Friday, July 29, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Kim Clarke

Ladies and Gentlemen, Kim Clarke - a woman whose right hand technique mystifies me and quite frankly makes me jealous.  How she seamlessly switches back and forth between slapping and normal finger play is beyond me.  She makes it look and sound easy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Vacation, Sukkas!

There will be no Fat Friday Feature next week; no confusing contradictions, bad grammar, misspellings, or cussing.  There will be nothing.  Because I'm going on vacation, sukkas!  If things go as planned, I'll be on the lake 90% of my waking hours with a beer in my hand 75% of that time.  Have a great week - I know I will.

Fat Friday Feature: Meshell Ndegeocello

I've let this blog become a bit too sausage oriented if you know what I mean.  This is Meshell Ndegeocello.  This is power.  This is range.  This is fucking talent.  I want to say if Prince was a woman who played bass, he'd be Meshell Ndegeocello.  But I'm not going to say that because that's a sausage-based comparison to which Meshell Ndegeocello will not be confined.

In keeping with showcasing bad ass bass players/bass parts on Fridays, Imma post her first big hit below.  I post it because the bass playing has a punch that I love.  I'm not talking about tone or amp settings or that shit.  I'm talking about playing that reverberates in the chest cavity and gets stuck in the noggin.  Oddly, I don't think this is one of her best songs - the video in particular is kind of annoying in fact.  But I love watching her play and she is undeniably funky.  And I don't mean in that lame ass Red Hot Chili Peppers-fast-and-furious, slap-and-hook style funky.  (This is not necessarily a dig at the RHCP, by the way.  It's a dig at Flea's minions of imitators.  I'll explain later.  Anyways. . . )  The girl has soul and power.  She's got soul power.  If you want a better tune, dig on this, or thisHere's another.  Too much for you, whitebread?  Here's one for you.  But if you want that punch in the chest - check out below.

Monday, July 25, 2011

When Is It Okay To "Go Off"?

In any given song, when is cool for the bass player to "go off"; that is, stop what you were doing for the groove and start embellishing the crap out of what you're playing?  Is it ever okay to go off on bass?  More importantly, is less actually more in terms of bass?

This is a very hard question to answer.  Troll any bass player forum and you'll see many a flame war about this topic.  Guitar players and keyboard players perhaps don't have to think about this as much as dudes holding the rhythm - but they really should.  It is definitely one of the most important things to figure out for any musician.  I'm not sure I completely have the answer for myself, but I definitely know when a bass player has gone too far.  This will certainly be a topic I will revisit in the future, but I hope you will swing by and check out this entry at Ryan's Blog.  My jaw hit the ground when I saw the clip that accompanies the entry.  This guy is using one drum.  One.  Yet what he does on that one drum is infinitely more interesting and groove oriented than what Carmine Appice is doing on his gazillion piece drum kit.

Anyways, check it out. Ryan is a thoughtful blogger and the digs at Terry Bozzio* are hilarious.

* - Did you watch this clip?  It'll really tax your ears, man.  Like I said, drum solos might be the only thing worse than bass solos.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: Jack Bruce

Imma tell you something shocking - you ready?
I could probably count on one hand the number of bass solos I actually like.  In fact, I'd say as a general rule nothing bores me more than a bass solo.  (Except a drum solo.)  It's funny - I love the bass.  I love the sound.  I love the looks of various uprights and bass guitars.  I love how the fat strings feel under my fingers.  I love that it makes you work so hard, particularly the upright - I like the physicality of it.  I've never seriously been interested in another instrument.  But in my wildest bass-related fantasies (which may or may not involve assless chaps) I have never fantasized about a soloing.

Let's face it:  bass solos are so awful.  Jaco Pastorious?  Please.  No one would deny that he's an amazing technician of the bass.  I even like some of the bass lines he does.  But his soloing is bass wanking pure and simple.  There is zero regard for the groove.  And if you point me to any bassist that does solos with two handed tapping, you lose.

