Global Bass Online May 2000
‘As Real As it Gets’
‘You Either Get It, or You Don’t’
Conversations with and about
The Mad Professor Of Bass
It's truly amazing how quickly your words can come back to bite you in the butt! I made a promise to you, our readers, in the first issue that I would not throw the label 'genius' around unless I truly felt that an artist could not be better described. I had no idea at that time who it was that I would be interviewing for this second issue.
I should forewarn you that this interview is not for the faint of heart. There is a small amount of profanity, but overall it is the intense nature of some of the content that may unsettle some. Dann Glenn is not for the feeble minded. Reality can be messy.
Having long been an admirer of highly developed players like Tony Levin, Chris Squire, Michael Manring, Orin Isaacs and so on, I was amazed and a little disappointed in myself that I knew nothing (until recently) about the gentlemen featured as our Cover Story in this issue.
Fast becoming referred to by friends, fans and admirers as The Mad Professor of Bass, Dann Glenn easily takes his well-deserved position as our lead story.
There is a quality in Dann's playing and his personality that I have never encountered before. A strong sense that developed from our first and every contact that whenever I listened to him or his playing, I was only seeing a small fraction of what was really going on. Not unlike the analogy of an iceberg, with most of it's mass held beyond sight, Dann's personality left me with the distinct feeling that I could know him for 20 years, yet it would always seem there were so many other things yet to discover.
I recall a conversation he and I had about a month or so ago as he was describing his new Modulus bass to me. Sitting in his studio, Digital Village, somewhere in the quiet countryside of the mid-west Americas, he raved about the Phat sound his new custom-made Modulus 'Dann Glenn' bass produced.
Specifically designed to Dann's exacting specifications, the DGVJ4 is built with a single Lane Poor pickup and pre-amp. Rightfully proud of this killer combination he suggested that maybe he would just show me what the bass sounded like by playing something over the phone.
Asking me to hold for a moment, I could hear him slinging the bass over his shoulder and plugging it in. He proceeding to fire off a volley of some of the most intricate and accurately intonated fretless playing I have ever heard, all as if it were nothing at all. When I complimented him on what I had heard, I knew that he was interpreting my compliments as if they were directed solely towards the bass itself.
Considering that the sound was being sent over hundreds of miles of phone line, there was still a delicious combination of the highly organic 'butterscotch' sound of a fretless and the digital accuracy of a fine studio. But where the brilliance truly lay was in the hands of Dann Glenn himself! What would have taken a competent bass player 20 tries to reach, Dann had pulled off the first time.
This with no ego attached!
A few weeks later we talked again and once more he asked me to hold on for a moment. He told me he wanted me to hear a new piece of music. This time gone for a longer period, I grew excited at the possibility of hearing even more of his great playing. Suddenly he was back again, asking me to listen to what was to be one of the first audiences of a new piece he had composed entitled, 'Opus For Three Basses'. Destined for his 10th solo album, SUBHARMONIA, the opus was a platform for 3 intensely interwoven bass parts, one electric, one acoustic and one tenor bass voicing.
You know that feeling you get when you are caught unprepared for a camera flash? The sense that you have looked directly into the sun and find yourself almost in a sort of paralysis. That is the precise feeling I had as I listened to what was being piped into my head from so many miles away. I felt like a deer mesmerized before headlights as this piece of music unfolded.
In this sonic masterpiece, Dann exhibits a most deft control of the interplay between dissonance and resolution. A feeling stood suspended amongst the ebb and flow of all the connected parts that DEMANDED resolution, an almost sexual tension, pushing and pulling towards release but never quite getting there. About five minutes into the piece, he suddenly interrupts to say, "It just kinda goes on like that from there."
IT JUST KINDA GOES ON LIKE THAT FROM THERE !
One of the most invigorating, mind blowing, maddening, revelatory pieces of musical illumination that I have ever heard 'just kinda goes on like that from there'?? It was then that I began to understand what they meant when they called this gentleman 'The Mad Professor of Bass'.
