Jan 26

The View From Here - Lane Baldwin Interview



As a follow-up to our review of Lane Baldwin's The View From Here, we asked Lane to give us a bit of background into the creation of this amazing Blues collection.


Thunder Row: I understand it took a long time to put the project together.


Lane Baldwin: A very long time. The seed for The View From Here was planted all the way back in 2008, soon after the release of Dig the Hole. My close friend, Polo Jones (a monster bassist, music director and producer), assisted with final financing of DTH and made me promise to talk to him before starting another project. We stayed in close contact, and in 2010 began discussing bringing me out to California to do another CD. It took almost two years to find a hole in his schedule that was long enough for us to do the project. I came to CA in January, 2012, and we began work soon after.


TR: You went a very different direction for this CD. Tell us about that.


LB: Initially, we thought we were going to do a sort of follow-up to Dig the Hole – working with a smaller band, a trio, perhaps with some organ here and there. But as Polo and I went through my catalog (over 60 unrecorded songs at the time, now up to 80 or so), he started hearing ideas that included horns, percussion, strings… all sorts of incredible things! He wanted to show as many sides of me as possible, while weaving a thread through them all.


TR: With such a large catalog of unrecorded material, how did you choose the songs for this CD?


LB: We were looking for a broad view of my writing and storytelling – because they’re all stories at heart. Our intent was to show the listener some of the things I’ve struggled with (had the Blues over) and some of the high points in my life. We chose eleven songs and began work. The 12th track – Spoonful – was an accident. Polo found a hockey stick that had been turned into a one-string bass!



He just knew we had to use it, and we chose Spoonful because it was written by a bassist (Willie Dixon) and was one of Jack Bruce’s signature songs.


TR: How did you choose the lineup of songs for this one?


LB: Imagine we’re on top of a hill, looking down into the valleys below. That’s my life down there, my journey so far. Stand with me, and I’ll show you The View From Here. Over here is my deepest fear: dying alone. There’s my faith that God will guide and protect me. Over that way is how I feel when I’m in love. You see what I mean? You listen to this song cycle and you’re peeking into my life, and my deepest emotions. And, sister, if that ain’t Blues, I don’t know what is! (laughs)


TR: What does each song mean to you?


LB: There’s a reason for every song I write, even the happy, “let’s-go-dancing” ones. Each song begins as a story, one that needs or wants to be told. It’s like the song is banging on a door inside my head, yelling “Write me! Write me!” A lot of the time, it’s almost as if I’m hearing the story for the first time, which can be extremely emotional. They come from somewhere deep inside me, and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m carrying such deep pain until it comes out in one of those stories.


Right now, we’re working on a series of videos to tell the story of each song on the record, and will begin releasing them soon. I don’t want to give away anything yet, so I’ll ask that folks keep an eye out for the videos.


TR: Is there one song that means more to you than the others? A special number?


LB: It’s hard to give you a single song that’s a favorite, because they’re ALL favorites! (laughs) They’re my babies, my children. They are each a little piece of my heart that I’m putting out into the world in hopes that they will be of value to others. Not just as good tunes to sing along to, dance to, all of that. And I certainly hope that a bazillion people will like them enough to buy them! (smiles) But beyond that, I want them to bring something good into the lives of others. Are you heartbroken? I’ve been there, and here’s a song to help you through it. Have a deep-seated fear? Me, too, and here it is. Head over heels in love? THIS one’s for you! Like that…


TR: But there have to be some that stand above the rest, right?


LB: Well, yeah, there are a few.

- Lullaby – This may be the best love song I ever write, because it’s simple, easy to sing, and straight to the point: “Sleep with me, and dream…” Polo did an incredible job producing this one, and I hope the whole world sings it!

- Freedom Train – This one is to honor the slave communities who gave birth to the Blues, and to the parents who put their children on the Freedom Train, never to see them again. “Oh, Lord, I pray my sons will all be free – Sent ‘em down that railroad, so they won’t live as slaves like me.”

- Lay Me Down – the opening track, is a look at my deepest fear: dying alone. “Ain’t nobody comin’ when they lay me down.”

- Happy Boy – Like Lullaby, Polo really worked magic on this one. At its heart, which is the acoustic guitar part, it’s a simple, upbeat Blues tune. But, wow! What an arrangement on top of it! This is what it feels to find the perfect partner. “. . . got the shiny red bicycle when I found you, I’m a happy boy…”


TR: Who are the musicians joining you on the album?


