Just Play: Yes, Even Bassists Can Be Douchebags
I’m relieved that most people got the humor behind my last blog post. I want to stress the part where I said, “That’s not to say we bass players don’t have our own share of divas and douchebags.”
I’ve been that douchebag. Geddy Lee was my first bass hero, followed by Stanley Clarke, Billy Sheehan, Jeff Berlin and pretty much anyone who could slap or play fast.
To a kid like me, it was easy to mistake those influences as a license to overplay, be too loud, gratuitously pile on effects, and just generally showboat. It was years before I understood what “groove,” “pocket” and “time” meant, and to this day I still struggle to perfect them.
Victor Wooten is a god among men, no question. But the difference between him and many of his imitators is … the dude can groove. Jaco could groove.
So, are bass players ever guilty of douchebaggery? Well, did I ever tell you about the time I thought I’d try to impress everyone with my two-handed tapping skills during a wedding gig? I had a mullet at the time, too. That’s, like, double-douche with douche sprinkled on top.
Hell, how many of you guitarists have ever walked into the bass room at Guitar Center and tried to endure all that out-of-time Flea/Fieldy slapping and popping for longer than a minute? It sounds like a fucking beehive on steroids.
I learned the term “asshole bass” from fellow transcriber and music editor Adam Perlmutter. He’s a jazzer with a taste for old, valuable, rare guitars. When I told him I used to play an active Ibanez five-string exclusively, he jokingly called it an asshole bass. I thought that was kind of funny if you really think about it.
Ever see those five- and six-string basses where the fingerboard, where it meets the body, is as wide as a human head? Images of NAMM-style wanking (through a 47-band EQ Hartke rig with lights on the faders, of course) immediately come to mind. Come on. Total douchebaggery, to a comical level!
I’m sure you’ve all played in a band at one time or another with douchebag non-grooving showboat bass player, douchebag Flea-wannabe bass player, or douchebag too-many-strings-with-NAMM-tone bass player. I apologize on behalf of ALL bass players for the tactical errors of a few among our ranks.
Also, to those guitarists who, through your comments on Facebook, let me know with choice words that I offended you — I could thank you for proving my point, but instead, I will humbly apologize. Learning to laugh at oneself is a valuable skill for any working musician, by the way …
Guitar World music editor Matt Scharfglass has performed around the country and internationally, playing virtually all types of music with a wide range of artists, including R&B with Ashford & Simpson, old-school swing with the Blue Saracens and gospel with Richard Hartley & Soul Resurrection. Matt appears on the original-cast recording of Evil Dead: The Musical and the Broadway Cares album Home for the Holidays. He has also worked in countless theater pits and plays guitar up in the organ booth to crowds of 18,000 at New York Rangers home games at Madison Square Garden. An accomplished guitar and bass transcriber, Matt has had more than 600 of his transcriptions appear in Guitar World magazine and in books by Warner Brothers, Music Sales and Hal Leonard. He has also authored more than a dozen bass and guitar instructional books, including the "You Can Do It...Play Bass!" and "…Play Guitar!" series. He is the bassist and one of the main songwriters for his rock band, The Border Cops.