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NEW BLACKSTAR UNITY AMP RANGE REVIEWED

2020

SIRE MARCUS MILLER

TIME FOR A SHORT-SCALE TAKEOVER!

BASS TIPS

Dream Theater's John Myung Rhonda Smith Life After Prince

The legend returns with the Dead Daisies... and reveals the truth about Deep Purple


Lowdown THE

News and views from the bass world, collated by BP's team of newshounds

BEST BASSISTS REVEALED! You voted for the Bassist Of 2020... and the results are in.

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Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Philippe Lissart

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his year’s Best Bassist Of 2020 poll was launched at Music Radar back in November, and the results are a clear indicator of the all-round coolness of the bass community, with musicians from the metal, disco and solo worlds storming into the top three. Our outright winner this year is John Campbell of Lamb Of God, whose speedpicking metal mayhem has had jaws dropping all through this year. This recognition is truly deserved, we reckon – so congratulations from all of us at Bass Player to John. As he tells us: “While recognition is not sought after by most in my position, it is a great honour to be recognised by the brilliant readers of the infallible Music Radar and Bass Player by being voted Bassist Of The Year. My day today has been made a little brighter from this show of support from our fans, so thank you all. Until we can gather as we did Nile Rodgers and th mighty Jerry Barn e to perform and enjoy live music, stay safe, es stay healthy and wear a mask!” In second place is the amazing Jerry Barnes of Chic, whose silky-smooth, soulful playing Lee Sklar, Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam, Cliff Williams makes him a perfect candidate to play the lines laid of AC/DC, Suzi Quatro, Cher’s bassist Ashley down by his late, incredibly great predecessor, Reeve, MonoNeon, Doug Wimbish of Living Bernard Edwards. He’s followed in third place by Colour, Laura Lee of Khruangbin, sometime the wonderful Michael Manring, a solo bassist and Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder, Felix Pastorius and experimentalist whose genuinely unique approach Tracy Wormworth of the B-52s. Any one of these to bass makes him an icon in our world. venerable musicians could equally well have won You also voted en masse for 13 other acclaimed this poll, such is their talent, and here at BP we bass players – BP columnist Ryan Madora, Victor consider it a privilege to interact with them. Brandt of Dimmu Borgir, the mighty session master Thanks to everyone who voted!

The unique Michael Manring in action


John Campbell: putting the pedal to the metal

“It's a great honour to be recognised as Bassist Of 2020!� 0 7


I WAS THERE!

A historic moment in bass world – recalled by those who were there to see it

In 1968, Cream say goodbye... for now, anyway

Photo: Getty Images 12

or many years a double bass player influenced more by jazz and classical music than rock, the late Jack Bruce brought an acute melodic awareness to the bass guitar from the moment he picked one up. Born in 1943, by the time he was 30 Bruce was a veteran of Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. the Graham Bond Organisation – an incarnation of which featured the young John McLaughlin – John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, innumerable sessions and, of course, the supergroup Cream, in which he created a mesmerising, blues- and jazz-laced rock spectacle alongside Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton. “The thing was, Cream was like a jazz band,” mused Jack when BP talked to him a few years back. “But we didn’t tell Eric that... We were like a little free-jazz trio, with Eric as Ornette Coleman, but without him knowing it.” Tensions always ran high in Cream, specifically between Bruce and Baker, also

no longer with us. The fiery drummer, never reticent when it came to expressing criticism, had profoundly irritated Bruce when the pair were members of Graham Bond’s band. Apparently he told the bassist that his playing was “too busy” – which it was, arguably. “I almost gave up. I was very hurt by the whole thing,” recalled Bruce. “I thought I was doing some interesting things. But I was getting a lot of criticism, not just from Ginger but from a lot of areas, for this melodic, so-called ‘busy’ approach, instead of playing four in the bar or something.” Cream split after two farewell shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 25 and 26 November 1968, returning in 2005 for a string of reunion dates. Bruce, who released many solo albums, remains acknowledged in our community and beyond as one of the godfathers of the bass guitar. He died in 2014 at the age of 71, and we miss him.


The maestro today: older and wiser, but just as astounding a player

Reuniting in 2005 for the last time: Jack, Ginger and Eric

Photo: Getty Images 13


Players

GLENN HUGHES

Interview: Joel McIver Photography: Getty, Paige Sara

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The Dead Daisies is a supergroup with a stellar line-up, in which the great Glenn Hughes brings a career’s worth of songwriting, singing and playing bass to the table. “I’ve fallen in love with bass again,” says our hero, looking back at his days with Deep Purple, Trapeze, Black Country Communion and more...

