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Gary Jibilian


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When you sit and listen to the intricate two-handed harmonies on the Jibilian/Glass CD Galaxy Rodeo. it's difficult to imagine that Gary Jibilian is a relative newcomer to his chosen instrument,the NS/Stick.  

Only when you realise that Gary had been tapping furiously at his bass for some twelve years prior to picking up the Stick does it start to all make sense. When we spoke recently, I began by asking him what influenced him to get into tapping. 

'There is a bassist that very few people know about named David Harbour. He is my #1 influence in all aspects of my bass playing,whether its tapping, slapping, and especially his aggressive dig-in style of fingerpicking. Back in the early '90's, I saw him play live six times when he would come to Detroit with neo-classical guitarist David T. Chastain.

His bass solo, as well as many of Chastain's songs, featured some great tapping techniques. I would spend hours trying to learn his lines, but couldn't quite duplicate what he was doing. So I would end up with my own translations. This was fine with me, since it helped me develop my own sound and technique. Later on, watching the Stu Hamm and Billy Sheehan videos taught me a lot.'

So, I asked next, what drew Gary towards the new instrument,the NS/Stick and how easy was the transition for him? 

'First off, I'm a huge fan of Cynic and Gordian Knot. If I had to narrow down the two biggest factors in my consideration to get a tapping instrument, they would be : 1) I was already tapping on the bass, and 2) the Gordian Knot cd.

All of the players on that cd were creating, what I thought odd as New Music, especially Sean Malone and Trey Gunn. I would try to play some of their riffs on my bass, but it just didn't work! Plus, the sound of my bass couldn't compare to their instruments.

So in early 2000, I started thinking that I should look into getting a Stick". A week later, after checking out the Stick web site, I started saying, "I need a Stick!" I was a bit hesitant about spending money on an instrument that I'd never played before, not to mention if I would even be ableto play it.

Then I was told by a local Stick player, Glenn Poorman, that since I play bass, I should look into getting the new NS/Stick. I began feeling more confident that I could play the NS/Stick right away, since I was already used to straight 4th's tuning on the bass. So I put my order in and waited the five months while Emmett built the instrument.

On the day that my NS/Stick arrived, I had to plug it in at Oz's Music, and see what the hell I had gotten myself into. Within the first few minutes of finding out what notes were what on the three higher strings, I realised that I could play this wild instrument! Actually, the first four notes of The Disappearing One were created at Oz's store as I figured out where the octaves were, five minutes after I got the NS/Stick!'

Most of us have seen Stick players like Tony Levin and Nick Beggs and will be quite familiar with the looks and layout of the Chapman Stick, yet the NS/Stick is quite a different animal. I asked Gary to explain the differences. 

'First off, the most striking difference is, of course, the size and shape of the instruments. The NS/Stick has more of a body than the Stick.

The second difference would be the sound of the two instruments. I'm only experienced in playing the NS/Stick, so I'll give my opinion of this instrument's sound, since I don't think it would be fair to judge what sounds the Stick is capable of producing.

Each player's sound is different, and will depend on the type of processing, amps and cabinets they use. The three-way pickup selectors for the top bass strings (B,E, A, D) as well as the bottom melody strings (G, C, E, A) offer a wide array of tones, as well as the four active EMG's, and the stacked bass/treble knobs.

The NS/Stick has a retractable string damper, which allows for playing strings in the open position just like a guitar and bass.

Though alternate tunings are possible, the NS/Stick is generally tuned in straight fourths. Mine was shipped with the tuning B,E,A,D,G,C,E,A, so that's the way I learned to play it.

The high E is actually a major third, which took a bit getting used to , but it allows for a more natural finger
positioning of the right ring and pinkie fingers.

The knee rest on the NS/Stick is a nice feature also, making seated play more comfortable. Another difference is the headless design, with the one piece tuning machines/bridge located on the body of the instrument. I'm a pretty aggressive player, but I've noticed that my NS/Stick stays in tune for my entire set, and sometimes for the entire gig. 

For more info on these instruments check out or   

Soon after getting the NS/Stick Gary formed the duo Jibilian/Glass with Todd Glass, a drummer who was already working with Gary in the backing band for Detroit singing legend Thornetta Davis. They decided to keep their union to a duo and I asked why. 

'At first I definitely wanted a guitarist, so I called some great players that I knew and told them about what I was doing. I thought that they would be able to just jump right in and start playing. After a few practices, they said that I was already playing what they had in mind, and for them to play different yet compatible lines, I would have to show them what I was playing note for note. We just didn't have enough time to do this, so I decided to keep the band a duo.

So far, this has been a good move, since it's so much easier to get things done with just another person to deal with instead of all the dynamics involved with a full band. It has made practising a breeze, as well as recording, gigging,and the whole decision making process.

I can't say that I'll never add another musician, but for now, I want to see how far I can go without one. If I do add another instrument, the most important factor is not only how well does that musician play, but how well will their sound blend with the NS/Stick? Most of the guitarists that I've had try out were great players, but their tone buried the awesome sound of the NS.'

