Virtuoso bassist tells FBPO about the tours, the sessions, new CD and much more!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
February 7, 2011
Born and raised in Iowa, Ray Riendeau took up the bass at age 15 and soon began playing in local bands. Having taken to the instrument right away, Ray quickly embarked on a most impressive musical career. Riendeau has recorded and toured with Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Gary Hoey, James LaBrie (Dream Theater) and Machines of Loving Grace and has done recording sessions for Shinedown, Jason Mraz, 3 Doors Down, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and many other world-renowned artists.
An active clinician, Ray has participated in numerous bass shows, festivals and workshops alongside bass moguls Chuck Rainey, Damian Erskine, Doug Johns, Michael Manring, Mike Pope, Christian McBride and many others. Ray’s newest solo CD, Atmospheres, was released in 2010.
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing.
RR: Growing up, we always had music playing in our household. No one in my family played an instrument, but we were all real music lovers and music was a big part of our lives. I took up the bass in my early teens. My interests were mainly in rock, but as I progressed on the instrument, I studied all kinds of music.
FBPO: What made you choose the bass?
RR: When I was a teenager, I wanted to play in a band, so, along with some neighborhood friends, I decided to get an instrument. I went to get a guitar, but with the help of the salesman at the local music store, who just happened to be a bass player, I ended up getting a bass. I remember the salesman showing my dad and me the store bulletin board, full of postings from musicians who were seeking other musicians. We noticed that very few bands needed a guitar player, but many needed a bassist. This seemed great, as I wanted lots of opportunities to get to play! Call it fate, but I really feel even if I had bought a guitar, I still would have ended up on bass. I soon took many private lessons and in a matter of months was in a band.
FBPO: Who were your musical influences when you were an up-and-coming bass player?
RR: There were many, but I’d say the ones that had the biggest impact on me, for various reasons, were Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, John Paul Jones, Chris Squire, Jaco, Louis Johnson, Victor Wooten, Billy Sheehan and Gary Willis.
FBPO: How much work was there for a young bass player in Iowa?
RR: A lot, actually. I played in many bands. At that time bands played mostly Top 40, which was great, in that I was constantly having to learn new music, by ear, mind you. I also started teaching private lessons for income.
FBPO: Can you identify a time or a specific event that made you realize you were on your way to becoming a professional musician?
RR: The first time I got paid to play! [Laughs!] My passion for playing was such a driving force right from the start. I think I was determined to make music work no matter how long or hard it was going to be.
FBPO: You’ve done such a wide variety of things throughout your career, playing everything from recording sessions and full-scale rock shows to some very intricate funk/slapping, clinics and more. How would you describe what you do?
RR: Music’s really all I know. As a musician, I like and want to work in many situations. I feel it’s very important to take as many opportunities to play as possible, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s all music in the end.
FBPO: You’ve been quite active in a lot of the “bass shows,” like Bass Day, the Anaheim Bass Bash, San Francisco Bass Weekend, Mile High Bass Camps, etc. I’d be interested in hearing your take on what differentiates one show from another. Are they all pretty much the same or does each one have its own special character?
RR: They are generally the same. The big thing is that you are mostly playing to bass players at these events, which can be a little nerve racking at first. The cool thing is that we bass players are mostly laid back. I enjoy meeting and jamming with other bassists. These venues are cool places to play things that you may not get to play elsewhere. I mean, where else can you play a ten-minute bass solo? [Laughs!]
FBPO: You must be pretty excited about Atmospheres, your newest CD release.
RR: Yes indeed. I’m very pleased with my playing and very proud of the compositions. This CD focused more on my finger-style playing, as opposed to my previous CDs, which showcase slap bass. It was really cool to have so many guests on the CD as well. Some were musicians I have worked with in the past and some are people that I wanted to get a chance to work with.
FBPO: You sure used a lot of guitar players!
RR: Yes I did! And they all sound great, every one of them: Alex Machacek, Nat Janoff, Jeff Kollman, Greg Koch, Marco Sfogli, Ron Jarzombek, Rob Michael and Ward Aycock.
FBPO: How about the rest of the band?
RR: On keyboards, I had Lalle Larsson, Alex Argento and Matt Guillory. On drums, it was David “Fingers” Haynes and Martin Diamond. I played bass and piccolo bass and I did all the loops and programming. The CD has done well and has had many positive reviews. I’m proud of how it turned out.
FBPO: What lies ahead in your career? What would you like to accomplish that you haven’t done yet?
RR: I’m excited about my upcoming slap bass instructional DVD coming out this year. I will most likely set up some clinics to promote it. I’ve also been doing a ton of studio work. Ultimately, this is an area I’d really like to do even more of. This past year, I did sessions for James LaBrie, Shinedown, Gavin DeGraw, 3 Doors Down, David Cook and Theory Of A Deadman, to name a few. My goal is to continue doing more sessions.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
RR: I’m a huge boxing/MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fan, so maybe I’d be a fighter.