LB: Polo assembled an amazing group of musicians for the project. For me, it was like hitting the big jackpot in the lottery. Local legend Terry Hiatt did much of the guitar work, along with LA monster David Adams. Drums were done mostly by Bryant Mills, who toured with John Lee Hooker for several years. Freedom Train features Abe Laboriel, Jr. – and that’s a real honor, to have Sir Paul McCartney’s drummer on the CD! HUGE honor!! Nate Ginsberg (Larry Graham, Herbie Hancock) did keyboards, as did Danny B., from Sistah Monica’s band. The horns were done by Mambo Tropical, led by Rik Feliciano, and the acoustic parts on Sing Along Song were provided by The Abbott Brothers, a highly-regarded second-generation Bluegrass trio. And that’s about HALF of them! (laughs)


TR: Of course, you played all the bass parts, right?


LB: Actually, I didn’t! Weird, huh? But we had reasons. On Lullaby, what you think is the bass part is actually part of the acoustic guitar track. We de-tuned the low E to D, and that note is equal to the D string on a bass. There is a bass part, but it’s a bowed electric upright in the interlude section, and Polo played it because I don’t really do upright at all, much less bowing. For Sing Along Song, which we did with the Abbott Brothers, Mike Hutchison played upright, and I played acoustic guitar. Other than that, yes, I did the bass parts.


TR: I didn’t know you even played guitar!


LB: I tell people I don’t play guitar, I play around with it. (laughs) But for many years I’ve used it as a writing tool, and in my solo shows. It surprised me more than anyone, as I expected we’d bring in a specialist. Polo just said, “Nope! You’re playing this part. You already know it.” I also played acoustic on Happy Boy, Sing Along Song, and the one we did last Christmas with the Abbott Brothers, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.


TR: What else did you play?


LB: I also played the electric rhythm guitar part on Freedom Train, and a simple keyboard part on Runnin’ for Daylight. Polo really made me stretch, and it was very good for me.


TR: Since we’re a bass-centric site, tell us about the gear you used.


LB: All of my bass tracks were recorded with my Spectors. My main bass is still "The Voice", my NS-6XL, which I’ve had for almost twenty years. I also used my Coda-5, Etta, for a couple of tracks. We ran everything through various Markbass Amplifiers – everything from a 410 and 1200 Watt head, down to this teeny little combo that sounded like a rig four times its size! We mic-ed the cabinet and took a DI out of the head, then blended the two.

I love my Spectors because I don’t have to fuss with eq, either on the bass or on the amp. We did very little eq on the amp, leaving any of that to the outboard processors. Don’t ask me what they were; there was a bank of them, and Polo would choose different units for each track. He did the same for each vocal track, picking the best microphone and best preamps, etc. He made sure every track sounded its best.


TR: You’ve been an avid Spector supporter for a long time. Have you ever considered switching?


LB: Never. Let me repeat that: NEVER. Let me tell you why. When PJ (Rubal Spector VP of sales) sat me down with more than a dozen Spectors one day, every one of them sounded the same – like me. For the first time, I heard in the world what I had heard in my heart for decades. No other instrument sounded and felt so right for me. I ordered The Voice, which is a serious piece of Spector history, on that very day. We’ve been partners ever since.


TR: But other companies have offered you deals. Maybe even free gear?


LB: Yes, they have. And I’m always honored. But there are certain things that just can’t be for sale. Your voice is your voice. And your soul is your soul. You only get one of each. Best not to trade them away, you know? There’s a reason I call that bass "The Voice".


TR: You said you used Markbass amps, but for years you endorsed David Nordschow, first at Eden for many years, then at DNA amps. Why the change?


LB: I discovered Eden at the same time I discovered Spector, and fell in love. It was the other half of the “voice” equation. I promoted them for years before I became an endorser, then eventually worked with David on the inside. After David left Eden, I stayed at his request to assist the other endorsers and end users during the upset. I exited not long after, though, and helped him start DNA.


I still use an Eden head and DNA cabs live, but only until we decide which Markbass rig I’m going to use on tour. Touring and ease of service were the two main reasons for the move, because at this stage of the game, tour support is essential to success. None of that would matter, though, if they didn’t also sound extremely good! From the first rehearsal, I was able to get my tone quickly and easily, without a lot of dial tweaking and fussing. I’m very impatient with basses and amps that require a lot of knob-twisting to get a decent sound. A little finesse is fine, but I’m the kind of person who wants to plug it in, turn it on and go. As I said earlier, we didn’t have to work to find my voice.