When a person moves beyond a certain point of intelligence or creative brilliance, ego can sometimes cease to be an issue. They lose that sense of self-importance, the ownership that says that "I'm doing all this". In my many conversations with Dann, one theme seems to run through all the things he says about the music itself...there is an all pervading sense that the music is coming through him and not from him. He feels he is much more of a window than a filter. He is as blown away by all this as his fans are, because he knows he is but the vessel through which the Muse moves. Ergo, no ego.
Now this is not to say that his magnificent gift of music has turned him into some sort of airy-fairy new age noodler. Anyone who knows Dann finds out in short order that there are a few ground rules if you wish to interact with him. Over the six months that I have known him, these are a few of things I have learned.
First and foremost, he ‘does not suffer fools gladly’; that is to say that he won’t let you take up his time with babbling or self-aggrandizing. A strong believer in the adage that ‘action speaks louder than words’, he is a show-me-don’t-tell-me kind of guy, with an infallible radar for BS. He can sense you’re lying in a moment. If he does, you will be cut off.
Knowing Dann Glenn takes a certain kind of courage as well. This is due in part to the fact that in our society it is commonplace to work through your day using a series of small untruths just to grease the wheels and get by. It is a developed reflex most of us are not even aware of doing. This does not work with Dann and he will call you out on this in a flash. Vehemently. You have to remember to check your BS at the doorway. He will not tolerate Agendas. If he senses that what you are talking about has a subtext, an ulterior motive, to him that is tantamount to lying to his face and he will cut you off.
For now, let’s take it back a few months to December of last year when, after a series of e-mails back and forth, this Mad Professor, Dann Glenn and I first sat down to talk. After visiting his award winning website I had cobbled together a few pages of questions. I had locked onto the idea pretty early that this man was no ordinary rock `n’ roll ‘vapourhead’. On the website he has a series of tributes, two to friends, one to his memories and the friends lost in Vietnam. It was patently clear even at this early stage that Dann Glenn was someone who valued respect and responsibility. I knew even at this early stage that this interview could not consist of questions like “What is your favorite color?” or “If I were to ask you to empty your pockets right now, what would I find?” I had to be straight and to the point with this guy, no BS. I had heard his albums and I knew he was incredibly good, so I wasn’t going to do anything stupid to screw this up. I wanted this interview. I wasn’t gonna suck up, but I was gonna give the man the respect I felt he deserved.
So here it is, a series of questions about the man, his website and his 9 solo albums. Wish me luck! (Editor’s Note: Number 10 is already well on the way, and you have NEVER heard anything like it!)
He comes on the phone all apologies for not being around the day before as originally planned. This I wasn’t expecting. I tell him that one of the first things I did when I went to his site was look at the tribute to fallen comrades in the Vietnam War. It was a sobering sight but I couldn’t help but marvel at how he had come through all that to end up the composer of so much incredible music. What had crushed and desolated so many souls had proven to be in some way a Trial By Fire for Dann.
Dann on patrol Ashau Valley 1969
DG: Yeah that’ll sober you up real well.
GB: Has the website been successful connecting you to the world?
DG:Yes, I get e-mail from all over the world and eventually everyone who visits the site comes back to become e-friends. They’ll come back and I’ll say “Hey, hello”. They’ll say ‘You’re actually talking to me?!?” To this I reply, "well I haven’t got a beak, how the hell are you?"
GB: So, a bit of where you’re from, where you’ve been?
GB: To put you at ease Dann there will be no set-up questions to try to make you out a fool.
DG:I have no problem with that at all, because basically, I am pretty well known as a controversial person. After Vietnam and putting Jaco to rest , not too much can happen to me. Some of the stories you will hear about me are not true, some of them are. Some of the light-hearted ones, like the stuff Jaco & I did are not all true. Some of the heavier stuff is true. One of the true stories is…well it’s not a secret that I have a problem with drummers.
GB: In what way?
