Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bass-Playing Döpplegangers: 10 Questions for Judd Fuller and Mick Hargreaves

Judd Fuller (Nashville, TN) and Mick Hargreaves (NY, NY) are bass playing brothers-in-arms who've never met in person. Through the modern day miracle of "social networking" they becamoe aware that they both favor four-string basses with flatwound strings, like the same types of music, enjoy a nice tasting ale, they both shave every bit of hair off their heads, and doggone-it, they actually look similar.

It is only fitting that we put ourselves head-to-head (pardon that particular pun), posing "Ten Questions for The Bassist":

Judd w/ Thunderbird Bass
1) What song or artist whomped you so hard over the head that you foolishly decided to pursue music for a living?

JUDD FULLER (left): Sometime in '76, I first heard "Tumbling Dice" by the Stones....I had always loved music and particularly The Beatles, but hearing the Stones on my friend's car stereo made me have a fit and re-think my life decisions. I promptly quit the wrestling team ( I was a sophomore, and probably on my way to a decent high school career ), and devoted even MORE time to smoking pot and playing in garage bands. Damn you, Keith Richards!

Mick w/ Lakland Duck Dunn Bass
MICK HARGREAVES (left): Surprisingly, not the Beatles. It was NRBQ. I heard their "At Yankee Stadium" LP, then saw them live a few times and I was hooked. I particularly dug the sounds Joey Spampinato got from his basses, which were mostly Danelectro's and Jerry Joneses. Flatwound strings, pick, thumb, and finger technique. Their fans comprise one of the coolest musical "cults" around.

2) Who would you cast to play you in the movie of your life story?

JF: I'm gonna say Russell Crowe. He's kind of stocky, but not weight-lifter stocky, I think he likes beer, but is possibly willing to work out hard enough to burn off the previous night's 12 pack, plus he plays music. I just feel this one. Though at this point he would have to shave his head. I think he'd be OK with it.

MH: Why, Judd Fuller of course. He's got the looks, the ability, the sense of humor, the total lack of hair on his head... He'd be a natural!

3) How did you gravitate toward the bass?

MH: Fifth grade, and they paraded our classmate, Rheinhart Yu (half German, half Chinese) in front of the class to demonstrate the cello, and he smoked it. I mean, he was way beyond what you'd think a fifth grader would be capable of. Afterwards, they asked the class if anyone was "interested" in cello. Sure, I thought, I was "interested" in that, I'd like to find out more about the instrument. I didn't know I was signing up to learn how to play the damn thing! I wound up having an awesome teacher, Mr. Johnson, who sadly later died fishing when his boat swamped off Montauk and he got sucked down to the briny deep in his waders. I also remember somehow agreeing to go for lessons in the middle of the summer when everyone was out having fun. I had this super-hot chick teacher (I was in fifth grade, remember, so that didn't mean a thing), who I walked out on because she made me wait too long one day. That was my first musical rebellious moment, I suppose. Soon, other things (high school being what it is) distracted me away from music, but when I got back to the music, the electric bass was a natural point of return, and I never looked back.

JF: When we were in ninth grade, my friend Tommy Greenwald was playing with some guys who needed a bass player. He played keyboards, we had an afro-sporting white kid named Brian Howard who played a mean Hendrix-style strat, and Eric Michaels who was a good drummer....plus his parents let us rehearse in his basement. I had played a bit of guitar at that point. I tried out by playing bass lines on a borrowed electric guitar. I guess I got the gig. I rode the train in from CT. and bought, with cash pinned to my sock, a Fender MusicMan bass from Manny's, as a birthday gift from my mom. We played dances, battle of the bands, etc., mainly Kiss and Sabbath covers. Brian once threatened to bring in a live chicken and kill it onstage 'cuz we were playing at a rival junior high school's dance and he wanted to piss them off. He didn't. He settled on busting up a lousy acoustic guitar bought for that purpose. Did he? I don't know, you'd have to ask those guys.

4) When did you start becoming follically challenged?

JF: Around age 26. I fought it for a while, and then just arrived at the acceptance stage a lot smoother than I thought. Tried Minoxidil around age 28, but it didn't take. Though to this day, I still have dreams wherein I look in the mirror, have a full, luxurious head of hair, and think, "wow, this is awesome"! And then I wake up. Damn. Plus when I go swimming, I still come out from diving in and shake my head to get the hair out of my eyes....

MH: June 19th 1995. It was a cloudy day as I recall. Actually, I just shaved it all off before work one day and never looked back. The only thing I've ever put on my noggin' is moisturizer. Judd, just think of all the money we save by not having to go to the barber, and not having to buy shampoo or conditioner... and all the time saved by not having to dry the head of hair after showering or swimming/surfing!

5) When loosening cavities is important, what's your bass rig of choice? (Please include amplifier, instrument, effects/processing, and playing style details.)

JF: What's weird is that these days, I don't play an amp on stage. It's all DI. I'm at the mercy of the Front-Of-House engineer. It's a strange Nashville phenomenon. A sterile stage so the singer can hear himself better. I'm not fond of it. BUT: When I did use a rig in Nashville, it was a Genz-Benz 1200 head, Genz-Benz 4 X 10 with deep portals. No effects other than slight compression and EQ. Most important were the thump of the strings....either flatwounds or LaBella tape wounds. And the style of play. My fave influential players: Rick Danko, Paul McCartney, Joey Spampinato from NRBQ.

