My Thunder Row interview with bassist Martin Motnik!
TR: As I listened to Bass Invader, the immediate thing that struck me was the clean and precise sound of the digital processing. On the other side of things, I've also seen the videos of you playing the upright live on stage. You obviously have a taste for both the traditional and the modern. Do you have a preference in sound?
MM: I prefer my sound to be as transparent as possible, to give the listener the opportunity to distinguish between all different instruments and hear what each instrument is doing. That goes through all styles of music, be it jazz with the upright bass or heavy rock with a distorted electric bass. That is my overall goal when I perform live or record in the studio. Other than that, I don't have one specific sound that I prefer since I like playing many different styles that require different sound settings. Whenever I play a certain style of music I try to find a sound that matches its character, and supports and complements it. I'm not set on one specific sound, the most important thing is that the music as a result sounds as good as possible.
TR: What is the most valuable thing in each type of sound...the digital versus the analog?
MM: I like the clean sound and the editing possibilities of digital equipment. I'm a techie and a perfectionist, so I appreciate the possibilities that the digital recording technology offers. I can re-record takes until I have them sound like how I want them to be, and I have total control over the sound and the mix of the music. Of course I like the organic and warm sound of analog equipment, and usually that is what my favorite digital effects are based upon. But I love the convenience of digital gear.
TR: Give us an example.
MM: A digital pedalboard, for instance, can be set up at home, and you will have the same sound wherever you play. You can switch to completely different sounds in an instant, and recall it if the knobs got twisted during transport. Settings on analog pedals can change during transport, and on stage you end up with a completely different sound. But analog pedals often give you a more intuitive and more direct control over the sound. So it's a trade-off. Sound-wise, I think digital equipment has come a long way in sounding really good and authentic.
TR: What made you choose to do the covers on your album? I love your version of "Disease".
MM: Thank you very much! The songs that I chose are songs that I personally like a lot. I'm a huge Matchbox 20 fan, and I would love to meet Rob Thomas one day and have him sing on one of my songs. Anyway, since I don't trust my own singing, I decided to use my fretless bass for the melody and tried to emulate the feeling of "Disease" that way.
For the other songs, I wanted to present a variety of styles and playing techniques, so I picked songs that would reflect this effort. I'm also a fan of shredding guitars, so I decided to cover "King of the Monsters" by Racer X, who have Paul Gilbert as their guitar player. I played the song on my six-string bass and covered it note-for-note, only one octave lower.
TR: It was great! I loved it. One of my faves on the album.
MM: When I was done recording, I got the idea to email Paul and ask him if he would like to play and record his solo for my record one more time. My plan was to pan his solo on one side and mine on the other and have a unison bass-and-guitar shredding solo. However, at that time Paul was just getting ready to go on tour and didn't have time to record. But he listened to my demo and wrote back: "You don't need me. It sounds good as it is." It was the best worded rejection I ever got!
TR: Where did "Stages of Ages" come from? When I hear a song like this, I imagine a man trying to make up his mind about the directions in which his life is going. Something bad or good happening - creating a turning point.
MM: That's a very close interpretation of what I had in mind. I didn't think of one particular moment, but more a journey through someone's life. But it could also mean contemplating and looking back at your life, or looking ahead, planning and making up your mind, as you said. That's the beauty about instrumental music, it leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation.
TR: Simpsons fan too, are you? Loved your cover of the Main Theme! What made you decide to include it?
MM: I'm a huge Simpsons fan, although I don't watch it a lot anymore since I quit subscribing to cable or satellite TV. Too many commercials and too little quality content. But I love the humor and the wit that's behind the show. Also I admire well-established film composer Danny Elfman, the writer of the Simpsons theme, and his unique compositions. There's a certain quirkiness in his music that you would not expect from a mainstream composer, but it totally suits the themes of the shows he's composing for.
TR: Tell us about how it was recorded.
MM: I had a lot of fun transforming the orchestra arrangement onto different bass tracks, and I ended up using 23 tracks to emulate the different orchestra instruments. For instance, I used distortion and a pick for the fast violin runs, and my fretless bass for the horns. It was a lot of fun figuring that out.
