Yo`, bass players!

Great technique/gear, etc. interview, a must read.

(by QRD zine)

QRD – What was your first bass & what happened to it?

Trevor – My first bass was a Hondo. Dark brown, double cut-away.  I sold it to a piano player in college.

QRD – What’s your typical set-up from bass to effects to amplifier?

Trevor – I usually prefer to play bass without any effects.  However, when needed I run a couple stomp boxes (Line6 distortion, Rat, Boss Reverb/Delay, volume pedal).

QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – bass, amplifier, or effects?

Trevor – That is a complicated question.  I can usually make due with any amp, but it depends on if I’m playing upright or electric.  The combination can be critical so I try to use my own gear when possible.  These days I haven’t been traveling with my upright, so I bring my own strings & pickup just in case.  Electric is a lot easier to deal with as I have a tendency to use a pretty flat EQ when using my P-bass.  In that regard I have a lot of room to adjust.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Trevor – For upright I use an Acoustic Image Focus 1.  It is super light & sounds very natural with some capacity to tweak the midrange depending on room sounds.  For electric I prefer Ampeg tube amps, GK, SWR, Aguilar…..

QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass?

Trevor – I prefer being able to choose between the two.

QRD – Do you prefer to use a pick, fingers, or a bow?

Trevor – I prefer having a wide range of tone in order to achieve what the music requires.  I also use mallets, clothespins, & a triangle beater.

QRD – How many strings do you think a bass should have?

Trevor – For me, four works, although on occasion I use a 5-string with a low B.  I’m not into the sound of anything higher than concert middle C on bass.  At that point you might as well be playing guitar.

QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?

Trevor – My older brother played guitar & got me into rock music.  For whatever reason, although inspired by him, I decided to be a little different, having no idea what the difference really was.  I also play some guitar.

QRD – How is a bass different than a guitar other than being lower in pitch?

Trevor – Keep in mind that “bass” means bass guitar.  The difference in pitch dictates, in essence, the difference in role. 

QRD – What’s your main bass & what are the features that make it such?

Trevor – My main electric is a ‘75 Fender Precision.  I find it simple & very versatile.

QRD – What do you think of the thumb rests on some basses?

Trevor – I don’t use them.

QRD – If you had a signature bass, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?

Trevor – It would probably be modeled after a vintage Fender or Guild & would have a centipede on it.  —–> ;:)

QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?

Trevor – Probably some type of fuzz/synth/octaver with programmable settings.  It would also be very small.

QRD – How many basses do you own?

Trevor – I own six electrics & one upright.

QRD – How & where do you store your basses?

Trevor – They are mostly just lying around my room.  Some in their cases in the closet.  Some lying on the bed.

QRD – What features do you look for when buying a bass?

Trevor – If I’m looking for a bass to buy, I probably have the sound & model already figured out, so ultimately I look for a good physical feel.

QRD – How much do you think a good bass should cost?

Trevor – Whatever it is worth.

QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your bass or just stick with what you get?

Trevor – I’ve done some minor renovating, i.e. new bridge, nut, etc.  But for the most part I keep it simple.

QRD – Are you after one particular bass tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?

Trevor – I try to adjust to my surroundings.  Obviously metal is going to need a different tone than exotica.  That said, I prefer a dark, round tone.

QRD – What are some basses, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?

Trevor – I’ve been lusting after a ‘60s Fender Jazz for many years.

QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first bass that aren’t always there?

Trevor – Less is more.  Getting a good sound & making good music with just volume & one tone knob is a lesson in itself.

QRD – What have been the best & worst bass related purchases you’ve made?

Trevor – My ‘65 Guild Starfire is one of those fantasy stories.  A friend’s neighbor sold it to me for about $100.  It had no tuning pegs & the input jack was destroyed.  After a couple hundred bucks to my repair guy she soars like an eagle.  I’m guessing that my custom 5-string fretless purchased in the early ‘90s is my least used instrument.

QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a bass?

