with Derek M Poteat
Name: Derek M. Poteat
Bands: Solo, Death Mission to Space, Ex-Ahleuchatistas
Websites: http://derekmpoteat.net, http://derekmpoteat.bandcamp.com
QRD – What was your first bass & what happened to it?
Derek – My first bass was an orange Cort P-bass copy for Christmas. It had been stolen, decorated with paint, & then returned to the store, so it was cheap. I traded it for another bass.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from bass to effects to amplifier?
Derek – My set-up has changed over the years & depending on the project. When I was in Ahleuchatistas it was very simple, bass to a David Eden combo amp with a distortion pedal & a volume pedal in the chain. Currently, it is rather complicated. Starting with my Fender P bass de-tuned to C, I go through an effects chain that begins with a Digitech Bass Whammy, Digitech V Whammy, Moog Low-Pass Envelope Filter, Boss Tuner, Boss Bass Synthesizer, Boss Bass Octave, Electro Harmonix Bass Big Muff Deluxe, Boss Bass Overdrive, Sans Amp Bass, MarkBass Superbooster, Boss Bass Chorus, Boss DD5 Delay, Boss GigaDelay, Morley Volume Pedal, Boss RC 300 Looper, & an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. This runs into an Ampeg SVT head or an Acoustic 370 head.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig - bass, amplifier, or effects?
Derek – In the past I would say bass, but that has changed with my solo work. Now I try to achieve a harmony & a synchronicity between the bass, the effects, the amplifier, & the speakers -- with no one thing being more important than the others.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Derek – While I have always loved Ampegs, the Acoustic 370 is just a beast. I love the 70s tone & the raw power it generates. There is something magical in the way it moves the speakers.
Just as important is the cabinet the amplifier goes into. My go-to cabinet is an Ampeg 2x15 that I upgraded with better speakers. It sounds incredible with the Acoustic 370. Often, when playing solo, I also use an Ampeg 8x10 that helps push the head to new areas.
QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass?
Derek – I usually play electric bass, but I also have an electric upright that I have been playing a lot more of late.
QRD – Do you prefer to use a pick, fingers, or a bow?
Derek – I have always been a finger player on the electric bass because it gives me a better feel with the instrument, like I am a part of it. I utilize a bow with the electric upright as well.
QRD – How many strings do you think a bass should have?
Derek – For me, four has always been enough. However, I have seen others who make use of many more strings very well.
QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?
Derek – From an early age I was always drawn to the sound of the bass. I believe it is the frequencies of the bass sounds, the tones, & the vibrations that I love. While I have played guitar some, I have always been a bass player & I only want to be a bass player. I have never liked when frustrated guitarists play bass because they cannot play guitar in a group.
QRD – How is a bass different than a guitar other than being lower in pitch?
Derek – The feel of a bass is different in every way -- the weight, the heft, the thickness of the strings, the big tuners, & the vibrations of the body.
QRD – What’s your main bass & what are the features that make it such?
Derek – A 2005 Fender American Standard Precision is my main bass. I like the classic styling & sound of a P bass, & the way it feels in your hands. Tonally it is very versatile & clean -- there is a purity in the sound of a P bass. It is like a true representation of the string vibrations. Sometimes when I practice I don’t plug into an amp because I love the way the bass sounds acoustically & I will put my ear on the body & listen to the vibrations. The other great thing about my bass is the Maple neck, which produces a more lively tone than a Rosewood neck. I believe the attack & intonation are better with a Maple neck as well.
QRD – What do you think of the thumb rests on some basses?
Derek – I have never had one & it seems unnecessary.
QRD – If you had a signature bass, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Derek – Simple, loud, & a maple neck.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Derek – A bass distortion/whammy with settings changed via footswitches.
QRD – How many basses do you own?
Derek – Currently 3.
QRD – How & where do you store your basses?
Derek – Always in a hard case & often by my bed.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a bass?
Derek – Versatility, playability, dependability, & a great sound. I rarely think about cosmetics.
QRD – How much do you think a good bass should cost?
Derek – A good bass should cost around $500.00. All music equipment is too expensive & is often out of reach of younger players.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your bass or just stick with what you get?
Derek – I upgraded & customized my 1992 Fender Jazz Bass with pickups, electronics, & a new bridge; but I usually stay with what the bass already has. I don’t want to buy something I have to change.
QRD – Are you after one particular bass tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Derek – I am more of a one tone guy, then I let the effects color the sound.
