t tw o m ain
so u n d s, p ick and fin g e rs - and b e tw e e n th o se I can
co ver an ything that I need. If people have eigh t-strin g
b a sse s, that's fine, but the reason I sta rted b a ss w as
b e ca u se it had tw o le ss strin g s than a norm al guitar,
for fu ck's sake. I'm a happy bu nny w ith four strin g s,
you know."
W h e n w e sp e a k to J J , he's ju st about to head to
Ja p a n for a m onth's karate. H o w do his ad vanced
m artial arts in flu en ce his b a ss p laying, w e ask? A fter
all, w hen you reach his level of e xp e rtise, w e 've read
that the d iscip lin e b e co m e s all-e n co m p a ssin g . "W e
sta rt off every c la s s w ith w h a t they call the
dojo kun,
the oath: the p rin cip les that ke ep the sam u rai spirit,"
he sa ys. "T h e se b a sically m ean sta yin g loyal and never
givin g up, w hich the Ja p a n e se really don't like doing.
It's d ish o n o u ra b le, and b e ca u se they believe in spirit
h a y
loyal
keep
the
samurai
spirit
,
improve
your
character
,
be
polite
to
others
,
train
your
mind
and
body
,
live
in
a
simple
WAY”
0 2 2
b a s s g u i t a r m a g a z i n e
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