In doing some research for a previous article on tapping style and Touch Style bass playing, one of the sites that popped up was owned by a young player out of the U.S. by the name of Geo Zmed. After downloading some of his Real Player files from his various albums, we were very impressed by his playing and his arrangement technique.
Global Bass recommends that after you read this article you locate the URL at the bottom of the page and visit Geo's site. You will find some samples from a few of this recordings that will floor you. What amazes us most these days here at Global Bass is the old pastime of magazines who loved to compile and print a list of the top 10 Top Players in the world.
Why that would make us laugh is simply this….for every person on that list there are a 1000 just as good, but stuck sitting somewhere in some basement or working on a production line. Geo Zmed is one such amazing player.
GB: Your website talks about when you started playing and why you started on bass after working with guitar for a few years. Do you feel that your past experience in guitar inspired or affected your bass playing and the way you approached tapping?
Geo: I would have to say that my trumpet playing inspired me more than anything to be the melodic bass player that I am. I started trumpet in the fourth grade and by the end of that year I was reading on the Seventh Grade Level. By the time I reached Junior High (7-8 Grade) I was growing bored with the lack of difficulty in the compositions. I jumped around the band and learned to play all the other brass instruments.
When I reached High School, I discovered I could play two trumpets at the same time. I worked on this for a while but never seriously. About that time is when I discovered guitar. I played guitar for three years before accidentally falling into bass. I played speed metal on guitar; you know bands like Megadeth, Crimson Glory, old Judas Priest. That's the style of music I learned on. I did begin to play a little two hand on guitar but I found that while all of my friends around me were shredding the fretboards on guitar I was just not keeping up. Our bass player quit in the band I was playing guitar in and I said I would sit in on bass until we found another.
That was the beginning for me. I was always writing melodic, hummable bass lines within our originals. It didn't quite fit what the others were looking for. I knew there was a sound out there for me, I had it in my mind but I didn't know how to get it out. I even played bass with a pick for the first two years. That was the only way I could play fast. I still can't play fast with my fingers and you know, I don't really care to play fast.
I've always believed melody is more important than showing off how fast my fingers are. I'll throw something in every now and then but it takes more concentration on making melodic, full sounding songs. So I guess guitar gave me the technique to play the way I do but it is a combination of both trumpet and guitar that has inspired me to play this way. That and Stanley Jordan.
GB: Did you ever get involved with lessons or formal musical schooling, or are you self-taught?
Geo: I learned to read and the fundamentals of music in my school years (4 through 10). So I can read and I understand music when I see it but I was never taught on the guitar or bass. I took two lessons when I first started on guitar and learned 'Hells Bells' and 'Crazy Train'. I just wanted to write my own songs and not play anyone else's.
While my friends were impressing each other with how they just nailed that harmonized solo in an Iron Maiden song I was busy writing my own tunes and recording them. I was just playing for about six months when I recorded my first song. I've even thought about bringing that song into my bass soloing. I was doing my own harmonies with myself when I first recorded and my friends had no idea how to even compose their own songs. I don't really consider myself self-taught I just picked up the guitar and played it. It all comes pretty natural to me. It's really all I know how to do.
GB: When you perform with other artists, are you hired to be a bassist in the traditional sense or are you brought in as 'Geo Zmed, Melodic Bassist and Tapping Style Artist'?
Geo: I was in a cover band that also had a separate original band together. This when I was at the very beginning stages of touch style but I was always a melodic writer and player. They were impressed with my ability to improvise the songs at my audition but they wanted me to play the boring bass lines they already had written for their originals.
I told them right out that their music was boring and very hard to listen to. I asked to rewrite the bass line and give their songs some life and feeling. I did but ultimately I guess they just wanted boring root note lines. Right before I could quit that band, they let me go. After that, I told myself that I will never again play the way someone else wants me to. If you want me to play your songs or record on your CD the bass line will be redone by me. I figure you must want me to play with you because you really dig my style and you trust my judgement to write bass lines.
I did a studio project for a guy a few years back; it was that New Country/Garth Brooks type of stuff. I'm not really into that style but I figure this guy wants me for a reason. He gave me the freedom to write all the bass lines for his songs. He loved it.
I'm playing with a guy right now who lets me have all the freedom I want. People ask me why I am a maintenance man for apartment buildings and why I'm not playing full time to make money. It's because I would rather have a real job than play music just for money and not be able to play what comes from inside my heart. If I'm going to play, it has to be what comes from inside of me.
GB: For a while, you were involved in a duo composed solely of yourself and a drummer, tell us a bit about how that worked, and if you did live performances. If you did live gigs, how did it go over and moreover where the gigs such that you would have to sell the bar owner on your viability, or were they more along the line of parties, or concerts that you set up and sold tickets to?
