Bassically speaking: James Stephens

I try to play only what is needed and only play what is right for the song, even if that means just sitting on root notes. Whenever I get a bit of creative licence to play more expansive bass-lines I always try to create memorable parts that are easy to sing and even easier to get stuck in your head. I am always conscious of not overplaying and I’m a big believer in letting a song breathe and having some space in it. Especially in RABA, as we write beautiful songs with poetic lyrics and it would be absolutely criminal if I started busting out lick after inappropriate lick while the singer is trying to portray the stories in his songs to the audience.

james stephensI occasionally play five-string bass because it gives me more note choices when I’m playing. I don’t exclusively use five-strings, as it depends on the song I’m playing and I don’t always need to play in the lower register. But I sometimes feel that playing the odd note or phrase down low can make a song feel more powerful. Sometimes a four-string doesn’t cut it when you need that extra bit of boom.

The secret of playing bass is to do the simple things well. Things like keeping solid time and locking in with the drummer are so much more useful in everyday gigging scenarios than things like being able to double-thumb or two-hand-tap at 200BPM.

My first bass was an old unbranded half-size bass that I found in my attic. I think my dad had made it when he was younger. It had flatwound strings on it which would slip out of place if they were played too hard. I remember that all electronics broke during one of my first ever gigs, which wasn’t ideal. I’ve still got it knocking around somewhere. When I find the time, I’m planning on taking it to pieces and trying to restore it to a playable guitar again, and then maybe I’ll put it in the attic and wait for my future kids to stumble across it. My favourite bass to date is the Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay. It’s been my favourite bass for as long as I can remember. I just love how effortless it is to get such an amazing and distinctive tone from it. The first bass I bought myself was an OLP Music Man replica, simply because I’d fallen in love with the StingRay but couldn’t afford one. A few years ago I managed to save up enough money to buy myself one, and I adore it. It’s just one of those basses that I’m never going to get rid of and will always use when I get the chance.

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