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Adrian Garcia

 

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Portrait of a Successful Working Musician

 

Long overdue, this talk with Adrian was originally to be in the September issue of GB. 

Adrian is one of the lucky few who have found a way to parley his love of bass playing into a full time, 6 nights a week career. That in and of itself speaks of the caliber of player that he is. 

We asked him how he managed to find himself in this position. In a time where live bands have to actually pay-to-play in some areas and the rest have to settle for single night put-em-up-and-tear-em-down gigs, Adrian has found a niche where work is stable and so is the money, a rare situation indeed. 

Adrian:  Well, I have been blessed. I am playing  constantly at the same venue here in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. It's a production show called 'Storm'. It's on 6 nights a week, 2 shows on Wednesday and Saturday. This hopefully will go on for a while. It's been on for 8 months.

GB: Have you been the bassplayer the whole time?

Adrian:  Yeah, I was picked for this particular gig. 

GB:  I imagine with the steady work, your chops are at an all time high. 

Adrian: Well, I don't know about that. I am playing the same 15 songs every single night, so actually I find myself wanting to play some different things. I am almost looking for someplace to play for free, just to play some different things. 

GB:  But it looks like you aren't left much time to do that. 

Adrian:  No, not at all, though I am done by 9:30 most nights. 

GB:  So, you could grab your bass and head down to a jam club if you wanted to.

Adrian:  Sure!

GB: Is this what you do as your sole source of income?

Adrian: Yes, I am able to make a living from playing bass. All my life, 27 to 28 years. My father was a prominent musician in Cuba. He taught me to read and stuff when I was a little child. I'd also like to acknowledge my brother in music, David Cabrera, of Ricky Martin's band, for looking out for me.  

GB:  Have you found that being able to read music opened some doors for you?

Adrian: Absolutely. You need to keep up with everybody else. Lot of heavy names have been involved in the preparation of this gig. People like Tom Scott, Larry Williams, a big arranger in L.A. 

   So these guys are coming up with material that you pretty well have to lay down, well not the first time, but it's embarrassing if everybody else is doing it and you are not. The show is produced by Ricky Martin's producer and so they used a couple of his writers. We play two or three original pieces that are tailored to the show. The other dance numbers are basically rearranged Latin-crossover material. It's a $25 million dollar production.

   When you are able to read, many opportunities open up for you.  Like a gig coming up on the weekend of the 10th.  Las Vegas is putting on a benefit for the victims of the 9 /11 tragedy, and I will be one of two bassist backing up just about every Vegas headliner-  names like Wayne Newton, Clint Holmes. Earl Turner, etc...

GB:  With working on the same material all the time, is it hard to not embellish, to add on, is it hard not to play around with it? 

Adrian: I take a few liberties within the context, you know. I find myself looking over to the musical director and making sure everything is okay. Looking for a nod 'yes' or a nod 'no'. It is hard to play the same way, but I did get lucky in that there are a few spots that are left open to me. I can play them differently every night. 

GB:  So you are given solo areas?

Adrian:  Yeah. 

GB: So this could go on indefinitely. You have no way of knowing.

Adrian:  It could go on for another 5 years. At lot of shows here have been going for 10 years.

GB:  ...and then you have to ask yourself whether or not you want to stay for the whole run. 

Adrian:  Sure I want to. The money is really good and I get to come home to my family every night. That wasn't happening when I was on the road. I played with KC and the Sunshine Band for 3 years.

GB:  They're still around?

Adrian:  They're still around and do about 120 shows a year. They're very busy.

GB: So are you also working on your own material, even with all this time consuming work?

Adrian:  I am, I have a recording studio in my Mac (MacIntosh computer) and I do work on my own things. I hopefully will finish a CD sometime soon. I have bits and pieces that I am working on. It is so easy to make your own CD these days. So why not? Print them as needed.

GB:  Are you going to market the CD when it's done?

Adrian: Ah, I don't know. I admire certain guys. David Dyson recorded a CD entirely at home and came up with a beautiful product. Mathew Garrison did the same thing. Not that I put myself in that same league... .

GB:  So you would handle marketing?

Adrian:  If it comes out listenable, if it comes out anything that anybody might want to hear. 

GB:  So who would be the judge of that, who would make that decision?

Adrian: My peers, I would imagine. I've become a bad judge. It is hard to judge myself, I am not happy with anything I do. Sometimes though when I put it away and come back to it a month or so later, it might sound pretty cool. 

We got to talking about some mutual acquaintances and the fact that they are often the only ones who have the courage to call garbage for what it is. Jeff Berlin, for example, was the only one in a recent Q & A with Bass Player Magazine (C), to step forward and say he felt it was impossible to improve as a bass player without bass in hand. Next issue, instead of being congratulated for having the guts to present an opposing view, he was chastised by readers for having a different opinion than all the others. Jeff, not known for towing the line and in turn being one of the few to actually have the courage to push back barriers, knew this would happen.

Adrian: He said the truth, he said you can't get better. He was the only one, because I think everyone was expected to have the 'yes' answer. Saying 'yes' that you can actually do this.

Well, what happens is, since we're talking about this...it is something that has come and bitten me in the ass as well. Being outspoken, speaking your mind is not something people want to hear sometimes. It has actually cost me gigs. You get older and you realize you have to provide for your family and can't be rubbing people the wrong way. You tend to put your thoughts away. People like Dann (Glenn) are not afraid to speak out. He is amazing. He's always gone out of his way to help me, even when it puts him potentially in a bad light. Out on a limb.

GB:  Have you known Dann for a while?

