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Brent-Anthony Johnson


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Brent Anthony Johnson has been with GB as a writer almost since the Beginning. I was hesitant to use of our own writers as our feature article only because it could be thought of as favoritism. After thinking this over for quite some time and having listened to his newest CD, Sleep Drum, many times, the truth of it was that he deserved this position of honor in this issue. I had to set aside that concern of using someone on the inside to give him the chance he is due.

Brent is an exceptionally talented sideman, writer and player in his own right and with this release, he joins the ranks of the very few, an elite if you will: He gives us a bass album laced with both great playing AND great song writing. All too rare... All of us have CDs on our shelves by shredders with nothing to say.

Brent has been the source of many well-written articles and reviews. He has provided us here at the magazine also with one of the sharpest wits we have come across yet. The man is funny!

I still have copies of one of the many voices and characters he has created on my answering machine. Many's the time I have sat and wondered where this stuff comes from and whether anyone has ever recommended medication to this guy! ...

One of Brent's characters includes a demented character that I think of loosely as José. Brent as José calls from time to time, leaving long and rambling messages, which if carefully tabulated, all add up to nothing. Nothing is said in these messages, but it takes 4 minutes to say it. But that character does contain one prominent aspect of Brent's personality...It is a joy of life and a love for those around him.

Brent's emotional altitude touches everyone he deals with. You cannot leave a phone call with this man without being doubled over in laughter at least twice.

This humor, this sensitivity, successfully shines through in this newest release from Brent and his associate Chris Ball. As said earlier, it is filled with more than just top drawer playing; this album has also paid careful attention to one of the downfalls of most albums released by bass players today: Brent has exhibited a refusal to rely on just the playing itself and has instead insisted that the song writing be as strong as those players.

In fact, in conversations with Brent in the past, as the album was being developed and recorded, he clearly expressed more than once that he felt the need to put his own playing on the back burner, sometimes sacrificing the desire to really tear it up, in the effort to create an album that would not just be played once or twice by a listener and then shelved.   

Sleep Drum is also an album designed to be enjoyed by more than bass players or other musicians, for that matter. It was carefully crafted to appeal to a broad range of music lovers, including aficionados of jazz-fusion, funk, rock, and with even a nod to Celtic. Sleep Drum breathes. It pulses with life, it ebbs and flows.  That life demanded this Cover Story. 

Global Bass: Begin by giving a bit of history about yourself and your career. Where did this ride begin?

BAJ: I was born a poor, bl...  C'Mon, man!  You asked for that!  Anyway, I was born to really young (and intelligent) parents and raised - for the most part, or most important parts - in Western Illinois.  I find saying this makes things flow better than giving the gory details... I spent a few stints in the Southern United States, as well.  But my parents and younger brother still live in an area called The Quad Cities.  So, that's where I'm "from", as much as anyplace else.  As not to bore you with niggling details of my past... 

Suffice to say, that's where I went to High School and that's where I began playing gigs and sessions - at age 15.  By that young age, I was hanging with musicians 15 years my senior... Fortunately, most of the guys were really patient and I learned a lot about playing with horn bands, playing jazz, and playing behind lounge singers, and singer-songwriters.  My childhood was a lot of fun, really.  But I wanted to leave that area by the time I was 17, or so.  Something there felt oppressive to me. Y'know, I've never figured out why I dislike that area so much...  I visit my folks every year, and I always want to get out of there within 4 days, or so.

To escape the QC’s, I went to a private, all-white Bible College, in the early 80’s – that was a smart move. YIKES!  I met a lot of B.S. there – politics, and small-minded people from all over this big ol’ US. I learned a lot!  I learned the art of forgiveness.  I also learned when to get out of Dodge! (laughter)  People, are amazing… 

After college, I went on the road with a couple different funk and rock groups.  I eventually found my way to bigger and better bands - which culminated with touring with fusion group Azure and seeing some of the world.  It was cool!   After touring with Azure I relocated to Boulder.  I met my wife here and we married in 1988. 