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Players

HELP US, RHONDA RHONDA SMITH

Current Jeff Beck and former Prince bassist Rhonda Smith is a force of nature, even faced with a pandemic. Listen up as she reports from the front line of the low end... Words: Joel McIver Photography: Getty

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ow are you dealing with a year off the road, Rhonda? Well, Jeff has a record that they were going to release, and his tour is rescheduled until April 2021, so while we’re waiting for that to happen I’ve been playing a lot of bass and writing a lot. I have Pro Tools here at home, so when I want to record, I can just bang it out right here. I have a record of my own in the works too, so I’m looking to get some singles done and get them released in the best way in the current climate.

Is a Paul Reed Smith still your go-to bass? Yes it is – I’m still rocking that Gary Grainger PRS. Those Private Stock one-piece basses are so incredible, and mine is just part of my hands now. It was love at first sight for me. If somebody thinks they can beat it, they’re welcome to try, ha ha! I have a second one that’s exactly the same, but in white, as my backup. I also have a five-string version of the same bass, because some songs just sound amazing with that low B string, especially in an auditorium where you can take advantage of the dynamic range. It’s so powerful, although I use it sparingly. Normally I’ll take the five and the four out with Jeff, or all three basses if we’re out for longer. What other gear do you use? I use Aguilar, too. I love their stuff, especially the big touring heads – they’re just amazing. They have a really strong presence around the world, which is important if you’re touring: you want to use really great amps, but some companies don’t have any overseas support because they’re so small. In that case, if you have a situation where your gear breaks, 22

you’re done, but the Aguilar guys really have their stuff together. When you don’t have access to your preferred amps, which is the most unreliable hired-in gear? Usually it’s the speakers that are the problem, because they’ve been trashed. I’ve found that some backline companies check the heads when they come back in after a show or tour, but they don’t check the cabinets at a stage volume level. When the volume is at one or two, it sounds okay, but when you put it up to stage level, it’s fried. This happens all the time. And they don’t service the cabs often enough either – they just roll them in and roll them out. Of course, no-one says to them, ‘Oh, I blew your cabinet at the gig last night’, ha ha! Do you take both heads and cabs out on tour with you? With Jeff, we tour continually all over Europe and the US, so we always have a main rig and a backup. We’ll keep the same rigs for the entire tour: I take two Aguilar heads. I don’t use in-ears with Jeff. I’ve used in-ears with other artists such as Prince, and in the house band on several television shows back in the day, but not with Jeff. I prefer not to when I play live, because it’s bass, which your readers will understand. With Jeff, you listen and you love what you hear, with all the nuances smack right there.

changing. I always have a Digitech Whammy pedal, which goes back to my Prince days, and I love MXR stuff, so I rock their Bass Chorus Deluxe and their Bass Envelope Filter. I also use their Carbon Copy Deluxe delay, and I have a couple of Morley pedals too – a Lock Wah and a Distortion Wah that I’m messing around with, because I’m always experimenting and trying to find the perfect distortion sound that I’m looking for. How close are you to finding it? I’m getting close, although it varies for different applications. I’m also using the Aguilar Agro pedal, which has an interesting distortion tone. I also use their Octamizer and the MXR Octaver, which has always been a really great pedal for me. So that’s my pedalboard if I’m just playing electric bass, but it’ll change if I’m playing an acoustic bass. All these instruments have different output levels, so they need different chains. Finding the right tone seems to be a lifelong task. Definitely. We copy other people when we learn to play, and then all the music that you play envelops your style and your soul and your feel, and you develop into your own player over time. It’s really interesting that there’s probably only a handful of players – maybe 10 or less – that we can listen to and identify by their sound.

“There’s probably less than 10 players we can listen to and identify by their sound”

Do you take a pedalboard out too? I always have a pedalboard, and it’s ever-

For you, who are those people? For me, it was Geddy Lee; most definitely Stanley Clarke; Chris Squire, to a certain


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CORTEX

Napoleon Deluxe 4 and 5 CORTEX

www.cortexbass.com

Stuart Clayton says bonsoir to these luxurious Gallic Cortex basses...

