Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kevin Chown - 10 Questions

Main Projects:
Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats (founding member), Tarja Turunen, Bleeding Harp, Cosmosquad

Tony Macalpine, Full on metal, burlesque upright, Chuck Berry. Lots of progressive rock records.

1.) How did your bass journey start?

I grew up in the UP, in Escanaba. Both my parents were musicians and teachers so I was around music 24/7 since day 1. In junior high, I started listening to The Eagles, Zepplin, watching Don Kirshners Rock and Roll Hour and it was about the time MTV started and the first music videos came out. I knew I wanted to be in rock and roll. I loved the music and the people have always just felt like a natural extension of the environment.

I grew up among the artistic types of the world. Lots of people who are amazing musicians and total cultural misfits. Since there weren’t a lot of bass players, It was easy to find gigs.  I started working as a professional musician when I was 15, in a popular local band called Tyrant. It think I did that for a year, then formed my own band. While I was in high school, I already had my own bands, trucks, light shows, and booked my own gigs at bars all over the UP and Wisconsin. I guess this was back in the day when it was OK for a kid to play at a bar and judge wet t shirt contests in Manitique, but that's how it all began. To be honest, the shit I do today on the road is not a whole lot different than what I did right at the beginning.

My senior year of high school, one of my teachers played me “Some Skunk Funk” (live) by the Brecker Brothers and then decided that I wanted to learn how to play like that……….and after I saw one of the groups from Wayne State perform for a student assembly, I wanted to go to Wayne State. I have met such amazing people like Dan Pliskow and Matt Michaels and had class mates like my good friend Brian Lord, Chris Codish, Dale Grisa and a long list of Detroit music anchors, all still doing it to this day. I had a good generation of talented people around me. I even had THE John Sinclair as a teacher!!

While I was playing jazz in college, I still wanted to rock so I played in a few great bands around Detroit which eventually led me to my first NAMM show which led to my first endorsements, which led me to meet Jeff Kollman, who had a band called Edwin Dare in Toledo that I joined my last few years of college. We had some amazing times, and of course I still work with Jeff to this day. I’ve always had my feet in the world of jazz and metal at the same time. But to be direct….. my bass “journey” started the first time I heard Led Zeppelin.

2.) What was and do you still have your first bass?

I honestly can’t remember the make! I think it was a JC Penny special that I bought for $150 WITH a Kustom Padded Amp (silver), AND a bass balls pedal. I have no idea what ever happened to that stuff and it still makes me mad. Especially the classic bass balls. I used my church confirmation money to buy that bass rig!!!!

My first decent bass was a black Kramer p bass copy, then my first REALLY nice bass was a Spector NS2. I regret selling it. I’ve kind of become a bass hoarder ever since. Had many thru the years. Ken Smith’s, Fender, all of which I still have.

3.) Who influenced you most?

Bass player wise? John Paul Jones, James Jamerson, Geezer Butler, Anthony Jackson, Gary Willis. And early on when I played 6 string maybe John Pattitucci.

Life wise? My dad, who is still a great working musician at age 84 and my mom. My brother Mark is the first one that gave me cassettes when I was REALLY young. My sister Amy took me to my first rock concernt.

4.) What are your favorite recordings?

I like such a diverse question……. hard to answer, but since this related to BASS, lets look at it that way.

My personal favorite bass tracks that really changed my life are simple. Jamerson on “What’s Goin On”, John Paul Jones on “The Lemon Song” and “What Is And Should Never Be”. For a little more obscure stuff, check out Anthony Jackson on Michel Camillo’s recording of “Caravan”. And for you total bass geeks, check out John Patitucci’s “Our Family”. AND, I’ll never forget the first time I heard The Brecker Brothers “Some Skunk Funk” (live). I also think Sinatra/Basie “Live at the Sands” is one of the best of all time, as well as Beatles “Abbey Road”, Donny Hathaway “Live”, Mark Mikel “Idiot Smiles” and AC/DC “Highway to Hell” are a small snippet of the best of the best. I wish I had a recording of the best live CONCERT I ever saw, Brecker-Metheny-Goldings-Stewart, live in Warsaw in the late 90’s. THAT blew my mind.

5.) What do you enjoy most about bass?

