Having survived the recent SBL Study Piece Challenge, Taylor Lee tells Nick Wells how he did it.
In our regular feature we’re going to be shining a light on a select few SBL students. Throughout the year, we’ll be catching up with a diverse set of breaking and established talent to air their thoughts and experiences about bass playing, tunes and music in general from their own vantage point. Want to join them? If you're studying with SBL and would like to share your experiences, then please don't hesitate to CONTACT US.
Talor Lee - Flamethrowers Rock!
So how did Taylor Lee enter the murky world of bass in the first place, we ask? Taylor: “When I was in Junior High a few of my good friends started playing guitar and my Dad told me that I should play bass, since my friends would soon be needing some low-end support! So I started playing pretty early on, but I didn't begin practicing seriously until High School.”
Based on mighty riffs from frontman Joseph Darbonne and the bass manoeuvres of Taylor, Flamethrowers remain among the hardest-hitting rock bands in Louisiana, especially if you catch one of their live shows. “We tend to play stuff faster and more aggressively than it might be on the record,” says Taylor. “That often necessitates filling in some of the empty spaces with the bass. If you ask the guys in the band they'd probably say that I play too much!” “Joining the SBL Academy has helped me TREMENDOUSLY. I have never in my life felt this productive or focused as a musician.” Taylor has also been entertaining the SBL Campus of late with his study piece that focussed on Weather Report’s Havona. “I probably first heard that track in High School,” says Taylor. “It was immediately my favourite song on the album. It blew my mind and transcribing it for the SBL Study Piece Challenge has only deepened my appreciation for it.” And the secret of getting to grips with Jaco’s iconic bassline? “Transcribing it is really the best way to get a sense of just how jam-packed with ideas that bass part is. The solo is amazing and I could go on and on about it, but even the groove parts underneath the other soloists are incredibly inventive while still sounding totally in the pocket and tasteful. I think there's a really compelling argument to be made that it’s Jaco's best work. Everything that people love about him is in that song.”
Check out Taylor’s Study Piece Challenge: "OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE (Havona-Weather Report)"
What do you remember about your first bass?
It was a black and white P-style bass that I borrowed. I can't remember what brand it was, but I know it was really hard to play! The action was insanely high, and I remember feeling like the whole thing was just way too big.
How would you describe your playing style now?
I'm not sure I have a style, but I tend to approach playing bass in an improvisational way. I try to keep things interesting for myself by trying to find new rhythmic or harmonic approaches for certain bass lines. I’m also a big proponent of rhythm section interplay, so a lot of what I like to do in a band setting revolves around exchanging ideas with the drummer or the guitar player.
Tell us about your band - flamethrowers.
We're a cover band that plays a wide variety of material. Our "gimmicks," I suppose, are that we have been blessed with a lead male singer who is a gifted vocal mimic and can sound like anyone, and a female vocalist who is real powerhouse. We try and do our own take on material that isn't super obvious or standard cover fare, but that people recognize and enjoy. We are based in Louisiana, which is absolutely riddled with casinos, so a lot of our gigs come from there, as well as weddings, private events, etc.
What are the main challenges for you as a bass player?
I struggle with my right hand technique and I often find myself trying to play something that should be easy, but sounds all wonky because my fingers get confused. In fact, when working on Havona I had to make really detailed notes on my transcription about what licks to play alternating and what licks to play raking because my fingers just did not want to take one approach all the way through. So that's something I've been working on. I'd also say that staying focused and practicing in an efficient and consistent manner is a huge challenge for me. I've always had a very difficult time sitting down and practicing scales, arpeggios, and other theory-oriented things. I tend to drift off and noodle or just put on a record and jam along. Joining the SBL Academy has helped me TREMENDOUSLY with this, however. I have never in my life felt this productive or focused as a musician, so I am extremely grateful for that.
Who are your favourite bass players?
The first bass player I ever became just totally obsessed with was Flea. In fact, when I first started playing, about 70 per cent of my practice time was spent learning Chili Peppers songs. In High School I got really into fusion and progressive rock, so my favorite bassists were Geddy Lee, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Jaco. These days I tend to gravitate towards the newer school of players: Matt Garrison, Janek Gwizdala, Evan Marien, Hadrien Feraud. I’m also a huge fan of any rock bassist that approaches the instrument with some harmonic sophistication. The bassists from The Strokes and Queens of the Stone Age are absolute masters of moving beyond the root note while still holding it down. Little Sister by QOTSA is a really good example and one of my all-time favourite bass lines.
Tell us about your bass gear…
I use a GK MB Fusion 800 head, GK Neo 4x10 cab and American Deluxe Fender Jazz. It's the one they released in 2011 with the '75 styling, so it has big block inlays and the old-school Fender logo. I love it, but man is it heavy!
How do you unwind?
Spending time with the wife and our baby girl, reading and playing bass!
What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
I also teach High School English, so I suppose I’d do that!
What’s been the best thing about 2017 so far?
Being with my daughter and watching her grow. She was born in November of last year, so this has been a very baby-centric year, which has been a blast.
And the worst
The Trump Presidency and its associated terrors. That and getting bit on the finger by what I think was a hornet. I had no idea that could hurt so much!
Check out Taylor Below
and... over at http://flamethrowersrock.com/
To join Taylor and our other amazing students within the SBL membership click here and grab your 14-day free trial today.