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QRD #44 - Bass Player Special
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Bassist Interviews with:
CJ Boyd
Monte Allen of Rollerball
Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton
Trevor Dunn of Fantomas
Jeffrey Roden
Phillip Palmer of Port City Music
Nat Baldwin of Dirty Projectors
Frank Alexander of Triplicity
Brian Preston
Jason Ajemian
Darin Depaolo of IANTH
Jill Palumbo of The Torches
Jon Case of Irata
James Newman of Plumerai
Matteo Bennici
Tim Dahl of Child Abuse
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Bassist Interview with Brian Preston 
October 2010

Name: Brian Preston
Bands: 2009-Current:  George/Preston/Herrett
            2007-Current: King/Preston
            2006-2008: Kinetic Union Jazz Orchestra
            2003-2006: Groove Stream Attractor
            1999-2008: Onomata
            1994-2003: Smokin’ Granny
            1990-1995: Messablues
            1985-1990: Freehand
            1982-1984: Daily Planet 
Websites: www.myspace.com/metaphoricmusic, www.myspace.com/georgeprestonherrett, www.facebook.com/georgeprestonherrett, www.facebook.com/kingpreston, www.myspace.com/smokingrannyband, www.myspace.com/freehandprogrock, www.myspace.com/onomata

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

Brian – A Fender Precision fretless!  I still have it (but play it rarely). My second bass was a Fender Telecaster bass (1972) which I still have, but play rarely.  That thing is a tank!

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

Brian – Very simple: Carvin 5 or 6 string fretless with active electronics into an Ernie Ball volume pedal, into a Digitech BP200 effects pedal, into an Electro Harmonix Memory Man pedal into a Hartke 3500 amp.  Sometimes I use other preamps, but this is my typical live set-up currently.

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

Brian – Well, I think its all important to get my sound... there are other basses, amps, & effects that I have played that could change the sound, but I think how the player emotes through string attack & note/rhythm choice may be most important. 

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Brian – Hartke 3500.  I like its power & preamp & EQ choices.  It seems to emphasize the mid-range punch that I usually like.

QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass?

Brian – Electric, for sure.

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

Brian – I am 90% fingers.  I can play with a plectrum very well; but for most of what I am doing now, I have more tonal choices at my fingertips, with my fingertips.

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

Brian – 3, 4, 5 or 6, of course!

QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?

Brian – I like to move long waves.  I also play guitar & drums; but my theory is, find musicians who are better at guitar & drums than me, then that leaves room for me to explore the bassment.  Bass is the cement between rhythm & melody, so it is a perfect place for me.

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

Brian – It’s more physical, its heavier (figuratively & literally), but the real difference is in how a bassist hears the music & the most important thing is when not to play.  Rests & space help cement & move the music forward.

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

Brian – Carvin LB20 (I think that is the model), 5 string, all Koa wood, neck through body, active electronics.

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

Brian – I think some people may rest their thumbs there.

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

Brian – Oh wow, I have never thought about it so I I’m not sure.

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

Brian – Easy customization & arrangements of effects would be one thing...

QRD – How many basses do you own?

Brian – Four.

QRD – How & where do you store your basses?

Brian – In their cases in a closet.  But I have had all four hanging as wall art at times.…

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

Brian – Feel & sound. Does it speak to me?

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

Brian – I guess more than $300.  But less than $2,000.  :)

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

Brian – I modified my Telecaster when I got it in 1981.  Never should have touched it!  But I put a Badass bridge on & a jazz pick up too.  Also stripped the finish... damn!

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

Brian – I am mainly using only my Carvins now.  I just did a gig today & I only played the fretted 5 string as it has more of a rock sound than my fretless.

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

Brian – Ampeg amps.  I played a G&L bass a few years ago that I loved.  Roscoe fretless basses are incredible.  I am sure there are many I would lust after if I let myself go there.

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

Brian – It’s important not to start a young player out with a poor quality instrument.  It would be better to borrow a nice instrument if you can’t buy at least a mid-grade instrument.  If the neck & overall feel is poor, the beginner may get too frustrated & we want it to be a good experience.

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

Brian – I like my Hartke amp & my classic Telecaster bass.  The Carvins are very good.  Worst was probably buying a folded horn design speaker cabinet when I was in my 20s... big damn thing that was just not practical - thank the gods that bass amp gear has gotten more compact over the years!

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

Brian – Improvisation...

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

Brian – 19.  I started on guitar at age 12, drums age 13, & bass came later.

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

Brian – Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?  Not quite sure what you mean here.

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

Brian – Different approaches for different feels... in improvisation you go to all those places & in-between.

QRD – Would you rather people hear or feel your bass?

Brian – Both.

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

Brian – Big fingers... simple melodies, drummer at heart.…

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

Brian – Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, Anthony Jackson, Percy Jones (Brand X), Ray Schulman (Gentle Giant), some Bill Laswell.

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

Brian – Stripping the finish off my telecaster!!

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

Brian – Listen & think.

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

Brian – 4-6 hours.  I’d like 8-12 hours maybe.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Brian – Medium gauge - DRs.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Brian – Not often enough – they’re expensive!!

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Brian – Almost never - not in 20 years.

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

Brian – Ah… interesting question. My picking hand as I use many different types of attack, edges, sweeps, pops, scrapes, mutes, etc., etc. in conjunction with fingering & fretting, sliding & muting... many possible textures!

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Brian – Standard on bass usually.

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

Brian – Slouching.

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

Brian – Drums!!

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

Brian – Super fast complex fusion lines like those hot chop dudes!  LOL

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

Brian – Upright bass.

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

Brian – Using the third finger of picking hand to increase speed.

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

Brian – Yes, in college I took orchestra bass for one semester. I learned bowing technique, reading simple parts, proper posture, hand positioning... it was actually very helpful.  Much later I took one lesson from a jazz player to walk through some jazz standard movements & patterns.

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

Brian – Humanism & satire.

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

Brian – Geeze... I don’t know... I would rather they develop their own sound.

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

Brian – No!

QRD – What famous musician’s bass would you like to own & why?

Brian – One of Geddy’s or one of Chris Squire’s Rickenbackers would be cool!

QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative bass player & why?

Brian – Hadrien Feraud kills with John McLaughlin & my girl friend Mia says I should say Esperanza Spaulding too!

QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work?

Brian – A lot of the things with Onomata (6 string fretless),  Smokin’ Granny, George-Preston-Herrett, Freehand, Daily Planet.

QRD – Anything else?

Brian – Whew...! That was a lot of questions!  Thanks for your interest!