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Steve Clarke


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In Global Bass’s continuing search for talented bassists you may not yet have heard of, but you really should know about, we are pleased to present…  



 One of Steve’s first instruments was the accordion. Not exactly the beginning of ‘rock and funk material! Steve says, “I don’t know what my mom was thinking! Steve comes from a large musically inclined family, so large in fact, they almost have to have a crowd permit just to come to dinner. He jokes, “Yeah, we had to eat in sessions. Really, we all lived together at one time and with 12 kids, how big can a kitchen be? ”   

He was raised in what he refers to as the “Hollow” of Bridgeport, Connecticut. His oldest bother was a Jazz musician (saxophone) for years, “He doesn’t play out anymore, but he still has his instrument and just plays around the house. A couple of years ago me and my brothers chipped in and got him a midi-sax because he started getting into computers and that got him into playing a little bit. My other brothers all played in Drum Corps. They all played horn and two of them actually instructed other Drum Corps.”  

On Steve Clarke's newest CD, “KICKIN` IT”, there are horn lines everywhere, thoroughly interspersed throughout the album. We asked him whether he thought a childhood environment surrounded by all these influences gave him an ear for horns in his music. “That did influence me. Coming up as a child, I was always hearing all these Drum Corps. records around the house. Drum Corps. record after Drum Corps. record! Also with my sisters listening to Motown and my older brother listened to Jazz. There was a lot of horns also in that.  

I went to a couple of events, we lived by the stadium, and I would go to these events where the Corps. would go on the field and they would just do their thing. I would think, ‘Wow, what it would be like to just have a band with 7 horns, and these guys have a 150!’  

With many live gigs paying so little these days, even 7 horn players would be financially impossible to carry. “Even just two horns. I just generally go out as a quintet. I have to get the keyboard player to cover the horn lines. It works.”  

Steve has ventured into midi himself…”I’ve got the Yamaha B1-D pickup and a Roland sound module. The Roland is a floor pedal system. So far it’s very good, I have to work with it a little more but I’ve been using the organ and the synth sounds and it’s been tracking pretty well with the minimum settings. I can play like I like to play and it seems to track fine.”  

GB:  Are there a reasonable number of voices in the module that you will actually end up using? The guideline seems to be that if there are 200 voices in a synth, 10 of them are reasonably useful and the other 190 are variations on the usable 10.  

Steve: Well there’s, let me see, 128 times 2, so there’s 256 voices in there. So far I have only been able to find four.  

GB:  Yeah, what you’ll get is something like this, 30 voices in a row, 30 versions of flute: flute with sax, flute with chorus, flute with chainsaw, flute with Spam, flute with distortion, flute with flute. How much did you pay for the pickup and the module?  

Steve: The whole thing came to $800.  

GB: We would pay over $1500 here. (Canada)  

Steve:  Send me the money, I’ll just get it and send it up! Try Musician’ Friend. You can get it Musician’s Friend for about $800 for the whole package. I have the 6-string version. I put it on myself, it’s easy.  

GB: What kind of basses did you use on your album? And what do you tend to use live?

Steve:  I use the Modulus for all live gigs. On the album I used the Modulus and a Music Man.  

GB:  For the six string, what kind of tuning do you use?

Steve:  I actually start with the E and I work up to 2 higher strings tuned to F and C.  So I stay right in fourths.  

Over the past summer Steve enjoyed a tour through Germany and the Czech Republic.  

GB:  You were in Germany back in `88, in another band, weren’t you?  

Steve:  No, that’s the same band! Well, the same leader with different players, Laco Deczi. I went there again with Laco in `95 again in `97, then this past winter and this past spring and again October. Twice a year, every year.   

He puts an album out every time he goes. It’s a good playing and paying situation. It’s really good for the playing part, 22 days we go. We play for 20 days straight.

But they were all concert settings where we only had to play a show. Other bands opened for us or we opened for them.  

GB:  Is there a lot of work in Europe or have you just been fortunate enough to find a good circuit?  

Steve:  I think it’s just that I am on a really good circuit. I just think that people are just so excited to see a Jazz band from the U.S. They don’t have it very often.  