But there are good solos.  It might be unhip to say so, but the solo in "My Generation" was not only groundbreaking and brilliantly executed, it still sounds good.  And there's this beauty from Jack Bruce.  It's interesting without being ejaculatory.  It slithers around without sacrificing the groove.  It is both technical and accessible.  It never wears out it's welcome - Bruce steps back when Zappa begins to solo, but he never loses my attention.  And most importantly, it's dirty.  I love that the bass is distorted.  It gives the solo teeth; it's like leaving a scratch on the paint job of your Ferrari.  In short, it sounds good.  So crank this one up!  (Solo starts at the :16 mark.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Audio Scratch Pad: "Back Seat Stowaway"

Back Seat Stowaway By The Kalashnikovs by mattzink
About:  This is the sound of an upright bass slowed way the hell down using using this.  Imagine how much more Satanic it would've sounded had it been reversed.
Recommended Uses:  Horror movie sound track, back drop for your ghost stories.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Do The Math

I always thought that the harpsichord in popular music sounded pretty terrible.
I was born in 1971.
Perhaps I am a product of the times?
Also, I wonder what accounts for the steep drop in harpsichord sales from 1966 to 1970?  Maybe Judy Collins' surge in popularity in the early '70s made people wake up to the incorrect usage of this instrument?

Anyway - this is gibberish.  Read the great comments here, where I took this infographic.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fat Friday Feature: The Brothers Johnson

So today begins a feature wherein each Friday a bass player/sweet bass part is showcased.  Let's begin, shall we?

Dig the fashion.  Dig the Gibson bass.  Dig that bad ass bass line.  Dig on the Brothers Johnson covering Shuggie Otis' "Strawberry Letter #23". Any good funk tune fill one or more of the following requirements:
  • It must be about sex.
  • It must be repetitive as hell.
  • It doesn't make any sense lyrically.
"Strawberry Letter #23" fulfills that last requirement big time.  No matter - it's an amazing groove.

Fat Feature Friday DOUBLE SHOT!!!1!!11!!
Some more slapping, this time from Slick Joe Fick and on an upright bass.  I love this - if he played like this on tunes, I'd say it was the sort of selfish, over-the-top playing I despise.  But this is more like a demo reel to me, showing what can be done on an upright using the slap method.  Joe's got some other clips online (he was one of the bass players in "Walk The Line") that are more groove oriented, so check 'em out.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Off Topic: The Rules

Here begins semi-regular feature I stole from Esquire magazine.
101.  Check numbers start with the number “101” or higher to make it seem like your account has been established and is stable.  The same should be done with the lists you make for you blog.
102. Know the chain of command and follow it.  For those that don’t are busy bodies and gossips.
103.  Carrying a handkerchief is still acceptable, even kind of cool.  Unless you’re using it for it’s intended purpose.
104. You don’t get to choose your nickname.
105. With a grudging exception for “The Selvedge Yard”, your blog will never be taken seriously if you keep using the word “epic” to mean “really cool”.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Standards Rule: Junior High/High School Mix Tape Standards

I’m not quite sure when it died off, but for the longest time, I had some strict mix tape standards.  Of course, what makes it onto the tape is largely dictated by who you were making the tape for.  But beyond that, I suspect we all had mix tape standards - that is, rules that we followed regardless of the recipient of the tape.  Mine were something like this:
  • Side A:  start with two fast paced/moderately paced songs; then alternate between one slow song followed by two fast/moderate songs until you ran into the leader tape.  (I didn’t really care that songs were cut off.  See standard number 3.)
  • Side B:  start with a slow tune, then work back to the one slow, two fast/moderately paced tunes formula.
  • Never leave blank space on the tape.
  • If the mix tape was supposed to be slow or depressing, invert the standards so that it’s two slow songs followed by one fast/moderately paced tune.
  • List only band names on the cassette sleeve; song names could be done on the inside of the sleeve or on an insert that I would make.  (I usually opted for the insert.)