Dann with Tom Brechtlein Dann in Hollywood studio
DG: Well, I like drummers to kick ass, hold it down and well, let’s put it this way, I see drum solos as just short of a seizure. (Laughter) I’ve been chased by some fine drummers. One of the best drummers I’ve ever played with is Tom Brechtlein from Chick Corea’s band. Tom is a great drummer, you know, he kicks ass, he puts so much into it. Some drummers have complained to me and said “Well I dig your CD’s and everything man, but the drum thing, I don’t like the loops.” The bottom line here is I don’t quantize, and I don’t sequence any of this stuff. I would build a loop and then go back while I’m recording the loop and play on top of it. This really gives it a live feel. I don’t care if it sounds like a wind-up monkey splashing his cymbals, if the music coming out on top of it is really heart-felt it does the trick. So that's the bottom line. One of the stories you’ll hear about me that is true is the floor tom scandal. Once in the old days back in Hollywood I was on stage and the drummer was supposed to be some hot-dog guy. We were playing, you know, and a couple different people had gotten up to play. We were playing and the drummer wanted to do his thing. I was leading the band, I was the M.D. (musical director) and I said, “Yeah go man!” and I announced his name over the mike. So he started doing his thing, and he kept doing his thing, and keep doing it, so I cued him…I played a really nice pickup fill, where he coulda just come in kicking ass, looking good and brought the crowd to its feet. He didn’t even look up , didn’t even know I was there! It just kept going and going and going; I did about 3 of these cues. I began to get really angry. Man he looked like some kind of zombie with his eyes rolled back in his head...oh man I got pissed off. Now this was back in the days when I did drugs and I was drinking, which I don’t suggest anyone doing when they are trying to create Art. So I went over looked at him and started jumping up and down making wild gestures. He acted like he didn’t see me, but I knew I had caught his eye while he was bashing away like "Animal" from the Muppets. (Laughter) At one point he looked over at me for a split second with an expression I read as "hey I'll let ya know when I'm done asshole!"
GB: So he knew you were trying to connect with him, he was ignoring you?
DG:So here’s what happened. I took his floor tom, turned it upside down, and took a whiz in it! My back was to the audience, so nobody saw a damn thing! He didn’t even realize it at that point. It was so beautiful, after the tune was over I left the stage. Some guys ran up to the drummer and said, “Hey man, Dann Glenn pissed in your drum!” He was horrified. He was also terrified. He thought I was gonna kill him next! This was the farthest thing from my mind. Those kinds of things happened. It's like my C.O. in Vietnam once said: "it's Ok to be pissed off, but not to be pissed on."(Laughter) But of all the weird stuff, and I hope you print this…Rumors really piss me off, okay? There’s a lot of strange crap floating around out there! When I was in Hollywood one of my students was whining about his career, he was saying "I don’t want to end up driving a cab like Percy Jones, you know, in New York." I looked at him and I said, "Is that so, where did you hear that?" He’s says, “Oh everyone knows that”.
Crap like this really gets me crazy. Percy happens to be one of my best friends, okay, and not only did he never drive a cab, are you ready? Dann whispers “He never even learned how to drive”.
Percy Jones & Dann Glenn
“How do you think Percy feels? Who makes this shit up anyway? When I say he’s one of my best friends, he is like a ‘man’s man’. (Editor’s Note: A gentleman honorable and beyond reproach). He won’t give it up. You know the creative vision. He could of gone with Phil Collins in his Brand X days, but he would rather quit music than to sell out and not do something creative. There were other rumors that Percy had studied with Jaco (Pastorius). Percy never even met Jaco! Think about how insane this all is! I'm protective of my friends and stuff like this makes me feel angry and helpless, so that's why I'm speaking out.
GB: It also dishonors them as well.
DG:Isn’t that something, here’s a cat that’s just a stellar human being and musician and he just never stops growing. Anyway I am just gonna bitch and moan for a second. I want to talk for a minute if I may? I want to talk about ‘artists’ and ‘teachers’.
Though we never stop learning, after receiving an education and learning our craft, artists must put away the academia and draw from another place. Some of them just never understand that. You must dig down deep into yourself and begin to harvest the spirit, not the diminished chord.
I don’t like it that a lot of famous bass players write columns, put out videos and book after book after book while passing themselves off as artists. See, they are hiding behind their academia. As Segovia said, “You can’t teach art”. Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. What were these brilliant people trying to tell us?
