4 May 2014
Andy Irvine was in town for a bass workshop for Warwick. These workshops are commercial events, of course, held at a store and telling good stories about whatever products, but they can be informative and they get you up close to a decent player. Andy Irvine is an experienced studio muso with an obvious pedigree as a working muso with chops and a range of styles under his belt. It's something I admire. And Warwick instruments are deserving of some good press. I came latish so ended up sitting front row, very close. Australian audiences tend to be quiet, so Andy ended talking lots but with a philosophy that I can only agree with. Here are some ideas. Musos are sometimes like horses with self-imposed blinders (thus limiting themselves - it's a great image). Respect traditions, know their strengths and play them right ("Do what it calls for"). Blues and country are often denigrated; it's hard to resist temptation but embrace simplicity, have discipline. True masters are master listeners. There's synergy in parts, so music requires compromise; it's a fine art of collaboration. Collaboration requires etiquette. It's a team sport and we can only effect out part ("Take care of our side of the street"). Every style has its own sophistication, is equally valid; what matters is to "feel the muse". Tone is available through technique, and these are dialects of the language (slap, thumb, fingers over neck, pickup, bridge, etc). And to end: Learn the rules, of course, but then break conventions ("rage against the machine") because that's how you get innovation. All good advice. I would have liked to heard him play more. He has big hands that pretty much smother a Warwick Thumb bass and he delivers great tone with slap and finger and thumbs nicely merging. And Warwick, of course. He mostly spoke of the factory. Son of Framus (that's interesting); located in East Germany; the importance of wood and some of the processes; the approach to Chinese build for the Rock bass series; interestingly, their respect for the environment. I didn't know that the bright yellow frets are bell bronze and it's very hard so long lasting. I also learnt about tigerstripe and black ebony for fingerboards and I can now recognise wenge. Also that they produce 80-100 basses per month in the German factory, so it's not a behemoth producer. All interesting and entertaining, at least for the collected bassists at the event.
Pic by Alec Coulson for Andy Irvine