A few months back, we ran our annual Bassist Of The Year competition, in which bass players from all over the world uploaded video clips of their skills.
Our celebrity judges this time were Tracy Wormworth of the B-52s, Living Colour’s Doug Wimbish, and former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder. After they picked their favorite entries and the public placed their votes, our winner was the mighty Danny Sapko, whose entry impressed all of us with his excellent funk playing and intuitive feel for the groove.
The slick fingerstyle that Danny showcased in his video clip encompassed all the tricks of the modern bass guitar arsenal – strummed chords, the floating thumb technique, tapping and the expected slap and pop – while the line itself was catchy as hell.
Although he made a point of showing us his ferocious picking speed with a flurry of 32nd notes right at the end, his playing remained tasteful throughout. Congratulations to Danny from all of us, and make sure you enter 2021’s competition – your face could be on Bass Player's cover this time next year…
Congratulations on being voted Bassist Of 2020, Danny. What does this award mean to you?
“Thank you! It was fantastic to get some good news at the end of a truly dreadful year to be a musician. Getting this award has opened many opportunities for me already, with newspaper and radio interviews, a big boost in online followers, and requests for session work. It’s been the greatest achievement of my career so far!“
How did you approach the video entry?
“Even when showing off the best of my abilities, I’ve always strived to keep things musical. In my entry video, I aimed to include as many different playing styles as I could while maintaining that musicality. It was important to me to stick to that philosophy instead of simply putting together a few fast, technical exercises.
“And because I’ve never been one for double-thumbing or a lot of the other modern techniques, I was so pleased that my video did so well while maintaining a more old-school approach. I want to make bass guitar-focused music that can appeal to anyone who listens, not just other musicians.“
What was your way into bass?
“I got into The Beatles, and in particular Paul McCartney, at a very early age. I used to sit at the back of the class in school drawing pictures of me playing bass in imaginary bands, well before I’d even picked one up. I dabbled with other instruments in my teenage years, but I was always drawn back. I remember thinking that, unlike guitarists and drummers, there aren’t many people who go on to master the bass.“
What was your first bass guitar?
“You’ll like this! On YouTube, if you search ‘The World’s Worst Bass Guitar’, you’ll find me playing a white Wesley Gothic Stealth Dragon! I got it in 2006, and I recently auctioned it off for charity.
“The strings felt like they were inches off the fretboard, and I’d get the occasional electric shock from the dodgy wiring, but it was instrumental to my development as a bassist – it made all future basses feel so much easier to play. I’m a firm believer that every musician should have a terrible first instrument. You wouldn’t want a Ferrari as a first car, would you?“
Which other basses have you played since then?
“I’m really into the Squier Classic Vibe range. I’ve had a few of those. I stick to four-string basses, more often than not with flatwounds and chrome pickup covers. I’m not fussy about playing less expensive instruments – tone is in the fingers.“
What bass gear do you currently use?
“Through my association with Chowny Bass, I’ve recently acquired their NT-4, which is the most luxurious bass I’ve ever owned. I used it in my entry video, through my Aguilar Tone Hammer 350 and Aguilar DB Series cab.“
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given about playing bass?
“‘Never trust a man who listens to cricket on the radio.’ Oh… about playing bass? I remember when I was playing a gig somewhere in my native West Yorkshire seven or eight years ago, an old, wise head came to speak to me afterwards and said, ‘Just because you can play all those notes, doesn’t mean you should!’
“And after watching back some footage of the gig, I realized how much I’d been overplaying. To this day, I’ve always tried to remember to play for the song and not for myself. Whether I stick to it depends on how many pints of bitter I’ve had at the gig.“
Which bass players do you most admire, and why?
“The one and only James Jamerson. His playing, his feel and his tone is everything I love about the bass guitar. Of course, I like a lot of modern bassists too, but there’s something about the Sixties and Seventies sound that inspires me the most. I’ve spent years thinking I was born in the wrong age!
“But it’s only recently that I realized how much I value the internet era, being able to use these old-school influences in my music and show them to people all over the world.“
Where can we hear you play?
“You can find my band Vonderplanetz on Spotify, and I’m planning on launching a solo career this year, so look out for me!“