Global Bass Online March 2001
Global Bass Magazineís
It seems to me that you and George have managed to work out the perfect
endorsement deal because when one thinks of Alain Caron, one thinks of
Furlanetto. I live not too far from where they are built and when I go into the
shop and I see these basses, I think of Alain Caron. This is a perfect symbiosis
between artist and instrument.
Actually I was just on the phone about 10 minutes
ago with George planning a few things. Definitely, we have the perfect
agreement. I always want to stay with them because of the character we have
developed. It is weird to find a builder where we even agree upon the final
sound! What I like in a sound, George likes too. We kinda grew together. We
developed our ears and knowledge together. Always in the same direction and on
the same path.
How did you meet originally?
He came to Montreal, called me, and said he had a
great instrument for me. I tried it and said ďYeahĒ, but I also told him
right away what I didnít like. He said, ďOh, I didnít see that, but
been like this for almost 14 years.
Do you have anything special done, for example, to the pickups?
Al: Oh my God, yes! I donít know how many versions of pickups we have tried. Now we also working with Seymour Duncan and I will actually be endorsing their pickups. I have been working with George and the technicians at Seymour Duncan for the past four years.
you have the option of Georgeís pickup or Seymour pickups. But more and more
George will be using Seymour Duncan pickups. He doesnít have the time to wind
GB: Many of the videos of you in concert have you playing an F Bass with a midi pickup affixed to the bass. Is this the Yamaha B1-D pickup?
Al: Yes, this is what I have now, although I am not playing that live anymore, but I have it in my studio.
GB: Why do you not use it live anymore?
Al: Because after UZEB I wanted to focus more on just the bass. The fretless 6 string. First of all, I wanted to develop two sounds, the fretless and the piccolo bass as well. I am going to develop an upright 6 string as well.
GB: Who will you have build it for you?
Al: Itís already done, I will have it in a couple of months, itís built by Boosey and Hawkes. The instrument is at the finishing stages now. Itís very exciting.
GB: Back when you did use the B1-D pickup, it appeared that you favored voices that were flutelike or horn-likeÖ
Al: Yeah, it was because of the tracking. That kind of wave is easier to track.
GB: Did the pickup handled fretless fairly well, overall?
Al: Yup, it did. I also had the Peavey midi bass.
Yeah, they just seem to come in with a bang and then just disappeared!
Al: Because it didnít sell. I had one for 5 years and I thought it was a great bass. But they decided to stop the building because they werenít selling enough of them.
GB: Do you think it was because of the technology?
Al: No I think the technology was right. But Peavey sells so many guitars and amplifiers, itís such a big company and that department was losing money.
GB: On ďCALL ME ALĒ did you use midi at all? There are times when it sounds like you may have, but when I look at the sheer size of the band you are using I thought, why bother? Seventeen people, you wouldnít need midi bass, you had everything there!
Al: Thatís right. This record was focussed on the idea of a small Big Band. As acoustic as possible, I wanted the real horns, the real piano. But when I was making the demo and when I was writing, I used the midi bass.
GB: There is a wonderful R & B singer in Toronto by the name of Liz Tansey. When her album ďWhat I WantĒ first came out I went to see here play live and it was obvious that to pull off that full sound from her album, she had to use a very large band. In spite of this excellent debut album, it was far too expensive to tour a large band like hers to support that album.
Al: Yes, I know her. I have the same problem, donít worry. I cannot tour with a horn section. I have to use keyboard.
GB: Thatís really a shame isnít it? You canít help but feel badly for the horn players too because they know that they are the first out the door when cutting costs becomes paramount.
Al: Very true.
GB: You have long endorsed La Bella strings.
Al: For a long time now.
GB: Why La Bella versus the hundreds of other types of string available?
Al: When I first started to play 6 string bass, there was no low B available on the market. By accident I met the La Bella distributor here in Quebec. He told me that he could give me the direct phone number and they could build me the exact string I wanted. So that was how it started. It could easily have been another company.
I called them and I told them I would like to have them build me a low B. They sent me a couple samples and we met, and they asked me if I would like to endorse the strings. I liked the string, but we kept developing different models. We are still working on different models for them.
GB: So for you it isnít just that you endorse a string because they will send you free boxes of them. The same with F Basses, you are actively involved in the development of the product. You are helping them and they are helping you.
Al: Yes, I donít want or need free strings. I have the same thing with EDEN Ampifiers. I use their Navigator preamplifier. David Nordshow, the owner of the company, I donít know how many cabinets he has sent me to try. I keep saying to him, ďNo this is not right, this is right, this is betterĒ. When he designed the Navigator, he sent me a list of things I would like to see on a preamplifier, so definitely I want to work with this company.
More and more I am going to do things with Roland as well. Iíve actually been working with Roland for years, doing clinics with them but more and more I am going to be involved with other Roland products for bass. It is going to be very interesting, but I cannot say more than that at this point.
On my last record I used their digital board, it was incredible. Itís 24-Bit with onboard effects, the A to D (analog to digital-Editor) converter sounds incredible, it sounds warm and fat. Itís definitely incredible, I have it in my studio right now!
GB: Would you say you have a very discerning ear, an exact sense of what sounds good and what doesnít?
Al: I donít know about that, but I know I can differentiate between frequencies. When David (Eden) calls me and sends me a speaker cabinet, I can tell him if there is too much of this or a resonance in that area or this tweeter is different.
GB: In the long run however, having someone such as yourself in the fields but with a good ear is a blessing, you would save a company many tens of thousands of dollars from building a cabinet that may have a sympathetic resonance or a Ďhonkí. They need to know this stuff.
