Why do I play Bass?
When I was around nine years old, my family attended a wedding. It was a a sort of hippy celebration and included a procession of children playing percussion instruments leading in the bride and groom. I thought it would be hilarious to wear my tambourine as a collar and it was, until I found there was no way I could get it off again without flaying most of the skin from my face. I still remember that blend of total panic and acute embarrassment.
Also at the wedding was a Jazz band featuring my 13 year old brother on clarinet and there it was,
big and beautiful, ridiculously big in fact, a double bass. I had to have a go. Someone must have said yes because I remember a tall stool being found and me being sat on it and told put this hand here and this hand here, The drummer counted off and we started playing. I have no idea what I was doing but I remember it just felt right.
Two years later I started at “big school” they had a music department that had a couple of basses.
I had been thinking about playing bass ever since the wedding but this was the first time I had touched one since then. The transition from upright to electric happened in my early teens but I maintain a great affection for and still own an upright which I occasionally drag out of the closet.
So that was how I came to play bass and I really don’t know exactly what drew me to it but its attraction has never faded.
At the same time as I was getting into playing I began an unhealthy obsession with electricity an interest which, by rights, should have ended my life on several occasions ( kids don’t wire the brushes of a Scalextric car to a mains cable and plug it in). The twin obsessions of music and electricity were bound to become intertwined as I started experimenting with crystal microphones and old radiograms to make my first amp. I found if you put a transistor radio on top of a black and white TV and then messed with the horizontal and vertical hold knobs on the back of the Telly you could get awesome Dr Who noises out of the radio. I converted our cellar into a recording studio with the obligatory egg boxes stuck to the walls sharing the space with a ridiculously big central heating boiler which contributed its thunderous starting up noise to many recordings.
At this time I think I probably really dreamt of becoming a recording engineer but somehow playing bass was becoming more and more important. My first paid gig was at the age of sixteen, I stood in for an older boy who had had his arm glassed in a pub fight the night before. Coincidentally this boy had beaten me up in the park about two years previously. I did the gig that night and replaced him permanently, sweet justice ….
From that point on I never really stopped gigging doing the London pub circuit in a jazz fusion band that featured Gary Plumley on sax ( now often to be seen with Snowboy and the Latin section and Terry Callier) and Doug Boyle on guitar ( Caravan and Nigel Kennedy) and Chris Blackwell on drums.
Doug, Chris and I went on to play together regularly as session musicians at a time when there was a good deal more of that work around. The three of us ended up working with Robert Plant for a period that finally resulted in the recording of his solo album “Now and Zen” which was very successful in the states but not really here in the UK.
It was after this that I feel my musical education really began as I joined a band called Evidence led by an extraordinarily talented composer, arranger and educator named Roland Perrin. The music took its influences from all over the world, was full of joy and hugely challenging to play. The other musicians in the band were always generous with sharing their knowledge of Jazz, Latin and world music with me. I spent seven years with the band and, through this period, met so many other great musicians who I was privileged to work with during that time and since.
One of the musicians that I continue to play with regularly is the great saxophonist Derek Nash both in his large band Sax Appeal and in the Derek Nash quartet.
I also play in the band Just East, a band which explores combining traditional world music, particularly Eastern European folk music, with improvisation.
Which all brings me to David Migden and the Twisted Roots.
It is very exciting being invited to join a band you are already a fan of. It is also quite intimidating as you try to do justice to songs you already love and to contribute your own original input to new material. I feel that during the course of recording the new album I finally found my place in the band and I am so proud to be part of what I truly believe to be one of the most original bands around at the moment.
Fender Jazz 1962
Godin electro acoustic bass guitar
Lakland skyline bass
Maton MG4 fretless
Warwick streamer 5 string
Mexican fender Jazz with Warmoth Fretless neck, EMG pickups and Badass bridge
Defretted no name Jazz copy circa 1978 tuned A,D,G,C
Double bass found for me in Holland by great Jazz bassist Hein Van De Geyn
Gallien Kruger MB112
Ampeg SVTpro Bass pre-amp
Berhinger iNuke 1000 watt power amp
Schroeder 2 x 12 cabinet
Hughes and Kettner 2 x 10 cabinet
Markbass LM2 Amplifier
Playlist (if I did this another day it would probably be completely different but here goes):
Ha! Ha! Said The Clown : Manfred Mann
This was the first single I owned. Like many of us I find clowns very disturbing and this song seemed to capture something of the darker side of the circus.
The Rite Of Spring: Igor Stravinsky
This choice is down to seeing Fantasia as a kid and being totally mesmerized by the earth creation through to the dinosaur extinction sequence all accompanied by this incredible music. Interesting that it features in the lyric of Dave’s song “Admiral” . Funnily enough Stravinsky once wrote “my music is best understood by children and animals”
Ramble on: Led Zeppelin
I must have been eleven or twelve when my mum bought this album and while “Whole Lotta Love” initially was my favourite, this seems to be the one that stayed with me.
The Stealer: Free
One of those tracks that made me know that bass is just the best instrument, what a groove!
Yours Is No Disgrace: Yes
Prog is my guilty secret and this song introduced me to the inventive lines and gorgeous post-McCartney bass tone of Chris Squires Rickenbacker.
Share It : Hatfield and the North
I have an immense affection for the whole Canterbury scene but this was always my favourite band that emerged from that period.
Man in the Green Shirt: Weather Report
The opening track on the album “Tale Spinning” . I love this album so much and it contains some incredible ensemble playing but, for me, Wayne Shorter and his soprano sax are seldom bettered on another Weather Report album.
Refuge of the roads: Joni Mitchell
From the Album “Hejira” released in 1976 the year Jaco Pastorius emerged playing bass on this album, his own extraordinary self titled solo album and the fantastic “Black Market” with Weather Report.
I could have picked so many tracks but this ballad where he weaves his bass effortlessly around Joni Mitchell’s vocal has always been one of my most loved.
Boogie On Reggae Woman: Stevie Wonder
Obviously I could have chosen a ton of tracks but, as a bass player, this has one of the greatest bass lines not played on a bass.
At last I am Free: Robert Wyatt
This is actually a cover of a Chic song performed with a heartbreaking sparseness and fragility.
One Nation Under a Groove: Funkadelic
My first 12 inch! Love the whole funkaparlimentasuperthrobasonic thang!
Ah- Um: Charles Mingus
I love every track on this Album!
Inca Roads: Frank Zappa
Everyone has their own introduction to the music of Frank Zappa and this was mine. Fantastically mad track with ridiculous playing and singing all over it.
Les Mysteres des Voix Bulgares
Maybe a bit old hat now but I defy anyone not to get chills the first time they here the sound of a Bulgarian choir.
Malathini the Lion of Soweto
For some really gritty South African Township music he is the boss, especially when accompanied by the Mahotella queens.
Wamba: Salif Keita
From the album “Soro” this album was a real game changer in the fusion of world music and modern production techniques. Some of it sounds horribly dated in that Eighties way now but the voice remains extraordinary.