Before my sideman career began providing me with enough to live on, I spent a lot of time teaching and playing on the worship teams of some of the larger churches in and around Denver, and Boulder.  I also played with many of the area’s singer-songwriters, and also with some of the more ‘out’ musicians in the area.  Through meeting other players on the gig, I began getting session phone calls in the early 90’s.  By that time, I was looking at relocating to NYC or L.A.  Somehow, I managed to stay in Boulder, and to see the opportunities present in this area!  By the mid-90’s I was doing a little movie score work, and working in a straight-ahead jazz group.  You’ve eluded to my ability to amuse myself…  It’s evident in my ability to hang here!  The Denver Metropolitan area worked out, and this is a good place to come home to.   

GB:   What brought you to playing bass originally and what keeps you here? 

BAJ:  Wow.  Uh... I don't have any other marketable skills to speak of... Utterly unemployable  (laughter)! 

Like most people, I've never felt that I was given a fair crack at the whip, as far as choosing certain things that have happened in life!  For instance, I would be a saxophonist, if not for a raging life-long case of TMJ: myofacial pain dysfunction syndrome related to the  Temporomandibular joints that connect the lower jaw (mandible) to the skull.  I also spent a year playing trumpet, just to be sure what I was feeling was severe pain!  So I decided upon the bass.

At an early age, I think I understood that bassists were really in charge - regardless of what the guitarist had stuffed into his britches, or however he (or she) wiggled about, or however much they grimaced musically.  I rather liked being in charge!  So, I thought I should try this bass thing.

Also early on, I noticed that there were bands without guitarists (UK – post Holdsworth), or full-time keybordists (RUSH), and many jazz groups that weren't actually led by a guitarist... But, most bands had bassists!  Also, I noticed that tunes I really liked (Free's "All Right Now", Chicago's 25 or 6 to 4", Yes' "Roundabout", and others) had great bass lines. 

There was a lot to learn, that I believed I could learn, right off the bat! So, the entry-level desire was there – without the entry-level jitters.  Though, I’ve never thought playing bass was “easy”, by any means. Guitar seemed more of a mystery to me and I didn't like keyboards because you couldn't get them onto your body - at that time. Maybe, the bass chose me. Far less ethereal than that... I just thought the bass guitar looked cool!  The Jazz Bass is a baaaad machine, baby!  There’s nothing prettier than some of the bass guitars I’ve seen.  The first time I saw an Alembic, in the mid-70’s, I thought I had died and gone to heaven! 

I still play today because I love the feeling of the acoustic contra bass and the electric bass guitar in my hands!  Man, nothing feels better to me.  I imagine it's that same feeling that people who love to drive feel, when they finally get on the road, and out of traffic... and there's nothing there but them and the wheel!  You know?  It feels "right".  I've never played bass and thought, "I shouldn't be doing this." 

That's never happened.  How many things can one say that about?

GB:  You have told me that the songwriting needed to be strong on this album, that you wanted it to be more than just another solo bass album. Do you feel yourself that you achieved this?

BAJ:  I do, indeed!  I think Chris and I have an incredible chemistry.  I’ll mention him throughout this interview because there's no way I could have written some of the things on the disc without him.  He is a far more accomplished keyboardist than I am and he approaches them with a definite affinity that I lack.  He's "the good cop" in this scenario.  He also provides me with instruments I wouldn't even know to purchase!

I would much rather manipulate, squeeze, strangle, and punt some poor keyboard sound, something other than a good piano sound that is, than learn to actually play the sound or learn the tact and etiquette that a keyboardist uses to feature a particular sound!  When Chris and I write together, I will inevitably say something like, "I want that to sound like a choking goat! That sound needs to be there!"

