Finding the balance between the groove and the visual
By Jon Liebman
Week of February 25, 2019
Having conducted hundreds of bass player interviews over the years, it’s become evident that most people who took up the instrument did so simply because no one else wanted to play it. Oftentimes their band director in school told them, “You’re a big kid; go play that big instrument over there.” In countless other instances, while there always seemed to be plenty of guitar players, the other guys would say “You can play bass!” often eliciting a reply, “What’s a bass?”
While many at-first reluctant bassists ended up launching successful careers as low-enders (Paul McCartney comes to mind), a surprising number of people went straight to the bass, bypassing obligatory piano lessons or dreams of being a thrashing, speed metal rock star idol. Why? Because they liked the way the bass player looked!
In some cases, just hearing James Jamerson, Bernard Edwards, Jaco, and other the groovemasters evoked an irresistible need to be a part of that groove-making ability in a way that only the bass can provide. Others, however, were drawn not only to the groove and feel of the bass, but the look. Usually, there was a memorable moment when they noticed something unique about the persona of the bass player in a band, the way he looked, moved, acted, that made them say, I want to do that!
Such is the case with this week’s interviewee, Tim Starace, of YYNOT, a group he describes as “an original progressive rock band with a penchant for playing vintage Rush covers.” As a youngster, Tim found himself appreciating all aspects of rock, taking in not just the music, but the entire rock persona of each band member, the bassist in particular. Once he discovered the likes of Gene Simmons, Glenn Hughes, Geezer Butler, and Steve Harris, Tim was hooked. Naturally, his list included Rush frontman Geddy Lee, as well as some non-bassists, like Yngwie Malmsteen.
In addition to KISS, the mind can conjure up all kinds of images of bands that have made their look part of their act. Anybody remember the New York Dolls? Culture Club? Devo??? Sticking to the bass world, what about Thundercat, Mono Neon, or Chris Kael, who sited Gene Simmons as an influence in my interview with him? And what about the “not-a-gimmick/just-my-personality” Leland Sklar? Can you imagine him without the beard?
I have no problem with anyone incorporating a “look” into the act. In fact it may even enhance the experience for the audience, if done right. My only admonishment, of course, is that the music remain the priority, first and foremost. In most cases it does, I suppose. Still, I wish I didn’t have to say it.
How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think.
In the meantime, check out my interview with Tim here.