G: Do you come from a musical family? What were you reading, watching, or listening to as a kid?
EM: Both of my parents are non-professional musicians. My dad plays guitar and my mom plays piano, both of them just play for the fun of it.
I grew up listening to a lot of rock and metal, my favorite bands when I was younger were Black Sabbath, Green Day, and Ozzy Osbourne (post-Sabbath). I
didn’t listen to instrumental music, like jazz, until high school. As any kid, I loved cartoons, and I kinda had a thing for Pokemon. I’m sure this will embarrass me later, but
I used to collect Pokemon cards and play tournaments with other kids.
G: What was your first instrument? How old were you when you first started playing the bass?
EM: I started playing piano around 2nd grade, I took lessons for years on it, all classical stuff. I had a wonderful music program in my hometown, and growing up in it was fantastic. I started playing Trombone in 5th grade and got used to reading bass clef. After I graduated 6th grade, my band teacher called my parents and asked them if I could learn to play electric bass for the Jr High school jazz band. My parents bought me a bass and I started learning how to play it. I was 12. I learned how to read and play in about 3 months. I was put in the Jr High jazz band and it really matured me fast. We played some pretty hard charts and we would rehearse everyday after school for about an hour. My endurance built up quick, and it forced me to become better. I have a thing where I love to take on a challenge. After jazz band rehearsals, I would practice for around 2 hours a night so that I could nail whatever was too hard in rehearsal.
G: At the first stages of learning, what gave you the most trouble? What were you naturally good at right from the beginning?
EM: At first, the hardest part was having a bass that was fighting me. The action was high, the strings were old and rusted to the bridge, the neck was bowed etc….
I got a nice Fender in 8th grade and played the hell out of it. I was so excited to have a nice bass that felt comfortable. I started practicing around 3 hours a day when I got my Fender. I wouldn’t call myself naturally good at it when I was a kid, but I had an easy understanding of the building blocks of music, like harmony and rhythm. I understood everything that I was doing wrong and practiced so hard to get me to sound “right”. I’m 22 now, and I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am at now. Music is something you dedicate yourself to. I’ve dedicated myself to become a better musician and it’s also helped me become a better person. It’s a very enlightening experience.
G: Let’s talk gear! Why Ken Smith and Campbell American basses? Can you tell us a little about how they’re different from other bass guitars and how they’re different from each other?
EM: My Ken Smith plays with almost little to no effort. The action is low, the neck is thin, and is balances perfectly on my body. It has an active Bartolini preamp, and can get a really great “fusion” sound. It has a real midrange-y tone and has very close string spacing. I had the Campbell American EM5 built for me because I needed something a little different, a little more like a P Bass sound but with more definition. My goal was to have something built along the lines of my friend/mentor Lincoln Goines’ bass. It has a real slim neck and string spacing like the Ken Smith, but is much lighter. It has a beautiful Honduran Mahogany wood top that is accented by what Dean Campbell calls “New England Sunburst”. I couldn’t be happier with both my Ken Smith and my Campbell American EM5. When I first plugged in the Campbell, I was amazed by how punchy the damn thing was. It has a custom Seymour Duncan BassLines humbucker in it, and is completely passive. I did a studio session recently, and with no EQ or compression the Campbell American EM5 stood out wonderfully in the mix and sounded awesome.
G: What effects/pedals do you use? What hardware/software do you use for recording at home, if you do?
EM: In the studio and in live performance I use a Boss Octave pedal, a Digitech synth wah (envelope filter), a BB preamp distortion box which David Fiuczynski hooked me up with, and a Ernie Ball Volume pedal. I have a home studio, which is the base for EvanMarienProductions. I have ProTools LE with a Digidesign Mbox, David Eden studio monitors, an Aguilar ToneHammer preamp, and a couple mics scattered around. A little note about EvanMarienProductions, the project coordinator sends me Protools projects, I record high quality Bass lines, then I send the .Wav files back to the project coordinator. In fact, I just finished a quick bass line recording session last night for Target, right from the comfort of my own room. If anyone is looking for some bass on projects (any genre!), hit me up on my myspace! http://www.myspace.com/evanmarien
G: If you were to give 3 crucial tips on practicing, what would they be? What do you think beginners don’t realize how those 3 tips come into play years later?
EM:I teach privately here in Boston, and the biggest thing I teach is Critical Listening. I tell my students to listen to (in any musical situation) the harmony, the rhythm, the energy, the space, everything! All of these make you react differently to the music. You must have open ears! All of those elements affect your contribution to the music.
Another thing I particularly like teaching is advanced harmony, in regards to improvising. You gotta know your chord scales but at the same time take a breath, and feel your phrasing. You must feel free in order to improvise! Usually I hear players get stuck with a bad solo when they aren’t feeling what they are playing. I teach how to let go of that, ignore the notes and go with your phrasing. We worry about harmonic applications later, but I usually start off students working with their phrasing. The 3rd most important thing I focus on is rhythm and tone. I have a lot of drum loops I practice to, but more importantly is that I always try to play with a live drummer. That is how you will really improve. I always encourage my students to play with as many drummers as they can.
G: What’s your take on these two: 1) technique and 2) improvisation? More specifically, what do bass players misunderstand about those two aspects?
EM: One thing that people don’t realize, or maybe they just don’t care to, is that technique is just that. It’s technique. If their is no real harmony behind it, then whats the point? I am not impressed with technique simply for flash. I love players who have a language that clearly speaks. It’s gotta be something for me to latch onto. Improvisation is not something that just comes off the top of your head. You gotta learn your chord scales, learn their applications, breath, and then let your heart out. technique is great, chops are icing, but heart ALWAYS wins!
G: Would like to hear your recommendations for: a) 3 must-listen guitar albums. b) 3 must listen non-guitar albums.
EM: (a) I listen to a lot of guitar players, and narrowing it down to 3 is hard but recently I’ve been digging on Wayne Krantz’s Greenwich Mean, Tim Miller’s Trio 2, and Kurt Rosenwinkel The Remedy-Live at the Village Vanguard.
(b) 3 albums that are not guitar related that I’ve been digging have been Grizzly Bear’s Friend, Me’Shell Ndegeocello’s The World Has Made Me The Man of My Dreams, and Q-Tip’s The Renaissance
G: What are you working on now? What are you looking forward to in 2009?
EM: Currently I’m performing with David Fiuczynski, going on a little tour to Chicago and St Louis next week. I’ve been playing with Fiuczynski for around a year now and it’s been a blast. We were in the studio recently tracking for his new cd with Jack Dejohnette and Kenwood Dennard, splitting the drum chair. I’ve also been working on a new cd that features 3 of my favorite guitarists to play with out here on the east coast. David Fiuczynski is one of them, and he appears on two tracks on the cd. People can always check and see what I’m up to on my myspace.