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ortex basses are the brainchild of French luthier Pierre Camilleri, who worked with fellow builder Paul Lairat to develop the Napoleon model. This instrument is available in both Standard and Deluxe versions, with the ethos of Cortex being to combine the three concepts of European sourcing, Swiss precision and high-end French luxury finishing. We have Deluxe four- and five-string models to put through their paces.

Build Quality

Each of our review basses has a mahogany body, with the four-string topped with curly redwood, and the five-string sporting a walnut top. Each instrument has a decorative ‘tattoo’, three curved lines radiating 46


GEAR

£2300, £2430

from above the neck pickup and sweeping backwards. According to Cortex, these lines ‘symbolise partnership and friendship, the whole story behind the birth of the Cortex bass’. An interesting adornment for sure, but one that is a little lost on the dark ripple of the curly redwood. Our four-string model has a chocolate maple neck topped with an ebony fingerboard, while the five-string has a padouk neck, again with an ebony board. It’s difficult to miss the unusual body-shaping that has been employed here: the lower bout of the Napoleon is slightly extended, making for a sleek-looking instrument that visibly deviates from the design norm. A further quirk appears at the other end of these instruments: while the headstocks themselves are conventional in

terms of shape, the arrangement of the tuners is anything but: on each, only a single peg adorns the top edge, with the others occupying the lower edge. The intention here is to offer the lowest string added slack behind the nut, giving them a longer scale. Build quality is of an exceptionally high standard across both instruments. Fretwork is faultless, and the instruments arrived beautifully set up and ready to play. The finishing is impeccably smooth, making the instruments incredibly tactile. Opening up the rear of the instruments reveals neat and well-screened electronics cavities, tidy wiring and – unusually – 9V batteries nestled within snug fabric pouches sealed with poppers. The cover for the electronics cavity is made from a much lighter wood than the dark 47


Advanced Lesson THUMB METHODS

DOUBLE-THUMBED TRIPLETS EXPLORED

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elcome back to my long-running column on advanced slap bass techniques. For the past few issues we’ve been examining the double thumbing technique in detail, and if you’ve successfully worked through all of the material so far, you’ll be well-placed to get this month’s exercises under your belt. This time, we’re going to flesh out a concept that was briefly alluded to in the last column, which is using the double thumbing technique to play triplets. This technique – which is often used by thumbing supremo Victor Wooten – is a great way of adding rhythmic spice to a line, and it works really well for outlining a chord sequence as well. We’ll be using the technique for both this month. When using the double thumbing technique, it can be very helpful to play an instrument with a small string-to-body

distance at the end of the fingerboard. If you have a large gap between the strings and the body of the instrument, it is common for the thumb to ‘snag’ on the string when attempting to play the upstroke. This can be alleviated by installing a ramp, which is a raised section that will decrease this distance. Try using a piece of cardboard at first – this will help you to ascertain what size is needed. Once you have something you are comfortable with, you can have a luthier create a more aesthetically pleasing version in Perspex or wood. Double thumbing consists of two constituent parts: a downstroke and an upstroke. This means that we’ll need to add a third element in order to articulate a triplet. We’re going to add a popped note into the mix, resulting in a figure consisting of a downstroke followed by an upstroke, followed by a pop. Let’s look at how this is going to work...

Ace bass educator Stuart Clayton guides us to the peak of the bass skills pyramid. Achieve your goals here!

Victor Wooten: the double-thumbing pioneer

EXERCISE ONE

The simplest way to become comfortable with this figure is to use a root-octave movement. In this example, therefore, we’ll be playing the root note twice, using the downstroke and upstroke with the thumb and then playing the popped octave note. These three notes should be played with a triplet rhythm: three evenly spaced notes on each beat. Try using the vocalisation ‘evenly’ (e-ven-ly) to help with the sound of a triplet if you’re not familiar with that sound. I recommend becoming comfortable with this basic exercise before moving on to any subsequent exercises. 76

Photo: Scott Stewart

The double thumbing technique is a great way of adding space to a line and for outlining chord sequences


EXERCISE TWO

Let’s continue with this idea by moving it around the fingerboard a little more. In this exercise, we’ll play the figure on D for a bar, then move to E for a bar, F for a bar, then G and E for two beats each in the fourth bar. We’re still keeping all of our root notes on the A-string and all octave notes on the G-string.

EXERCISE THREE

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In this exercise, we’re continuing with the same idea, but now moving to play the figure on the E and D strings as well. This is technically no more difficult to do, but it’s good to ensure that you are comfortable with playing the figure on the lower strings. 77