TR: What about effects pedals? Did you use any?


LB: There were only two tracks that had effects – an octave in one section of I Miss You, and the fuzz bass in Happy Boy. Both were in Polo’s bag of magic. I did, however, use my pedal board for the tuner and the wireless. I’ve used Peterson Tuners for decades, and have endorsed them for almost ten years. My current units are Stomp Classic models. The wireless is a Line 6 G-50 unit I got in 2010. It’s incredibly clear and dynamic.


TR: Any other essential gear?


LB: DR Strings. I’ve used them exclusively for decades, and have been proud to endorse them for the last ten years. I use Black Beauties on both of my Spectors, and Rare acoustic bass guitar strings on my porch bass. I also use their strings on my guitar. Again, it’s about consistency and tone. I’ve never heard a better string. And I swear by LM Products straps! The attention to detail is incredible.


TR: What about the bass parts themselves? You’re known to have a sort of split personality on bass. On one hand the depth of your groove is well known, but you’re also known for some pretty complex stuff.


LB: Yeah, in this sense, other players are either going to love it or hate it. (Laughs) Like the last CD, The View From Here is mostly straight ahead groove lines. They’re often pretty straight because that’s what works best for that particular song. And to me, presenting the song to its best is more important than bass chops. The beauty is in choosing slightly different approaches to how you write those lines.


TR: What do you mean by “writing” the lines?


LB: When I’m in a jam situation, I’m writing my line as I go. I’m not just tossing licks out willy-nilly. There’s a reason for every note I play. I think it was George Carlin who was quoted as saying that, in the Blues, it’s “not enough to know which notes to play; you have to know why.” There is no greater truth in the Blues and, for bassists, pretty much everything else.


In the studio, it’s even more important, because once it’s done, it’s there forever. When I build a line, I think of the entire song, the ebb and flow of it. On a straight 12-bar, like Big Dog, that means being very careful about where I change the line, so that it adds to the song instead of detracting from the groove. On Running for Daylight, I means staying completely straight for the verses and bridges, then letting loose in a focused manner at the end.


TR: On that one, the bass line at the end is very different from the rest of the song. Why is that?


LB: I didn’t notice it until Polo pointed it out, but flipping things around at the end of the song is something I like to do. Running for Daylight is a great example. The main bass line, the one for the verses, is played claw-hammer style (think finger-picking on an acoustic guitar), has a little chord stab at the end, and is a bit syncopated. For the end, I use the same notes, but lower and heavier. The whole song just drops a bomb for that outro guitar solo, and everything flips. It really underlines what’s happening at that point in the song.


TR: You mentioned complex parts. Can you tell us about some of those?


LB: I guess the most complex part is on Blow Twister Blow. That’s another finger-picked part that’s two parts in one almost. You’ve got a low line and an upper part that flows on top. Plus a chord dropped in on the hook lines. The solo section mimics the intro line, which is based on, but different from, the main bass part. Then the outro flips everything into this cool half Reggae, half heavy, all Blues thing.


TR: What made you decide to do a two-part line?


LB: Polo made me do it! (laughs) It’s actually the acoustic guitar arrangement I came up with when I first wrote the song. As soon as he heard it, Polo said, “you need to do that on bass.” And it was so similar to other things I’ve done before that it made perfect sense when he said it.


TR: What about bass solos?


LB: There’s actually just one bit of a bass lead line at the beginning of I Miss You. But that’s really it this time around. As I said, some bassist will hate me because I didn’t solo more on my own record.


TR: You’re known in the bass community for your unique Blues-based solo arrangements. You even won the Sacramento Blues Challenge on solo bass – which I understand has never happened before. Why didn’t you do more than that one solo?


LB: Well, yes, I was the first solo bassist that ever made it to the finals in Memphis But honestly, we weren’t producing a record for bassists alone. We wanted the record to appeal to as many people as possible, to showcase my stories, not my bass lines. As I said earlier, I choose what to play on bass based on what the song needs in order to be presented at its best. I’m not a fusion or jazz player. I’m a Blues man at heart, and the Blues doesn’t call for a lot of super-flashy bass licks.


Besides, there are so many great players out there already doing that stuff. Folks like Victor Wooten and, of course, Roy Vogt, whom we all know and love. I love what they do, and have enormous respect for both of them, along with a ton of others who do that. But if I’m going to solo, it’s going to sound like a Blues guitarist, only lower. And I’ll only take a solo if it advances the song.


TR: You talk about Polo a lot. How important was he?


