Pete Trewavas

Marillion, Transatlantic, Edison's Children

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Pete Trewavas by Josh Miller

Pete Trewavas by Josh Miller

It’s not uncommon for bass players to be overlooked. Few four (or five) string low end practitioners seize the spotlight like Chris Squire or Geddy Lee, and that makes sense given the stealthy weaving of elements that resides at the heart of really fine bass work. However, observant fans can often locate the beating heart of a band in this role, and that’s never more true than with Marillion’s hopping, always right-in-the-pocket Pete Trewavas. Set aside a smile that instantly makes one adore this music and the man making it, Trewavas possesses the wicked combination of crazy range, varied tastes & textures, and perhaps most importantly, the humility and wisdom to know when to keep things simple or let others shine while holding down his part of the enterprise.

As complex as Trewavas’ basslines can be (and given the 30 minute range of some epic pieces he can get out there sometimes), his playing remains steadfastly immediate, a presence felt, particularly within the larger structures (though there in a more taut version on singles and shorter material) that one can grab onto (or perhaps allow themselves to be grabbed by). A healthy measure of the richness of Marillion’s sound comes from Trewavas, whose bass inflections and harmony singing are often the ingredients that bind the whole together.

His bass voice is a fine mixture of schooled braininess and gut instinct that hunts down hooks with a tenacity and regularity that’s downright impressive. Take any given tune, not just the signature pieces – DI recommends close listens to Marillion.com’s “Go!” or Marbles’ “Drilling Holes” – and Trewavas is doing something interesting that serves the song in the larger sense. His skills could easily make him a showboat solo hero but he’s more interested in playing to the tunes, building muscle so they leap with strength and agility, comfortable sometimes being the invisible man in this gang just so long as they are delivering the best songs possible.

So, in an effort to make sure this particular bassist gets some part of the credit he’s due, Dirty Impound is raising the flag for Mr. Trewavas, who was kind enough to offer some insights about what he does.

Marillion’s new album, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, arrives October 2nd and can be pre-ordered here.

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Scott Thunes

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Scott Thunes by Andrew Quist

Scott Thunes by Andrew Quist

The first time DI laid eyes on Scott Thunes was at a Dweezil Zappa show in the late 80s. We’d missed out on seeing Frank live (where Thunes was also a sparring partner from 1981-1988) and were hoping for a little reflected glow from the nutball genius in his kid. Dweez was fine – though we’d argue he’s a hell of a lot better and more his own man these days – but what really stuck was his wild-eyed, music stalking bassist. Thunes – from that first exposure straight on through his time touring with Steve Vai, FEAR and others – exhibits a hearty, undisguised love of playing, a bouncing exuberance that’s decidedly punk rock in character but master class playing skill-wise. He’s literally the only bassist that’s ever made our heart skip the way Mike Watt does [and check out DI’s 2011 talk with the Minutemen champ here], where their chops and personalities make for a blend that gets their fellow musicians off and draws them deeper into the scrum every single time they get to plunking those low notes.

His current self-described position as “semi-permanent temporary bass player for The Mother Hips” has brought this killer musician into the fold of one of the great American rock bands of the past 20 years, a classic in a time where classics simply do not flourish as they once did. With no disrespect intended to longtime Hips bassist Paul Hoaglin [who DI adores with unreasonable passion], Thunes brings a refreshing energy to the stage, and the result is a tough, muscular sort of rockin’ that’s nigh impossible to resist. One can see how much Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono enjoy sparking off Thunes, and the pairing with drummer John Hofer is a touch more unpredictable – in a positive way – with Thunes. As ever, Scott Thunes remains a player that commands one’s attentions but scrubbed clean of any snobby, fusion-y ego, a scrapper with mad skills that makes music feel quite alive.

Here’s what Scott had to say to our bass guitar inquiry.

