From Austria to Nashville, chopsmeister bassist recounts the compelling story of his fast-rising career
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
April 13, 2015
A native of Austria, Bernhard Lackner has worked with Mino Cinelu, Adam Holzman, Marco Minnemann, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Adam Nitti, Florian Bramböck, Christian Wegscheider, Franz Hackl, Jeff Coffin, Derico Watson, Chester Thompson, Pete Lockett and many others.
Lackner has performed at Euro Bass Day, the NAMM Bass Bash, London Bass Guitar Show, Bass Player Live! and other music events. He is also an active clinician at many colleges and schools around the world.
FBPO: How would you describe your musical upbringing?
BL: I grew up in a musical family. My parents sang in a choir, one brother played guitar and another brother is a classical pianist and saxophonist. He helped me a lot while I was getting started in music.
I first played piano, then guitar, before finally starting on electric bass at age 14. I had a private teacher for four years, then I went to college to study bass for another four years. After that, I went to the U.S. to take lessons from Adam Nitti and Kai Eckhardt in my early twenties.
FBPO: What made you decide to become a bass player?
BL: When I was 13, my brother had a friend who lent me a bass for a few weeks, just to try it out. I played some Beatles songs with my family at home and realized how big an impact the bass has in a song. That one single low note basically brings the entire tune to life and adds a lot of energy to a song. I really liked that fact and wanted to have that responsibility in a band.
FBPO: Which bass players influenced you the most once you discovered the instrument?
BL: My first big influence was Mike Porcaro of Toto. I loved his bass lines and found myself checking out a lot of Toto’s tunes and bass lines. I also loved AC/DC and Cliff Williams’ bass lines. Later on, I got into Chick Corea’s Elektric Band and discovered John Patitucci’s work, as well as Jimmy Haslip’s bass work with the Yellowjackets.
FBPO: How did your career get rolling? What kind of gigs were you doing initially?
BL: During and after my education, I basically did cover band gigs in Austria.
FBPO: How did you end up in Nashville?
BL: I was taking lessons from Adam Nitti in Atlanta right after college. Adam then moved to Nashville and I wanted to take lessons from him again, so I went to Nashville. I didn’t know anything about Nashville, but I knew that Adam was there and I wanted to be there too.
FBPO: How did you manage to break into the music scene once you arrived in the U.S.?
BL: My first contacts were, of course, through Adam Nitti. When I arrived in Nashville, I already had some of my own compositions ready to record. Adam helped me contact some players to record my songs. The next thing I knew, I was in the studio tracking my tunes with Derico Watson, drummer for Victor Wooten; Jeff Coffin, saxophonist for the Flecktones and Dave Matthews Band; and Scott Bernard, guitar player for Kenny Loggins. It went great, so I wrote four more tunes and we tracked my entire first album, Those Days, in a few weeks. Through Derico, Jeff and Scott, I met new people and was able to build a network.
FBPO: Tell me about your equipment.
BL: I recently joined Ibanez. I play a BTB1406 six-string bass as my main instrument and use a BTB1405 five-string for commercial work. About six years ago, I joined Aguilar Amps and now use their amps and cabs exclusively. I use a DB210 cabinet and the Tonehammer 500 or the DB750 amp. For strings, I use La Bella’s RX series.
FBPO: Why do you like La Bella strings so much?
BL: I discovered La Bella strings about eight years ago. A friend of mine recommended I try them and I really liked them. Their strings have great quality, they’re handmade in the USA and they last very long. They capture my tone, which is more on the darker side, and they work well for slapping, too. Plus, I love the company and the people of La Bella!
FBPO: What’s keeping you busy these days?
BL: I relocated back to Austria about three years ago. I teach two days per week at a very nice school in northern Italy, about and hour and-a-half from my home. I also have my private bass academy, Bernhard Lackner Music Academy, where I teach private students, compose and record.
On the playing side, I have a band that plays about fifteen shows a year in central Europe. It’s a project I have with guitarist Gerald Gradwohl, drummer Ralf Gustke and pianist Christian Wegscheider. We basically play compositions by Gerald and me and some of Ralf’s tunes. In addition, I do about ten clinics a year in cooperation with La Bella Strings, Aguilar Amps and Ibanez Basses.
FBPO: How about the future? What else would you like to do that you haven’t already accomplished?
BL: My main goal is basically to improve and expand everything I’m already doing. I want to keep releasing new albums and educational products, play more with my band, do clinics and solo performances and try to improve as a player and composer.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
BL: I think I would like to be a doctor, but that changes all the time. Years ago I think my answer was “car mechanic,” in another interview.