Often viewed as “behind-the-scenes support staff,” our presence is vital
By Jon Liebman
Week of February 11, 2019
Recently, I wrote a blog about the necessity of being a musical chameleon, with the ability to adapt to a variety of situations. Freelance bass players, as you know, must be prepared to blend seamlessly into countless musical scenarios, whether they be jazz gigs, club dates, Broadway shows, bar mitzvahs…
But what if you found yourself in a situation where you had to incorporate that musical prowess into a single show?
In this week’s interview with Pete Griffin, conducted during the recent “Generation Axe” tour, Pete talked about that very thing. Throughout the tour, which featured guitar luminaries Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt, Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, Pete had to juggle seemingly non-stop changes in musical styles and formats, switching basses, gear, effects, and settings, all the while ensuring he injected just the right vibe and attitude into the music.
The all-star lineup had Pete alternating between 4- and 5-string basses, with various tunings and string configurations mind you, requiring inordinate amounts of concentration. Some of the music called for Pete to play with his fingers, while much of it required a pick. He even had to do a bit of slapping and double-thumbing to boot. On top of all that, Pete’s effects had to be meticulously tweaked in order to supply the desired tone changes, including sub-octave bass fuzz, making sure his EQ settings didn’t conflict with the other frequencies – like Tosin’s 8-string guitar – and so much more.
Gigs like this may not be the norm for most bass players, but they do exist and require the utmost energy, concentration and focus. An obvious comparison is the popular G3 tour, often featuring Vai and Malmsteen, along with Joe Satriani and other guitar heroes, like Eric Johnson, John Petrucci, Steve Morse, Andy Timmons, Tony MacAlpine, etc., with duties often held down by Bryan Beller.
Sometimes we bass players get to turn the tables on the guitarists, as in the BX3 rumblefest, with Stu Hamm, Jeff Berlin and Billy Sheehan. Similar to Generation Axe and G3, the bass version had each of the three stars performing, sometimes separately and sometimes together, while the guitarist and drummer performed non-stop throughout the entire show.
So here’s a shout out to the loyal support staff of the much-needed “behind-the-scenes” players. While their names may not be on the marquee, they perform a vital ingredient to music, and the show couldn’t happen without them. But, as a bass player, you already knew that.
Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
In the meantime, check out my interview with Pete here.