Adrian: I have known him for a while. I got in contact with him because I was impressed by his music, which I found on your site some time ago. I emailed him about it and next thing I knew I had three of his CD's in my mailbox. He didn't ask me for a dime, he just sent them.

We struck up a friendship. He contacted the LightWave people (state of the art LED based pick-up system) and had somebody come out here from LightWave and show me a bass.

GB:  What did you think of it?

Adrian:  The LightWave is wonderful for fretless. I did not sell myself on it for fretted. I am a big Michael Tobias fan, I've been playing Mike's basses for 20 years. I am having him build me a 635 right now, a six string. I thought about putting a LightWave pickup on there, but I won't do it unless it's a fretless. I guess that pretty much 99% of the bass players out there are concurring on that.

GB:  One of the folks that I know that has a fretless LightWave told me that it was very true to the sound the strings were producing but that it sometimes was very hard to NOT make it sound like a stand-up bass. Magnetic pickups may add distortion and color the sound, but 50 years of magnetic pickups have shaped a lot of the ideas we have as to what sounds 'right'. It will take a while to either change that belief or expand it to include the pristine accuracy of the LightWave.

Adrian: Now the fundamentals are beautiful, sounds great for that kind of sound.

GB:  They have now come up with a new version of their pickup that allows certain presets that allow you to tank the sound through certain EQ's (preset voicings).  So what are you using these days in way of instruments?

Adrian: I am using MTD 535 and a couple of MTD Grendels, also Lakland and Roscoe basses. I am also using the EBS Classic Pre-amp and about of EBS pedals. The EBS Octabass, they are made in Sweden. Marcus Miller uses them, excellent equipment. A couple of floor pedals but I don't use an amp on the gig. So that's pretty interesting.

GB:  What, do you just go into the board?

Adrian: I use in-ear molded monitors.

GB:  What do you think of them?

Adrian:  I find myself over-compensating for bass so I can hear enough  bass in my head.

GB:  Yeah, we want to hear what we are doing in reference to the band, not buried in the band.

Adrian:  Exactly, so what they are thinking about doing is providing me with what is called a Shaker Pad. This is a couple of speaker drivers that vibrate on a stand on the floor, so it gives you the feeling that you are sitting on an 18 inch cabinet.

GB: Roy Vogt, a previous guest of GB, said the same thing...that unless the soundman gives you a separate EQ, he ends up feeling like he is part of the band, but he is not really playing bass.

Adrian: If your hear the bottom end in your ears, it's probably too much for the sound guy. Feedback that I have gotten from the sound guy is that I overcompensate the bass.

GB:  Do you find that you enjoy talking equipment to people?

Adrian:  I love talking about equipment all the time. I am a bass equipment junkie. There is a site on the `net called Bunnybass.com that takes the best pictures of basses. There's a little bass company in your neck of the woods (Canada-for a while-that was a hint of things to come~Editor) that is causing quite a stir. F Basses. I am hot on the trail of one of them now. He's been a relative secret `till now, but I think he is gonna blow up. I think now is the time to get one before he gets too busy that he is going to need outside help.

GB:  Are you doing any other writing?

Adrian: Well, I'm not limiting myself to bass playing only, some of the instrumental music between the numbers I mentioned, the steel player and I wrote and produced here at home. I think that is a good thing. I would love to get into soundtrack work and that type of think, not just a jazz or a funk bass project. Just putting good music out there.

GB:  With as many hours as you are working with the show, do you find by Saturday night that you are burned out?

Adrian: No, actually I am just getting warmed up. It's only an hour and a half of work every night.

GB:  So as day jobs so, it's not a lot of time.

Adrian: No, not at all.

GB: For any other work you do outside this gig, what kind of amp set up do you use?

Adrian:  Gallien-Kruger is what I use when I play out. I haul my little GK combo around.

GB: So even after STORM is over you may move onto another show after this.

Adrian:  Another show or another tour. As a matter of fact, the best shows in Vegas are Canadian produced. Completely produced out of Canada and the predominant shows produced out of here. The best two shows out of Vegas.

GB: So would you say you are living an interesting life?

Adrian: It is very interesting, adjusting to the desert. But I glad I am closer to LA now. If anything should happen here, I am glad I am not across the country, like I was before.

GB:  So how did this whole thing start. This whole journey into becoming a bassist.

Adrian: I was in Miami, started in high school. My father was a trombonist but he was having trouble finding work on trombone. So he decided to try bass as he already read bass clef. He tried it and didn't take to it. So the bass way laying around the house so I ended up taking it up. The thing about bass that I would like to mention too is that it's like an insatiable obsession. Other things you can like, like food even, but bass never gets old. I am more in love with it than ever. I am just so excited about it altogether. I am very thankful also, I want to manifest my faith in God. I want to say I feel very strongly about that, that I feel very blessed by God. To have an opportunity to do this. I give him all the glory and all the thanks.

GB: Understand this in its truest meaning. I am totally shocked and surprised at the sheer number of bassists out there that are devout Christians. There are a lot of you out there! One of my readers asks me if this is some kind of Christian bass players magazines. But really, it's not. I am not even a Christian, so I have no agenda that way. But so many of the folks I interview end up being Christians, I find that very interesting.

Adrian: Oh yeah! There are monster players in Gospel Music. This happens to the more mature players, the ones who have been around for a while too. They have experienced the 'sinful' world of the musician and finally find shelter.

 

 

You can find more information on Adrian at a new site designed around him, it will soon be online at:

EDITORS NOTE: (07/02/2009) As I was editing these pages, I learned that Adrian passed away. Please read about it here. Rest in peace Adrian Garcia - You are loved!

 

 

 

                                  

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