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Freekbass

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Freekbass by Michael Weintrob

Sometimes a name nicely sums things up. Such is the case with Freekbass, whose moniker instantly alerts one to his roots in low end sorcery in the tradition of Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham and other superhero bassists. In fact it was the Rubber Band man himself who gave Freekbass his stage name. However, even without the direct anointing, it doesn’t take long for anyone well versed in funk-lo-pedic knowledge to recognize this Cincinnati born as a natural at cosmically dappled space rock grooveology. A regular on the festival circuit, Freekbass is dazzle on two legs, adding flair and fire to whatever he lays his instrument to. He’s released educational DVDs, released a quartet of quality solo releases, collaborated with legends (George Porter Jr., DJ Logic) and quality freaks (Dead Kenny Gs), and is soon hitting the road again with Freekbot, his collaboration with DMC USA DJ champion and producer Tobotius (find dates here). When other players see Freekbass head to the stage they almost always grin, suddenly alert and ready to get into shit, splashed awake by a player who doesn’t sleepwalk through any musical engagement.

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Brad Houser

The Dead Kenny G's, Critters Buggin

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Brad Houser

Brad Houser is a truly lethal musician, but this can sometimes get missed given the company he keeps. Often sandwiched between howling, gesticulating wildmen Skerik and Mike Dillon, Houser comes off, by comparison, as almost professorial. But watch closely and you’ll see his eyes glint with the same weirdo lightning as he sizes things up and strikes with unerring accuracy. His rhythm sense in The Dead Kenny Gs and Critters Buggin is a cool mix of traditional groove and way-off-script instincts that draws from Mike Watt-ian punk, electric African pocket playing, 60s avant-garde jazz, the best part of 70s fusion, and far more. He’s also been the rock low end theory in Seattle’s Two Loons For Tea and The New Bohemians with Edie Brickell, amongst various diverse studio gigs, so you know he’s got mad range. The man can also play a mean baritone sax, too, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it. What’s perhaps most acutely pleasurable about Brad Houser is how after 25 years of plying his instruments, he’s still an x-factor whose style is so personal and unpredictable that he remains a near-constant happy surprise.

You can bend your ears to his undulating goodness on his studio debut with the Dead Kenny G’s, the perversely tasty, make-ya-dance-like-Mummenschanz-on-crank Operation Long Leash (released March 15 on The Royal Potato Family), and you can catch him with the DKG’s on Jam Cruise in January followed by gigs in Florida and the Carolinas (peep tour dates here).

We’re chuffed that Houser took a few minutes to to answer our bass guitar queries.

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Pete Shand

The New Mastersounds

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Pete Shand by John Margaretten

Feel. That’s what it’s all about with The New Mastersounds’ bassist Pete Shand, who rides in the musculature of the music, wrapped tight around the bones and moving seamlessly & powerfully below the skin. Where many bassists in the funk/jam world pop and strut, drawing attention to themselves, Shand relaxes in the groove, letting his intuitive touch do the talking. When in doubt with TNM, just focus on Shand’s heartbeat and you’ll find the center of it all.

Shand’s kung-fu is on full display on the band’s new album, Breaks From The Border, which hits shelves this past Tuesday. Pete took the time to answer our bass guitar inquiry.

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Steve Adams

ALO, Big Light

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The ability to be unflustered, regardless of the flotsam & jetsam flying around, is a very valuable trait in a musician. In all the settings & circumstances I’ve witnessed Steve Adams perform I’ve never seen him break a sweat, lose his temper or totally drop his sly grin. This Northern California native exudes a Zen-like vibe that’s invigorating and adds a dose of quiet cohesion to his bands that goes beyond his instrument, although it’s lurking there, too.

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Reed Mathis

Tea Leaf Green

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No one plays bass like Reed Mathis. Or perhaps more accurately, Mathis plays bass like no one else. His DNA is unique, and unlike many practitioners of the four-string arts, he’s a duck in any water he’s thrown into – an image whose physicality captures some of the rippled muscle and action charge he brings to his instrument and those he plays alongside. Most of the time these days, Mathis can be found rockin’ proper in Tea Leaf Green (and he co-produced their latest album, too). However, he spent 15 years keeping jazz malleable and fresh in the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, and puts in time in numerous projects these days, including a much-anticipated collection of Beethoven re-imaginings that will see the light of day after years of carving with pals like The Slip’s Andrew Barr and Phish’s Mike Gordon and Page McConnell.

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