All posts by ConArtistEConStancE

I am a spoken word performer (ConArtistE) and a writer (ConStancE). If you have questions about this website, please contact me at: ConArtistE.com@gmail.com
Video

Victor Wooten’s new ‘PURE’ sound

DR Strings announced yesterday (11/19/2015) that Victor Wooten now plays PURE BLUES DR Bass Strings! So, why the switch?

Image Source
Image Source

Victor says, “Music is vibrations and a direct representation of who we are. Strings are vital components to how these vibrations touch the listener. To reach people honestly, we need strings that respond purely. PURE BLUES™ is my choice.” 

This announcement went through all of the social media channels including a YouTube video which features Victor playing a pure blues sound with the camera emphasizing on the many DR string packets that are situated around him.  Eventually, the camera focuses on the 5 time Grammy and two time Bass Player magazine “Bassist of the Year” winner so that he can state his business, “DR – PURE BLUES”  he says to the camera with a thumbs up to punctuate.Then he continues to showcase the brand NEW Quantum Nickel PURE BLUES bass strings.

Wade Craver of NorCal BASSIX and I first had the opportunity to see Victor Wooten play live at a place in San Francisco, years (and years) ago. Back then, his fame certainly seemed on the rise but his entrance was far from famous as he simply walked through the crowd from the front door entrance of the building. During this time, while the audience was focused on the stage, Victor began playing the bass but no one really knew where the sound was coming from.  Meanwhile, the not-so-tall bassist was working his way through the crowd, playing his bass via a wireless set-up.  We saw it all happen from above and it was fun to watch him initially weave his way through the towering crowd of people who had no idea that Victor Wooten was about to walk right up behind them and ask for permission to pass.  Once the audience figured out his location, they soon parted a path for him to groove his way to the stage. Afterwards, he stuck around to meet and greet his fans and politely shook our hands along with many others.

Needless to say, DR Strings is glad to welcome this legendary bassist to their family. Take a look:

Featured Image

Day On The Green “YYZ”

Canadian rock band, Rush did an instrumental rock piece called “YYZ” on their 1981 album” Moving Pictures”.  It has since become one of their most popular pieces and many musicians enjoy covering it as did this crew from the music store “Music Max” in Palo Cedro, CA.  This group (no official name) includes the staple players and musical instructors at the store since its inception, all of whom have had other, ongoing, successful, musical accomplishments in their lives. The band’s composition is guitarist: Al Mires (store owner), drummer: Kenji Kato, keyboards: Cleveland Boney and NorCal’s own, Wade Craver on our favorite instrument, ‘da bass’. Needless to say, these guys are the best of the best in town and watching them take on this song during this outdoor gig was amazing to watch. I’m guessing that this took place at least 3 years ago, maybe more. I apparently managed to get a decent recording of this performance back then and nobody has seen it since.  Until now.




This video was found in my archives in a folder titled: Day on the Green and inside was this video.  I have bragged before about how much footage I have that nobody has ever seen and this is definitely one of them.  This event, “Day on the Green” was held at Anderson River Park and had a great turnout.



 Tech 21 sent some gear to support our bass community and we were grateful for that. The purpose of the event was to showcase some local bands and provide people with some outstanding music.  It was no wonder why Music Max and its elite group of musicians got involved.  They really made this song, YYZ a showstopper. I had no idea that this footage had come out so well. The day was bright and it was hard to see the lens on my video camera but I was clearly focused on the bassist, as per usual.  Take a look:



Tone Mountain Studio In Northern CA Presents: Norm Stockton

We recently had a clinic in Northern California with Norm Stockton at a place called Tone Mountain in Douglas City. It is approximately 45 miles northwest into the mountains off Hwy 299 from Redding. Needless to say, this place is off the beaten path and for that reason, it is the last place that you would expect to see a state-of-the-art studio with a sound room, one big jam room, 2 bathrooms, a back porch and fresh, mountain air surrounded by small cabins. The drive alone is a beautiful trip that leads you to a space where the mountain opens up to make room for this surprisingly advanced studio set-up.

Tone Mountain Studio in Douglas City, CA

BassCraversNormStocktonToneMountain

Years ago, Jorgen Moholt, owner and creator of Tone Mountain had a vision and went through great lengths to get it done right. He even had to explain to the local county clerks that he wasn’t building a ‘living’ space (because the details of the specs were so involved and included installing 2 bathrooms) but, of course, they have never heard of such a thing up in the hills. . . A studio? They assumed that he was building a “living” space which requires a whole new set of permits. But he wasn’t. In fact, a “studio” is nothing more than a glorified “shop” so when he finally convinced them that all he was building was a “studio”, he was on his way and ended up with the coolest “shop” that any musician has ever seen. A space that was built for musicians, by a musician (Jorgen plays bass, so, that’s cool!). I mean, there might be bigger studios in the world or studios that are simply set up differently, but this guy has every detail in place that makes this one comparable to all of those. You can see it from start to finish on his website: ToneMountain.com. So, to commemorate this new, awesome place,

Jorgen’s first, featured guest was none other than bassist Norm Stockton.