It’s cool to have all these schools, I was on the faculty of the Musicians Institute, you know, I did clinics, I did the open counseling, I’d teach Steve Bailey’s fretless class when he was on the road with Larry Carlton. But there are so many schools now, so many classes on this, that and the other. Sometimes I would just go from room to room to room and scream, “Play Faster!”. And those kids ‘got it’.
GB:Would this be the Zen and the Art of Bassplaying, Dann Glenn Style?
DG: I was known as The Zen Teacher, I was just throwing things out at people. It took me back to the Albert Brooks film where he was touring the school of comedy…and he went up to one of the school doors and it said DANNY THOMAS’ SPIT-TAKE CLASS, he opens the door and says “Let’s look in on the students", the instructor would say his line and the whole class, all 50 people would spit coffee from their cups. It was hysterical. You cannot teach art!!!!! Yet these schools just go on and on and on. I just wanted to say that Jeff Berlin is another dear friend of mine who always has the wankers on his back for one thing or another. (Editor’s Note: Jeff Berlin will be our cover story in the near future and we’ll talk to him about his Players School as well) He has taken a lot of shit from people for his staunch ethics about music education. He's constantly busting people for writing stuff like "turn out the lights when you practice, use a hand squeezer for warming up" and you know just not going along with a lot of the hocus pocus people try to pass off as knowledge’. Jeff is a fundamentalist. Berlin’s thing is: “Learn your craft before you become an artist. Then and only then are you free to fly.
Jeff Berlin & Dann Glenn
My thing is, “If you’re going to take the path of an artist, school’s out baby!" It’s so important for young and older players alike to realize this. If they want to become a studio player, and become a technician that’s fine. But learn that stuff, become a chameleon, get 15 basses, and do it. But don’t try to pass yourself off as an artist. You know, I’ve taken a lot of shit from people as well but I've learned to stop debating them on issues they know nothing about. Now I just write a short reply email saying "Dear Mr. Asshole, how long have you been with the Art Police?" They never write back. Thank God that's only a tiny fraction whereas 99% of my mail is from wonderful bright spirits. I love talking with smart, funny and kind people. It feeds my art you know? I've popped out on the other side. I've survived. Every artist goes through that. I have been fortunate. I’ve never received a bad review on any of my albums except one time in a one of the bass magazines. It was from one of my former students at BIT. He was one of those guys that wrote a creative column for Bass Player. You know, ‘turn out the lights, and run the water...think happy thoughts’, just babbling about nothing because he had nothing really to say. He would constantly say in his e-mails and finally his stupid review, “Oh I love your stuff but I'd really like to hear you play with other musicians.” I wrote him an email suggesting he consult a surgeon and have the stick up his ass removed. I’ve played with everybody! I have played with everybody I've ever dreamed of playing with!!! I’ve already done that. I am now trying to follow a vision. I can't imagine criticizing someone's personal path. I have people constantly sending me demos of their music. Some of it sounds like dogs farting into a fishbowl. But I never discourage anybody. That's killing the artistic spirit that drives us all. I'm used to playing with very creative musicians you know? I've been lucky enough to play with virtuosos such as John Goodsall of Brand X, and Jennifer Batten. Two guitar legends.
John Goodsall & Dann Glenn
GB:Jennifer Batten is a fine guitarist!
DG: Jennifer is now playing with Jeff Beck. She always wanted to play with Jeff. I'm really proud of her. They were just nominated for a Grammy. Michael Jackson was not exactly her ‘perfect gig’, but anyone who criticizes her for doing that gig is a fool and an envious one at that. She got herself together artistically and she is a beautiful human being. She never puts that guitar down. Jennifer is the one that got me into the Musicians Institute. I was playing with her and she said, ‘Oh you should teach there’. Didn't take any of the usual politics as she's a hero at MI. She walked me through one day the very next day they said “Well Dann, we’re gonna let you do whatever you want”. Well I didn’t screw it up, even though I was doing drugs back in those days, but I certainly didn’t play very well for Jennifer, I pulled a lot of ‘Jaco’ stuff. You know, I wouldn’t show up, they were beating on my door when I wouldn't show up for rehearsals etc. I’ll admit it, I had some issues. I've apologized to her for that. She was very gracious. Jennifer's got a great heart.