LB: It’s not a stretch to say I couldn’t have done it without him. Working with Polo is like working with a smarter, more experienced version of me. He totally gets me, from one end to the other. Not just musically, but everything else I do, the special kind a crazy I am, my vision, just everything. For the recording, Polo handled everything from booking musicians and studio time, to pushing me to be my best, to overseeing every aspect all the way through mastering. He’s also my executive manager, and is putting together my team, and will guide them as we move forward. I have leaned on him far more than he deserves, and he’s always been there when I needed him.


TR: What were the biggest challenges in getting it all together?


LB: You know, it’s supposed to be easy to talk about your project – how it all came together, all of that. And yet, this time around, it’s not a simple answer, even though the question itself is very simple. It took a serious leap of faith to come out to California and bet my entire life’s savings on it. I mean I literally spent everything I had on this venture, and that’s a pretty scary thing to do!


Then, when we realized it was going to take significantly longer than expected, we had to keep faith. 2013 was a difficult year because we had gone well beyond the timeline I had budgeted for. It was hard not to lose faith, but I believed in Polo, perhaps even more than I believed in myself. I knew that if he wasn’t giving up, I couldn’t either.


TR: But then you almost died.


LB: Yes; on the very first day of the year, I got sick, and the ordeal almost killed me. In fact, it did kill me several times as they were preparing me for emergency surgery when the gangrene set in. And that all happened in January! Since then, it’s been a long, extremely difficult road, a serious challenge of my faith and perseverance. I had a second surgery in early May, then was back in the hospital a third time in June due a tear at the surgery site that almost forced me into a second pair of surgeries. I’m still not out of the woods, but every day I get a little stronger and the odds tip a little more to my favor.


TR: That must have been horrible!


LB: It was, and in some ways, it still is. But I’m still here, so I’m looking forward, not back. I don’t want to sidetrack too far, and I’m writing a book and a CD about it all. If all goes as we hope, you’ll see those before too long. For now, suffice to say that God slapped me down harder than I’ve ever been slapped and then challenged me to prove my commitment to the whole thing. Almost like, “prove to me you deserve it and will honor it by doing your part.”


I’ve done my best to do my part ever since. Now, almost eight months later, I’m finally able to work again, and I’m really looking forward to what comes next, whatever it may be.


TR: You're very positive in the face of so much hardship.


LB: (laughs) Well, I’ve sure lived through some Blues, but part of using the Blues to conquer pain is finding renewal and a way forward. It’s something Dad talked about a lot, so it became ingrained in me. “It’s not getting knocked down that defines you, son,” he told me. “It was how you get back up.”


So, at this point, that’s all I know to do. It’s like Stephen King’s anti-hero, Roland, says in King’s Dark Tower novels: you have to “stand and be true.” I just doing my best to do that, to stand and be true.


(Read more about this in Lane's Blog Post)


TR: Excited about the album's release?


LB: To say I’m excited is an understatement. Even without all the upset this year, I’d be excited to put out a project of which I am so proud. Just to have worked with all these wonderful people is like a dream. And I couldn’t ask for a more perfect producer and guide for my career than Polo. As much as I still love Dig the Hole, I’m even more proud of The View From Here.


This CD is such a leap forward for me in so many ways, as a writer, a singer, a bass player and perhaps most important of all, as a person. I feel like I’ve come a lot closer to who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do with this gift we call life. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.


TR: Why aren’t you releasing a physical CD?


LB: There are a few reasons for that. The first is financial; it’s far more expensive to manufacture and distribute CDs than downloads. It’s not hard to get into all the iTunes stores, Amazon, all the rest. But doing it with a physical CD is far more complicated.

The other is that, like it or not, CDs are dying. It’s harder and harder to find an actual CD player. Sure, you can play them in your computer and in your DVD player, but you can also drop the files on a thumb drive and plug that into newer DVD players. Plus, I won’t scream if you burn a CD for your private use. Go ahead and make an extra for your car, if it has a CD player. But that’s another thing. Newer cars don’t have CD players; they have USB ports for thumb drives and phones.


TR: Will you ever manufacture CDs for The View From Here?


LB: It’s possible. We have to do a short run for radio stations and such, so we may make those available on our web site. If we do, I’ll make this promise: anyone who purchases the full album download from CD Baby will have the opportunity to purchase a physical CD if we produce one, at a cost of $5, shipping in the US included. The combined price would be just about the same as if you purchased the CD from the site. So, everyone can get the album now, burn a copy if they need to for personal use, and get the official CD if/when we produce them. I’ll even sign them for the folks who ask.