BassCraversNormStockton1

Norm found his way up the mountain and produced a clinic that was so profound that even I learned a little something! Mainly because he has an easy approach when he speaks so that any amateur bassist (like myself) doesn’t feel overwhelmed by any sort terminology that he has to use in order to describe the bass and its purpose in most performances. Norm Stockton tends to “feel out” what the audience is capable of keeping up with because when he did touch on ‘theory’ for a bit, he was quick to notice that some of our eyes were beginning to glaze over because (let’s be real) the topic tends to be boring and so he quickly switches gears, plays hard, answers questions and really just let himself enjoy the atmosphere.

The one thing that I can say is that he did tend to lead any “potential bass players” into his own direction which he calls “session” work.  Norm describes session work as showing up and having the music plopped in front of you. He explains that each band member is playing just the right supporting part and that the music is a great tapestry of stuff (who writes this stuff? That’s my question). He also admits that anyone could’ve played it but, in his opinion, a session player requires tons of skill and talent with a huge bass vocabulary. I agree.

“I want to encourage you as bass players to listen to a broad range of music and have a broad range of music in your vocabulary. It’ll increase your potential vocationally to have a wide array of styles”.

BassCraversNormStockton2

In my experience, bass players themselves come in a “wide array of styles” and “session” work is a pigeon hole (that pays! That’s really the point that Norm was trying to make) but it doesn’t seem to leave a lot of room for creativity and some of the best bass players in the world don’t read music or worry about theory and (even the slappers) are creating the coolest rhythms and sounds that anyone has ever heard. Session work? That sounds like a compromise to most of them.

However, Norm suggests that “if the idea of playing a bass line like that sounds like a drag and a waste of time – you picked the wrong instrument”. Then he discusses the two ends of the spectrum, according to him (with reference to NAMM artists playing in booths, jamming their little hearts out all alone with no sheet music to guide them).

“On the one end there are session player chops (which consists of music being plopped in front of you) and on the other end, there are NAMM show chops. On the NAMM show side,” he admits that “there is some jaw dropping stuff that took some time to work up, some talent, some dedication and some hard work. . .wow,” and then he jokes, “I don’t know where I would ever use that. . . but wow!”

He goes on to say that “one of these two [styles] have complete applicability to most of the music that you and I will ever play and that is the session player thing.” Which, as he puts it, has a lot to do with interpreting the song and being able to help convey it. “I want to encourage you to develop your session player chops and that involves listening to a broad range of music” and that there is “value to knowing what some of those rhythms are, even in your own genre.” Well, THAT I can understand. I like it when we get on the topic of value. In this case, mixing Rock and Latin to create “something fresh” might spice up your band’s music, making it a valuable experience.

When he does discuss the slap technique, he says, “it’s not that hard to get the technique to where you can put together a steady stream of 16th notes. It’s a matter of getting the mechanics together and develop your ability to be subtle.” Subtle? Not the BassCravers that I know!

However, despite any differences in styles and approaches, getting the opinion of a successful bassist like Norm is always a gold nugget of knowledge. He is sincere in his efforts and wants only the best for us all. It was good advice. So, thank you! We had a great time. Here’s the video if you want to see more:

Yard Sale Basses – Are They Worth It?

Once in a great while you get to check out an instrument at a yard/garage sale and are faced with the dilemma of whether or not to pick it up. In my case, I found two and they were both pretty beat up but I call it ‘vintage’ baby! Not only that, I have my own, ‘vintage’ bass that I call my MYSTERY BASS (because nobody seems to know EXACTLY what it is) and the thing that I love most about my bass is that it is a short scale, perfect playing bass. We paid a mere $50 bucks for it with the intention of ‘flipping’ it after fixing it up. However, after playing on it I found it to be the easiest bass that I have ever played and I love that I don’t have to be nervous about the way I handle it. (For those who don’t know me well, I’m not the person that you want to hand nice stuff too. I’m sort of clumsy and I have been known to drop stuff from time to time. So, please, don’t show me your basses! You people buy only the good stuff, I’m sure). Not me. Although, Damian Erskine did offer to pay me some good money for my MYSTERY BASS because he loved the way it played too (the nerve of some people! I don’t think he was expecting me to say “no”). Even so, I have felt some regret for rejecting the hundreds of dollars that he offered (because it was a very generous offer). For most people, it’s an offer that no dummy would refuse and it would’ve been our biggest bass ‘flip’ yet!

