Juan Alderete

Seasoned bass vet talks about Paul Gilbert, Mars Volta and his popular Pedals & Effects website. Toys, toys toys!

Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
March 18, 2013

A bass player for over thirty years, Juan Alderete de la Peña has become one of the most well respected players in the music industry.

Juan first gained notoriety in the mid ’80s after meeting guitarist Paul Gilbert, with whom he formed the “shred metal” band, Racer X. Alderete went on to form The Scream and Big Sir (with vocalist Lisa Papineau) and later performed in Pet, Distortion Felix, Dr. Octagon. He has also worked extensively with the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group and is currently playing bass for Mars Volta. As a solo artist, Juan formed Vato Negro, which has performed at Bass Player Live!, as well as the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan.

A self-proclaimed “stomp pedal addict,” Juan is the founder of the popular Pedals and Effects website.

FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing.

JA: I started playing when I was 15 or 16 years old. I never played any other instrument but electric bass.

FBPO: How did you become a bass player?

JA: Friends of mine were starting a band and they needed a bassist. It was a pretty easy decision.

FBPO: Who were your influences as a young, up-and-coming student of bass?

JA: I used to like Stanley Clarke and Chris Squire, but my biggest influence was my bass teacher, Steve Evans. He really showed me what bass was about.

FBPO: Tell me about meeting Paul Gilbert and forming Racer X.

JA: I met Paul when I started going to MI (Musicians Institute). He was looking for a rhythm section, so my roommate and I tried out. He picked a different drummer, but I got the bass gig. We then started to rehearse and named the band Racer X.

FBPO: Many people have described the band’s music as “shred metal.” How do you feel about that term?

JA: It is as bad a term as any other term that goes with music labeling. We really should have been called, “This is what comes after Van Halen.”

FBPO: Tell me about the Mars Volta. How did you land that gig?

JA: They were looking for a bassist and a friend of mine mentioned me. They auditioned me in between a European and U.S. tour with the Ret Hot Chili Peppers and I got it.

FBPO: Your “Pedals and Effects” website seems to be a real passion of yours. What’s it all about?

JA: I really felt bassists were getting shafted in YouTube. I decided I would represent my instrument with my own versions of videos and blogs about pedals and effects. I started really getting into pedals around ’91 and have grown my pedal collection since then to around 300-400. I used to have more, but you give some and you lose some.

FBPO: What else is keeping you busy these days? You always seem to have a lot going on.

JA: I have a new project/record with Cedric from TMV that I am a part of, a Big Sir EP, a new Vato Negro record and one other project that has me really stretching out my compositional skills.

JL: What about the future? What else would you like to do that you haven’t already accomplished?

JA: I would love to play fretless all night! No more fretted. I feel my voice is in the fretless. Kind of like Marcus Miller’s voice is in his Sadowsky pre-amped jazz bass. It is a combo of the hands and the instrument.

FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?

JA: A counselor. I have covered a lot in my life and I feel that the biggest accomplishment I have is going back to school and finishing my college education at a late age. What some people don’t get is that a college degree is not just for job placement; it also helps you as a critical thinker. Your decision making gets sharper and you are better prepared to navigate through life. I hope to help others who have dropped out get back into education. It is what will save our world.

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