Interview with Brian Preston
Name: Brian Preston
Bands: 2009-Current: George/Preston/Herrett
2006-2008: Kinetic Union Jazz Orchestra
2003-2006: Groove Stream Attractor
1994-2003: Smokin’ Granny
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?
Whew...! That was a lot of questions!
Thanks for your interest!