Geo: Hot Noodles is the band you are speaking of. We are still planning on playing together but we have an understanding that we both need our freedom to do other things we want. We have been talking about re-recording the CD and adding the new songs to it. We were very scared that it would not work live. We would do opening gigs for local bands and the people were just floored, even on our worst nights. What we would do is use our vocals to fill in the missing presence of other instruments, even if we were not singing words we always try to keep our voices in there.
It has to be very melodic to the point where you were torturing yourself the next morning because you just can't get one of our songs out of your head. As far as selling the bar owner on ourselves, I've never had to book us. We would just be asked by local bands to play with them. I don't even book myself to play, the gigs just fall into my lap.
I don't have the time to go out and try to book myself. I don't even really want that responsibility. I would much rather have someone else do that for me. It's the same with my solo stuff. I don't advertise other than my tour dates page on my website and usually I post them two or three days before my gig.
I figure when I get as good as I want to be the people will take notice and try to find me. I like the secretiveness of it all. I'll play out once a week a month and then disappear and re-appear. I've been doing this for about six months now and I'm finding myself being talked about by people in this town, people whom I have never met.
I don't even talk during my solo shows. I figure I can say so much more with my music than by opening my mouth just to tell you the name of my song. And it seems to work for me. I've thought about setting up a camcorder on stage and video taping the audience because I get so wrapped up into my playing that I forget the audience is there. I would love to see their reactions. Hot Noodles is a very unique thing that will be brought out when we feel it's right. People really dig the stuff and I think they deserve to hear it. However, for now I'm concentrating on going solo.
GB: From what I have gleaned from your website, you are presently working on two recording projects. One, the re-recording of the first original album and secondly, a new album of newer songs. If this is correct, what is motivating you to re-record the first one?
Geo: When I recorded my first one I had only been playing solo for about six months. The songs aren't quite what I would like to give the people. Plus I just got my recording software and was learning how to use it. Mostly it was a way for me to listen to what I am doing and fine-tune the parts. I am very anal about my music. I'll hold a song away from playing it out or recording it for a year if I feel it's not ready.
The album was also a teaser/tester. I wanted to see how people would react to what I am doing on a four-string bass. It's not a very common way to play the bass and I really want to reach the non-musician as well as the musicians. Why put a label on people. Musicians are very critical of other musicians,
I just want everyone to get together at my shows and enjoy the sounds that come from my bass. The second CD is still in the writing stages. I have three new original songs complete in form but I just don't have them smooth enough. I have two others that are just riffs and ideas right now. It is a very slow process with my writing. It took a year just to get an hour-long set.
Plus when I write new originals, I'm always writing beyond my ability to play. I'll know I have reached that next level when I can play a certain song that was impossible for me to play six months ago.
GB: With the second album, can you tell us a bit about that album, does it involve any copy songs or is it a mixture of original and copy tunes?
Geo: I will always put one cover song on one of my CD's. I'd like to keep people who like my stuff anxious to hear what the next cover song will be on the next CD. 'Wonderful Tonight' by Eric Clapton is on the first CD. 'Yesterday' by the Beatles will be on the second one and I might put that out as a single on MP3 before the second CD is finished. However, not being a big Beatles fan I would still love to get Paul MaCartneys reaction to what I have done with 'Yesterday' and also his actual approval to put it out. I have no idea how to get in touch with him though. It's a real task to make a cover song sound like it belongs on a four-string bass. That is the real challenge, originals are easy. I hear a symphony in my head when I write my originals so I want the audience to hear the same in their heads.
GB: When the albums are done, what are you going to do with them? Will you be trying to set up any tours, or are you marketing them in some other way?
Geo: You know I would love to go out on a tour but I don't have the time to leave my day job. My family will always come first and at this point, the job pays the bills (just barely). If someone has faith in me and wants to give me the support to do a tour and if it would still enable me to support my family, I would do it.
I also don't want to be away from my family for long periods at a time. I really need things to be on my terms or I won't do it. You know your children grow up fast and even if you blink you can miss a lot. Things that you wish you didn't.
My music can wait to grow. As far as marketing my CD's, I will sell them on my website and at shows but that will be all. I don't have the money to get professional packaging or distribution. I burn them here in my basement studio and create the cover art and everything myself. I do it all myself, I have been doing everything myself since I was eight years old and that's how I like it, unless it involves the business side of it.
I'm a musician and I write music.
GB: Everyone has a couple of motivators for releasing an album, what would you say are yours? What do you hope to achieve with these albums?
Geo: I just want people to experience something new being done on bass. I want them to hear the songs and reflect on their own lives. Maybe one of my songs makes you think of your first kiss or the birth of your first child. What ever you visualize is what is in you.
My songs come to life in my head everytime I play them. Most of the time it's a different story each time I play them. At my shows that I do the greatest compliment I get from people, is when they say they really enjoyed the show.
As an unknown musician here in Cincinnati the audience doesn't really listen to bands or musicians. We are the background music. I have noticed at my shows the audience is very quiet while I play, aside from the little whispers of people talking about my technique.
