Interview with My Cousin

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Question: What really gets you motivated to start playing?
Answer: It can be a lot of things, from hearing a certain song or type of music, to talking about musical things with a fellow musician, to just being "in the mood."

Question: What do you do to help you get ready to play?
Answer: I warm up, for starters! Just like anything physical, you can hurt yourself if you don't loosen up & warm up before playing a gig. I have some stretches I do that loosen up my arms & hands, as well as some exercises I do to get my fingers ready to rock.

Question: How do you pick the songs that you are going to play?
Answer: Depends on the gig. For original music, the selection is usually limited, so we try to pick the songs we've not only rehearsed the most, but sound the strongest. All things being equal, we try to choose based on the other bands at the gig that night (if there are any) and what we think the crowd might like.

So if it's a chill, sit-down-and-listen type of place, we'll probably play quieter, maybe some more slow songs. If it's a hoppin', get-up-and-dance type of place, we'll try to make that happen more!

Question: What do you do to your bass to make sure it stays “in shape”?
Answer: A good question; lots of people neglect this. Cleaning isn't that big of a deal for me; as James Jamerson used to say "dirt keeps the funk!" And based on his track record (Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and lots more Motown hits!), he must have been doing something right!

But seriously, I keep my basses in warm, slightly humid environments, avoiding really hot or cold places, as well as too much or too little humidity. They're made of wood, so they can crack! My upright bass is most susceptible to this. I have a little humidity sponge-thing I fill up & hang inside my upright to keep it healthy. As for my electric basses, they get new strings whenever I feel the current ones have "died", and they get regular tune-ups (called a set up in the guitar/bass world) so that their strings aren't too far from the fingerboard or too close (which can cause buzzing). Taking them in like also means a professional luthier (a stringed instrument-maker) can make sure something subtle, like a neck that's bending out of shape, isn't happening, which can be very bad for any guitar or bass.

Question: Who is your favorite musician?
Answer: That's a REALLY hard question, as I listen and enjoy lots of music. Some names that rise to the top though, are Miles Davis, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius, Stevie Wonder, Thom Yorke, Stefan Lessard, The Beatles (Paul's bass lines are awesome), and many, many more. You might be surprised to know most of my favorite musicians aren't bassists, and the ones who are tend to be supportive bassists, instead of bass soloists (although they can all step to the front and tear it up with the best!)

Question: What inspired you to start playing bass?
Answer: I've been playing music since 1994, having joined the school concert band playing trumpet. I played that until the 8th grade, where I switched to euphonium, which is like a tenor tuba. I still own mine, actually, as I played it up until I finished high school (and still wish I had opportunity to play it!)
I joined the high school jazz band my freshman year (the jazz band's first year too) playing trombone parts on euphonium. I had gotten to know the bassist for the band, a guy named Bill M., who was actually a guitarist, and he had showed me a few things; I was especially impressed by his slap bass, which "wasn't much" in his words.
When the guitarist for the jazz band left, Bill offered to play guitar, which he preferred, and I offered to pick up the bass. The band director agreed, and my parents bought me my first bass, a Fender Jazz Bass (which was stolen in 2003 during my 2nd semester at Berklee, sadly) and I fell in love. It just made sense to me. I realized that, without even knowing it, I had been listening to bass lines all along. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band, and Alex "Dirk" Lance of Incubus served as my initial inspirations, with the jazz band introducing me to the hundreds of great musicians who came before rock music even existed!





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