Jennifer Batten & Dann Glenn
In my LA days I played on records with cats like Sam Riney, Freddie Hubbard, Michael Landau and the list goes on. In my earlier times I got my education from some of the blues masters. Back in those days, I was coming from a Blues thing after my time in Vietnam. I played with Freddie King, blues legend Luther Tucker, Elvin Bishop and Freddie Roulette, those kinda people, because I settled in the Bay area. Those days were such an education for me. Years later I played on a Sam Riney record with Carlos Vega (may he rest in peace!). He was doing the James Taylor gig, you won’t see Carlos back there on drums anymore.
GB: What happened to him?
DG: Carlos killed himself, about a year or two ago. I'm clueless as to why. When I was in the studios, I would often record at Amigo Studios in North Hollywood. It was The Place to Record. It used to be the old Warner Bros. Studios but they re-vamped it into a really modern facility. The only thing left from the old Warner Bros. Days was a really cool lighted sign on the wall that said "Ready~Record."
I had some interesting experiences at Amigo. Once we were taking a break and guitar hero Michael Landau was there doing some over-dubs for an album I was playing on. We were alone in the coffee room standing there staring up at the TV not speaking. I barely new Michael and didn't want to engage him in small talk so I said nothing. After the longest while without looking away from the TV Michael said "thanks Dann." I said "huh...for what?" Again without taking his eyes off the TV he quietly said "thanks for going to Vietnam bro." I'll never forget that. I didn't even think he knew who I was and here he is saying this to me. I was dumb founded. I told him he was quite welcome and we wandered back into the studio. We never spoke again. We never had to actually. That was back in my six string fretless days. I went away from the four string J-Bass because Jaco was murdered and I freaked out. I didn’t want to play THAT instrument anymore! Just before he died I had spoken to a friend of mine about Jaco. When he saw him he asked him to confirm some of the stuff I had said. I felt like a total Judas. It was nothing sensitive, but just the thought the guy would march up to Jaco and start asking him why he did this and if he really did that.
I wanted to smack the guy. I tried to back out of it and told him I had never even really met Jaco, but the damage was done. When this cat asked Jaco all these questions telling him I had told him, instead of denying it he backed me up. Man, did I feel like the gossiping jerk I was. I still feel guilty about that to this day. I look at Jaco's photo in my studio every once in awhile and say "I'm sorry pal." Jaco didn't give a shit. He said "perhaps I did and who are you?" I'm the one who cared because when you're doing drugs you don't always make the smartest decisions you know? Shit like that has always plagued me. I guess we all have done or said stuff we'd like to take back.
GB:As Jaco’s friend, did you know he was a Manic Depressive?
DG: Yes, at times totally out of control. Other times placid as could be.
GB:Do I have my fact right in that he was killed by the doorman/bouncer at a club he frequented in Florida?
DG: You are right. I will tell you precisely what happened. He would walk into bars, pick out the biggest guy and call him names. Just provoking people. Jaco’s teeth were broken out at this point, he had stopped taking his Lithium*, because it would make his hands shake. At this time, he was on fire. He had just broken up with his then girlfriend (they fought all the time); he went up to the door of this club where they knew him. Everyone knew Jaco. They stopped him from entering, they did not let him in. He was just on fire drunk and ill.
Editors Note: Lithium is a mood modifier used fairly successfully for Manic Depression. It has many side effects.
Dann on stage at Studio City, CA
GB:Far beyond what the normal person could ever take.
DG: When Jaco and I took drugs, I took them to get high, he took them to get normal. So anyway, he went up to the door and they wouldn’t let him in, and he kicked the door. That’s all he did. Not in, just kicked it. He then walked away down to the side of the building. A Vietnamese immigrant by the name of Luc Haven was the bouncer and he was a martial arts guy.