TR: What’s next for you?


LB: Well, we have a ton of videos to do, and we’re already working on those. If we can pull it off, we’re going to release a single or two in the near future – date specific stuff, such as another Christmas song. And I’m so ready to take this music on tour and let the world hear it! Then add the fact that I’m still alive, still breathing, still able to do what I do, and that just amplifies everything I feel about this CD. And I’ve got to tell you, even after all of it, after crawling through fire, as I call it, you know… the view looks really good from here!


The View From Here is available for download on CD Baby and iTunes.


Check out the latest promo videos on Lane’s You Tube Channel.


For ongoing updates, “like” Lane’s Facebook Page

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They would practice - very loudly - with the windows open and you could hear the music from miles away. It was good times for sure. TR: How did you get the money for your first bass? Job? Parents? Jauqo III-X: I don't exactly remember, but I do know that my parents didn't purchase it for me. I was beyond excited to say the least, but I would kind of down play the excitement. I may have had a big smile on my face for over a year. TR: Are your parents musical? Jauqo III-X: My father wasn’t but my mom has a nice singing voice. She didn't pursue it as a profession, though. TR: What was their feeling about you taking up the bass? Jauqo III-X: They both thought it was cool but nothing has ever really been mentioned much about it. TR: Do you have any siblings who play? Jauqo III-X: I have a younger brother who has a very nice soulful singing voice. TR: Did you start by playing along with the records you loved? Jauqo III-X: No, I didn't take that route. I'm still working on that. I was never so inspired by a killer bass line to actually sit down and want to learn it. I'm more from the school of coming up with my own bass lines. But I do respect bass lines that move me. TR: Lessons or self taught? Jauqo III-X: I'm definitely from the self taught school. TR: Tell us about your first band. Jauqo III-X: My first band came together in 1980. We really thought we were onto something. We were young and just knew we were on our way to some fame and little fortune. TR: And your first gig? Jauqo III-X: That was so long ago that I do not remember. TR: That’s okay. Instead, tell us what makes a show good or bad. Jauqo III-X: A good show is when your heart tells you. A bad show is when your heart reminds you. TR: I like that. Ever have a show that was so good or so bad that it stands out in your mind? Jauqo III-X: There was one gig that was just on point. The room, the players, the vocalist, the audience. Everything was just perfect, if there really is such a thing. TR: What about a bad one? Jauqo III-X: The worse gig I ever did was in 2004 in Detroit. I was scheduled to perform with a female vocalist as a duet. I remember during rehearsals that she always seemed nervous, but I thought maybe it would all come together during our performance. I was oh so wrong. The engineer that night must have felt that she was nervous because I remember him telling her to just relax. When the host called our name, we went into the first song and as soon as the light shined on her, she literally froze like a deer in the headlights. She started struggling with her vocal performance. TR: What happened? Jauqo III-X: We went into the second song and she just fell apart vocally. The host professionally got us off the stage quick. I was so crushed and embarrassed. It still bothers me a little bit to this day. TR: Let's switch gears to something more upbeat. What equipment are you using now? Lay out the entire rig for us. Jauqo III-X: My main amps and cabs are Ashdown. I've been using and endorsing them since 1997. But on occasion I do use a Thunderfunk 750. My main standard basses are Lakland and Xotic (Xotic XJ-1T series). I have sub contra basses made by Mike Adler, Conklin, and Scott Surine, who is the maker of my signature sub contra bass. And Oscar Prat of Prat Basses who is the maker of my latest 15 string. TR: Strings? Jauqo III-X: I have two different signature string series made by SIT Strings . I have a long and great relationship with all of these companies, and would like to thank them all. TR: What motivates you to write music, lyrics? Jauqo III-X: For me, it could be from a conversation I'm having, or sometimes from how the conversation stays with me. Or sometimes it could be from someone who is close to me. But I have to say that honesty really is a big factor. In my lyrics, you really are getting me. Not sugar coated at all. And my lyrics really do tell on me. TR: Do you write better when at peace or when in turmoil? Jauqo III-X: I think it's equal for me. Mainly because of what's going on, I can pick something out of it that may move me or inspire me. And believe me there is a difference between be moved and being inspired. TR: Can you compose when you’re in a bad mood? If so, do you come back to it and change it up when you’re feeling better? Jauqo III-X: I can definitely create while in a bad mood. Being in a bad mood is just another form of having a muse. As far as coming back and changing it when I feel better, not at all, because at the time I'm creating something, that