Damian Erskine offers ConArtistEConStancE money for her MYSTERY BASS.

BassCraversDamianErskine

So, maybe, I’m a bit of a dummy for rejecting him but I’m also a CRAVER. A BassCraver, that is and clearly, I just couldn’t give up the only bass that I feel comfortable playing. For that reason, it has value to me that supersedes the federal note. (Another thing that you should know about me is that I find no value in money when it means that I have to give up my creativity).

And when I have cash, I’m quick to spend it before it deflates in my pocket. I never hold onto it for long and try to put it to good use. Therefore, when I saw these two basses at a yard sale, I was hoping for something really cool to come out of my purchases.

Two, vintage basses at a yard sale.

BassCraversMysteryBassParts1

Of course, I haggled over the price and came out $60 dollars richer (in basses). Did I do the right thing? The first and only thing that I noticed about one of these basses is that it had an ashtray cover and my MYSTERY BASS is missing hers – YAY! So, I’m fixing up my bass first. To heck with flipping! In that respect, I was stoked to have at least one of these basses because finding an old, vintage part really makes me happy. Especially when it comes to me with no effort on my part. Now, I’m sure that I spent too much paper on these basses if all I’m getting is one ashtray cover, but the exchange doesn’t compare to the instant gratification of getting something that I was missing and for that reason, it was meant to be.

The MYSTERY BASS with no ashtray cover. Pretty ugly!

BassCraversMysteryBassParts3

Just testing it to see if it fits and it’s already starting to look nice.

BassCraversMysteryBassParts5

I have to drill some holes into the (beat-up) body to make it work. So, I line it up perfectly and make marks where I need to drill.

BassCraversMysteryBassParts6

By the way, this is the first time that I have ever worked on a bass!

BassCraversMysteryBassParts8

It fits perfectly!

BassCraversMysteryBassParts10

My shameless selfie in the mirror to see how the  MYSTERY BASS looks with its new ashtray cover.

BassCraversMysteryBassParts11

Something that I noticed after the install:

BassCraversMysteryBassParts12

The second bass above that I got at the yard sale has two, different screws that mount on top of an ashtray cover. Installing these would allow me to get to the strings without removing the screws from the body every time!  Dumb oversight on my part.  So now, this second bass from the yard sale is my new sacrifice as I take from it what I need to complete my project.

First, the holes needed to be bigger to accommodate the bigger screws.

BassCraversMysteryBassParts13

The previous owner filed a slot in the screws for an easier install.  I swear, this bass is a Frankenstein!

BassCraversMysteryBassParts14

Unfortunately, the bigger screws made it so that my ashtray cover didn’t fit over them!

BassCraversMysteryBassParts18

I continued to improvise and filed out the holes in the ashtray cover until they fit over the larger screws.

BassCraversMysteryBassParts19

Finally, it’s complete!

BassCraversMysteryBassParts21

So, buying both basses really made a difference in the overall appearance of the ashtray for my MYSTERY BASS. Apparently, both basses from the yard sale have some neck issues and so there was no real ‘score’ on the purchases, but I guess that depends on what you consider to be a ‘score’ because I couldn’t be happier!  The point of this post?  Buying yard sale basses for parts is okay but expecting them to work on their own is a gamble.  Thanks for reading. Please share this and any other article that you may like on this new, BassCravers website!

 

 

 

Customizing Your Bass

In the beginning, most people didn’t long to play the bass. In fact, most bassists started out playing another instrument and then switched to the bass because a bassist was needed in order to complete “the band”.  However, as time marches on, bassists have grown to become a fundamental part of music both as solo artists and as strong members of the band.  These days, there are many Bass Players that newcomers can look up to and in doing so, they realize that playing the bass is more than just a talent, but also, an emotional equilibrium. That is, Bass Players tend to be more level-headed and calm. If this is not the case with you, no worries. Everyone is different :)

However, as bassists go, you are an essential part of the band whether your band members say it or not. Your audiences are not interested in squealing guitars and over-the-top drum solos. They listen to music for its calming relationship between the mind and the spirit. That is what you provide!