Al: Thatís why they want me to work with them and on the other hand, thatís why I want to work with them.
Itís good to be taken seriously and respected, isnít it?
Al: You cannot ask to be respected, it has to come naturally. If you have to ask to be respected, if you have to tell a person to be respectful to you, you probably are already too late.
The song on this newest album entitled ďThe F FileĒ. Is that a play
on the X Files or a reference to your love of Furlanetto basses?
Al: No itís just a stupid thing. Actually, I did name it after the X Files, but really when I write music I write it on the computer using Q-Base and I always use a score. Obviously when I write these things, I put them in files and that tune was in the Funk File. That was the F File.
GB: Have you ever wrestled with trying to get the slap technique on the fretless?
Al: On the fretless I donít think it sounds good because the string hits a long flat wooden surface, it just sounds thin and quiet. I donít like the sound. All the slap I do I do on the fretted bass.
GB: Have you ever been tempted to venture beyond 6 string. Perhaps 7 and other configurations?
Al: No, I donít think itís for me at this point. It took me a long time to be totally comfortable on the 6 string. Iíd rather spend my time now on developing my writing skills.
GB: Why six strings then?
Al: I knew I wanted to have more strings to have more vertical possibilities. And more range! `Cos when Gino Vanelli came on the scene with a bass synthesizer, it made me want to have access to that same low B.
I wanted to have access to that low range and since I wanted to be a good soloist as well, I wanted to have access in the higher range without having to play at the very top, at the very highest section of the neck all the time. I knew a long time ago that I wanted a six string.
GB: Did you ever come across butting heads with guitarists that would say to you, ďYouíre not a guitarist! Stay out of my rangeĒ.
Al: Of course, but when I play bass, I play bass. When I solo, I solo. When to step forward and when to step back. This is the first thing I say in my clinicsÖĒIf you came here to learn how to solo, I will show you a few good tricks, but first you have to enjoy being a bass player. This is the first question you have to ask yourself, ďDo I wanna be a bass player, because a bass player has a role to fulfill. To support harmonically and rhythmically, you have to be the father of the band. If you donít want to fill that role, youíre not a bass player.Ē
Itís just a matter of understanding arrangements and writing. When you write you understand the importance of the bass.
GB: I might as well get your opinion on this issue as well. I have asked Dann Glenn, Chuck Rainey and Jeff Berlin this and would like your opinion as well. Do you feel that Tablature holds any place compared to Musical Notation in written music, any validity?
Al: I am against that (Tablature) too. It took a long time to develop the writing of music, to make it international, to make it able to speak with other musicians, to allow other musicians to play together. So, itís international, and it works! I think we shouldnít change that.
GB: At the beginning of this interview we talked about the universal and international language of music, and how the success of UZEB was in no small way because it used no words, no English and no French, no barriers. The limitation of Tablature lies in itís inability to cross talk with other instruments in a group.
Al: I agree definitely!
GB: In this newest album you have ventured into looping, a very adventuresome step. Was this the first time you have embraced that technology?
Al: No. We used looping with UZEB even in the `80ís.
GB: There is one track on this album called ĎSECRETSí where you use upright bass, acoustic piano, a cello and a female voice only. The cello and the voice are done by a young lady by the name of JORANE. Tell us a bit about her, please.
Al: She is a great singer and a great cellist, the only one I know that can do both at the same time! She has two great records out.
Have you ever been approached about doing a duet with someone say for
example, like Michael Manring, another fretless wizard?
Al: I did a bass record called BASSE CONTRA BASSE (ĎBass and Contrabassí) thatís on my record label now. NORAC Records. I would like to do some other duet, not necessarily with bass at this point. Although I know Michael very well and I really enjoy his playing.
GB: I have been listening to what you have been saying and I canít help but ask if you feel that perhaps Quebec is more prone to nurture its artists than maybe the rest of Canada.
Al: I think we are a bit more organized. I mean, look at the Montreal Jazz Festival, the biggest festival I have played. Next week I have to go to Quebec City because of an event called Le Rideau, itís where all the festival managers get together to organize their events.
I am going to do a showcase there to present my show and to do a tour in Quebec. So I feel it is a bit more organized. All the Jazz Festivals across Canada should be able to get together and perhaps have an artist not just do one festival, but to do them all.
I had been trying to play across Canada for years and itís so hard. Itís too complicated, itís easier just to head to Europe. I make a living in Europe because you know, I go a couple of times a year to do a one-month tour. There is a kind of organization in place that I donít see in Canada.
There is no communication between Toronto and Montreal and there is less between Vancouver and Montreal!
if you are not familiar with Alains work, why not take a jaunt on over to his
website. The URL is provided at the end of this article. Try out a few of his
samples from this most recent album and others. If you like what you hear, and
if you are a lover of all things fretless, chances are you will, albums can be
ordered directly from his site.
A complete discography of Alainís career with UZEB and his 4 solo albums. He has played on other peoples recordings as well, and that information can be found along with other interesting info at his website at:
releases with UZEB in
Live in Bracknell `81
Fast Emotion `82
You Be Easy `84
Between the Lines `85
Live a líOlympia `86
Absolutely Live `86
Noisy Nights `88
Live in Europe `88
UZEB Club `89
World Tour `90
60 rue de Lombards
Albums to date
92/93 His first with Le Band
95 Also with Le Band
2000 Call Me Al
the re-release of the UZEB World Tour
and The Best of UZEB on Les Disques
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