In addition, that's my main goal with my playing. I want everyone to just sit back and enjoy the music. I don't really pause between songs, the way I have them in the set they all sort of gel together like one big arrangement. I was very scared about doing this at first because in all of my other bands where I was the front man I was talking and grabbing the audience by getting naked on stage or wearing an elaborate outfit. Now I just let my bass do the talking for me.
GB: With boutiques basses giving bassists anywhere from 5 to 15 strings and up to 36 frets to work with, have you ever been tempted to think: " Well, if I can achieve all this with just four strings and 22 to 24 frets, why not see where all the strings and frets now available will lead me?" What has kept you true to the 4 string?
Geo: I have sat down with all sorts of basses. The four string has become an extension of my body. To pick up another type of bass would be like getting a sex change. It's who I am. I also like the challenge of making the four string sound like more than just four strings. At the last gig I had a guy came in from the street and was amazed that I was getting all this sounds out of only four strings. He said he had been playing the Chapman stick for years and couldn't get that much sound.
It just comes out of me naturally. I have been so fortunate to be blessed with this gift and I just want to share it with so many people.
The average non-musician thinks of the bass as being "a guitar with only four strings that sounds like, dunga dunga". They can relate to a four string bass, I think that when you add more strings and frets it becomes another instrument to them. I get asked this question a lot, have you ever tried the Stick or a five string bass? I have, but this is what I am. It would be like asking Miles Davis to play the tuba. I'm just comfortable with four strings.
I asked Chris Squire (of YES) how he manages to play the complex lines that he does while still managing to sing the intricate nonsensical lyrics Jon Anderson comes up with. He told me at that time that what he does is work out the bass part, and then he keeps working it and working it until it is thoroughly embedded in his subconscious. At this point, he no longer even thinks about the part. Then and only then will he tackle the lyrics. At this point, the whole thing comes together nicely.
Similarly, with you, taking the right hand and having to retrain the way it approaches the strings and even the role it takes on the bass, must have taken not only a lot of discipline, but also a lot of time in the separation of thought and habit. Did you have to take each part and break it down?
GB: Learn it with one hand and then the other, finally combining the two together by locking certain key points in the song together in your mind as signposts of recognition for your thinking and musical perspective? Or was it actually all a lot simpler than that?
Geo: I guess it is a lot simpler than that. I can't really explain how I do it because I just sit down, start to play and it comes out. I will have to take my left hand and get that part down then add the right hand. It's pretty much instantaneous. I try to think of it like this: instead of having two hands working together, I just have one hand with eight fingers.
GB: Could you detail how you worked out the separation of these parts and they're combining in your mind for our readers?
Geo: I don't know how I do it. It just happens. A few of the songs I play were written in a music store while just plucking around on one of the show floor basses. I don't ever sit down and say the left hand plays this part now it's time to figure out what the right hand will do. I will most likely play some chords with my left hand and actually sing something. Then I'll take my vocal parts and turn them into the right hand. That is one way. And the other way is just out of improvisation.
When figuring out the cover songs I do the split method. I find a good way to play the background sound then add the melody. What happens is both of my hands end up playing melody and accompaniment together.
GB: On a lighter note, the name "Geo'...is it short for George, or where did it come from?
Geo: I've noticed you ask the question about names to most of the bass players you talked to. (Editor: Unusual names like Bunnel Brunel, Beaver Felton, Geo Zmed~most people would want to know!) All I can really say is that my last name is pronounced (Smeed). It is from Romania, my great grandparents were immigrants and they changed the spelling when they reached America.
I just brought back the original spelling. I thought it would be fun to hear all the different ways people would attempt to pronounce it. As far as "geo" goes I'll just explain it this way. We all know who "Prince" is, Cher and Sting also. One day people will find out why I call myself 'Geo' but I feel that time hasn't come quite yet. Besides, it would ruin the fun wouldn't it?
GB: When do you hope to have the albums completed and where can our readers go to listen to it and make the decision to buy?
Geo: I hope to have the first CD finished by Christmas. I was planning on a Christmas CD but in order for that to happen I will have to start working on it this February. I will put out a Christmas CD one of these days but just not this year.
The second CD I couldn't tell you. If I was to have a dead line then I would be rushing the writing process that comes naturally. I want to give the people what I feel represents me at my best and also give them a product that I am happy with. If I don't like it, I don't want you hearing it.
For now the website or shows will be the only place to get the CD. Unless that guy I mentioned earlier, the one with the support money walks through my door and helps me out this will be the only outlet for it.
Geo Zmed is an extremely talented tapping player that we found while doing some research on tapping style players. You can reach Geo's site
and listen to his exotic playing technique by going to:
http://wakeup.to/muffinland (Editor's note this is a dead link...)
or you can e-mail him for more info and even lessons at:
(Can't find) - sorry...)