Now, Phil Chen, who is one of the great bass players and a dear friend of mine, is an Aikido Master. He's told me that one of the first things they are taught is restraint. You have to just about piss in their pocket to get a reaction from them. So all Jaco had done was kick the door and he was walking away down along the side of the building. This guy followed him down the side, popped out of the other door and gave him a beating that resulted in his death.
Editors Note: There are many other details available about the tragedy, but mentioning them here would do nothing to add to the memory of Jaco Pastorius, so in agreement with Dann we have chosen to leave them out.
DG: So Jaco was in a coma. He was beaten senseless and then he passed away. His brother Gregory made a poster of him with his baseball cap, famous double-jointed thumbs and his music. That’s his EKG that you see (of his heart-beat) that’s the line going through and then it goes straight-line while a dove captures it. When I saw that, I stopped playing the J-Bass. I mean for some reason when I saw that poster I lost it. Now I am not a crybaby. But as I get older I am becoming more sensitive, but it broke me up so bad back then, I freaked out, I couldn’t look at all that stuff. Only a month ago I finally read the book JACO, until now it was just too painful. Now here was a cat that I used to hang with and told me, “You know Dann, I am glad you went through Vietnam. I would go, ‘WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?’ Now I understand what he meant.
He was referring to baptism by fire. He also dug that I didn’t copy his style, or cop his stuff. I wanna say something about that, I'll put it to you this way…Whenever a comet passes by, it leaves a tail of debris…you know a trail. So, if you will forgive the metaphor, when Jaco passed through our world, he left a trail of clones in his wake. Some of them are terrible, a few are very good players. Some, who I won’t name, are worshiped as Bass Gods while they continue to re-harmonize Jaco’s best compositions. The music is quite clever, very listenable. But whenever a composer rips off another artist, there is an intangible quality that remains that I find to be cold and heartless. Sometimes imitation is not the highest form of flattery. I am not in the business of climbing up people's legs, or having them shake me off their back. I am however at the point in my life where I have taken a lot a chances. I'll be the first to admit my first series of CD's were rather wretched. This is the chance one must take when looking for a new portal of expression. The music is now starting to flower, it’s starting to really happen.
If I can just give that truth to people, that’s a gift for life!
I have two signs on my studio door. One says ‘No Smoking’ for obvious reasons, it screws up the equipment, the other one says “No Thinking. You Think~You Stink!”
I was doing a class and it was the final day. Someone would inevitably raise their hand and say, “Mr. Glenn, what are you thinking about when you are soloing?” Well, number one, don't EVER call me Mr. Glenn again! Number two, you never think. Now this was the last class that I ever taught there, so I had nothing to lose. You gotta picture this huge room, with a stage, I am up there wearing a $3600 designer bass that I used to endorse, but I will not name. Anyway, I am standing up there and the students are all sitting there waiting for some big lesson. Some big message if you will. So I said, "Okay, you guys have learned all of this difficult crap." I had a wastepaper basket up there and I had all of the curriculum. I had maybe 30 to 40 pages of stuff. I said, "Now you’ve all learned this stuff," and I pulled out a Bic lighter, and I said "Now, burn it!" I dropped the burning paper into the wastebasket and one of the fire sprinklers above my head went off! I reached up and grabbed it, and it stopped!
GB:Now that shouldn’t have happened!
DG:This filtered down through the school where they were asking: “Was he wearing sandals or something?" (Laughter) So those 40 or so people went out of that class that day thinking about something higher than all of us. After you’ve gotten it together, it’s time to do something with "it." As a bass player and composer, in my music I wanted to stretch so I started playing the synthesizer. I started playing the keyboards. I got a Workstation. Every 'frickin' voice you hear in my music is me. The technology is so good these days, if you play it in real time, you can really make some beautiful music. I’m gonna give you like 10 seconds of a tune I did for Billie Michael Bedsworth, my buddy who died in Vietnam. It says on the album, (LITTLE TOY HORNS), I left him there, but I brought his spirit home with me. The tune for Billie is called ‘Ching Ching’. People have asked me “Oh is that a city in Vietnam or a martial arts thing?”. I would tell them truthfully it was the sound our weapons made when we would chamber a round.