I like how its the roots that holds it all together. The punch. The power. The sex. But also the simplicity. The space. You are making the listener FEEL the music, literally. And you hold the whole show in the palm of your hands with a good groove, if you have the patience to stick with it exactly, over and over, making it hypnotic.

I enjoy being an interactive person who focuses not on impressing anyone but on supporting everyone. I recently received one of the greatest compliments of my life which was RIGHT in line with what I shoot for…… Alex, the guitarist in Tarja said that he loved playing with me because “I create a carpet of confidence”. So that is my new motto. I try to “create a carpet of confidence”.

6.) Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?

Left to right: Chad Smith, Ed Roth, Jeff Kollman, Kevin Chown.
The Bombastic Meatbats
The Meatbats for sure. It’s a band. We’re all friends. Over the course of the band, EACH of us has been through some amazing times, good and bad. We all have done gigs in a gazillion places to bring to it. Its us just having fun, not trying to do anything other than be ourselves. A typical meat bats writing session is show up an hour late from the set time, then eat burritos, tell stories, laugh, then jam hopefully with the tape running, and it just falls out of us. When you are good friends with your creative cast of characters, you just let it happen. Its magic. Had some fun subs for Chad too, among them Kenny Aronoff and Matt Sorum and we did a thing earlier this year with Steve Lukather as a member OF the meat bats. Such a trip to have that happen. He was one of my idols as a kid.

Edwin Dare was an amazing band. I love working with Tarja and everyone in her band a GREAT deal. They have all become good friends of mine. Im a lucky man to have worked with so many amazing people.
Tarja Turunen and Kevin Chown

7.) Do you have a “go to” bass for recording or live use?

My main bass for years has been my Red late 90’s Ernie Ball Music Man 5 string. A few years ago, picked up a 76 original year pre Ernie Ball 4 string that completely RULES and its kind of becoming my monster, beside it. I have some early 60’s Fenders, a 62 Hagstrom, the flat black Ernie Ball Music Man is my raised “night wish tuning” metal bass and sounds killer. I have a blond 5 EB/MM with flats that I use with Bleeding Harp. The flats on the EBMM are really, really cool for the blues tone. All cobalts for rock, standard EB’s for the Meatbats.

Kevin's late 90's Stingray 5

8.) What effects do you use?

Line 6 G50 wireless, Cheap ass Digitech bass overdrive, all the Markbass pedals, Boss octave, Digitech synth bass, Boss EQ, Ernie Ball volume.

I keep it pretty simple. If I don’t need it, its not used. typically live, only distortion and an octave pedal.

9.) What is your signal chain, from the bass to the board (live and recording)?

I split the signal chain up to create two different tones. My signal chain would be:

A good power source. (Please throw away the radio shack adapters)
G50 wireless, into the tuner. (I use that as my mute for bass changes).
Tuner (mute output) to Countryman DI (this sends constant clean tone to front of house but allows me to mute it)
Countryman output to Distortion first always
Distortion out to octave and then anything else in line, etc…..
Final signal sent to amp on high quality cable for second tone……..either mic the amp or use a radial box from the speaker output.

I hate the sound of right off the distortion box bass into a DI. I’d rather send clean tone for my main tone thru a good DI. FOH needs your core tone to not change to keep the mix together. This is for all styles of music. You are the glue and can’t be changing your tone all the time and expect the band to sound good. The B-A-S-S needs to be the B-A-S-E. Sometimes I hear a show, and I see a guy step on a pedal and they get lost in the mix. OR they get so loud that the bass is turned down, then the whole show sounds like shit. Keep this simple. Admit that your main tone should simply be into a DI. The pedals are to create a second tone thru the amp to bring it up a notch that builds on the solid clean tone you already are sending, not takes away. And most importantly, it creates a consistent tone for FOH to mix. That is the SAME for every show. (this is important if you are playing on an in ear monitors based tour. Your tone is being pumped into others heads.)

Also, big trick for me is to use the EQ on your bass itself wisely. On my MM, I usually run Bass-mid-Treble flat….. maybe kick up some lows, to get my basic tone. I try to leave myself some room so that during the show, I can make some adjustments EQ - wise, right on the bass. If I don’t think its booming, I turn up my lows, not cutting, the mids, etc…… don’t make the mistake of always having everything on the bass turned all the way up. This all has only been figured out with a few years of doing this!!

