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.