In 2006, Fox held a competition among 16 Springfields across the United States to host the American premiere. Each Springfield produced a film, explaining why their town is the "Real Springfield", which was decided by a poll on the USA Today website. I got contacted by a representative of Springfield, Oregon who told me that they were using my version for their film. I was very proud of that, especially since the creator of the Simpsons, Matt Groening, is from Oregon.
TR: Did yours win?
MM: Unfortunately the most votes went to Springfield, Vermont, with "my" Springfield being close behind. I was bummed, but Matt Groening later admitted that the one in Oregon was in fact the Springfield that had inspired him.
TR: I wanted to switch gears here and ask a few questions about your recording techniques. There’s been somewhat of a resurgence in vinyl recordings lately.
MM: I still remember riding my bicycle to the record store to buy new records, and I have a fond memories of vinyl records. Listening to music back then was almost like a ritual, having to flip the record, dusting it off and keeping the needle clean, and really being able to study the artwork of an album cover and actually read the lyrics and the liner notes. I have good eyes, but the size of CD booklets can be a pain when you want to read the text or study the artwork.
TR: I heard that! Would you record an album on vinyl, using little or no digital processing?
MM: I am happy that there's new recordings that are being released on vinyl, and I can imagine to release a vinyl record myself. I don't know if I could completely refrain from using digital processing, especially since most recording equipment these days is digital. But depending on the music I wouldn't have a problem steering clear of digital processing and just record analog, as pure and unprocessed as possible. I think recording a jazz concert and releasing it on vinyl would be fun.
TR: Where do you think the processing of recorded music can go from here, technology-wise?
MM: Technology is a tool that supports my creative process, but making music itself is still a craft that has to be developed and maintained. Technology should never replace practice. That being said, as long as you have your playing down, technology can be a fantastic creative instrument in itself that can help you to express your ideas and experiment with sounds that would otherwise be very difficult and expensive to achieve.
TR: Such as?
MM: I'm thinking of a leslie effect for instance, which can sound great for guitars and which is easily available as plug-ins. That's great, because how many people do actually have one of those beasts at home?
MM: But back to your question: where do I think technology can go? I think the sky is the limit. There are fantastic companies out there that are allowing people to bring their music to a totally new level. I think the creative processes of composing, recording and performing will grow together, thanks to technology. Many DJs are already using computers to create new songs on the fly during their performances. I think this principle will more and more be adapted by live musicians.
TR: Talk about the difference between creating music live on stage versus your studio work.
MM: I love working in the studio, and I'm lucky I get to spend a lot of time there. I do, however, do a lot of my studio work by myself, in my own studio when I'm recording bass tracks for people that send me songs over the internet, through my Studio Bassist website. I enjoy working in the studio a lot, and the process of creating audio tracks gives me a sense of achievement. It's also a very controlled environment in which you can work on the music until you are completely satisfied.
TR: I sense a "but" coming.
MM: But...it can get lonely sometimes. Playing live on the other side comes to life from the interaction with other people and the moment itself. It is often very spontaneous, and you never know exactly what to expect. That's the beauty of it. My best days are when I have spent the day working in the studio, and at night I am playing a gig. That's when both my desires are being fulfilled, my passion to record and my love to play out live and interact with other musicians and the audience.
TR: How did you become involved with Gregg Bissonette and Mattias Eklundh?
MM: One day I was browsing through the internet and accidentally stumbled across Gregg's website which had a little link saying "Hire Gregg for your CD". I knew of Gregg ever since he was playing on David Lee Roth's records "Eat 'em and smile" and "Skyscraper", which were very influential records for me; after all Billy Sheehan is my biggest influence, and those records were my introduction to him. So now I suddenly saw the chance to work with the same drummer as Billy, which was very exciting. I was thrilled when I received an answer from Gregg only a couple of days after I had contacted him, and he said he was going to play on my record.
TR: Were you pleased with what he brought to the table?
