A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Bass Players

I met Henkka Seppala!

So, last week, wifey & I flew out to Ohio for 3 days to attend the Metal in Strange Places conference at University of Dayton. She spoke on a panel about research in metal studies. Her particular presentation was about using social media for ethnographic research – its a fairly new concept called netnography.

Anyway, on the last day, the final keynote speaker was Henkka Seppala, the bassist for Finland’s Children of Bodom. Apparently he’s an academic too, with a master’s in political history from University of Helsinki that he earned while touring the world – he spoke about studying on the road, writing his thesis during downtime between performances, and a lot more.

Here’s the sole picture I took with Henkka. It was at Oddbody’s in Dayton, for the conference aftershow. He played bass with Forces of Nature, one of the local Dayton acts – doubling with their bassist. As per the blog’s name, I’m the ugly one on the right. 😉

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Its Hug a Bassist Day again!

hug-a-bassist-day-10-12-2Its that time again folks. Forget the holiday season. October 12th is Hug a Bassist Day!

Give yourselves a hug, and if you’re inclined, take a solo!


Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) – Collected interview snippets

In my previous post about Jo Bench, I spoke about a dearth of information regarding her bass background. Since then, I’ve scoured the internet to find relevant interviews and articles about her that have some of that info. Here’s what I found:

  1. Jo Bench interview by Chazz and Lork K Philipson for Global Domination (from Bolt Thrower website)
  2. Bolt Thrower Interview – Leviatan Metal Magazine
  3. Cvlt Nation Interviews Bolt Thrower
  4. Eternal Terror: Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) – I’m self-taught (fantastic bass info!)
  5. Tartarean Desire: Bolt Thrower interview

A website from the Netherlands called Kmachine had the following snippet about Jo:

She plays bass on all albums but not on the demos. She was asked to join Bolt Thrower when her then long-time boyfriend Gavin Ward had switched from bass guitar to guitar. She is one of the few women playing in a ultra-heavy death metal band, besides bands as Delirium, Mystic Charm, Achrosticon (all three Dutch), Runemagick (Swedish). And she is at least one of the first. She is from Leamington Spa. Jo has been a vegetarian since 1984.

The following sections summarize snippets of information about Jo related to music, bass and social politics. At the end of each piece of information, I’ve included a number in parenthesis that denotes which of the five interviews/articles (listed above) that it was taken from.

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Jo Bench (bassist for Bolt Thrower)

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Those of you who are death metal fans know that Bolt Thrower retired last week. Its been a year since the passing of their drummer, Martin Kearns (Kiddie), and with that, they’ve finally laid down their instruments together.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that their bassist, Jo Bench, is one of my favorite low-enders. Her style is relentless and unstoppable. Whenever I talk about her with people, I end up comparing her to a steamroller, flattening everything in her path with the riffs emanating from her bass. She’s not flashy, but her groove and sensibilities mesh with Bolt Thrower’s playing so seamlessly, it makes me tear up. The duo of her and Kiddie are one of my favorite rhythm sections in metal. When I think “driving rhythm” in metal, they’re one of the teams that always come to mind.

Jo is one of the first women to gain prominence in death metal. She might actually be the first. While editing my wife’s thesis on women in extreme metal, I learned about classifications of women in metal from scholars such as Sonia Vasan and Deena Weinstein that placed them into two main categories, one of which flaunted their sexuality or gender difference to find a place in the scene and another of which adopted more “male” trappings and behaviors to fit in. I think Jo fit into the latter more than the former – although she might have somewhat sidestepped the entire issue of being a “woman in metal and/or rock” by being a musician first and woman second, when conducting herself both on- and off-stage for Bolt Thrower.

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Jimmy Blanton – pioneering jazz bassist

Jimmy Blanton with Herb Jeffries & Duke peeking in 1941

Herb Jeffries sings in 1941 with Jimmy Blanton on bass and Duke Ellington peeking out from behind.

Enrique Quique Fabrega has been posting jazz bassists from A to Z on the Bass Blogs FB group. The other day, he shared Jimmy Blanton. I only just got to read up on him and listen to the track he shared, and wow, I love his sound. This is what he posted (the middle 2 paragraphs are from Wikipedia):

Jazz bassists from A to Z. Beginning with letter B we have the legendary Double-Bass jazz Master Blanton(Jimmy).Jimmy Blanton was the Father of the Double-Bass as a Solo instrument!!! There is virtually NO bass player that hasn’t study Blanton solos, compositions, technique and voice on the instrument. All bass players today are in DEBT with Mr. Jimmy Blanton. Blanton IS the first true master of the jazz Double-Bass. Blanton is credited with being the originator of more complex pizzicato and arco bass solos in a jazz context than previous bassists. 

Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Blanton originally learned to play the violin, but took up the bass while at Tennessee State University, performing with the Tennessee State Collegians from 1936 to 1937, and during the vacations with Fate Marable. After leaving university to play full-time in St Louis with the Jeter-Pillars Orchestra (with whom he made his first recordings), he joined Duke Ellington’s band in 1939. 

Though he stayed with Ellington for only two years, Blanton made an incalculable contribution in changing the way the double bass was used in jazz. Previously the double bass was rarely used to play anything but quarter notes in ensemble or solos but by soloing on the bass more in a ‘horn like’ fashion, Blanton began sliding into eighth- and sixteenth-note runs, introducing melodic and harmonic ideas that were totally new to jazz bass playing. His virtuosity put him in a different class from his predecessors, making him the first true master of the jazz bass and demonstrating the instrument’s unsuspected potential as a solo instrument. Ellington put Blanton front-and-center on the bandstand nightly, unheard of for a bassist at the time. Such was his importance to Ellington’s band at the time, together with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster _ Verve Records , that it became known as the Blanton–Webster band. Blanton also recorded a series of bass and piano duets with Ellington and played in the “small group” sessions led by Barney Bigard, Rex Stewart, Johnny Hodges , and Cootie Williams in 1940-41. 

In this video we have a Great Jazz Duet between Duke Ellington – Verve Records and Jimmy Blanton performing Pitter Panther Patter.Enjoy!.

And here’s the track:

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Lemmy

Lemmy passed yesterday. He turned 70 on Christmas Eve and was diagnosed with cancer the day after Christmas. Two days later, he had succumbed. I read a statement from Motorhead earlier this AM. They’re not going to continue without him, which makes sense, because Lemmy was Motorhead. My Facebook feed was absolutely flooded with news, because I’m on a bunch of bass groups as well as metal groups, so it was a double-whammy. I really love that he was universally appreciated. No one had anything negative to say about him. All acknowledged that he wasn’t the most technical bassist, but he was a genuine human being. He had a dependence on chemicals and alcohol – which I think might have been more of a personality dependence and lifestyle choice than actual substance addiction, but he still spoke clearly about people and really didn’t condescend or slander. He really was the living embodiment of rock & roll.

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Alex Webster & Steve DiGiorgio

Had to fan-gasm. This showed up on my FB. Alex Webster just posted a pic of himself with Steve DiGiorgio. That’s 2 of my favorite bassists in one shot.

AW & SD

Also – am I the only person not on Instagram yet?