Though, when it comes to songwriting, I manage get reasonable sounding chord sequences to line up.  More than anything, that's just time spent on the planet... Paying attention to the function of other instruments.  I enjoy playing piano a great deal and it's been the tool I've used to get my ideas onto paper for quite some time. So, as we wrote the material on a single keyboard, and in the same room, either he would come in with part of a tune and I would finish it... Or, vise versa.

I think, too, that we share similar tastes, albeit from completely different life experiences.  For instance, the tune First Light is mostly Chris, with little additions from me - whereas, the title track of this disc is predominantly me, with little additions from Chris.  However, Lookuh Sto (Ebonics for “liquor store”) is what happens when you leave Chris and I alone in a room together.

One of the things we share is a really bent sense of humor!  Our wives usually hide, watch, and pray for us without ceasing.  They're good people... and we really need prayer!  My nine-year-old daughter (who did the art work for the disc) is our biggest fan, so far.  She gets it more than most... (laughter)

GB:  Now that this album is finished and ready to be released, have you looked back and thought at any time, ¨If only I had done this or that...if I had just tweaked it a bit more¨, or are you happy as it is now.

BAJ:  Well... records are never finished... they're released.  Right?  So, it was time to release this one, so we could threaten the world with yet another!  I think Sleep Drum is a really good first disc, but I've also already heard the stuff we're coming up with next!  There's a natural progression of how Chris and I write together, and what we have to say as we look at the world through shape-altering glasses...

I wanted the disc to sound like friends got together, and played music. That's what happened, and I think we portray that idea!  So, in that aspect, and from the standpoint of a writer of tunes... I'm really happy.

This is the first time I've produced myself as a leader, and I found that to be the most difficult of all the tasks inherent in recording a disc.  Chris and I - with the invaluable help of Mike and Sue Shae at Rave'n Recording in Lafayette, CO - also engineered and mixed the disc.  The entire venture was more than a little homegrown – our close friends also played on the disc, and I live within walking distance of Rave’n. 

Humorously, as when we mixed the material, Chris would lean across the desk and turn me up, and I would lean across and turn him up.  It's a good working relationship between Chris, Mike, Sue, and myself.  Also, Mike was there to keep everything on the ground. Now that we've done this, I guess we'll have to do another one to see if we really work that well together!  Never can be too sure… 

GB:  There is a strong presence of wind instrument players and voicings on this outing, do you feel that these instruments compliment the bass voice itself.

BAJ: Chris, plays soprano and tenor sax, E.W.I. and Low Tin Whistle on the disc. His brother, Tom, plays trombone and wrote the horn arrangement on Lookuh Sto’.  The section is rounded-out by the fantastic trumpeter Derek Bannoch - who also plays a great Harmon mute solo at the end of that tune.  Other'n that... I've always liked woodwinds, and I think they compliment the bass voice very well!  There’s something conversational about our dialogue on the disc.

Also, I wanted to take solos, and I wanted to make certain that the guitarists on the disc - Joe Gamble, John Cittadino, and Chad MacCluskey - also had solo opportunities, without the disc sounding like a bunch of solos  stacked one against another.

GB:  Tell us a bit about the players you chose to guest on this record. Are these folks people you have worked with before? 

BAJ:  The guys that played on the disc are dear and long-time friends of mine, for the most part.  Derek Bannoch is a well-known trumpet player in Denver, and he personifies "cool" - without all the silly musician’s ego stuff.  Also, he can (and will) play anything! The only cat I hadn't met before the session is Chris younger brother, Tom. He's in the process of getting his Ph.D. from the University of Northern Colorado.  He's an amazing player and writer. 

The first guy to sign up for the group and for the sessions was drummer Joel MacCluskey, and he plays the lion share of drums on the disc.  The only tune he doesn't play on is First Light, and the reprise of that tune, Second Light.  That drummer is Dean Killian.

