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For those of us who play guitar or bass, how fun is it to seek out “The One,” that near perfect instrument & rig that captures your sound? Almost like dating, it’s a numbers game – instruments, amps and effects pedals come and go. Eventually we learn what works and doesn’t. More than anything, when it comes to bass, Less is More.
This writer has been playing bass now for 20 Beers. A few observations for capturing a pure tone: Play with a light touch, relax and breathe comfortably and hold the instrument somewhat loosely so it can better resonate, vibrate. Do your own thing and play what speaks to you, gets you grooving. Bass is all about feel and if you’re feeling it – you’re on the right path.
The Johnny ~O~ Hideaway rig consists of very few elements, quite modest:
- Steinberger Synapse 4-string bass
- Headphone Amplifier
- Overtone Generator
- Korg Tuner
This set up is ideal for practice and portability. Since there is no speaker system you won’t disturb any neighbors or loved ones.
Some under the radar bass monsters deserving shout outs:
1st Chair: Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets: The modern Cris has evolved into a wizened ‘Dusty Hill’ with thick tone, laid back grooves replete with the long flowing beard. Check out his earlier Puppets recordings and hear the sheer invention, joy and surreal histrionics. Beyond Compare. Fun.
2nd Chair: Conrad Lozano of Los Lobos. This man has a beautiful tone. He dials it in to a T. Pure feel, groovy licks, superb. Very tasty and he can jam.
3rd Chair: Gord Sinclair of The Tragically Hip. Tone, Groove, in the pocket. Not showy, yet an eternally cool Canadian sensibility. The Hip accomplished a lot during their run and Gord Sinclair was their secret weapon.
*Honorable Mention: Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads. The Heads are cool. Tina’s minimalist and punchy bass lines have a sneaky way of embedding themselves into your brain. Real hypnotic playing, and the Heads would not have been Talking Heads without Mrs. Weymouth’s classical approach and personality. As an impressionable 14 year old, this writer witnessed Talking Heads perform live in Houston, Texas, October 1983. Never seen anything like it before or since. Mrs. Weymouth’s physical beauty also made her performance easy on the eyes (and ears) as she thumped out an abundance of impactful bass lines.
Johnny ~O~ in studio circa 2006, Tempe, Arizona.