is how I felt and I have to definitely honor that feeling, time and moment. Also because that's how I remember the core feeling behind what originally inspired me, so I am still in that zone. TR: What artists do you listen to for motivation? Jauqo III-X: I don't listen to artists for motivation. But I do like a certain energy coming from music - an energy that's sometimes ferocious and sometimes subtle. But definitely the feeling of the lifeline that music connects the listener to. Depending on the listener of course. TR: Do you compose specifically for the bass as a lead instrument or do you also compose for it as an accompaniment as well? Bass lines as opposed to melodies. Jauqo III-X: I compose from the bass but not always as if it's a lead instrument. Usually as a melody and lead instrument combined. More as if I'm creating on a piano. But I do approach it as a lead instrument when I feel it's the appropriate tool to get the job done. TR: How did you come to meet and get involved with Ornette Coleman ? Give us some background. Jauqo III-X: Well first of all I would like to thank Ornette for all that he has given humankind and to personally thank him for allowing me in his space. Ornette is definitely more than just a beautiful soul. There is not one musician/artist period that has ever moved me musically the way Ornette has. From the very first time I picked up bass, I instinctively felt individuality was the key. And then I came across the music of Ornette Coleman. What’s interesting, even though my father had an extremely diverse Jazz record collection he did not have one Ornette Coleman album. I remember when Ornette performed at the September 1983 Chicago Jazz Fest with his electric band, Prime Time. It was the first and last time that I was ever high - for lack of a better description - from any musical performance. I did not - and do not - do drugs or drink at all. TR: How did the performance move you? Jauqo III-X: Whatever was going on in that music was very, very close to what I was getting from Ornette’s recordings but even more life existing from the live performance. It was the icing on the cake in regards to allowing the music to breathe and allow the movement of the notes to breathe as well, and when all was said and done, let the conversation take on topics of its own choices. TR: How did you come to meet him? Jauqo III-X: After the performance, some of the friends who had been with me tried to get me to go backstage to meet him. They knew that I wanted to play with him, but my attitude was that since he didn't know me, why should I enter his zone? TR: So you didn’t go. Jauqo III-X: No, but the next day I called a musician friend of mine and told him about Ornette’s performance. He told me about a mutual friend of ours - a bass player - who did talk to Ornette after the performance and had gotten his phone number. So I called this friend and asked for it. He asked why, and I told him I had something to offer Ornette. He started laughing, but did give me Ornette’s number. TR: How long before you called? Jauqo III-X: I called Ornette a couple of days later. He answered the phone, and I introduced myself. He was very warm and felt very sincere. We talked about music and life, and music and life, and music and life. Since he was touring periodically, and working on the Song X recording, he told me the best times to call. TR: And of course you did. Jauqo III-X: Yes. I would call him, or he would call me, and we would talk about music and life, and music and life, and music and life! We also talked about the concept I had; he expressed that he felt it was a legitimate concept. He told me that next time I was in New York to give him a call and stop by if I wanted to. TR: And of course you went... Jauqo III-X: About two or three months went by and then I got a call from him. He asked if I would like to come up to New York and play for him. I literally dropped the receiver! When I got my composure back, I picked the receiver up and said, “I would love to play for you!” After his son, Denardo made flight arrangements, I got the info, and about a week later I was on my way to New York to Ornette’s home! TR: Outstanding! Jauqo III-X: I remember telling some of my musician friends that I was going to New York to play for Ornette Coleman. They looked at me. “Who?” But I went to New York, met him and played for him, and the rest is, as they say, is history. TR: But there was a snag in your plans to continue playing for him. Jauqo III-X: I headed back to Chicago, but the plan was to quickly get back to New York. A few weeks after I made it back to Chicago I get arrested on charges that would eventually send me to the penitentiary. While I was there, I would call home, and my mom said that Ornette and guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer had been calling and looking for me - I was supposed to be playing for Blood. I was torn because I was embarrassed, but I had to contact them and let them know my situation. So I called Ornette first and told him what had happened. TR: How did he react? Jauqo III-X: I could hear the sadness in his voice but he supported me and that was cool. Then I called Blood. He too was very understanding and was there in support as well. My lawyer - who happened to be a jazz/classical inspired guitarist - found out