I met Joel in late 1987, when I stole him from a group he was playing in at the time.  We've played together often, since then.  His brother, Chad MacCluskey, played guitar on most of the basic tracks, and played a solo on Mertyl By Flashlight.  They're my brothers, and we get together whenever we can.  Chad, is one of the most able straight-ahead guitarists I’ve met, and he can go waaaay outside at the drop of a hat.  He’s also a plain good human being.  Everyone that played on the disc is special.  But Chad is just… good.  Good heart.  I’m particularly thankful for him. 

Dean Killian and I met when we played on a church worship team, in 1990. Dean, Chris, and I were part of this huge worship team at a large church in Arvada, CO (Denver suburb), and we played together often between 1990 and 1992.  Humorously, both Chris and I had told him that he would definitely play on the first disc we made as a leader.  Of course, at that time, Chris and I had no idea that we would be working together, necessarily!  So, Dean played on the first disc!  His, is a completely different style than Joel's... But, he's got a great feel.  He was playing with Chad in a group that broke up last year, and we got back in touch just before the disc to discuss a recording project that may still take shape in the future.  Dean is also a great songwriter.

Joe Gamble and I have been friends for a long time.  Joe also taught and worked at that music store the music store John and I taught out of.  He’s been teaching guitar since he was a teenager.  I relate to that!  I met him through his mother, when he came in to see her, one day.  So, there's a lot of history there.  Joe is one of my favorite guitarists on the planet. Period.  He's incredibly talented and he had to participate in this disc.  I just recorded four tunes with Joe at his home, for his forthcoming disc, a couple weekends ago.  His album should be out this year! 

Percussionist Peter Eissfeldt and I have known each other for a long time, too.  We met through the Boulder music scene, and we ended up working together in a call center (along with Joe Gamble's mom) in the early 90's. I later hired him for a revolving band that featured a Sierra Leonian singer-songwriter named Thomas Honey-Wova Rogers, and we were in that band together for years.  He's played in a number of bands around Boulder and he's a wonderful player.  Very musical... And the sounds his hands make are ridiculously good.  Peter, is also one of the most laid back people I've ever met.  Reeeeeeaally mellow.  He's fantastic.

John Cittadino and I used to teach at a small music store in Longmont CO, and we would get together between students and play standards and talk about music.  He plays the beautifully tweaked solo on the title track!  John is one of the easiest folks I've ever worked with and he lives for the tune - which, I find, is rare for guitarists.  We had to make him play at the sessions!  Whatta guy!  John’s sense of humor is most like Chris’ and my own, and we talk about any, and everything from that point of view. I love all these guys very much and they're all incredible musicians, and they’re all incredibly easy to hang out with.   

As it stands, the band is currently Chris, Joel, and myself.  We haven't completely settled on a guitarist yet and I don't know who we're going to find to work with us.  You see... a lot of this has to do with the fact that many of my friends are also very talented writers and they have a voice of their own.  Which is cool.  But, I'm pretty determined to write the material in this band with Chris... and that's it.  That can make it difficult for anyone as opinionated as most of my good friends! HA!  Which, is why they're my friends…   

GB: Were you integral in writing out parts for the songs or did you give the players latitude in what they contributed to the project. 

BAJ: You know me well!  Chris and I spent from March through May 2001 demo'ing the tunes we'd written between December and February. Sleep Drum happened in late April and it was the last thing written for the disc.  But I had most of that tune in my head for a while, so that was easy to lay down. 

We write in Cue Base, at Chris' house - where the cool keyboards are - and we sequenced drums for all the tunes there.  I had a couple things in my Yamaha QY20, but I think we just recreated them at Chris’ house.  I’ve since put a couple new tunes in the QY20 and those will see the light of day on the next disc. 

We only wrote out a couple things out during the writing process, and most of that was for either Chris or myself!  My line from Lookuh Sto' with the horns (Chris wrote that for me), had to be written out, and the swing section head from the same tune (I wrote that for Chris) was also written.  Otherwise, we wrote charts and gave them to the players.

