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QRD #74
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
about this issue
Featured Band Interview:
Bass Player Interviews:
Tony Zanella of  +/-
Channing Azure of Alpha Cop
Eric Baldoni of Colt Vista
Jeanne Kennedy Crosby
Rob Kohler
Derek M. Poteat
Guitarist interviews:
Campbell Kneale
Antony Milton of PseudoArcana
Nevada Hill of Bludded Head
Malcolm Brickhouse
Chvad SB
Scott Endres of Make
Label Owner Interviews:
Russian Winter Records
Moving Furniture
Basses Frequences
Saxwand Records
Comic Creator Interviews:
Richard Van Ingram
Tyler Sowles
JB Sapienza
Troy Vevasis
Victor Couwenbergh
Terry Hooper
Travis Hymel
Robert Hendricks
Dirk Manning
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Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Silber Kickstarter
Tony Zanella
Bass Player Interview with Tony Zanella of +/- & War Tempest
July 2015
Tony Zanella
Name: Tony Zanella
Bands: True Love Always, +/- {Plus Minus}, GD Airlock, War Tempest

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

Tony - My first bass was a Guild B-302. I played that for a few years, until I got a Washburn something-or-other. What happened is that I gave the Guild to Gilles from Rollerball & he made it into a fretless by stripping off the frets & refinishing the fretboard. I'd bet money that he still has it.

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

Tony - Typically I plug my bass into a Boss tuner pedal, which gets plugged straight into the amp's input. The head also has an AC outlet on it, so I can plug in a blender or even a crock pot for longer sets.

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

Tony - Bass & amplifier are tied for first place. A terrible bass can make an amp sound bad & vice versa. I'm curious about effects, especially distortion & fuzz pedals, but I haven't found any that work for me yet.

QRD - What's your main amplifier & why?

Tony - My main amplifier is a 1970s Ampeg SVT Blackline, paired with an Ampeg 8x10 cabinet. It has the sound I always wanted when I used solid state amps before.

QRD - Do you prefer upright or electric bass?

Tony - I prefer electric bass, unless we're talking Mingus.

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

Tony - I often use a pick, out of a combination of laziness & liking the attack. For some busy TLA songs, fingers are necessary. I haven't tried a bow on electric, but I'd like to mess with an ebow....

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

Tony - Either 1-4, or 8, or 12.

QRD - Why do you play bass instead of guitar?

Tony - When I was 15, a couple of friends of mine & I were going to start a KISS cover band. One guy called drums, & the other really wanted to be a guitarist, so I called bass. As the years went by, I had good teachers & a lot of musician friends who needed a bassist, so I stuck with it. & once I heard what Cliff Burton, Chris Squire, & Geddy could do on bass, I was hooked.

QRD - How is a bass different than a guitar other than being lower in pitch.

Tony - As a melee weapon, it does 4d6 damage, whereas a guitar only does a puny 2d6.

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

Tony - My main bass is a Hondo II lawsuit era P-Bass copy with a maple neck. It's my main bass because my other basses (Mexican Fender P-Bass, Yamaha 8 string) are in storage & out of reach, along with my Chapman Stick if that counts as a bass.

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

Tony - I think it makes them look all classy & dressed-up. Aside from that, I've never seen anyone rest a thumb on one.

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

Tony - It would be two stories tall & you could live in it.

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

Tony - I found a no-name fuzz-wah pedal in a pawn shop. It was a giant black brick & it only worked intermittently, but it was the most amazing, heavy fuzz sound I've heard. I'd have a fuzz pedal with that exact sound & it would work.

QRD - How many basses do you own?

Tony - The Hondo, the Fender P-Bass, the Yamaha 8-string, & the Stick. I used to have a 4 string electric semi-hollow body that I got at a pawn shop for $85 bucks, but I traded it for a 1978 Volvo 244DL. The head gasket blew on it in Ritzville, WA & I managed to sell the tires for bus fare back home.

QRD - How & where do you store your basses?

Tony - The Hondo is to my left, on a stand. The rest are in cases. The Fender P-Bass is probably in the +/- rehearsal space. The Yamaha 8-string & Chapman Stick are in my parent's garage.

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

Tony - A wide neck, not too many knobs, something that's not top heavy.

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

Tony - You should be able to find something that's affordable no matter what.

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

Tony - My last bass needed new knobs & a new nut, but nothing fancy.

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

Tony - I'm after a particular tone. Once I dial it in, if I need to change the tone from there, I'll try to switch to fingers or a pick.

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

Tony - I don't really lust after gear, but there's a lot of stuff I'd like to try out. I'd like to try out an Orange BT500H. I'm curious to try out some short scale basses -- people always say they sound muddy, but I wonder. & there are some people out there making cool custom pedals, like Benadrian Pedals (

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

Tony - I think the most important thing for your first bass isn't the features, it's just to play it. You'll work your way towards what features are important to you as your style of playing develops.