Over the phone, I hear a riveting instrumental piece with a pulsing ostinado bass line hooking you and rehooking you, pulling you along mercilessly. Strong anthemic solos soar over the bass and drum lines with synth horn-like lines punctuating each phrase. ‘Ching Ching’ demands your attention, and will not put you down until it is through with you. It is an aural and emotional tornado at the very least.
GB:You have chosen some formidable music here Dann!
DG: What I’ve done is stumble into it and I just expanded upon it. I didn’t want to just do solo bass albums. So I started piling little things on top of one another. Pretty soon I had a whole band going!
GB:You write all of these parts, but do they all come to you at about the same time?
DG:That’s what I do. I sit down, and I… I’m Motzartian, I am actually distantly related yet the gene certainly has diminished since I didn't truly develop until my later years. I hear music constantly and when I hear it, I’ll snap shot it in my mind.
Dann on stage at Dontes N.
Hollywood CA Dann was the last cat to sign
When I do hear a drum kit screaming along, I’ll lay it down and I will listen to the musical snapshot in my mind while I am tracking the drums. Then I’ll go back and I play the bass part. Then I go back and I play the next voice. When the kicks come and the accents happen I am responding just like any other player.
GB:I wanted to ask you how you come about the guitar and keyboard parts and how as a bassist you come across them.
DG:I’ve just absorbed it. I have two Symphonies on CD. How did I do that? Symphony Number One is very traditional full orchestra. Period. The End. It’s Sacred Music. Symphony Number Two is a combination of traditional orchestra and synthesizer. I played piano in real time which freaked a lot of people out, because they could tell by the way I fell in and out of it you could never get a sequencer to do this. I don’t even know how to sequence, Warren. I just raid the sound banks and play. So that’s where I am coming from and what has made it so wonderful. I find I have become more and more defined as a composer. Other cats have found my concept intriguing enough to really devote all of their musical time to it. They call me OB Wan. I call them Jedi's. Not long after they get into it they begin to teach me things. It's so cool. There's a great bass player from Boston named Fred Rose who is blowing my mind with the inroads he's making after I helped him get started. Fred is doing some great stuff. He has a CD in the works as we speak.
GB:Yeah, we are planning to profile Fred in the future.
Just out of curiosity, Dann, wasn't one of your more recent CD's done on a 5 string fretless?
DG:Octavia (Dann’s 8th album) was done on a 5 string, but the new Modulus basses are all 4 string. I can say I will never play the 5 string again. I can say that because of the fact that I have rediscovered a Jazz Bass in the Modulus that is brilliant! You know how sometimes you can get a great Fender and sometimes you get a turd? Modulus figured it out. A guy at Modulus by the name of Scott Shiraki took a J bass, as a ‘mule’ bass. He moved the pickups around and figured out what sounded great and where. It also has the graphite fingerboard and the graphite neck. It’s got everything of the Old World, you just can’t believe it! Now, the 5 string was great, but I’ve let go of all that and I’ve gone back to the J Bass because I’ve done a lot of healing after Jaco’s passing. Let’s put it this way…I can pick the torch up again because it doesn’t burn me anymore. It’s glowing now. It’s calmed down a little bit. The new bass, the DG~VJ4 is your basic VJ4 except there’s only one Lane Poor bridge pickup. Almost all cats in Jazz or Fusion never even use the neck pickup. Also it has a Lane Poor 2X1 Broadband transparent preamp. Awesome! Jeff (Berlin) and I come from the passive pickup school. This preamp doesn't color the sound at all, just makes it huge. It’s got two knobs and sunburst finish with no pickguard. Just a volume and a tone, just turn it on and play. I was talking to the folks at Modulus about the marketing aspects. A lot of guys have put out signature basses like the Flea Bass or whatever. I wouldn’t want to play a bass with somebody else’s name on it. I have a problem with that. Call it ego, call it individuality, call it pride, call it whatever. I will tell you this. With the DG-VJ, if they put my initials somewhere as part of the nomenclature, that’s fine, because I re-designed it. On mine they are inlaying my initials on the fingerboard (see front cover photo), everyone else’s will look just like whatever it is. It won’t be a signature bass, with them cranking them out of the Keebler elf factory, but if someone sees it or hears it and says “Oh my God, I’ve gotta have that!”, they can order one. It'll just take some time but it's worth the wait. This bass was a pain in the ass for Modulus to build because (for instance) the control plate only has two knobs proportionate to the original. I'm so grateful to Rich Lasner and Jane McNall at Modulus for putting up with my ideas. They are now only a few weeks away from completing my newest DG-VJ. It's a whole new world with this second bass. It has the revolutionary new LightWave optical pickup system instead of the conventional magnetic concept. It's amazing. The clarity is not to be believed. The lows are so pure and clear it's got to be heard to be fully appreciated.