More than anything, there were specific players in mind as we placed the solo sections and that's how we did it.  When everything was finished, we gave the demo CDRs to the players and said, "See ya' in the studio inna month!"

The core unit of myself, Chris, Joel, and Chad rehearsed for about an hour once, at Rave'n - during drum set-up – the night before we started cutting basics.  After the basics were laid Joe, Chad, and John played guitar parts and solos, and finally Peter came in and laid down percussion.

On the morning of 9/11/01 we cut Chris' tune Little Web and then we recorded First Light with Dean, that evening.  Both tunes are first takes and they are a beautiful document of what we sounded like, in light of the tragic events that will forever scar that date.  Chris plays a chromatic harmonica E.W.I. patch and the most soulful solo on the disc.

GB:  Okay, Sleep Drum exists, what's next?  Will you be attacking a full marketing plan, or is this a business card, a door opener for you?  Will you shop this around to larger labels or are you going to tackle this yourself?

BAJ:  I dunno... (laughs)  Back to your place to drink chai, I suppose!  The next thing is to get the disc's e-commerce website up and running, and start rehearsing to play live.  Fhoot! Records will release the disc in mid-February, and if the disc isn’t out by the time we run this article, I’ll send in an update with a link.   

You guessed it... Chris and I are Fhoot!  We're currently looking for management and then to perform as much as possible - before we return to the studio in September of 2002 to record the next disc.  We’ve also decided to release a live version of the disc, once we’ve settled upon a guitarist, and after we’ve played the material for a Summer.

I'm also encouraging other members of the group to talk with the press and tell more folks about the disc.  So far, everyone is just hearing my side of things… and that can't possibly be a good thing!  

Truth told, I think Sonal Anu will just be what it is, and I'm more interested in doing that than doing anything else, right now.  As one of the chief writers, I don't have to seek out solo opportunities for myself and it seems to work, at this writing.

One of my students recently asked, "what if no one buys this disc?" I responded, "Well, we'll definitely make another disc, and go on tour again." I think that's where I'm at...

GB:  So now that you have the product, if the gods be willing and tour interest begins to mount, will you take that path.

BAJ:  I would really have to put serious prayer into taking whatever path presents itself – beyond the band.  So, I can't really answer that with a blanket statement - though, Lord knows, I’ve tried to be as irreverent, and stinky, as possible...

I'm most interested in making music with people I dig and supporting my family via that means.  As a husband and father, I like spending time with my family.  So, I'm not interested in bouncing around in a van for a solid year!  But, I would be very interested if Japan, Europe, and/or South America are interested enough in the disc or the group to bring us 'round.  I'm also interested in paying for my children's school expenses, and for those things that provide my family with a good home. I have no interest in being a "star" of any sort.  I just want to play my basses and feed my family.

If you ever see me wiggling about with some scantily clad, obnoxiously implanted, scank-weasel... kill me! I will have gone too far at that point!  Thank you.

I’m still playing with Bruce Fleet’s electric band, and I may begin playing in the acoustic outfit – now that I have a beautiful new acoustic contra bass that I’m working out on.  I had taken a few years off – due to the difficulty in keeping a nice instrument in this climate and altitude… and due to the fact that I was being lazy. 

I’ve already mentioned that Joe Gamble’s disc will come out this year, as will earlier recordings with Honey-Wova, and possibly the tunes I recorded with Amy Sapp a while back.  I think there’s something planned with keyboardist Steve McDonald for 2002, and vocalist Hollie Smith’s brilliant disc, that we recorded in July 2001, should come out in the next several months.  I’m beginning to schedule clinics again for Status Graphite and Wayne Jones, and also for Aguilar. The first clinic of 2002 will be in Seattle, in March…  Further updates as news warrants!  There are also a few singer-songwriters that I’m producing with Chris, and we always play on those projects.