MM: Gregg totally brought the songs to a new level, he has a fantastic feel for music and a fantastic groove, and he made my songs really come alive. So this is how I ended up recording an album with Gregg Bissonette. By the way, meanwhile I have actually played on two records with him; my good friend Ralf Jung, who works as a worldwide clinician for DigiTech, recorded his own solo album "The Art Of Pop" a few years ago, and while asked me to play the bass parts, he asked me to get him in touch with Gregg for the drums. Gregg again agreed to do it, and so Gregg and I played together on Ralf's CD. It's a fantastic melodic instrumental rock album, in the style of Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson.
TR: And Mattias Eklundh?
MM: Originally I wanted to make "Bass Invader" a bass-and-drums-only album, but then I heard Mattias on a Favored Nation (Steve Vai's record label) compilation CD, and was intrigued by his unique sound. He has his very own technique of creating ultra-high harmonics by hammering the strings with his left hand and then use the tremolo bar to bend the notes, and it sounds like he uses some kind of a sound processor, but he doesn't.
MM: When I met him in person at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt, I had the idea of having him on a couple of tracks and feature his outstanding technique on my CD. I always try to push the limits on what you can play on a bass, and he does the same thing on guitar, which is why I related to him. I asked him to play on my version of YYZ, but to put his own fingerprints on it, which he totally did.
TR: We posted that video some time back on Thunder Row. I loved it!
MM: Some Rush fans might not be too fond of that, but I like it a lot and it turned out exactly as I was hoping it would.
TR: How was Bass Invader recorded? Did everybody record their parts separately and then send them for mixing?
MM: The whole album was recorded in 5 months, between January and May 2005. Back then I was living in Munich, Germany and had a recording system set up in my apartment. I composed and recorded the songs at the same time; when I had an idea I would record it right away and develop the song based on that idea. I would also program the drum tracks on my computer to have something to play along with. I would work on one song until it was finished, and then move on to the next one.
TR: At your own pace and when the inspiration hits.
MM: It was a very easy process, and it felt very natural. When I was done recording the songs, I separated the programmed drum tracks and the bass tracks and sent all files over the internet to Gregg and his brother Matt who, besides being an amazing bass player, is Gregg's recording engineer. Matt's house in Anaheim, CA is where one of Gregg's drum kits is set up and miked all the time, for recording sessions like these. Gregg played on the songs after my tracks were already recorded, and so I was astounded when I received the real drum tracks and heard how organic his drums would blend with my bass tracks. It was like we had played in the same room at the same time.
I also had sent the two songs I wanted Mattias to play on, "YYZ" and an original song called "Bee On Speed", to his house near Gothenburg, Sweden which is where he recorded his guitar tracks. He then sent me his files back and I put those into my recording program. Again, I was extremely pleased how those tracks would fit into my arrangements. When I had all tracks together, I went to Frankfurt, Germany where my brother Frank works as a recording engineer, and who mixed and mastered the CD. So it has been a remote recording process which was mainly possibly because we have the Internet. I feel very blessed that such a thing is possible.
TR: I love the theatrical depth of your songs. You seem to have a soaring imagination when it comes to composing for the bass. Where do you get your inspirations? What’s going on in your head when you sit down to compose?
MM: I can work very goal-oriented, so when I say "Today I am going to write a song", I can generally come up with something. I usually sit down with my instrument and jam around until I come up with a lick or a riff that I like, and then develop something based on that idea. What I come up with however is usually inspired by something that is happening in my life or around me.
TR: I've heard that from many musicians...that they are not so much inspired by other artists, but what they see and what they're going through every day.
MM: If I watch an interesting movie or listen to a documentary, that might set the mood for what kind of music I write. I'm getting my inspiration from all sorts of things, I try to be very open minded and am eager for knowledge. So the inspiration doesn't only come from music, but pretty much from everything that happens in my life. This is what I then try to project onto my music.
TR: Which musicians have influenced you most in your playing and composing?
MM: When I started playing bass, I was mainly influenced by Billy Sheehan. I liked his melodic playing, his energetic sound, and the way he presented the bass as an equal instrument and not just a "big low-sounding guitar in the background". I studied particularly his tapping technique and his three-finger picking, and I implemented those things in my own playing. I also admire Level 42's Mark King a lot, who is a master in slapping. Unfortunately my talent in this field is rather limited, so I could never get anywhere close to his performance, but I admire everybody who can swing a serious thumb.
TR: Who else?
