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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
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 Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton 
October 2010

Name: Nicholas Slaton
Bands: slicnaton
Websites: www.slicnaton.com

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

Nicholas – It was a Hohner fretless. It was a cool bass, thin body with a brown to red sunburst & no fret markers. I sold it to upgrade at some point, but I wish I had kept it. 

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

Nicholas – I like my basses with long scale lengths & setup with high action. I usually play with a dry sound, but when I use effects I use whatever is available. I use anything from expensive pedals to junk. I always am looking for new ways to get cool sounds. I use a solid state amp with various speaker cabinets.

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

Nicholas – Fingers, anything can sound good if you play it right.

QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?

Nicholas – Acoustic Image Clarus IIR. My amp of choice. Solid state power with a nice EQ, I use this as a head anytime I plug in & when this one dies I’ll get the new version to replace it.

QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass?

Nicholas – I prefer having the right instrument for whatever I’m playing.

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

Nicholas – I like fingers & bows; I rarely use picks, but once in a while I’ll borrow one.

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

Nicholas – 1-6.

QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?

Nicholas – The low-end.

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

Nicholas – They’re just bigger.

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

Nicholas – These days I grab for my Chinese no name double bass. It was in a car accident & the whole top got smashed. The repair estimates where higher than the value of the bass so I got another bass & it went in the closet. After several years I decided to try to put it back together. It isn’t pretty, but it still sounds good.

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

Nicholas – Cool for decoration but seldom used, rarely do they get in the way. They never seem to be close to the place on the string I like to play.

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

Nicholas – It would have a big body with high action, neck-through with string ferrules. Fretless with a fixed bridge. I’ve thought about this a lot & my dad & I are going to build one eventually.

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

Nicholas – I have a Demeter Compressor pedal that would look good with my signature on it.

QRD – How many basses do you own?

Nicholas – 7.

QRD – How & where do you store your basses?

Nicholas – In the case at room temperature.

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

Nicholas – Feel & sound first, but it’s got to look cool.

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

Nicholas – Between $0-$120,000.

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

Nicholas – I will, but only if they break & I usually replace with comparable if not identical parts.

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

Nicholas – I like to switch it up.

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

Nicholas – Right now I want a Zon Legacy Elite 6, a Czech Flatback, a campfire style acoustic bass guitar, & some bizarre custom fretlesses.

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

Nicholas – Good tuning pegs.

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

Nicholas – Worst was The ART Nightbass multi-effects. It was awful; I bought it in the late nineties so I might like it now! I guess the best would be my Acoustic Image amp; it’s my daily driver & workhorse.

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

Nicholas – I like Demeter, Electro Harmonix, Fender, Bergantino, Acoustic Image, Alembic. I use a lot of varied equipment. It’s hard for me to name brand I don’t like because everybody makes something cool. Some of my favorite pieces are from brands you wouldn’t expect.

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

Nicholas – Whole notes.

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

Nicholas – 13.

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

Nicholas – Hopefully not yet.

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

Nicholas – It depends on the setting, I like both when done well. It’s always nice when the bass can add or emphasize parts without sticking out.

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

Nicholas – Feel.

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

Nicholas – I always liked the bottom.

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

Nicholas – Definitely an ally, a coalition member!

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

Nicholas – Basses have their own personalities, they don’t need human characteristics.

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

Nicholas – Again, that’s the Chinese bass that was in the car accident. It was smashed into kindling.

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

Nicholas – Think & listen.

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

Nicholas – Nowadays about 10 hours a week, used to play much more, would like to play more.

QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?

Nicholas – Whatever the biggest gauge is at the store.

QRD – How often do you change strings?

Nicholas – As little as possible.

QRD – How often do you break strings?

Nicholas – Several times a decade.

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

Nicholas – You kind of need both.

QRD – What tunings do you use & why?

Nicholas – I use standard tuning, dropped D, & some unspecific non-diatonic tunings.

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

Nicholas – Sheet music is good. I don’t do tab.

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

Nicholas – Not playing loud enough!

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

Nicholas – Definitely drums & then piano.

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

Nicholas – When I was a kid I always wanted to play with Madonna.

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

Nicholas – I like your trick where you have a second bass leaning against the amp that is just used as a drone.

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

Nicholas – I’ve taken lots of lessons, I learned that every player has their own way of doing things & so should I.

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

Nicholas – Harmony.

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

Nicholas – Play less.

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

Nicholas – Every good band needs a good bass player. If the band sucks usually a good bassist will move on.

QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work?

Nicholas – www.Extemporate.com

QRD – Anything else?

Nicholas – Thanks for having me!

Other QRD interviews with Nicholas Slaton:
Father's day interview with Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton (June 2009)
Interview with Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton (March 2009)