GB: Do you enjoy it over there, would you recommend it?

Steve:   If I were single, I probably would have stayed! It’s like a different world when I go over there and play. It kinda makes you dig down in your soul and pull the music out. They are actually sitting there listening! Here, when you play, you can see people talking. They’re louder than the band. Over there, they get real quiet when you start playing. It’s unbelievable.  

GB:  Do you play standup at all?  

Steve:  A little, but not much. I never perform live with one. I still have one, it’s actually right here in the studio.  

GB:  Do you venture much into chordal work?  

Steve:  Yup, actually I been working more and more with chords. I get the knowledge from theory I know, I studied piano before. Especially for the bass, I studied with Brian Torff. He taught me to study it from the piano’s point of view. He’s the Musical Director at Fairfield University (Connecticut). Actually I also teach the bass there. He just doesn’t have the time to do that too. I teach recording there too.  

GB:  Was the teaching of recording skills the motivator to build your own studio? (QUP Studios). 

Steve: It was a stepping stone for me in leaving my day gig.  

GB: In the liners notes for “Kickin’ It” your Special Thanks section includes the line “To Mom and Dad for never telling me to get a day job’.   

Steve: They never mentioned it at all. Everybody else mentioned it though!  

Steve has developed a long list of clients for his QUP Studios, usually working every day, even if it’s just for 4 or 5 hours. Living in the inner city, a lot of his customers are Rap artists. In light of this and the fact that his is a talented musician who knows a lot of other players, I asked him whether or not he is able to climb inside the world of Rap. Was there any generation gap? (Steve is 46).  

Steve: Not really, `cos I have always been around the youth. That’s my son’s influence. He has all the Rap albums so that’s how I got to hear the artists. The rappers are shocked that I know ‘who’s-who’.  I kinda tell `em, “Why don’t you just use real bass?” I have my axes around. I have real drums and stuff here. I tell them, ‘Let’s check it out, I’ll play a line, we can loop it.”  

GB:  So it opens up their thinking as well!  

Steve:  It also gives me a little niche in the market, because they come to the studio where they can see and hear live music.  

Steve has worked with some of the biggest bands of the 50’s as they work their Reunion tours.   “Bands like the Drifters, the Coasters, it was like every weekend we were going to Philadelphia, Virginia and New York. A couple of times we would open an act, but we were still The Drifters.  

I’ll never forget this…the band for Sam & Dave didn’t come in, didn’t show up. It was the same band, the ones that also worked for Wilson Pickett. They asked me to play bass, and I said like, “SURE!”. At that time I couldn’t read ANY music and all they had were charts with dots all over the page!  

GB:  Not even chord charts!  

Steve:  When I said ‘Yes’ to this, I’m thinkin` they were gonna give me chord charts! There were bass lines all over there, I will never forget that. I was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, what have I done?’  

GB:  What did they say to you afterwards? Would they even talk to you?  

Steve: You know it wasn’t good when they don’t say anything.  It was a big place, there were 10,000 people out there. The people were like “AAHHHH!!” so you know, the only people that really knew what I was doin` were the people in the band. I may not have had the right bass line, but I stayed in the right key.  

GB:  Other than working with Loca in CELULA, the band you tour Europe with, will you be doing much touring for your new album?  

Steve: Not doing any major tour, just pretty much playing locally as far as New York and Connecticut. Doing maybe 2 gigs a month. We do some standards in a funk version. Sometimes we also use a vocalist.  

Steve’s most recent album, “KICKIN` IT”, also referred to as his ‘Hop-N-Bop Project, is loosely filed under Contemporary Jazz, but the fact of the matter is that it is really more like an 8 song collection of finely crafted funk tunes, laced with R & B, an element of Rap, bebop, tons of smokin` horn lines and above all, some deliciously wicked bass playing.  

Over the summer Steve was in the studio busily preparing his next and newest CD. We will feature that album on Global Bass Station when it comes available. In this issue we will be featuring a few of Steve’s songs from his solo album and his work with Laco Deczi of Celula, also on our Global Bass Station. Steve is currently in Germany and the Czech Republic on tour with Celula…  

You can reach Steve via e-mail at :



His website can be found at:






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