For that reason, it is important that you know your instrument well and are capable of changing it up a little, if needed. That is where NorCal BASSIX helps out. The founder, Wade Craver, takes you through the process of “Customizing a Bass”. This includes adding new circuitry and changing the tuners on your instrument. Normally, when we buy an instrument, we assume that we are stuck with the unique sound that it makes and all the parts that it comes with. Period. But that’s not true! An instrument can be upgraded, fixed, restored, customized you name it! Sometimes all it needs is a little love. . . .

BassCraversNorCalBASSIX

Regardless, you are in control of how your instrument sounds and the only person that should be touching the instrument is YOU! The connection that you have with your bass should be a strong one and this video gives you the tools that you need to perform the task of customizing it all on your own. Countless companies are out there with parts and pieces that can add a new dimension and feel to your sound and instrument. So, take advantage of it! You are not stuck with the instrument that you buy because each instrument is capable of a makeover. This happens to be the most viewed video on NorCal BASSIX TV and it’s no wonder. The information in this video is priceless for those who want to do more with the bass than just call themselves Bass Players because the truth is, you are musicians, artists, creators and are in complete control of the business of your sound! Take a look:

Brian Bromberg And His 300 Year Old Upright Bass – 17 Minute Video

When NorCal BASSIX managed to get Brian Bromberg to stop by and visit with us in Northern California on his way to Seattle, we were very excited. Founder, Wade Craver was a long time fan of Brian when he first heard a cassette that was given to him approximately 20 years ago, simply titled “Brian Bromberg”.  According to Wade, he’s an icon and we were about to find out why.

Brian never travels with his 300 year old upright bass but he just so happened to have it with him on this trip.

BassCraversBrianBromberg

And when he picked it up and started to play, the audience was flabbergasted.  Brian stopped momentarily to receive questions and one question that was asked of him was, “Where are you going?”  Brian initially seemed confused by the question and the audience member explained,  “You close your eyes, where do go when you do that?”  and then Brian gives an honest answer:

“I play to the best of my ability, as honestly as I possibly can whether I’m playing for you, here in Northern California or if I’m in front of thousands.”

BassCraversBrianBrombergCravers

In this case, it was a room just shy of 100 people, but Brian graciously hangs out with Wade and myself after the show and we are honored to be able to hear him play up close and personal. You don’t get a lot of opportunities to hear a player like him in a music store on a small stage.  For us, it was huge!

He continued answering the question posed by the audience member, explaining that he is “communicating on a spiritual level,” he said “that’s a beautiful question. . . where do you go?  That takes the most amount of time and ownership of your instrument to not let your ability on your instrument stop your spirit from what your spirit is trying to communicate”. Very deep and if you haven’t seen this 17 minute video of Brian Bromberg “going somewhere” with this bass performance, now is your chance to check it out.  According to one comment online, “10:43 — this is when Brian starts to go crazy… ”  You decide:






 

Bassist From Rage Against The Machine Debuts His New Band – Wakrat

What started off as a casual introduction between restaurant owner Mathias Wakrat and bassist Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine turned into an epic upcoming album for their newly formed band, Wakrat.

The two were first friends because of their common interest in mountain-biking. They often spent time together talking about it. Commerford tells Rolling Stone, “We both just share the same enthusiasm for riding mountain bikes. We’d talk for many hours about mountain biking and one day, he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I play drums.'”

Tim Commerford – Bassist For Rage Against The Machine – Has A New Band.

Image Source
Image Source

Wakrat (with the addition of guitarist Laurent Grangeon) is now a hardcore group with a deep message to send in their upcoming album that has yet to be titled, but the first single, “Knucklehead” has just been released. It was filmed in the new group’s rehearsal studio with Commerford, who wrote all the album’s lyrics, screaming, “Gimme the gun/Fuck the knife/I’m alright … Why am I locked in my aquarium?” For Commerford, it is a deeply personal song.
“I’ve been dealing with some very deep, dark family stuff in the last year, stuff that left me in tears,” he says. “I spent a lot of time crying in the last year and feeling trapped and alone. That’s what ‘Knucklehead’ is about. Sometimes the dark side spawns incredible things, and the music came from that. It’s the ray of sun at the end of the day. I went through some deep shit that I hope I never go through again, but look what came from it: this incredible opportunity in music that I love. The scream at the end of the song makes me feel like I’m just putting my face in a pillow and screaming my guts out.”

In addition to this new emotional grip that he has, he still integrates the political and social messages that have permeated his other bands (Rage Against the Machine and Future User) and the fans are excited to see this new emotional twist in correspondence with the overall anger that we all agree to have against the world as it stands today.