Finally, I’m looking forward to performing and recording with singer-songwriter Keith Rosenhagen. Keith is an incredibly talented man, and he’s a good friend of mine.  I’m playing in his trio (with a percussionist), and I’m trying to talk him into using a full band with drummer Randy Amen, and Chris.  All this stuff should keep me as busy as I’ll want to be - outside of the group.  Naturally, anything could happen…

GB:  Will any of the musicians on this album travel as part of your band or will you create another touring band to chase your fortune? 

BAJ:  So far, Joel has signed-up for the long haul, and, naturally, I'm not going anywhere without Chris.  So, there's already a trio, if nothing else!  That’s the trio you hear on the break-down of the disc’s title track.  Good trio! 

The reason Chris and I played all the keyboards on the disc is because I feel that they generally take up too much bandwidth – pun fully intended. I am hoping for a more open sound in the live interpretation of this material.  Really, I'd rather have a guitarist comping, than a keyboard. Chris will focus on woodwinds and E.W.I., while playing a bit of keys here and there – when he, apparently, has nothing better to do! (laughter) 

All that said, we're looking for a guitarist who can handle the chords and who can also solo without an enormous bed of sound beneath them.  That takes a lot of courage and I know guitarists who don't do that well.  Maybe I'm putting the future guitarist of this group in that place all bassists have experienced... "Bass solo! Everybody take 5!"  

Sincerely, I'm hoping for a good player who is also a cool enough person to hang with offstage.

GB: Take us on a journey through this album, title by title, and give us an idea of why you chose things like harmonica (very successfully as a counterpoint to the bass), why you chose the first track as your first track and what the heck you were thinking in the last song on the record!

BAJ:  Track 1: Hymn - Chris and I lifted those chords from a wonderful female singer-songwriter and built the tune around them.  Beside the title track, this is my favorite tune on the disc - because it's the first thing we played together as a group.  I also liked my solo on that tune a lot.  Lot's of emotion, and a good performance, and Joe Gamble's solo is beautiful.  This is my writing, predominantly. 

Track 2: Mertyl By Flashlight - This is Chris' tune, and I came up with the open middle section.  Mertyl isn't as pretty as the Stella of "Stella By Starlight" fame.  She looks like Popeye.  I really dig the break down of the tune where Chad comps guitar and I solo over the middle section I wrote for the tune.  Very pretty.  Chad plays the guitar solo on this tune.

Track 3: Little Web - This is Chris' tune all-through and we recorded this on 9/11.  I get goose bumps during his solo.  YEAH!  This is Chris at his finest.  Peter plays incredible shaker and congas.  Understatement at it's finest, I think.

Track 4: Lookuh Sto' - It's "the acid-jazz jam" on the record.  Anyone who's ever been tipsy knows how this goes... As I'm not a drinker, and I've played bar gigs from a young age, I have many experiences with tipsy people.  Chad plays the bent-up guitar solo and Derek Bannoch plays a solo.  Chris plays the swing section with a lot of cool swagger! The sense of humor running through the tune speaks of the attitude we took into the sessions.  Lot's of laughs!

Funny thing about this tune... Chris played the organ bass, beneath my solo, and he plays the line in a strange way. Epiphany! We kept it!  In all, the tune swings its butt off. This tune is a complete collaboration between Chris and myself.  I wrote the head... and off we went!

Track 5: First Light - This is predominantly Chris' tune.  Once again, I add the part that includes the cool Japanese wood flute, in the middle of the tune.  This tune is a great example of how our writing styles work together.  Dean Killian plays drums on this one and Joe Gamble plays the guitar solo.

Track 6: The Right One - This is my "Portrait of Tracy" - as that's my wife's name.  I used to joke to myself, "wouldn't it be strange if I married a woman named Tracy?"  I did.  I play the harmonics and bass line at the same time and the tune functions well as a quartet with Chris, Joel, and Peter.