QRD - What have been the best & worst bass related purchases you've made?

Tony - Maybe the worst, but it's not so bad, is when I bought a fretless Rickenbacker that didn't have fret marks. I wanted to be all Mick Karn, but it was wet noodle city instead. The best was buying my current amp -- I got it dirt cheap from a guy who was a landlord with an entire barn full of stuff former tenants left behind, including an Ampeg SVT & cabinet. His name was Roy Rogers, no joke. & he looked exactly like Chuck Negron from Three Dog Night.

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

Tony - I remember playing a show where we shared a backline & the bass rig was some Sunn head wired up to a 15 inch speaker. At that point in the tour my strings were pretty dead, but that head made my bass sound like it had new strings on it! I'll always respect Gallien-Krueger; I used an 800RB for 15+ years & it only ever blew two fuses.

QRD - What's the first thing you play when you pick up a bass?

Tony - Usually the bass riff from the outro of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain".

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

Tony - Fifteen.

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

Tony - Not yet, I hope.

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

Tony - I think it depends on the music & musicians you're playing with. If we're talking country bass lines, I think a supporting role is appropriate. On the other hand, for example, I saw SWANS recently & their bassist, Christopher Pravdica, was playing way out front a lot of the night & it was amazing.

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

Tony - I want them to hear the feelings & feel the frequencies.

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

Tony - I dislike the feeling of being watched by a crowd & I feel like most people pay more attention to the other members of the band.

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

Tony - Ally, for sure, even when the music doesn't come easily.

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

Tony - I honestly don't know how to describe my playing; but in terms of sound, I like the Fender P because of Andy Rourke & the tube sound because of John Wetton era King Crimson.

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

Tony - In War Tempest, the guitarist had a rectangular bodied, transparent green lucite guitar he found on eBay for maybe $80. We called it the Snot Rocket or Mountain Don't. But I've never named a bass.

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

Tony - I've always treated basses with a lot of care & respect. Guitars, on the other hand...

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

Tony - I listen to a lot of music & try to imagine sounds.

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

Tony - Not nearly enough these days. I'd like to play at least several hours a week.

QRD - What gauge strings do you use & why?

Tony - I use GHS Boomers, whatever the heaviest gauge is on hand. I've tried other brands & nothing sounds as good to my ear. The lighter the gauge, the weaker the tone.

QRD - How often do you change strings?

Tony - Every 4-5 months would be ideal, but in practice, I can get lazy & go for months longer.

QRD - How often do you break strings?

Tony - Not very often. Once every couple of years I might break a string.

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

Tony - I'm equally sloppy with both hands.

QRD - What tunings do you use & why?

Tony - Standard tunings, mostly. In War Tempest, we played a full step lower. So, instead of EADG, it was DGCF. It's heavier.

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

Tony - I usually don't write down my own ideas. I've learned how to read sheet music twice in my life & forgotten twice. I've used tablature before to learn bass lines.

QRD - What's a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?

Tony - I wish I had better form in my fretting hand -- I tend to let my thumb creep up & over onto the fretboard, instead of anchoring it on the back of the neck.

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

Tony - Drums, since the rhythm section is two sides of a coin.

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

Tony - I'd like to be able to play a little more melodically.

QRD - What's a bass goal you've never accomplished?

Tony - I still can't play the second half of Flea's solo on "Out In L.A." If I ever manage that one, I need never slap again.

QRD - What's the last bass trick you learned?

Tony - This is a trick question, right?

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

Tony - I took lessons from Rob Kohler. One of the most memorable lessons was when he sat me down in front of his stereo with a pot of coffee & Quadrophenia & had me listen to the whole thing, front to back. I think he helped me learn to really listen.

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

Tony - Good question. I haven't thought much about how I could teach. I'd try tailoring a lesson to what a student wants to learn I guess.

QRD - What's something someone would have to do to emulate your style?

Tony - I don't know how I'd describe my style to be honest.

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

Tony - To a point, yes. For example, a lot of top 40 dreck has good session bass playing.

QRD - What famous musician's bass would you like to own & why?

Tony - I don't think I'd like to own a famous bassist's bass. For example, if I owned a Steve Harris bass, my playing would deteriorate to always just trying to play Iron Maiden lines in my living room.

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

Tony - I still can't get over how awesome Simon Raymonde is.

QRD - Where can people hear your best bass work?

Tony - Teenbeat has plenty of True Love Always & +/- material, though I only played in the studio on a few +/- songs. Bandcamp has War Tempest & GD Airlock MP3s.

QRD - Anything else?

Tony - Thanks for the interview. I really enjoyed thinking about bass.