Offering something a little different at the London Bass Guitar Show this year is Lee Rocker, who you can catch twice over the weekend – on the Live Stage on Saturday afternoon and at his masterclass first thing on Sunday morning.
Thinking of the masterclass specifically, what can we expect to see and hear? “Well, I’ve been thinking about the masterclass quite a bit, and I will be focusing on a few key areas of the rockabilly slap bass style. I’ll start with some right hand techniques and a few grooves, incorporating triplets and dotted feel shuffles, before mixing it up with some half time and double time effects. I’m bringing my long-time guitar player, Buzz Campbell, with me so I can demonstrate all of this as well as take some questions from the bassists in the house. Communication and interaction is what it’s all about, both on and offstage, so I’m looking forward to speaking to a lot of bassists!”
No doubt being an upright player requires a bit more consideration when choosing which gear to bring with you? “My plan is to bring my Lee Rocker Bussetto bass, made by Kolstein Basses in New York. It’s a smaller-bodied instrument with a full size neck that sounds fantastic, and its size means that airlines will accept it as luggage in its flight trunk. I’ve been using this instrument quite a bit lately and I’m super happy with the tone and feel. It has a transducer pickup that really captures the low end and I will have it strung up with a set of Efrano gut strings. This particular set-up really captures the pure roots rockabilly sound better than any I’ve used in the last 30 years. As far as an amp is concerned, I’m hoping to beg, borrow or steal an Ampeg model of some sort.”
With some time to take in the Show and what it has to offer, is there any new gear that Lee is particularly keen to check out? “I always like to look around at new gear and see what the companies are coming up with. The longer I’ve been playing bass, the more I dig trying out new things. You don’t want to get trapped into never finding new things. For example, for more then 20 years, I only played with steel core strings and used a set-up with magnetic pickups, as well as a transducer pickup for the slap sound. I ran them through an amp with two channels and used it as a mixer. I still have and use this set-up on some songs in the studio and on stage, but I recently started playing with gut strings and a fantastic pickup that was developed by Kolstein with a Danish engineer. I like the warm sound and decay of the note with big lows, yet it will also amplify loudly without feedback, something that I didn’t think could happen. So you never know!”
As a player with a big reputation, does Lee have any words of wisdom for bassists out there who may be attending the show? “Playing bass is a joy – it always has been. Driving the band and providing the feel and texture, as well as directing the guitar player or other musicians to sound better, is what it’s all about. Follow your passion, play with emotion and lose yourself in the music.”