through my mom that I was a bass player. She also told him about my connection to Ornette. So I got a lawyer’s visit one Sunday morning, and he told me what my mom had said - turns out he was a huge fan of Ornette’s music! He felt that if I could get Ornette to write the Judge a character letter, it might help my case. TR: So did he? Jauqo III-X: When I got back to the cell block I called Ornette - collect of course - and asked him if he would do it. He agreed. A month later, when I went for my sentencing, the Judge told me he had a letter from a Mr. Ornette Coleman. Then he started on that he, too, was a huge fan of Ornette’s music! TR: Really? Jauqo III-X: He gave me twelve years. He wanted to give me more, but Ornette's letter had influenced him - he could have given me thirty years or more. I ended up doing half of the twelve years. Sometimes I would call Ornette from prison, and we would talk about life and music, life and music, life and music. Ornette is to me what Charlie Parker was to Miles. I felt that Ornette was some one who would understand where I was coming from and he does understand where I'm coming from. But at the same time, we are living in such dark artistic times that the fight to be that artist is bigger than what most could ever imagine. TR: What was the most important thing he taught you? Do you hold his teachings close to you in current times? Jauqo III-X: He enforced in me that I was already on the right track way before I ever met him in regards to individuality and to maintain that individuality no matter what. Musically speaking, he broke down many aspects of his Harmolodics concept. I remember that he would spent long hours at night writing some of his Harmolodic theory down for me to study and do with as I spiritually felt. TR: You’ve been referred to as a player who “pushes the outer boundaries” of the bass. How often do you utilise a reverse posture and “pull back” from the boundaries? Draw away from the edges and use only the simplest voice? Jauqo III-X: I draw away from the edges and use the simplest voice constantly, mainly because I instinctively know when to turn it on and when to turn it off. I have never been a bass player that has given a piece of music more than what it needs, especially when I play behind a vocalist. TR: To create your space and be heard, but not overshadow others. Jauqo III-X: I have learned that what I need to do as a artist is to create my own existence, whether that's playing with others - while maintaining that individuality - and take a stance to be the band leader and have the ability to choose the best musicians for such an endeavor. I think tracks 1,4,5,6,7,10 and 11 on the Valencia Bey CD - where I played bass and composed a couple of the songs - show a very great contrast in how I'm able to refrain from taking things to the edge, but even when I'm playing what can be perceived as minimal, it still can have a edge. On those tracks I'm playing a fretless Lakland 4-94 with custom Bartolini pickups - non stock Lakland Barts. TR: You are credited with being the innovator behind the 15-string bass. What are the engineering complications of making such an instrument? Can you modify a regular bass to it or is it a special design? Jauqo III-X: Before Warrior made my 15-string bass, there was no 15-string bass. Warrior made the world’s first 15-string bass, based off of a idea/concept that I had. I greatly appreciate J.D. Lewis, the owner of Warrior instruments, for being open to allowing me the opportunity for such an oddity to become a reality. And Jesse Blue for putting the pieces together. TR: Tell us about the design. Jauqo III-X: Basically my 15-string is a tripled 5-string, tuned Eee, Aaa, Ddd, Ggg, Ccc - the main string and two octaves each. All the other 15-string basses that Warrior had made later were tuned Bbb instead of Ccc as were the few other 15-strings from other builders that popped up after our Warrior's creation. I remember at a NAMM show I was sitting at Warrior’s booth and members of Korn come by the booth. I remember seeing their reaction to a Warrior 15-string that was at the booth. They said they had never seen anything like it. Almost ten years later Ibanez would build a 15-string for Fieldy. I asked the builder about it and he told me that it was just a 5-string Ibanez and that he had added 10 octave strings to it. TR: What about stringing it? Tuning it? What does a complete set of the SIT strings run you in price? Jauqo III-X: It can be a workout to string it up, but hey, that's the price you pay sometimes for the vision. I use roundwounds, and for each standard string it has two octave strings. It can get pricey. TR: What’s it like to play? Fretting, plucking, etc - the mechanics of sounding the notes. Jauqo III-X: Playing it takes some work. The one that Warrior made for me was fretless so I have to really be on point in regards to not just fretting one note but three at the same time! And that's just from my left hand dealing with the fingerboard. My right hand gets a very well deserved work out as well. Jauqo III-X: Oscar Prat is the maker of my new fretted 15-string, and it is beautiful. The sound is so awesome. It has individual adjustable saddles for each string - something that I didn't have on the first 15-string. Thank you Hipshot for the awesome bridge. TR: And