Bassists who’ve influenced me

When I started writing this post, I forgot that I’d done a similar one a few years back. There isn’t that much of a change. A lot of similar names. Still one must ocassionally muse and indulge. So these aren’t necessarily my favourite bassists. These are ones who at some point in my life influenced how I did or heard music. They are kind of in a chronological order. Memory is quite fluid after all. A deep dozen bassists for you.

Duff Mckagan

Yes the GnR bassist was the first time I actually started listening to the bass guitar. With his slightly over-driven tone and pick usage I wouldn’t say he was my favourite but I really started following the instrument from this guy. Melodious and holding the bottom, like in this song.

Flea

Thankfully my interest in glam-rock was tempered by something a bit more gritty. It was funky and in your face. I hadn’t really heard slap bass before and this was my introduction to it. I covered ‘Aeroplane’ with various bands, but the one that really educated me on melody and the place of the bass deep down was this one.

Billy Sheehan

Oh yes, the need for speed. As with most people I heard of Mr. Big through their hit ‘To be with you.’ But inadvertently heard the following song and it really allowed me to believe that a bassist could be as diva as the lead guitarist.

Geddy Lee

I’m not sure how I came across Rush. Someone leant me an ‘Exit Stage Left’ cassette. The odd lines, the odd timing really excited me. I was flabbergasted when I learnt he sang AND played the keyboards as well.

Abraham Laboriel

My forever favourite. I think maybe it’s his personality, but this seems to flow through his playing. Each note is so full of joy and groove.

Sting

I think I first heard/saw Sting on Doordarshan! (for the uninitiated and the unborn, this was the only TV we got before the 90s) He was with Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman for the Amnesty tour I think. But I truly met with him in ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales.’ What a marvelously crafted album. Every word and note cleverly placed. Sometimes too clever but again odd timed grooves got me.

Stu Hamm

Really expanded the bass for me with all that tapping malarkey. Tried the national anthem with this technique. Screwed it up. Royally. Not democratically.

John Patitucci

Saw/heard John Patitucci through an instruction video that was really useful for me. But I really started appreciating him more when I heard his upright bass playing.

Jaco Pastorius

You’ve got to have Jaco in there don’t you? Possibly did what Hendrix did to the guitar. I’d heard him off and on but this blew me at the time and still does.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/129381306″>Live Shadows And Lights Joni Mitchell Jaco Pastorius Pat Metheny Michael Brecker Don Alias</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user24006153″>Domenico Loparco</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Victor Wooten

Another tapping master but much more than that. I don’t like his solo work, but with Bela Fleck he’s an absolute genius.

Richard Bona

I first heard of him with his association with Pat Metheney. But first heard is beautiful soulful playing and singing with Bobby Mcferrin.

Doug Pinnick

Again like Abraham Laboriel there is something about the personality of Doug Pinnick that has really affected me. His playing and singing so soulful and strong, somehow brings together the bitterness and joy of life in person, in music.

So what to say of this list? Well I suppose it’s a bit narrow. Mostly North American with Gordon sneaking in there somehow. But sometimes that’s how it happens. A particular sub-culture is what speaks to you and what forms you. The challenge is to continue growing and moving through all that life gives and throws at you.

Worship Futures

Three bits of news have hardened my suspicions that guitar music is going to be increasingly niche. One is Paul Gambaccini’s last rites on rock. The second is that Guitar Hero has been discontinued. And the third is that Beyonce could be headlining Glastonbury. I think this shows that the guitar has definitely moved away from the centre stage in society’s music consciousness.

This has interesting implications for worship music. A good proportion of contemporary worship leaders lead from the guitar. A huge number of worship songs today are written around the guitar. I’ll go out on a limb and say that there are more guitar worship churches than organ worship churches. So, if the guitar is moving away from the centre of secular music but is the centre of church worship music, should we be concerned?

Concerned in a positive way I would hope. It does warrant thinking and discussion. We are products of our culture and God’s kingdom advances through some of the features of the culture we inhabit. Our worship will always reflect some part of our culture. So we should experiment with new ways of doing music away from the guitar.

How about an ipad/ipod orchestra? Or a more ethereal laptop orchestra?

Sounds alien? Impossible? Impractical? or exciting? Perhaps all of them? Imagine how alien we would sound to Christians a century ago. We have so much more technology than they did. Whether technology is out of control or too much in our lives is open for debate but technology has played an integral role in the way music in the church has evolved. Here’s an interesting quote from the book ‘Electronic Music.’

“baroque music cannot be imagined without the advances of 16th and 17th century luthiers, rock could not exist without the electric guitar, and jazz or hiphop without redefinitions of the saxophone and the turntable.” p89

So as technology changes new kinds of music can appear, not by a wholesale dumping of the past but as natural inheritors to a tradition. ‘(T)he pipe organ was the most complex man-made device,[5] a distinction it retained until it was displaced by the telephone exchange in the late 19th century’ (Wikipedia). Using software is a natural progression from the pipe organ which under pinned church music for centuries. From the same book :

Good new instruments should learn from their traditional ancestors and not impose their music on the performer.

