"...listening to as many styles of music as possible is essential"
Art, in any form, is subjective and music is no exception, where one person’s Beatles is another person’s Rancid. What is certain is that with music especially, variety is important and a lot of genres of music are much more connected to each other than you might think. The variety idea is certainly something that is much easier to see today in the instantaneous world of Youtube and Grooveshark, where one can punch in random names and genres and have entire histories of music pop up for consumption. And that’s another thing, consumption; we are no longer “listeners” of music but “consumers” of it. Because it is now so easy to acquire music on the internet, legally or illegally, combined with the advent of larger and larger hard drives, not every piece of music we come across gets the full attention it deserves. I myself am guilty of that, especially since I am somewhat of a completest, and when I find a new artist that I like I used to enjoy collecting as much of their music as I could. If they were an older artist with an extensive back catalog, then watch out! I may not get to listen to all of it or listen to it as much as I should, but at least I “own” the albums, and dedication has to count for something, right? After my computer failed last winter and I lost what I had accumulated I try to be a little more appreciative of the music that I have and the new music that I encounter, and am a little more choosy about what I “consume.”
In terms of the music you choose to listen to, I recommend running the gamut. If you see or hear something you like then listen to it again. If you still like it then take the next step of sitting down and really getting into it, as well as reading books and articles or watching documentaries and movies about these artists. Not all of the information may be accurate or relevant, but the more knowledge you have to filter through the clearer end picture you will have of the musicians that you love. And don’t feel like you’re weird if in the course of an afternoon you move from hip-hop, to metal, to jazz, to techno, and then bring it back down with some funk, it’s all worthwhile. And if you are a musician, listening to as many styles of music as possible is essential, and I highly recommend this if you want to hear how your instrument sounds in different musical contexts.
Like a lot of musicians, I tend to wear my influences on my sleeve. I learned to play the bass by listening to and playing along with my favourite bass players. Many different players have influenced me and I am always looking out for the next bass line that “I wish I had written.” Here are a few with links so that you can hear what I mean. Enjoy!
Sting – When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around
The main line in this song is relatively simple, but it is clever and how it is played is also very important. I wouldn’t call Sting an “underrated” bassist but I definitely think that his work with The Police demands more consideration by listeners.
Chris Squire – Siberian Khatru
Bombastic, intelligent, spiritual, complex, dynamic. This was one of the first Yes songs that I ever heard and the one that instantly became my favourite. I just listened to this song over and over again and I was really pleased when I figured it out myself when I was about 20. Squire uses strummed chords, artificial and natural harmonics, and string skipping with a pick all in the one song. Squire continues to be one of my favourite players and one of my bigger influences, and this is probably my favourite rock bass line of all time.
Simon Gallup – Torture
This was the song that finally convinced me that I needed to buy a bass and learn how to play. Simon’s trebly tone was something I had not heard before (back in 1998), and his melodic playing was something that I was drawn to. When I was younger, there were really only two Cure albums that I got into, but this album and Disintegration were both very influential.
Colin Greenwood – Weird Fishes
One of the more underrated bassists in modern music, Colin Greenwood has been a later influence on my playing. He is excellent at choosing which notes to play and where to play them, as well as when not to play. This song is an excellent example of that skill and it also showcases his signature melodicism (is that a word?), which allows his bass lines to shine through yet still appropriately blend in with the rest of the song. Something I am working towards!
As you probably know we have a show (our second) coming up on May 16 at 3030 in Toronto. With live music there are a lot of things to consider and take care of: booking, rehearsing, promoting, boozing, etc. But one of the most important aspects of playing live is deciding which songs you want to play and which order you want to play them. Sounds nerdy, but Tom Morello once referred to himself as a setlist “Jedi,” and with that I knew that I wasn’t the only one who thought that a great setlist was important and necessary.
However, performing musicians are not the only ones who get to partake in this practice; we all make setlists these days on our iPod and other devices that help to define our party, our run, our house cleaning. Music can be a large part of our lives and it is very special to be a part of the creative side of things, working with creative and talented people who are also your friends. But whether you choose the “random” setting on your iPod or you spend hours mulling over which song to put where, music is meant to be listened to and enjoyed. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy our upcoming show, and make sure to include some Hello Companion in your next playlist!