MM: When I think of other names, I of course admire Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, Jaco Pastorius, Pino Palladino and then many others I can't think of right now. Every time I see bass players, I watch them play and make sure I learn something from them. When it comes to composing however, I can't really name one specific influence. I like listening to different styles of music. To me it's very important that a song touches me. Also if a song strikes me as being catchy, I analyze it to find out what makes it so, be it a pop, rock, jazz, funk or classical tune. Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to watch too many other composers work, so I just do what's in my heart and try to come up with something I don't mind listening to even a few days later.
TR: Do you have a musical mentor?
MM: I am a self-taught musician who has been studying other bass players mostly from records, videos, live concerts and books. I wish I would have had a mentor, but the opportunity didn't present itself unfortunately. Nowadays, I think I would consider former Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth a mentor, since I had the chance to closely work with him on three tours so far. He has given me some very useful tips on my playing, not so much technically but more on the overall approach towards music and the spiritual aspect behind it. He is most definitely a major inspiration.
TR: Is anyone else in your family musical?
MM: My parents don't play any instruments, but my brother Frank plays guitar and keyboard. I started playing flute when I was 6, and nagged my parents to buy me an acoustic guitar when I was 8. By the time I was 10, I had saved up some money, and Frank talked me into buying an electric guitar. My parents and I went to the music store and bought a black Stratocaster copy, but the result was that my brother kept playing that electric guitar almost all the time, so I couldn't use it.
TR: You had been hoodwinked.
MM: Of course I would complain about it to my mom, but it didn't help much. A couple of years later however, my brother joined the military and used the first money he made to buy me a white Squier Precision bass. He brought it home and said: "Here, try this out." I think he wanted to form a band and was trying to make me his bass player. But when I took the instrument and started to play it, I instantly fell in love with it and wouldn't put it down anymore for anything except sleeping, eating and (reluctantly) going to school. So even though he tricked me into buying an electric guitar for him, I am extremely thankful for guiding me to the bass guitar, since there's enough guitar players out there anyway. (laughs)
MM: I then took a couple of bass lessons in a local music shop, but my teacher didn't play bass but guitar, so I would usually just jam with him for until I decided I was not really getting my money's worth. After that, I mostly played along with records and experimented to see what sounds I could come up with. When I was 16 I started my first band, and never stopped playing with other musicians since. Playing with others is, in my opinion, the best school of music you can get, since making music is a social event and a form of communication. I think I learned the most by watching and playing with other musicians.
TR: You're from Germany. What are the biggest differences between music in Germany and North America?
MM: I would describe Germany as being a musically divided country. There is one half -- usually more the older generation, although there's a retro-movement of younger folks -- that is very much into "Schlager music". That is the German version of easy-listening music, sometimes even country-ish, with German -- and usually kitschy -- lyrics. Then there's the other half that prefers more modern-sounding, often US-oriented music with English lyrics. This description of the German music scene is certainly a total generalization, and there's lots of smaller groups that prefer some completely different styles, but for the most part that's the gist of it.
TR: Which were you?
MM: I always belonged to the second group and have been into American rock music. I probably grew up listening to a lot of the same music that many American kids grew up with, and I wanted to move to the U.S. ever since I was a teenager, so I am very happy to be living there now. After living in the States now for a while, I've noticed a huge variety of musical styles, actually a much wider one than in Germany.
TR: Why do you think that is?
MM: I think that is because the U.S. is a land of immigrants, and every culture brings their own music with it. So I think there is a broader variety of music in North America than in Germany, which is very interesting and educating for me as a musician. But I do also still follow the German music scene.
TR: Any one in particular?
MM: My former band Eisbrecher is experiencing a significant amount of success now, which I am very happy about. They're still mostly known in Europe, but they have been signed by Sony Music recently, and went on tour to support Alice Cooper. Their sound is comparable to Rammstein, a new kind of Heavy Metal with German lyrics. I don't listen to that style of music a lot, but every once in a while I do enjoy putting a record of either one of them on. Then of course there's the Scorpions, that have been the most successful German band, and a staple of my music upbringing. We had most of the Scorpions records albums in our household when I grew up, and I remember playing along with their songs.
