Justin Hawkins: “What?! Split harmonics on the bass?”

Justin Hawkins reacts to The Winery Dogs music video Xanadu
(Image credit: Justin Hawkins Rides Again)

Justin Hawkins has long been channeling his thoughts on anything music-related via his Justin Hawkins Rides Again YouTube channel. In his latest post, Hawkins watches the new video from The Winery Dogs, and reacts to Billy Sheehan’s dazzling bass chops, at one point commenting: “What?! Split harmonics on the bass? First of all, how? And second of all, why?”

After watching the video for Xanadu, Hawkins goes on to provide further musical analysis on Kotzen’s guitar sound. “That sort of guitar playing you only really hear on Strats. It’s not as abrasive as a Les Paul. I’m dying to know which pickup setting he’s using there.”

Elsewhere, he delves deeper into his own rock tutorial. “What I love about the guitar solo is that the rhythm guitar stops,” he says. “It’s just  him with the drums and the bass, which reminds me of Van Halen records where the bass is enough of a harmonic accompaniment for the guitar solo to really hit you in the face.”

Having played literally thousands of gigs with Talas, his band from Buffalo, New York – not to mention his high profile work with David Lee Roth, Mr Big, Niacin and more recently Sons of Apollo – Billy Sheehan’s no-holds-barred bass lines have ensured his status as a rock bass icon. 

This month though, Sheehan’s announced that he'll be hitting the road with The Winery Dogs once again. In addition to the tour, fans will be excited to hear that following a seven-year hiatus from the studio, the trio has released the opening track and lead single from their aptly named third album III. Directed by Vicente Cordero, the video for Xanadu can be found on the band’s YouTube channel.

The new single is typical Winery Dogs – with Sheehan enhancing Kotzen’s big riff energy with his own signature licks and screaming harmonics. Sheehan has always had a very guitaristic approach. The pinch harmonic that you hear at 00:20 is a case in point.

Pinch harmonics (or split harmonics as Justin refers to them in his analysis) have long been popular among guitarists, but they’re much less common in the bass world. “When a guitar player plays a pinch harmonic he slips off the pick and the soft part of his thumb hits the string,” said Billy in a 2014 interview for The Flo Guitar Enthusiasts.

“Since I don’t have a pick, I use my fingernail up against my thumb. I actually got it from Billy Gibbons who I saw opening for Alice Cooper. I just had to figure out a way to get that sound. Since I didn’t have a pick, I found a way to do it with my fingernail.”

For a full list of tour dates, and to preorder III, head over to The Winery Dogs' websiteXanadu is available on digital formats here

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.