...the bass is the fulcrum between the rhythmic and the harmonic elements of music.
Bryan took time from his busy schedule to answer questions about his career.
Do you think it's becoming more unrealistic to aspire to be a musician?
I don't think it's ever been "realistic" anyway. It's a passion thing. You have to really want to do it, and have both the talent and the determination to stick with it when things get tough, which they will. Circumstances will always change, and it will never be as solid as, say, working in the health care industry. But for those who really want to do it, they will, somehow.
Your career in music includes performance on the stage, in the studio, making educational DVDs, teaching online, working for an amp manufacturer, managing, writing - should a young musician intent on a career expect to be doing a lot of these things?
I think a young musician should be open to anything that inspires them, and even sometimes something they don't, just to try it on. I couldn't have predicted I would do all of those things when I was younger. I just wanted to play bass. But everything contributed to the player and person I am today. I think "expect" is a loaded word anyway. You know what they say: Expectation is the mother of all disappointment. I'd say, be "open" to any of these things, then see what comes your way.
What is something musicians/bassists overlook in their development that you wish they focused on more?
Tone! Everyone practices scales, groove, time, improvisation, etc etc. In my view, there should be equal time devoted to the development of *your* sound. This means trying out a lot of different gear, playing along to tracks in headphones, then loudly in rehearsal rooms, then live. It takes time and experience and commitment. In the end I think it's worth it. Do people remember what scale John Scofield played in his solo on such and such tune, or do they remember that he sounds like John Scofield?
How essential do you think your time at Berklee College of Music was to your career now? In what ways?
Berklee showed me that I wasn't as good as I thought I was just because I was good for where I came from. It showed me the best of the budding talent from around the world, and it kicked my ass in terms of doing what I needed to do to keep up at that level. And it was a priceless networking opportunity. I met the guy who got me the audition who started my career. If that's not essential, I don't know what is.
You play some very demanding music with some of the world's top musicians, do you ever feel like you've lost touch with more straight forward music? Do you ever feel like you should go back to a prior phase of music appreciation?
I feel like that me just being me - a fairly "rootsy" player in the world of high flying fretboard pyrotechnics - is a way to stay grounded with what you might call "straightforward music". Every song, no matter how complex, needs a groove, and a grounding. That's what I try and provide. That's why I play bass. So I feel like I can stand in the world of simplicity and complexity at the same time, as long as I remember the root and foundation of all music, and use that context to make it better.
I’ve watched a lot of interviews with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Guthrie Govan. Are they musical geniuses that have dropped out of guitar heaven or is their extraordinary skill more about practice, dedication and/or simply the joy of playing?
Do you have a checklist of things you do before you go on stage?
No. Though it's always good to pee before a two hour show. TMI?
Do you notice dramatic differences between audiences around the world?
Well, sure. Finland and Japan are more reserved; Mexico and Argentina are not. Every culture's distinctions have a way of showing up on show day, and vive le difference.
Do you prefer the huge festivals like Hell Fest or the smaller amphitheater shows?
Honestly I like clubs the best. Give me a 400-500 capacity packed club, and that's heaven. I've only done a few shows in my life like Hellfest, the outdoor 30,000-people thing. It's weird and wonderful, but I'm glad it's not all I do.
What is the most misunderstood thing about playing bass?
Our impact on music is underestimated by those who don't understand that the bass is the fulcrum between the rhythmic and the harmonic elements of music. We sit at the nexus of it all. Misunderstand us at your peril, Nameless Musician! ;-)
Bryan will be performing with Joe Satriani in Bangkok this February. For info, click here.
Recently Bryan returned from a tour to discover his bass gear was stolen from a storage unit. Read the riveting caper here.
Check out The Aristocrats next time they are in Bangkok!