TR: Let's talk a bit about gigging. Ever have a bad gig?
MM: My worst gig was actually one where I didn't even play, at least not for the majority of the gig. It was my first real out of town gig, a big religious convention in Berlin, and I was 16. I was playing with a church band and choir, and we pulled up in front of a big church to play a service in front of about 1,000 people. We all helped unloading the equipment from the bus' luggage compartment, but since I had my two basses in gig bags, I had left them inside of the bus to pick them up later. After we had the equipment inside the church I wanted to go back to pick up my basses, but I noticed that the bus was gone.
MM: It was not allowed to park in the nearby area, so the driver had to find another spot and wait to return after the gig. This was before cell phones were around, so we had no idea where the driver went and how we could get ahold of my instruments. So I ended up having to watch my band play without me, while the keyboard player tried to pick up the slack for me as good as he could.
TR: How did you feel?
MM: I was devastated! The bus driver then arrived about 15 minutes before the service was over, so I ran inside and grabbed one of my basses, and was at least able to play the last 2 songs along with the band.
TR: Lesson learned?
MM: Always know where your gear is, and always ask for the bus driver's phone number.
TR: Best gig?
MM: That is a more difficult question to answer. I have played a few gigs with some fantastic musicians that were very inspiring and lots of fun. But I think the single most emotionally touching gig was with my former original band, What4. We were booked to play at a big street festival, and we had a prime time slot at 9pm on a Saturday night. The band was still quite unknown, but we had a little following of local fans that would usually show up at our gigs, and so they did that evening.
TR: How did it go?
MM: As the gig went on, we got a progressively bigger crowd. Then at one point we played a song that I had written, and that apparently must have had a chorus that is very easy to remember. Because when the chorus came around the second time, almost the whole audience started to sing along the lyrics. I got the goose-bumps and had to concentrate very hard to stay focused on playing. It was the first time that I heard a crowd sing a song I had written, and it made me extremely proud.
TR: The audience plays a big role in making a good gig. What else comes into play?
MM: I wish there was a recipe for a good gig, then I would apply it every time I'm playing (laughs). But seriously, a good gig is usually a combination of many little things falling into place. The sound is right, the band has a good energy, a crowd is present and receptive, and everybody has a good time. It doesn't mean nothing goes wrong; sometimes it's even a little incident or mistake from which you recover quickly and without much fuss that makes a gig a very positive experience. On the other side, a bad gig can seem like a good one on the outside, but it's the little things that drive you nuts. You have problems with your equipment, there's be a constant feedback through the monitors, you keep missing cues or someone in the band just can't keep their head straight. It's usually a strange mix of things that determine whether a gig is going to be good or bad, and it's usually the things that are out of your control. The most important thing when playing live however is to be well prepared. That way, whatever happens, you will always be able to say that you did your best.
TR: Which people (that you have not played with) would you like to team up with?
MM: I have two guitar players on top of my list that I would love to play with: one is Steve Lukather and the other one is Paul Gilbert. I'm a huge fan of both of them, and I would love to jam with them, or even better go on a tour with them. Or who knows, maybe I will hire them to play on my next CD.
TR: I’m impressed with your recording and performance credits.
MM: I'm impressed too. (laughs) I look at the list of people I worked with so far and go: "Wow, I can't believe I played with all these great people." Many of them are heroes I've admired since I started making music.
TR: Which ones stand out in your mind as very special experiences?
MM: It's hard to pick one particular person or incident, since every one of them has given me inspiration. But a very special moment was when I got to play with Walfredo Reyes Jr. (drummer for Carlos Santana, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin and many more). I was working in a music store in Munich at that time and was supposed to mix him during one of his drum clinics. When he arrived I asked him if he had backing tracks he was going to play with. But Walfredo said "I don't use backing tracks. In fact, I usually pick a couple of guys from the music store and jam with them on stage." So it happened that I ended up on stage with him, doing some awesome drums and bass jamming, with a co-worker who played congas. There were some really magical moments happening, and I'm glad I captured that on video.
TR: About your basses. We've had some interesting conversations on Thunder Row about Ritter basses - in particular, the Cora, sister to the Roya. To me, both are flamboyant, delightful creatures. Tell us about your bass of choice, the Roya. What makes this one special to you?
