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QRD #44 - Bass Player Special
about this issue
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
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 James Newman of Plumerai 
October 2010

Name: James Newman
Bands: Plumerai, The Breakup Tape
Websites: plumerai.com
Listen to “Home Again”

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

James – Peavey Dynabass. Traded it in towards my current bass.

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

James – Bass -> preamp pedal -> power amp -> cab

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

James – Bass.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why? 

James – Using a Viva Analog 360+. Convenience & is modeled after an Acoustic 360 head. Has built in fuzz.

QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass? 

James – I’ve only used an electric so.…

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

James – Pick.

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

James – 4. Maybe 3.

QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar? 

James – We already have a guitarist.

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

James – Fewer strings hopefully.

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

James – 90’s standard American Fender Jazz. It’s strung low b to d & modded to p/j pickup config. I think the only original parts left are the body, wires & tuning keys. 

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

James – They’re OK I guess. If I didn’t use a pick maybe I’d want one.

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

James – Probably like what I use now although I would like to try Rick pickups on a Jazz body.  Maybe a whammy bar.

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

James – Perhaps something similar to the 360 pedal I’m using now, but with chorus & a tuner built in.  Maybe an effects loop as well.

QRD – How many basses do you own? 

James – One functional & parts to build another.

QRD – How & where do you store your basses? 

James – In my apartment on a rack.

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

James – 4 strings.

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

James – Should $500. Reasonable $900.

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

James – Customize.

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

James – I change it from time to time.  Sometimes a certain tone will be cool for a while & then I go back & it sounds like crap.  Also depends on the room, cab, & song.  If I had a bass setup like the guy from the Badseeds, I’d probably stick with it forever.

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

James – I’d like to try a Wal bass or Rick 4001/3.  As for amps I want to try a standard Ampeg rig.

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

James – Good action & intonation. 

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

James – Best: Fender Jazz Worst: Peavey Dynabass (I hated active pickups)

QRD – What are some effect, amp, & bass brands you particularly like or dis-like & why? 

James – Nothing in particular. 

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

James – Usually “Friend Catcher” by Birthday Party

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

James – 20 something. Guitar was my main instrument.

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

James – 20 something. 

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

James – Depends on the song.

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

James – Depends on what they look like. 

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

James – Because I’m a crappy drummer, mediocre guitarist, & I can’t sing. 

QRD – Do you see your bass as your ally or adversary in making music? 

James – Neither. I usually come up with stuff on guitar.

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

James – Simon Gallup, the singer/bassist from Air, the guy from the Badseeds, Tracy Pew, & Steve Severin.

QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their bass is natural or silly (e.g. naming their bass)? 

James – Silly.

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

James – This bass is pretty solid. It’s fallen a couple of times which resulted in a ding or two.

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

James – That’s it.

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

James – If there aren’t any rehearsals or recording sessions, then an hour.  Should put in a couple of hours & really practice. I’m not doing jazz or bass solos so I don’t require intense training. 

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why? 

James – No idea. I buy the 5 string pack & use the 4 lower ones.  I’m using flatwounds.

QRD – How often do you change strings? 

James – Not often. I haven’t changed strings on this bass in 3 years.

QRD – How often do you break strings? 

James – Haven’t yet.

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

James – Strumming. If I was good at the other I’d probably start soloing. 

QRD – What tunings do you use & why? 

James – Standard tuning.  I do change up the tuning on a couple of songs. On “Die...Die Slowly” I drop the open B to an A, & on “Painted Faces” I raise the open D to a B.

QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas? 

James – Tab is fine. I’m bad at reading music.

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

James – Soloing. I need to unleash my inner Yngwie.

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

James – Guitar.

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

James – Funk or reggae.

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

James – I don’t have any goals.

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

James – I haven’t learned any.

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

James – Nope. Just guitar for about a month.

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

James – Seinfeld theme.

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

James – I don’t have a style. Use a pick & don’t slap.

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

James – No. For me it’s more about the songs. 

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

James – Steve Severin’s Wal bass he used with the Banshees. Mainly because they’re expensive. I don’t really care about owning something that once belonged to a celebrity.

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

James – I haven’t kept up with current music. 

QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work? 

James – I’m okay with songs from our Without Number album & the track Crucifixed.  They’re all probably available on Bandcamp.

QRD – Anything else? 

James – Bass solo take 1!

Other QRD interviews with James Newman:
Plumerai interview (January 2008)
Plumerai interview (December 2005)