Also, Peter brought in a HUGE "Samba Drum" that you can hear toward the end of the tune.  I decided against soloing on this tune as I feel the main body of what I'm playing suffices nicely in that regard.  This is the only tune I didn't collaborate with Chris on – as I wrote the tune when Tracy and I were dating, nearly 14 years ago! 

Track 7: Selah - Beautiful tune!  Chris plays low whistle.  He hasn't been playing very long... But he studies hard.  So he had this together in time for the disc!  Joe Gamble plays the comping guitar and really tears it up. This tune is the most delicate on the disc.

Track 8: Sleep Drum - This is predominantly me.  It's also the track that features my "boxing glove" piano track beneath the drum out take and first guitar solo.  Loved that!  Also, this tune goes from the guitar solo and breaks down into a trio - Chris, Joel, and myself - during Chris' tenor solo.  That part, and the end of the tune, are some of my favorite things on the disc.  John Cittadino plays the guitar solo on this one.  E solo sounds like something from a David Lynch score!  Very cool!  As usual, John doesn’t use a plectrum on this solo, and he employs his whammy-bar “butterflies” a la Jeff Beck.  Cool. 

Track 9: Second Light - That's drummer Dean Killian yelling, "Agaaiin!" as the tune heats up.  We just faded during my sparse solo and put this section of the tune at the 'end' of the disc.  Also, I wanted to hear more of Dean’s drumming.  So, I dropped my solo out in order to feature him more strongly. I also mixed the track a little differently and got good results. Chris plays particularly cool piano fills here. 

GB:  So after the tour, after you are back home and settled in, what is next?  Will you go back to working as a sideman or if success dictates, will you pursue a continued career in Sonal Anu?  Do you have a 5 year or a 10 year plan? 

BAJ:  Good question!  I’ve gotta remember this one for the folks I interview in the future!

Actually, all the 5-to-10 year plan stuff has very little to do with Sonal Anu – though, that is where I hope to find myself - and more to do with my life as a husband and father. 

I’ve recently resigned from teaching bass at Naropa College in Boulder, in order to see the most positive opportunities for the group into fruition…  But, beyond that, things about the group slow down a bit.  I mean, as much as for the group, I quit teaching in a college atmosphere to focus more on writing my instructional books, and seeing if a video deal will eventually raise it’s head.  I still teach privately.  But, it’s a very select group of people – friends, mostly.   

I also want to guarantee that my time at home centers around my wife and two children.  As I mentioned… I don’t expect that I’ll pursue an outside “solo” career – as I am one of the chief writers in the group.  This group concept will always be a part of what I do.  I am, however, hoping that Chris writes a collection of his material that doesn’t work for this group, so I can play on that!  Also, I’d like to do a disc and book with another bassist.  I want to keep writing bass-oriented material, and I want to publish that material.  That’s where my ultimate goals lie.  Though, I think that may be because I’ve just finished a disc and that experience was completely exhausting!  I both look forward to, and dread this Autumn, when we’ll record another disc!  Maybe, I could better answer the question after a nap! 

GB:  The bass voicing you have chosen for this album if somewhat rolled off at the top, almost a fretless or double bass sound. Was this intentional, was it a choice, is this the sound you seek whenever you play live, or do you just not have a treble pot on your bass? Just kidding about the treble pot! Ow!  Don't hit me!

BAJ:  Why I outta...!  No. I think as long as I'm getting a clear sound, I'm pretty pleased.  I think the sound of my hands comes through on any instrument I play.  So, that's it.  My sound varies from the sound on this disc, to something a little more trebly.  But this is what I heard, this year.

On all but Right One, and Mertyl… I used my fantastic Status Graphite 6-string basses.  On the aforementioned tunes, I used a Tobias Custom 6 that my good friend, bassist Jon Baron, gave to me this past year.  Thanks Jon!

