Interview with James Newman of Plumerai
Name: James Newman
Bands: Plumerai, The Breakup Tape
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!