QRD – What are some basses, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Derek – I am writing this the day after Chris Squire died, so a Rickenbacker is on my mind. I love the sound of a Rickenbacker, but I don’t like how they feel when you play one -- not very comfortable. Another bass I like is the Ernie Ball Music Man -- great playability & tone. As far as amps go, I want to have a whole collection of older Acoustic amps. The 370 is the only amp that has ever truly blown me away on plugging into it.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first bass that aren’t always there?
Derek – Just make sure it has good pickups & it is playable. More people quit playing musical instruments because they become frustrated with how their instrument plays than any other reason. Starter instruments often are difficult to play, with improper neck alignment & string height.
QRD – What have been the best & worst bass related purchases you’ve made?
Derek – I have been very fortunate in my bass purchases, as they have all been good.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & bass brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Derek – I still use a lot of Boss effect pedals even in this world of boutique pedals. I find the Boss pedals to have good sound & they are extremely dependable, which means a lot when you take them on the road. Boss pedals also have a small footprint, which makes them easier to travel with & to set up. Also, I like many of the Electro Harmonix pedals & Digitech pedals. The new Bass Whammy by Digitech is perfect for my setup.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a bass?
Derek – I usually do exercises to loosen up.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing bass?
Derek – I came late to the bass, getting my first bass when I was 21.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best bass playing?
Derek – I would say I was at my technical best, being able to play complex parts & being able to write challenging/interesting bass lines, during my time in Ahleuchatistas (2003-2010). So, in my mid to late 30s. However, I feel like I am growing in other ways right now & I have leveled up in producing & controlling sound.
QRD – Do you feel bass lines should echo & emphasize guitar & drum parts or be their own distinct elements?
Derek – There are times when following the guitar part works, but I prefer to write distinct bass lines that slither in & around the other instruments. Ultimately, it depends on what a piece of music needs.
QRD – Would you rather people hear or feel your bass?
Derek – Both.
QRD – Why do you think a bass fits you more so than other instruments?
Derek – Understated, quiet, & forgotten.
QRD – Who are the bassists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Derek – Cliff Burton, Steve Harris, Andrew Weiss, John Paul Jones, Chris Squire.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their bass is natural or silly (e.g. naming their bass)?
Derek – I think it is natural to anthropomorhize something you spend so much time with in such a personal way. With that being said, however, I have never named my bass.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a bass & how did you do it?
Derek – I have some dings in the neck of my P bass from some falls -- usually after leaning it against something.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Derek – I like to do warm-up exercises & finger strengthening exercises -- sometimes I get ideas just from those. I also like to limit myself to a certain key & scale & play around with that -- exploring as many options as possible. A lot of ideas come from that.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play bass & how many hours would you like to?
Derek – I am probably playing around 10 hours a week right now, but I would like to be playing 20 hours.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Derek – Currently, I am using 50 - 65 - 85 -105.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Derek – When I am playing a lot of shows I will change strings monthly or less when on tour. Otherwise, every two to three months.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Derek – Almost never. I can’t remember the last time I broke a string.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming/bowing hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Derek – I work hard to be proficient with both.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Derek – I tuned down to C-F-A#-D# about a year ago because I liked the way the bass sounded when tuned down. It also makes me play differently, as it is way different than standard tuning.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Derek – I do a hybrid of tab & my own system of notation.
QRD – What's a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Derek – Playing the same scales or in the same tempo too often.
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s bass playing?
Derek – Playing any other instrument will help as it gives one a different perspective.
QRD – What’s a type of bass playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Derek – I wish I was better at bowing. I’m practicing diligently to become better at that.
QRD – What’s a bass goal you've never accomplished?
Derek – To be a better upright bass player. Again, I’m working on that.
QRD – What’s the last bass trick you learned?
Derek – I am not sure if I know any bass tricks.
QRD – Did you ever take bass lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Derek – No
QRD – What would you teach someone in a bass lesson that you don't think they would generally get from a bass teacher?
Derek – I try to teach a general understanding of the bass as a system that works together.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Derek – Probably not ever listen to me & to listen to as many great bass players as possible. I like to think that my unique style developed as a true amalgamation of all types of players & styles & out of necessity. I believe much of my style developed from playing with a drummer for thousands of hours, with no other instrumentation.
QRD – If a band has good bass work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Derek – No, but I can still appreciate the bass.
QRD – What famous musician’s bass would you like to own & why?
Derek – None.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative bass player & why?
Derek – Not sure. I can’t think of anyone.
QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work?
Derek – For technical skill & composition I would recommend any of the first five Ahleuchatistas releases. For sound composition, I would recommend my solo releases.
QRD – Anything else?
Derek – All I ever wanted to be is a bass player. I have never wanted to play anything else.