This is where the challenge really lies. It’s easy to make music sound from the computer. You just press play on whatever music player you have. The challenge lies in actually making music with the computer.

Laptops are a common sight in worship but they seem to be used mostly as a screen for words or for projection. Are there any worship leaders who use a computer as their leading instrument? In my limited experience I haven’t heard or seen any. Within the band context I have seen computers used musically but mostly as a sound bank for the keyboard or as a loop machine.

Loops sound good but they barely scratch the surface of computer music. Live sampling would be the next step. This could be of the singing and we could even sample the congregation’s singing to maybe pray over or recite a liturgy over. Generating sounds from the computer could take things further. It could give us a real sense of the otherness and the unpredictability of God. The next crazy step could be where there could be a network server in our worship space where people with their smartphones could all connect to the server and participate and contribute to the music with the various apps in our worship. Wild.

The possibilities are endless. Everything’s possible but not everything will be useful, Paul reminds us. But surely we have to start trying it out? So over to you.

What could worship sound (and look) like if we used the full range of the computer’s potential in worship?

Guitarists that lead me on

This is a bit more complex compared to the bassist post I did before. There seem to be more of ’em and the variety is greater.

So I’m going to kind of categorize a bit. Of course this list is all to do with those who’ve affected me. Who else matters ey? 🙂

THE PANTHEON

  1. Jimi Hendrix – Not to mention him would be like a Christian saying he hasn’t really heard of Jesus and doesn’t think much of him.
  2. Jimmy Page – Dirty and groovy
  3. Ritchie Blackmore – ok Smoke on the Water might be overrated but didn’t every guitar student from the 70s to 90s try it out at least once?
  4. Van Halen – Hugely innovative and accessible
  5. Steve Vai – Absolutely mad, wierd, exciting fun
  6. Joe Satriani – Great tunes, marvelous ability to tell very different stories
  7. Slash – Well I did actually learn a few of his solos note for note. Fat and tuneful.

ALSO RANS

  1. Paul Gilbert faaaaasssssstand tuneful
  2. Nuno Bettencourt – faaasssst and incredibly intelligent

THE OTHERS, THE REAL HEROES

  1. The Edge – That wall of sound famously parodied by Bill Bailey
  2. Alex Lifeson – An unsung other within the band Rush
  3. John Frusciante – The ridiculously talented guitarist who makes RHCP really fruity
  4. Kim Thayil – The one who hated guitar solos. What chops, what tuning!


Bassists I root for

In no particular order are bassists whom I admire and why.

1. Abraham Laboriel – Sheer joy, sheer presence, sheer groove, sheer simplicity. Heaven is a gracious smile, with the waggle of those hips and the chunky fingers doing their thing

2. Billy Sheehan – Bloody fast, lots of hair, bloody fast, part of mr. Big, did I say he was fast?

3. Geddy Lee – Bassist, keyboardist and singer all at once. Such modesty! And he plays with one finger!

4. John Paul Jones – The real genius of Zeppelin. Bassist and keyboardist. Hmmm. Could be a theme here.

5. Flea – A mad jumping groovy man who uses his instrument to cover the essentials

6. Jaco Pastorius – Well, every bassist has got to pay some homage to him. Bit like giving respect to Moses. The tablet guy.

7. Duff Mckagan – GnR was an important part of growing (not necessarily up) and he was one of the first bassists I really listened to.

8. Chris Squire – Well yes.

9. John Patitucci – I’m not so into him now but was a real fan at one point when I pretended I was into jazz. (Well I kind of still am. Into jazz I mean, not Paticucci)

10. Sting – Especially with Vinnie Colauita. They brought out the best in each other.

Well that dates me doesn’t it?

rap

The wordplay in the gospel of John is fascinating

In the beginning was the Word

……………………………the Word was with God

……………………..and the Word    was  God

…………………………………He was with God

in the beginning.

It brings all the more credence to the possibility that poets should be given a greater voice in the church and it’s local communities.

District 9

I shouldn’t have read the reviews before hand. That was probably the only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. I was mistakenly led to believe that it was about apartheid or rather that apartheid was the primary metaphor that the movie was alluding to. It seems to be more about immigration and at a deeper level how we view… um… aliens; the movie sorts and the other more close to home beggars in the street, software engineers in our companies, labourers etc. etc.

I’m not too much into alien movies and I did find their appearance a quite yuk in a sufficiently hollywood kind of way but the genius of the movie for me was

I shouldn’t have read the reviews before hand. That was probably the only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the movie. I was mistakenly led to believe that it was about apartheid or rather that apartheid was the primary metaphor that the movie was alluding to. It seems to be more about immigration and at a deeper level how we view… um… aliens; the movie sorts and the other more close to home beggars in the street, software engineers in our companies, labourers etc. etc.