then there’s your other concept - the 4-string bass tuned low C# F# B E. Talk about that sound - how did you come up with it? Jauqo III-X: Well, that came about from my need to want to go lower than the low B. I always felt that need to sit so much deeper in the mix. I had never seen or heard of any one with a C# string. I was working on an F# and a C# string concept before I went to prison, and I worked on it while I was there. TR: Good use of your time. Jauqo III-X: I remember when I got out of prison I contacted Bill Dickens, and during our conversation I mentioned that I was working on a low F# string. He started laughing and said, “I have a low F# string.” Then I said, “I'm working on a low C# string,” and his laughter just ended abruptly. He said, “That is low.” But I have too say that Bill has always supported my low frequency concept. I remember bass players would laugh at me and say that it wouldn't work. But here we are today with companies years later making low C# strings. The first company to make a low C# string was Dean Markely, based off of my affiliation with the company, and Jeff Landtroop and David Brummett, who is a co owner of the Circle K String Company . They were so open minded to such a string that I was and still am beyond appreciation. I was calling the instrument a sub contra bass - not to be confused with the name some call a bass with seven or more strings. My reference in naming it “sub contra” was based of off the contra bass concept - the modern 6 string electric bass - and since I was going lower it only felt logical to refer to it as sub contra. But the strings are just part of the canvass. TR: As with the 15-string bass, are there any design considerations for such low tuning? Jauqo III-X: Yes there are. The first luthier that I approached about my sub contra bass concept was Scott Surine of Surine Basses . Scott listened to me and liked the idea/concept. He assured me that it could be built. Then I went to Bill Bartolini and told him what I was doing and that I needed pickups that would give me a clear open F# and C# frequency and a pre to help make it all the better. I chose mahogany as my body core because of how it emphasizes nice even low end response, and I felt that a maple neck and gaboon ebony fingerboard would help balance it all out overall. And I was right. TR: Does it pick up well on a regular amp? Jauqo III-X: I would respectfully suggest at least 500 watts, for starters. TR: What amp are you using for it? Jauqo III-X: Mainly my Ashdowns and on occasion a Thunderfunk 750. TR: And, of course, your custom strings. Jauqo III-X: The Jauqo III-X Sub Contra signature set. TR: I’ve been enjoying the Low C# Theory album. I’m quite a fan of experimental music and this is really a showcase for that special tuning. Are you planning to record anything new with this type of sound? Jauqo III-X: Thank you. I recorded a CD as a leader with Bernard Purdie on drums and one of the guitarist from the Low C# Theory, Kudzai Kasambira. But I haven't released it yet. I used the same bass that I used on the LC#T, my Adler fretless sub contra bass. TR: Does a bass tuned C# F# B E have applications in not-so-experimental music? How does it sound, say, in Blues music? Jauqo III-X: Yes it does. It really can be used to play in every genre that will allow it. Seriously I have played Blues using it and it is thick as I'm sure you can imagine. TR: Other than the bass, what are your biggest interests? Jauqo III-X: Life, observing those around me and sharing. I really do like to share. TR: Are you involved with any charities or causes? Jauqo III-X: No but I have helped with benefits for friends in need of assistance. TR: What’s coming up for you? Gigs? Composing, etc... Jauqo III-X: I'm always working on something. I'm mostly doing things with my band, The Jauqo IIIX Realty and side gigs and sessions here and there. TR: What are your thoughts about Roy Vogt as a teacher and musician? Jauqo III-X: Roy is a rare talent. I have known Roy for a while and he is equally gifted as a talented bassist and as a teacher. That is definitely a rarity and Roy balances it greatly without trying to. He's just being himself, and at the end of the day that is the gift within itself. Roy is a sincere and beautiful person and we really need more humans like him. I have spent some time with Roy Vogt's Teach Me Bass Guitar DVD set and I would like to say that I honestly feel that it is one of the most well rounded and informative teaching tools for bass that has come along in an extremely long time. Some may feel that it's pricey but it's probably more valuable overall than most schools that have a bass guitar program. TR: How about some words of advice for his students here on Thunder Row? Jauqo III-X: Whoever is given the opportunity to study with Roy - don't just listen to what he says verbally or with his instrument, listen to the things that he doesn't say. Roy is that type of teacher and player. He teaches and speaks through his actions and at any given time those action are multi-tasking to say the least. Again Roy is a true rarity. TR: Thanks for talking with us, Jauqo! Jauqo III-X: You're very welcome. © 2011 CL Seamus for Thunder Row Links: Jauqo III-X Gear Lyrics/Poetry Jauqo's album, The Low C# Theory is available on Amazon as well as other online stores.