Only seven months after Gary started to play his new instrument, he and Todd were already starting to record their debut CD. I figured they must have found writing together quite easy. 

'Yeah, we really surprised ourselves at how fast we were ready to record these tunes. I think it was because these songs were so new that we learned them quicker, despite the complexity of some of the tunes. We didn't feel the need to wait a year or two to start recording, like most bands do. If they're still together at that time.

We wanted to document our progress, and get these songs out for people to hear what we created. I feel, though, that our playing has gotten much better since the recording. We've recorded two new songs that will be on the next cd, SlowBoat to China, and Sadana.'

Jibilian/Glass bill their music as 'Progressive Music For OpenMinds' I wondered what they meant by that and who they would consider to be their influences. 

' "Progressive Music for Open Minds" means just that, but I was really targeting the local Detroit audience, who at times, live in the past when it comes to music. I know that Detroit is home to droves of Prog fans. I see them pack the theaters when King Crimson, Dixie Dregs, and Dream Theater come to town, so now it's a matter of letting them know I exist.

The problem is that it's hard to get most of these people out of the house unless you're playing on a Friday or Saturday, because they're not bar folk. I want to let the locals know that there is more to music than just Blues and Classic Rock, and to force them to use their minds a bit, instead of listening to another lame version of "Mustang Sally"!

It's difficult to compare ourselves to other bands, since I don't know of anyone else that writes the way I do, but I've had people tell me that we remind them of King Crimson, DixieDregs,  a harder version of Radiohead, Philip Glass, Rush, to name a few.

Some people insist that I'm playing fusion jazz, and I say, "I wish!" I don't know jazz, and don't pretend to know jazz, but I won‘t argue with my devoted fans! The best complement is when people say that they've never heard music like mine, and then they buy a cd.' 

Like a lot of today's players, Gary uses looping consistently in his sound. 

'Looping is very important in my songs, especially live. Since I'm responsible for all of the rhythm, melody, and leads, looping plays an important role in filling up the sound.

Some songs, like Sadana and Slow Boat to China are loop-based, where I'll play a line, loop it, then add more looped lines to the song, along with a solo. Other songs like Anti-Gravity and Tango Tingo have some looped parts, and others like Galaxy Rodeo and The Absorbing Mirror have no looping.

So far, I've been using the Line6 DL4 for looping, which allows up to 24 seconds of recording time, though I rarely use that much time in any loop. The unit works great, and is easy to use.'

The duo have already managed to clock up some impressive opening slots already, Gary told me of a few. 

'Yeah, I'm really lucky, and very appreciative of having opened for such musical giants. The first was opening for Bill Bruford's Earthworks, June 1st at the Magic Bag, right in my hometown of Ferndale. We really freaked the crowd out, and they loved it, just as predicted! Earthworks were amazing, and it was an honor to have met such a legend.

After our sound check, the owner booked us to open for CAB (Dennis Chambers, Tony MacAlpine, Bunny Brunel, Brian Auger) onJune 23rd. Sure, no problem! We only open for legendary drum monsters now anyway! Everything about this show was better than we had expected. From the supportive crowd, to CAB's intense set, this night was just perfect.

'On October 29th, we opened for the California Guitar Trio, at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Mi. The Trio's booking agent heard our CD, and requested that we get the opening slot. He also told me to send a CD to Paul Richards just to make sure the band was approved.When I got to the club, the Trio were leaving to get a bite to eat, and Paul said, "Hi Gary. We're really looking forward to your performance. We love the CD".

I was a bit dumbfounded as I said to myself, "Hey, isn't this what I should be saying to them?" We played a great set, made more new fans, and even got the local NPR station to play one of our songs on the air that day, after they played the Trio's version of "Bohemian Rhapsody".

'I also did a solo opening set for one of the most respected Stick players in the world, Greg Howard, on November 17th, at a local coffeehouse. This was my third time seeing Greg, and he's truly a master of his instrument.'   

I closed by asking Gary about his future plans for recording and gigging, seems they're wide open. 

'Locally, I'm playing about once a month at The Music Menuin downtown Detroit. In December, I signed a deal with a booking agent who is going to get me on the national college scene, so I'm really looking forward to that.

Todd Glass has moved on to play full time with another local band, though I'm sure we'll do more shows together some time in the future. I've recently been working with an incredible drummer named Bob Harsen, who is originally from Detroit. He has spent the last 14 years in L.A., and just moved back here to look after his aging mother.

Bob is a Berkley grad with an impressive resume which includes working with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Frank Gambale, Richard Elliot, recording and touring with Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, and touring for almost ten years with Melissa Manchester.

I'd like to start recording material for the next CD as soon as I get the budget squared away.I'm ready to tour, it's just a matter of finding the right manager/promoter/agent who shares the same vision that I do. They gotta have BALLS!!!

I'd love to go on the road as the opening act for the right band.

I've got my passport, so...'


Visit Gary Jibilian's website at


Andy Long is our correspondent in the U.K. and the author of numerous articles in Global Bass for a number of issues. Andy will be continuing over 2002 with a series of interesting and provocative interviews with some of the UK's best and brightest bass players. 

Check out his official website at Third Bass






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