MM: First of all, the beauty of a Ritter instrument is just outstanding. That's what caught my attention when I walked through the halls of Musikmesse Frankfurt in 2004 and discovered Jens Ritter's booth. I wasn't actually looking for a new instrument, since I was playing a six-string "esh" Sovereign bass which I was very happy with. ("esh" is another German brand, that later went out of business due to quality and management problems; the name however has been bought by another company, and now they're available again, and they are great instruments too). But when I tested one of Jens' basses, I realized not only do they look beautiful, but they also play and sound fantastic. Jens and I then had a conversation, and two weeks later I visited him in his workshop, which is only 10 miles away from where I'm from. So being from the same area, we instantly had another connection besides our fascination for basses.
TR: How did this meeting go?
MM: We talked about my requirements, and Jens showed me the different models that he builds. Even though I was very intrigued by his extravagant designs like the Jupiter or the Raptor, I decided to go with the Roya shape, since it was to me the most versatile shape and suitable for most musical styles. Also, since I needed a bass that could optically fit in with the different acts I'm playing with, I decided against using one of his very beautiful colors or finishes that usually make his basses even more spectacular and asked him to use his "Futura" finish, which is a matte black. After we decided on the specs and he started building it, I would stop by his workshop every once in a while to document the creation of my instrument. I took pictures of the different stages of the building process, from the bare wood to the soldering of the electronics, to the finished instrument. The whole process can be seen on my website; in the "Gear" section is a link that says "Bass in progress".
TR: I've seen it. Beautiful!
MM: Just to observe the creation of your own personal instrument makes it very special, but more so since it just completely supports me and my playing style. Jens really regarded every request I had and built the bass exactly how I wanted it. So it plays great, and every sound guy loves the clarity and precision of the sound. I feel very blessed to be able to play his instruments. And we have a very nice collaboration, as I keep providing him with feedback about my basses which hopefully contributes to further improve his instruments.
TR: Improve? On those beautiful Ritters? Can that be done?
MM: In fact, in 2007 I asked Jens to build me a Roya 6 string bass, but with the fretboard width of his 5 string basses. It was planned as more of a solo instrument, on which I could play chords or some shredding solo lines with distortion, but also to be comfortable just playing bass lines with the wide register of a 6 string without the intimidating neck width. Jens was a little skeptical in the beginning, but he decided we would give it a try. When he was done, we were both excited about the result. The bass plays extremely easy, skipping strings is super-fast due to the narrow string spacing and the narrower neck even makes playing long gigs easy.
TR: Okay, maybe it can.
MM: In 2008 I brought that bass with me to the NAMM show in Anaheim and played a few demo shows at the Ritter booth. Between the shows I would just put the bass on display between his other basses. I would then usually just wander around through the halls and go exploring. One time when I came back to the booth, Jens came up to meet me and said: "Phil Lesh from Grateful Dead is playing your bass right now. I hope you have no problem with that?" I said: "Sure, that's great." When I walked up to Phil, he looked at me and said: "Is that your bass? This is the best playing 6 string bass I have ever tried". Jens then told me that Phil is going to order one of his basses, with the custom string spacing that I came up with. I felt very honored, and we took a couple of pictures together. Later I found out that Jens had built a total of 10 signature Phil Lesh basses, named the "Eye Of Horus", with the same neck width as my six string that he had tried.
TR: I am shocked! To me, the Eye of Horus is one of the best basses in the world! Very impressive that you played a part in its design.
MM: It's an amazing feeling that I was able to inspire a true legend.
TR: No kidding! And what about your Ibanez?
MM: The Ibanez acoustic bass is a solid instrument that I bought at the peak of the whole "Unplugged" wave. You just had to have an acoustic bass as a bass player, and the Ibanez was what I went with. It was more a budget decision than anything else, but it serves me well and it sounds actually really good. I modified it a little bit and installed a Fender thumb rest above the E string, since I didn't know where to put the thumb of my right hand when playing the E string (on the electric bass I usually rest it on a pickup).
TR: I have after-market thumb rests installed on both of my Ibanez basses too.