Michelle Gysan, Pierce Michael, and Jim Bruce at LightWave are really into what they are doing with this new concept. They asked me to endorse it in the hippest way. Not like receiving product for the use of my name. More like letting me in on a secret. They are very forward thinking people who will soon be changing the way many of us perceive our sonic world. That's all I'm gonna say for now.
Most of the bass manufactures are making basses with these pickup systems on their instruments, so I highly suggest trying one if you get the opportunity. LightWave also plans to have me do online clinics in the future so things are really starting to get interesting.
I'm so blessed with my endorsements it's not even funny. The main reason my recording career turned around is because of my endorsement for Mackie Designs. Rick Bos (known to the musicians as "The Colonel") at Mackie has been the guru for my studio and stage needs. Rick is a visionary...always one step ahead of what's going on you know? It's such an honor knowing someone who cares about art as much as the state of the art. The Colonel rocks.
GB:Fender has done some serious work on their line of signature basses.
DG: Yes to be sure. I mean Fender started it all as far as I'm concerned. I was fortunate enough to study with one of Leo's (Fender) best friends years and years ago. A great player and beautiful cat named Rex Gallien. Rex is the one responsible for the contour cutaway on the back of all Fender instruments. He suggested it to Leo one day and the rest is history. Having said this can you imagine buying the Fender Jaco Pastorius bass? What are you going to do with it? Put it in the corner of your room and look at it? It’s a shrine! What's next, The Danny Bonaduce Partridge Family bass? (Laughter) Sorry man...I'm just kidding.
GB:Do you know where his bass is now, his own real bass?
DG: No one knows, he had three basses. He had the fretless and he had a fretted that looked just like it. He also had a blue `62 Jazz. Now the fretted Sunburst was found and purchased by Greg Rzab, who’s a famous blues bass player. He found that bass and that’s the last I've heard of that. But the famous one, you know I actually played that bass and it was just a rattletrap. Here’s the thing, are you ready? It was all Jaco man! I’m 6’2”, I weigh 210. Jaco was skinny and tall but it's his hands, not just the double-jointed thumbs but his hands were almost the size of my feet! Jaco would just play and it was in his hands. Now granted those old Fenders were great, but I guarantee you, when I played that bass it didn’t sound like him. It sounded like me! I realized that if you’ve gotta idolize somebody, make it The Three Stooges!
In the six months since this interview Dann & I have kept in touch many many times, often a couple of times a day. His e-mails and phone calls have proven to be nothing short of hilarious, while providing a constant source of insight and opinion that have kept me on track many times.
He describes himself as a Loquacious Son of a Bitch, and he says it with pride and a zeal.
Recently while cobbling this interview together, I began to think about his nick name, The Mad Professor. The fact of the matter is, it is here that the irony remains most evident. In reality Dann Glenn is one of the most real, most grounded people I’ve ever come across. So it turns out that there is a Zen like wisdom even in his knick name.
His current release, LITTLE TOY HORNS, and his 8th, OCTAVIA, can be found on the GLOBAL BASS STATION section of this website. His tenth release, SUBHARMONIA promises to be his most avante-guard yet. Dann Glenn regularly takes chances, but rest assured, you haven’t heard nothin’ yet! But you will…
Dann’s website can be found atMackie Designs, Modulus, LightWave Optical Pickups, Rotosound and Global Bass (I can say that, can't I, Dann?)
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