“I can’t stop myself from finding information that makes me mad and writing about it,” he says.
Wakrat has been together only 18 months and originally they were looking for a singer, but when they were unable to find anyone, Commerford took a stab at it and was able to work with the group’s “weird punk-jazz music with odd time signatures” which he originally thought would be hard to do. The upcoming 10-track album is a punk, fast and spastic to say the least and apparently they even use some electronic and spoken word to help round out the group’s sound. I love it!
“This is the music I grew up on and always wanted to do. It’s the same feeling when Rage Against the Machine started playing.” “I always looked at Future User as performance art. I had a vision, and I wasn’t a part of that vision,” he says. “With Wakrat, we’re a band, and we’re going to play all the time, and we’re going to pay our dues the old-school way. This is the kind of music that I grew up on and always wanted to do. It’s the same feeling as 1991 when Rage Against the Machine first started playing. It felt uncomfortable and doesn’t feel right, and I love that feeling. I am enjoying myself right now on a musical level more than I’ve ever enjoyed myself in my entire career. It’s incredible that I’m saying that; it’s a beautiful thing.”
This new band is treading water in the music industry the way it used to be done. They open for bigger bands and work in a grassroots sort of way, playing in small clubs with no label in place. “We’re bottom feeders. We got nothing” and Commerford says that he plans to work with “passionate people who go, ‘Fuck, I love this shit.'”

Check out the video:

Jaco The Film – Documentary

For anyone who has ever had a dream, a vision or even a destiny, this upcoming film, “Jaco” is a declaration to you. It covers the struggles and highlights the integrity that one must have in order to achieve the level of artistry that can make or break the human spirit. The film’s executive producer, Robert Trujillo along with Jaco’s son, John Pastorius wanted to use Jaco’s extraordinary life to influence others to apply what happened Jaco to themselves because despite the struggles that he went through and the decisions that he made, he was true to his art and we can all learn from that wisdom.

“I don’t play Fusion, I play Modern American Music PERIOD.”— Jaco Pastorius

BassCraversJacoTheFilm
Image Credit – Jaco The Film

This film has been almost 20 years in the making and during this time many events had to take place in order to shape this story into what it has become today. Whenever we focus our energy on something that is so important, the universe tends to transcend the connections that we make in order to get these things done (for example: Trujillo finally met with Joni Mitchell at a party after years of trying to set up a meeting). These elements turned out to be the cornerstone of the film. According to Robert, ” The film is totally different than what they were originally aiming at and it turned out to be” because, over the years, many connections like that were made in order to fill in the holes of this incredible and universal story.

“Jaco” film release date: November 27th

Image Credit
Image Credit

Robert has been captivated by Jaco’s bass lines since he first saw him perform at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1979 to a diverse audience. He realized that although Weather Report was a bad ass band, there was something about the bass player that was receiving the most attention and who provided the audience with an energy that Robert has never been able to shake because, according to Robert, Jaco’s playing was “really fucking cool!” He brought the bass into the forefront and clearly, the people loved it! Many of Robert’s own bass lines that he wrote in the early 90’s with Infectious Grooves contained a lot of techniques, funk and flavor that he says Jaco inspired. He believes that Jaco used the bass as a tool to be creative which helped give others the initiative to take the bass and make it their own as well. This applies to all artists on every level and, therefore, this film is more than just a documentary. We should all be able to take away from it a nugget of creative integrity that may help to inspire us through the long haul of our dreams.

The “Jaco” Pastorius documentary is coming out November 27th thanks to these two, executive producers (Robert Trujillo and John Pastorius) along with the film’s director/editor, Paul Marchand. Interestingly enough, when all of these men first met, each of them had a different idea of what happened to this legendary man and because of this they felt like it was their duty to tell the right story. So, they sifted through years of data to pick and choose the most comprehensive information about Jaco’s life in order to give people a much bigger story than just the facts and that is, that Jaco is more than a jazz player, he is an artist and “anyone with a creative impulse will relate”.

This documentary will be available on demand, streaming, as a digital download and on DVD/Blue-ray with an audio soundtrack of the film to be released on the same day, which happens to be Record Store Day and Black Friday.

Jaco Pastorius died at age 35 and during his short life, he changed the way bass was traditionally played with bands like Weather Report and as a solo artist. This film has never before seen footage, photos, audio recordings and interviews with those musicians who were and continue to be deeply influenced by his music. We look forward to celebrating the life of a man who did some real groundbreaking stuff, despite being merely “a bassist”. He led a mysterious, amazing, funny and inspired life, however, this is no fairytale. It is TRUTH at its best and it promises to be a universal experience for us all. An “honest” film about a “complicated” man.