Trevor – Usually a Carol Kaye line or something off a Sly Stone record.

QRD – How old were you when you started playing bass?

Trevor – Thirteen.

QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best bass playing?

Trevor – I’m still trying to get there.  Every gig & every session makes an improvement.

QRD – Do you feel bass lines should echo & emphasize guitar & drum parts or be their own distinct elements?

Trevor – It completely depends on the situation.  I would never be so dogmatic as to say a line should always play the same role.

QRD – Why do you think a bass fits you more so than other instruments?

Trevor – Though I chose it by chance – or so I think – I like being in the background, being in a rhythm section, searching for, or dwelling on, the perfect groove.  I think that describes my life in a nutshell.

QRD – Do you see your bass as your ally or adversary in making music?

Trevor – I used to have this theory that our instruments were prisons for the song trapped inside & it was our duty to wrestle (practice) & overcome this cumbersome entombment.  But now I think that’s kind of a dark analogy.  I love my bass.  Some of them have traveled the world with me & they are always there for me.  Without that ally I would be nothing.

QRD – Who are the bassists that most influenced your playing & sound?

Trevor – Bobby Vega, Rusty Allen, Carol Kaye, Jaco Pastorius, Jerry Jemmont, Charlie Haden, Jimmy Garrison, Charles Mingus, Scott Lafaro.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their bass is natural or silly (e.g. naming their bass)?

Trevor – I don’t think it’s silly.  There is a lot of emotion that travels through the fingers.  I haven’t named any of mine, but I do feel the spirit in them. 

QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a bass & how did you do it?

Trevor – I knocked over my first bass when I was a teenager talking to a girl on the phone.  I’ll never forget that.  I put a big chip in the back of the neck.  Aside from that, when I first moved to NYC & had no clue about winterizing my bass the front cracked open one December.

QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?

Trevor – Mostly very traditional standard exercises.  Pretty much all my upright practicing is long tones, scales, arpeggios, & classical etudes.  Other than that I practice whatever music I need to be learning.

QRD – How many hours a week do you play bass & how many hours would you like to?

Trevor – I would like to practice 8 hours a day like the old days.  When I can, I would say about four a day.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Trevor – For upright I use standard Tomastik orchestral.  Electric I use D’Addario regular gauge – either .45 or .50.  After years of experimenting these are simply the strings that suit me best.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Trevor – Upright, probably once a year.  Electric, very rarely.  On a tour with, say, Fantomas I would change them every couple of shows.  But for the other things I do I prefer that greasy dander-infused tone that James Jameson championed.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Trevor – Almost never.

QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming/bowing hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?

Trevor – It is important that both hands be agile & dexterous.  Coordinating them is crucial.  In general, I’d say tone probably comes more from the left hand in upright playing & the right hand in electric.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Trevor – Mostly standard cuz I’m a simple guy.  Occasionally drop-D, & sometimes I tune my electric B-E-A-D.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?

Trevor – I can’t stand tablature.  I find it annoying & useless.  I use standard notation & read bass, treble, & tenor clefs.

QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Trevor – Not warming up.

QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s bass playing?

Trevor – Piano/keyboard.

QRD – What’s a type of bass playing you wish you could do that you can’t?

Trevor – Authentic salsa.

QRD – What’s a bass goal you’ve never accomplished?

Trevor – Perfect technique.

QRD – What’s the last bass trick you learned?

Trevor – The Italian hairless bow.

QRD – Did you ever take bass lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?

Trevor – I’ve taken many bass lessons. Initially I took lessons for a couple years.  Then I studied privately in college.  & occasionally I still take lessons from a classical player.  I could write an entire book on what I’ve learned.  Probably the most important thing, however, is slowing down & listening.

QRD – What would you teach someone in a bass lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a bass teacher?

Trevor – The ability to explore their own technique.

QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Trevor – Be in my brain.

QRD – If a band has good bass work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?

Trevor – Sure, but you can do that with any instrument.  That doesn’t mean you will have an enjoyable listening experience.

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