I think, too, that the sound of 6-string isn't really in the ears of people yet, per se.  Not that the 6-string bass guitar is, by any means, ‘new’… But, most people hear 4-string and 5-string basses more often than not.

I intentionally don't go for the, "let's try to make it sound like a 4-string" -thing, in my recorded tone. Though, I do sound 'deep', and I have a really big sound, I've manage to avoid sounding muddy.  I think that is the sound of the 6-string. It's a bigger instrument (more neck. More body. More… butt!), ya know?  I can get a clear, throaty, big J Bass sound on the Status fretless.  Maybe next disc I'll feature that more...

Finally, as I use graphite instruments, I’m more conscious of my own bias toward non-wood instruments and the inherent sound of synthetic materials.  If anything, the bass doesn’t sound like graphite, but it is very clear in each sonic range.  I dig that a bunch!   

GB:  Tell us a bit about the equipment and effects you chose for this recording.

BAJ: I use different things in session, than live.  But, I don’t think of the gear I use as ‘different’ from place to place… as its all my gear.  Come to think of it, I focus on using the Line 6 Bass POD Pro and FloorBoard whenever appropriate in either setting. 

Here's a gear-list run-down:

Status Graphite S2 Classic fretted 6, Status Graphite S1 Classic Fretless 6, Tobias Custom 6, a pair of Fender J Basses, Aguilar DB750, Aguilar DB350, Wayne Jones WJ bass enclosures, Countryman Direct Boxes, Czech acoustic contra bass.

GB:  Now we have talked about your sense of humor, including your genuine if oft-times futile attempts to be serious for more than 5 minutes. Track 10 is a perfect example. A sensitive and often poignant album right up until track 9, you hold it together all that time, and then this!

BAJ:  If you think I can (or will) explain this, you’re crazier than you think I am!  (laughter) Folks will just have to hear it... 

The very last thing on the disc is a ‘reprise’ of Lookuh Sto’ that features a commentary by the tune’s main character.  The idea came from hearing out-takes on other people’s discs – Scott Henderson’s discs come to mind!  It’s not as off-the-wall as Randy Brecker’s thing, either.  It’s… funny, and I think this particular character and all his ‘friends’ will show up on other discs.  The voices are what Chris and I came up with together.  The voices that aren’t me… are him!  That’s all you’re getting’, folks… 

GB:  Are there people out there who think you should be institutionalized or have they relegated themselves to just letting you be the froot loop you are, as long as you don't hurt yourself or anybody else?!?!

BAJ:  Yes. But, I'm too busy screaming, "If you're scared...stay home!" 

GB:  When you are rich and famous will you still write for us? Will you even talk to us?  Brent?  Brent! Are you still there? 

BAJ:  Oh yeah... I was just beating a roadie for letting a couple green M&Ms slip into the batch of brown ones.  I love those!  So, after I finish with him (peasant) I'll take a yak milk and virgin oat bath, and have a facial.  You know me... gotta look like a caramel fudge square.  My analyst says I'm special, unique, one-of-a-kind, and right sexy... just like everyone else. 

I think part of my life’s ministry is to say things that folks don't dare think.  By the same token... No one, save God, owns my soul.  I'm completely free, and shakin' my rump about it!  (LOUD laughter)

Thank you, Warren, for everything.  You’re a good friend, and a good man in a storm.  Truly, I think the first thing I'll probably do after the tour, is find someone else to interview for this magazine!  Global Bass is fantastic and that's why I work here! 

Finally, I want to thank people for the great emails I’ve received through my website:

My favorite people on Earth include Warren & Marty from Global Bass, Matt Garrison, Mark Peterson, Fima Ephron, Kai Eckhardt, Michel Alibo (I just like saying that (“Aaaaaaaalibo”) , Rob & Dawn Green, PJ at Aguilar, and the people who have written to say, “Good job on the article!”   Thank you all!  Peace, Love, & Sooooul...






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Last modified: June 16, 2009