Interview: Richard O'Brien talks bass inspiration

We talk to Richard O'Brien about his solo project   31-Jul-12

Interview: Richard O'Brien talks bass inspiration
Photo Stuart Cam

Solo projects led by bass players are always interesting, even more so when you know the bassist in question is a fantastic player and is likely to come up with some great tunes and impressive chops.

From the first song on Richard O'Brien's Hot Potato album the funk is flowing and the rhythm is infectious. It's not an album just for bass players, this is for guitarists, drummers, anyone who appreciates great songwriting and sublime musicianship.

The lazy laid-back vibes of songs like 'Frisky' are mixed in with jaunty and catchy tunes like title track 'Hot Potato', the nod towards the legends of jazz is obvious, but what's more exciting is the element of rock and fusion in the album.

To find out more I interviewed Richard, and asked him about his influences, his ideal bass rig, and his tips for practising.

Before reading the interview though, why not check out some of his music?

Firstly, what/who are the main influences for the band?

There are so many key influences for the band but I think at this point, or more to the point, the artists that helped inspire the creations on this particular Album were Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten, Poogie Bell, Soulive, Dave Weckl, Yellow Jackets and a Parisian band called Electro Deluxe but to name a few.

When you're playing a style that requires such a high level of musicianship, how do you make it about the music rather than the musicianship?

I’ve always tried to keep the ‘focus’ on the music and have found that if you have the right bunch of players around you or playing with you that this is then possible. It’s all about playing as part of a team and learning how to do that musically.

You're a solo musician with a band around you, why did you decide to go down the solo route?

It was a tough decision to go down the solo route but in the end it has probably worked out for the best. With everyone else being so heavily involved in a number of other projects (as well as myself) it was or would have been difficult to ask for the full commitment of other musicians, therefore going down the solo route meant that the line-up of the project could always afford to be flexible. Whilst there would be an ‘ideal’ line-up for the gigs, if someone was unavailable then it works out to be much easier organising a dep. On another note, It’s also great to get the chance to play with a variety of different musicians from time to time and so having this flexibility allows for this to happen more easily. A lack of personal finances also meant that the solo route would inevitably work out to be easier for everyone.

In terms of technique and practise, what would your three bits of golden advice be to anybody who is stuck in a rut with their playing technique?

My three bits of golden advice?

Well first and foremost for me would be to try and have fun with whatever it is that you are practising, writing or performing as it makes it more enjoyable and can always bring better rewards.

Secondly try not to overdo it on one particular technique. I know it’s said all the time but small chunks of practice are better than large stints… at least they are in my book.

Thirdly, one of the most worthwhile things that any musician can do is to try and practice with other musicians. This allows you to get a different perspective and approach to your playing. It can inspire new ways of thinking musically and encourages you to think differently, feeding off what the other players are doing. Musicality is one of the most sought after traits of a musician in my book. As a Bass player I always found it useful getting together and having jams with drummers on a regular basis, and this is something that I think has really helped me over the years in achieving where I want to be as a player both musically and technically. 

When you're not playing jazz like a funky motha, what do you like to listen to?

I listen to a ton of other music, really anything, though perhaps not Heavy Metal. I used to be an old school Rocker listening to the likes of Guns ‘N’ roses, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith which could explain why I like to rock things up from time to time but also love a good piece of classical music. 

I suppose I most often listen to jazz, funk or soul music…anything by Marcus Miller (really loving his latest album “Renaissance” at the minute), Poogie Bell (His ‘Thinking Outside The Box’ Album really inspired me in writing a lot of the tracks for my album ‘Hot Potato’), Stevie Wonder (who doesn’t?), Michael Jackson, Prince, Dave Weckl, Soulive, Lettuce, Miles Davis, Yellow Jackets and Victor Wooten but to name a few. I also love a load of stuff by the Cinematic Orchestra and other modern artists such as John Mayer, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Maroon 5, and Neo. There’s so much great music it’s hard to name all the things I listen to and take influence from!

If you could have any rig in the world. any bass, any amp, any effects, what would you go for?

Now this is a tough one. There’s so much great gear these days but I’ve always wanted to try out a custom built Fodera bass like one that Victor Wooten has as they just look amazing. Another Dream bass of mine has always been the John Pattitucci signature Yamaha 6 string or the Ibanez SR6006EOL bass. Amp wise I think I would love a nice big Ashdown or EBS rig and a really compact but punchy Phil Jones or Mark Bass combo amp! I’ve always loved the Envelope filter, Octave and reverb effects too! That’s all I can think of for now!


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