MM: I should actually tell Ibanez about that idea, since I think it's quite useful.
TR: What’s your preference in stand-up basses?
MM: My stand-up bass is nothing special, except that it's white. After I moved to the U.S., I realized that I needed to expand my repertoire and have a stand-up bass to get traditional jazz gigs. That's why I went ahead and purchased an inexpensive bass to get me started. Luckily I bought it in a store that is owned by a good luthier, and he did a great job in setting it up. I then installed a Schatten active pickup, and that was it. If I get to buy another stand-up bass however, I will probably buy a Chadwick folding bass. I visited Charlie Chadwick last year in Nashville, and I was amazed by his concept. His bass literally sets up and breaks down in less than 3 minutes and fits into a case that's not larger than a standard suitcase. Whoever traveled with a stand-up bass before will know what a pain that is, and will appreciate the concept. And the basses sound and play fantastic too.
TR: What about the rest of the rig? Amps, cabs, etc…
MM: I am lucky to be partnering with some really fantastic companies whose gear I'm using. I use Gallien-Krueger amps and cabinets, Line 6 effects, Elixir strings and cables and Gator cases. I've been very happy with all those companies, and we maintain a very fruitful partnership. It's important for me to play and promote brands that I really support, and I have declined offers from other companies that had offered me endorsements, either because it would not have been any improvement or because their products didn't resonate with me. Besides, the companies I work with supported me from the beginning and were very helpful, and I feel loyal to them. My gear changes occasionally, but I usually list my current set up on my website.
TR: You’re playing in Las Vegas now. What’s that like?
MM: Las Vegas offers a lot of opportunities for musicians to work. There's still many places that have live music, even though it's not as many as there have been, but the ones that do actually pay fair rates. A while ago I had also passed the audition to join the cast of Cirque du Soleil, but I haven't started playing shows with them yet.
TR: What sorts of shows are you doing?
MM: I am playing in a couple of bands, ranging from the jazz trio I have with my wife, Kai Brant, over top 40 and rock. I perform mostly in the lounges of the casino hotels on the strip. It's fun work because the people in the audience typically come into town from all over the world to have a good time. So the people are usually in a good mood which makes playing a lot of fun. Many musicians I know have moved from California to Las Vegas because there is more work and the living expenses are so much lower.
TR: Tell us about the new CD you’re working on. Your wife is on board.
MM: Right now my wife and I are finishing up her new jazz CD called "The Way You Look Tonight". Kai has a very delicate and touching voice, and it's a pleasure working with her.
TR: What's the album like?
MM: We chose 10 jazz standards and arranged them to support her sultry voice, and I also had the chance to finally utilize my fretless bass again, since I had neglected it a little bit in the past. I played fretless bass on all the songs. After that CD is released, which will be this summer, we want to focus on our original project in which we will synergize our interests and talents. Me, coming from a rock background and being a technical player, while my wife is a singer-songwriter, a producer and programmer, should result in a very interesting mix. We call the genre we are seeing ourselves in "Cyber Rock". More info and hopefully some samples should be available very soon.
TR: What else do you have going on right now?
MM: There's my instructional book that I've started working on a few years ago, based on the songs of "Bass Invader". The book is planned to be catering to the advanced bass player, and I will be explaining the different techniques that I'm using, like pinched and hammered harmonics, three and four finger tapping or chord playing.
Working on the book is unfortunately not progressing fast enough, due to my other commitments, but eventually it will be done, ideally in combination with an instructional DVD. I also usually announce all releases in my newsletter which can be subscribed to on my website. Every subscriber also gets a free mp3 of one of my songs, and I also give out other free songs, behind-the-scenes videos and other perks to my subscribers. It's a great way to stay in touch.
TR: Thanks for talking with us, Martin.
MM: You're quite welcome.
Readers, make sure you visit Martin's Website, and check out his YouTube Channel. Lots of great videos!
Okay...since you insist, another couple of videos...
This next one features Martin on his white upright and his wife, Kai Brant, on vocals.
Bass Invader is available on Martin's website. A list of other dealers is available there as well. It's a great album - I highly recommend it.
© 2012 CL Seamus for Thunder Row