I’m not too much into alien movies and I did find their appearance a quite yuk in a sufficiently hollywood kind of way but the genius of the movie for me was how I really warmed to the aliens Christopher Johnson and his son. From being faintly repulsed to sympathy and pity, I moved towards identifying with them. Now if only prejudice at all levels could be moved so easily.

But it is true that only by in some sense giving yourself up (in Van der Merve the main character’s case, not very willingly) and seeing the world from the other side that’s when the world stretches and changes into something you haven’t been in before.

The film leaves me wondering whether it’s only a drastic accident like what Van der Merve goes through that’s going to push us towards giving ourselves up for the sake of knowing/loving the other. The frustration for me as a Christian is that despite Jesus’ death which has broken the dividing walls and freed us from our tribalism we still have a lot of prejudicial divisions in church . I don’t know. Maybe Christopher Johnson will come back in District 10 with a clearer answer.

Perverts we love you

Roman Polanski‘s arrest has been protested by various celebrities and in the media. It was very interesting that it took a few days before the reality started dawning and people really started reflecting on what happened. But it is a typical case of the rich and the famous protecting one of their own. Yes there were issues in the way the justice system was acting but still there has to be a public acknowledgment that he did something heinous. These articles give some perspective on the issue.

The fact is an adult manipulated a young 13 year girl used her body in every way possible. In an age of sexual consumption and increasing sexualising of younger and younger girls it almost seems ok. This is the smokescreen that’s clouding all of Roman Polanski’s would be saviours. One can’t help but romanticize a fugitive and that too a talented one.

But this ‘fight’ is really about whether everyone should be under the same law or whether the genius should be given his own universe to play with. This again is the dangerous taste of unreality that each of us longs for but there is actually a more brilliant world out there. My prayers for that 13 year old girl forced to be what she was never meant to be

Imagine or Die

Thoughts from Brueggemann’s Hopeful Imagination: Prophetic Voices in Exile pgs – 23-25

1. Poets have no advice to give people. They only want people to see differently, to re-vision life. They are not coercive. They only try to stimulate, surprise, hint and give nuance, not more. They cannot do more, because they are making a world that does not yet exist beyond their imagination; but their offer of this imaginative world is necessary to give freedom of action. The poets want us to re-experience the present world under a different set of metaphors, and they want us to entertain an alternative world not yet visible…

2. Poets speak porously. They use the kind of language that is not exhausted at first hearing. They leave many things open, ambiguous still to be discerned after more reflection. They do not pretend to know the future, but they offer the present as a shockingly open and ambiguous matter out of which various futures may yet emerge. They do not need to see the end of their words or all the implications before they speak….

3. The purpose of porous language is to leave the poem and the reality to which it points open for the experience of the listener. Poets do indeed trust other people to continue the image, to finish the thought out of their own experience. But that requires the kind of rich metaphorical language that is open and polyvalent. Very often people who hear poets want an explanation, which means to slot the words into categories already predetermined and controlled. Such an act, however, is the death of the poem….

pg 26-27

In our day many in ministry are caught in bitter exhaustion because people seem so resistant. That resistance, I submit, comes from a frightened, crushed imagination that has been robbed of power precisely because of fear. Indeed, one can note the abysmal lack of imagination in the formation of policy about either internation security or domestic economics. We can think of nothing to do except to do more of the same, which generates only more problems and more fear. When we are frightened, we want certitude, not porousness. So the voices of religious certitude and the advocates of political domination seem persuasive….

The practice of such poetic discourse is very difficult. It is difficult because it takes more energy than our conventional prose which is predictable and accepted on all sides. It is difficult, secondly, because it will be very much misunderstood. We are not accustomed to such communication. But the risk must be taken. Jesus’ parables stand as witness that the kingdom comes by imagination, by poetic discourse. Such a way of speech creates vitality in ministry, because it keeps possibility open in the life of the community. Where there is not speech which keeps possibility open, we are left only with necessity. That is what the rulers of this age may want. But that ends in death.

Truly moving or manipulated?

Did you see this?

That woman is definitely quite amazing.

But but but but but

She’s surrounded by media vultures and flesh devourers. Even the journalists who are so called sympathetic to Susan Boyle call her ugly and crow praises on her ‘despite’ her ugliness. True spit(e) that is. The privileged middle class Brit media are showing yet more signs of their living in their self made pie in the sky.

I don’t think she’s ugly. I don’t think she’s pretty either. I also think Julia Roberts is ugly.

I think Susan Boyle has awesome personality. But you can see how this is milked to the extreme. I felt emotional watching the video but I was pushed to that emotion. The producers squeezed every camera angle juxtaposed with the music for maximum teariness and throat lumpiness. Susan Boyle’s voice is not that amazing. It is good no doubt but it’s not as distinctive as Paul Pots the winner a few years ago.

And of course the reaction was no where close. It’s because she’s a woman who doesn’t conform to society’s idolatrous worship of physical beauty. I pray for her that she won’t sucked up into the evil that is around her.

On the other hand this was truly beautiful

This is a sign of the kingdom for me.

And to make some sense of it all this was so good.

Followed by this and this