I was crazy about organizing tapes into themes - I loved the challenge.  I won’t quite call it a standard because I didn’t do it on every tape.  But to be sure, I did it whenever I could get away from it.  My love of thematically organized mix tapes sometimes overruled good taste - see image below.  It is a scan from my first journal, given to me as an 8th grade graduation present (St. Marys Class of 1986) from my sister Anne.  Those who knew me at the time knew my love for Husker Du’s music was deep, and that “Diane” was probably one of my least favorite songs by them.  And Chuck Berry?  What the fuck?  But hey - doesn’t matter if it stinks, it fits the formula, right?
Good thing I made a note to play "Delta Dawn" on 45 rpms.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Original Poetry/Audio Scratch Pad

The Fourth of July
for Auggie

On the Fourth of July
I was away from the breathy heat of the night
Away from the fireworks spit into the sky from cardboard tubes
Away from the sound of air conditioning units droning on
clicking off
and droning on

I was away from the bams, pops, crackles and booms splitting the air
resolving themselves as ghosts of ash and sulphur
I was away from the squeals of delighted faces turned upward in wonder
Away from smoke creeping through treetops and power lines
I was away from all of these things.

I was with you, laying on top of the covers of your bed
Reading books aloud with your head on my shoulder
while the ceiling fan cooled our skin and dried my eyes.
And as each book was completed, I quietly placed it on your night stand.
Then checked to see if you were sleeping

In the morning, when the burn marks on the driveway begin to fade
when the spent tubes of fireworks are swept into garbage bags
I will still have you
burning brightly in my heart.

4th of July 2011 by mattzink
About: Anyone who knows me knows I'm not fond of anything that goes "boom" - fireworks, thunderstorms, guns, balloons popping, etc.  Hearing what went on in my neighborhood this past holiday without the context of being outside to see what was going on (I just stuck a microphone on my front steps) kind of confirms the feeling of uneasiness that I get from such jolting sounds.  To me, this sounds a bit like a combat zone.
Recommended Uses:  can be used as a soundtrack for your movie about the Battle of Hue City  (link not suitable for minors and those sensitive to the brutalities of war).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In The Studio With Mike And Dave

I had the extreme good fortune of being asked to play bass on a Redbird song.  So I put my bass in the car (though I ended up using a different bass) and trucked out to Mahern Audio on a rainy, warm night.  This time, I remembered to bring my camera.

The fate of the song is uncertain - Redbird have something coming out; this one may or may not make the cut.  It really doesn't matter though - I love being in studios, and Mike Bushman and Dave Whose Last Name Escapes Me are great, upright guys.  It was a very positive all around and I'm indebted to Mike for the invite.  I will definitely update this blog when I know more about the release of more Redbird material.  At any rate, it was definitely a highlight of a summer that's already been pretty amazing.

If'n you want to know more about Redbird, here are two woefully out-of-date bits of info - here and here.

Dave (sound engineer) is on the left; that's me on the bass, no doubt nailing it on the first take.

Mike Bushman - Gentleman.

Mike (left) and Dave (right) figuring crap out.

Mike doing what he does best:  thinkin'.

This shot angle hides my man boobs.

Dave (left) looking at something; Mike working the punching bag.

Dave (left) and Mike.

The Fender Jaguar has a daunting array of switches, knobs and dials.  But it looks soooo cool.
UPDATE:  Mike hipped me to some more recent, useful info on Redbird.  Dig the band's website and Facebook page.  Mike posts occasionally here - so check 'em out!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thank You, America

Thank you, America, for the interstate highway system, which - when accompanied by the rush of wind from an open car window - is the perfect venue for music.  

Thank you, America, for Bebop, one of the most stimulating and challenging genres of art you’ve spawned.

Happy Birthday to the land of whip-poor-will’s call, the coyote’s lament, the buffalo’s thunder, and the silence of the moon on Lake Michigan at midnight.

Thank you for the pedal steel guitar, the Rickenbacker bass and Rickenbacker 12-string.  Thank you for the Fender Telecaster,  the Fender Precision Bass, the Gibson SG, Gibson Les Paul and the National Resophonic guitar.  

Thank you, America, for lifting your musicians to deities, then promptly eating them.  

Happy Birthday to the homeland of Mike Watt, Woody Guthrie, Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus, Aaron Copland and Bruce Springsteen.  Happy birthday to the land that gave us Johnny Cash, Public Enemy, the Bad Plus and Camper Van Beethoven.

Thank you, America, for those musicians of yours who kick the tires on the Bill of Rights from time to time; thank you also for the preachers, politicians, and clergymen who bring even more attention to those controversial, thankless efforts.

In short - America:  Fuck yeah.
Have a great holiday weekend everyone!