MH: Ampeg SVT-II rack mount head, plugged into a 4x10 cabinet loaded with Eminence Legend BP102 10-inch drivers (the same drivers currently used in Ampeg's 8x10 refrigerators) and a single 15" cabinet (not certain about the driver, I'd have to open it up - which is on the "to do" list). I'd use my Lakland Donald "Duck" Dunn P-Bass, because it's louder than my 1966 Fender Precision. I normally don't have it in the signal chain, but if I want to ensure the very back molars are loosened, I'd throw in the ol' trusty Boss compressor pedal, with the Monte Alums mods. I'd use a pick for extra attack characteristics. I will say, Judd, our fave bassists are almost identical, and I too drank the flatwound Kool-Aid long ago. We need to get a beer, son.
Mick w/ '66 P-Bass
6) Favorite Bass Player Joke?

MICK HARGREAVES: The kid returns from his first bass lesson and triumphantly announces to his dad  that he learned all the notes on the E string. The next week, he learns all the notes on the A string. The third week, he doesn't come back on time. His dad is beside himself with worry and anxiety. Finally, the kid walks in the door at 1AM and says, "Be cool, daddy-o... I had a gig!"



Judd w/ The right kind of 6-string...
JUDD FULLER:

Q: What is the range of a good 5-string bass?
A: About 10 yards, if you have a good arm.

7) What US state, in your opinion, has the most annoying assortment of roadside billboards?

JF: Tennessee, no doubt. A lot of religious blather on billboards, telling me that "HELL IS REAL", and "JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD", and asking, "Where will YOU spend ETERNITY?" Hey, brah, believe what you want to believe, but keep it private....I'm spiritual, I believe in a power greater than ourselves, no doubt....but I would prefer your beliefs stay out of my life!

MH: I always got the impression that Missouri was the Bible-billboard-belt...

8) What's your number one pet peeve, pertaining to bass, bassists, bass playing?

JF: Dudes that strap their bass up to nipple and / or chin height. Keep it low, with 'tude. It's more important to look cool than to be comfortable. Looking cool is all we got....

MH: I call that the "Herman's Hermit's" height adjustment.  For me... hmmmm... it would be easy to say the fifth and/or sixth strings (I'm a devout four-stringer), but we've all heard that one before, and as soon as I say that, I'll probably wind up on a recording session that calls for a five-string part. So, scratch that. I'd say just a general trend towards overplaying and an inattention to "economy of notes". Guitar players who play bass are often guilty of this.

9) If you were re-born as a bass, what would you be?

JF: One that sounds like a perfect amalgam of all the bassists that influenced my playing. But looks used.

MH: I'd be reborn as the 1961 Fender P-Bass that was stolen from me right out the back door of a club in Hoboken, NJ back in 1991. I was an idiot for bringing that thing out to shows.

10) What's the favorite venue you've ever performed in?

MH: I tend to hang onto the weird ones. So, it's a toss up between Leipzig, Germany and Death Valley, California.

Leipzig is in old East Germany near the Polish border. The Grip Weeds were on tour, and the club was in this giant old subterranean, labyrinthian jail. One can only imagine what went on down there down through the ages. We played what must have been a huge mess hall, with a vaulted ceiling. The kids spoke almost no English aside from "Cigarette" and "American". The show was nuts.

Death Valley... played there twice with Matthew Grimm & The Red Smear in a "town" on the edge of the valley. The town is basically a campsite, gas station and motel that share a water source. "If the water ever dries up, we're finished." Comedian Doug Stanhope and his entourage of beautiful nutcases buy the place out for three or four days once a year and it's completely off the hook. The porch of one of the motel buildings is used as a stage, and at night it's a combination of bands and comedy. There's a ghost town nearby. It's so hot (duh) that people have inflatable kiddie pools in the motel rooms.

JF: I've performed in arenas, stadiums, theatres, huge clubs, churches, and absolute shit-hole bars. But my absolute fave venue I've played in is a little family-owned bar in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, MA., called The Ritz Cafe. For a couple of years I would play every Monday night there with three bad-ass Boston-area players: John Caban (guitar), Brian Alex (guitar), and Tom Major(drums) . We would play funk covers (The Meters, Kool And The Gang, etc., or just funk versions of other people's songs, depending on what mood we were in....never a rehearsal!) and the vibe was just amazing. On Monday nites, the line would be around the corner, Just a bunch of hot, sweaty people dancing, right in your face, and we would improvise, lay-out, hammer it home, do whatever...I've never felt musical energy that thick with either the players, or the people watching and dancing. I miss it!


Judd Fuller playing the Danelectro Longhorn bass with Rodney Atkins
Mick Hargreaves backstage at the Stephen Talkhouse with Junior Brown

2 comments:

  1. Your pictures suck! Can I get a better picture of that Longhorn bass??? :D

    ReplyDelete

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