It’s the same principles apply to studio recording. Always get a solid DI tone. The amp tone is the flavor. I do a lot of re-amping, for sessions, but that's a whole other conversation, as is performing with passive, not active basses. If you start a conversation of how to create a tone, there are so many things to consider I can’t really say I always do it one way or another.

If I only have one channel however, I do exactly what I said above, only NO DI, and I take the signal from the DI out on my Markbass head. If you are running distortion on a single send, don’t overdo it. My goal is ALWAYS to make my tone EASY TO MIX. If you want to do yourself a favor, just take a simple mixer, take the DI out of your amp with no speakers so you hear what you are SENDING. Your tone could be perfect on stage but absolute crap direct. Do you know? So many dudes overlook this!! Have some knowledge of your tone as its being sent, not just whats coming out of your speakers. This is what will make you get better recording tones as well. And DO NOT be cheap on the cables. REAL good Mogami style cables do sound better. The G50 Line 6 wireless that I have is by far the best. I was at their factory last week and lets just say the next generation will blow you away even more.  And, do the basic maintenance on your basses, clean the pots, etc…… a little goes a long way. Don’t show up with broken gear. Its like going out on a date without showering.

10.) Do you have any advice for young players?

My advice? GIG. Play with people MUCH older than you are. Let them pull you up a notch. Become friends with someone that you know that has a band that plays gigs where you can go sit in and learn and also meet people. Learn the catalog of songs that is rock and roll. The Beatles, The Stones, Sabbath, Santana, Metallica, but also Chuck Berry!! The real roots. Then learn all music, right up to the present. Learn more every day. Whatever genre you are attracted to, become an expert at it. Learn about tone. But above all, don’t play too many notes. Take a simple bass line. “Skin Tight” by Ohio Players. Repeat it over and over with a metronome and make it sound better and better without changing a note, just make it feel better. Don’t make your limited practice be wasted working on things that will never make you a better player. In your free time, talk about music. Listen to music. Play with dynamics.

I don’t know what else there is to say!! Other than have fun!!! And if you have an audition, show up like you already have the gig, the parts perfected. And if you are serious about this, know that you are about to enter a life that is of amazing fun and insanity that you will have fun but its more work than you can ever imagine. And always will be.

Chad Smith and Kevin.  The Bombastic Meatbats

Jeff Kollman and Kevin with The Bombastic Meatbats

On tour with Tarja Turunen

Thank you Kevin, for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions!

Look for Kevin on tour with The Bombastic Meatbats or with Tarja Turunen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DBP T-Shirts - 100% Cotton T-shirts in men's and women's sizes!

You have missed your chance to order.  



The shirts are made to order.  I do not buy a load of shirts and sell them.  I take your order for whichever shirt(s) you want, you pay--in advance--using PayPal, then I take all the orders to the printer at once.  This means you will have to wait a bit before you get your shirt.  This is the way I have always done it. The hundreds of members, proudly wearing their DBP shirts, all ordered theirs the same way.  Please be patient.  I will keep everyone informed on the Detroit Bass Players group page (www.facebook.com/groups/DetroitBassPlayers/).

You do not need a PayPal account to order!  The checkout process allows for you to use whatever method of payment you choose.

No pick up service will be available.  Every order will be shipped to the address provided through PayPal.

Shipping is $5.50 for the first shirt, and and additional $1.50 for each additional shirt--up to $12.00 for five and up.  If you want to order more than 7 shirts, you'll need to place two orders.

**No international orders will be accepted. The shipping rates are extremely high.**



Men's Shirts

Size chart below.

Women's Shirts

Size chart below.

I am not in the T-shirt business.  I get these made for the Detroit Bass Players facebook group members.  I do my best to provide good quality shirts at a reasonable price.  I do my best to get the shirts shipped quickly. 

Thank you for making sure you read the entire page!

Craig - Detroit Bass Players

Friday, June 27, 2014

Bass Day 2014 – United Sound

This year, Detroit Bass Day 2014 will be held at United Sound System Recording Studios (USSRS).  United Sound was chosen for its long history in Detroit. 

Once a year, the #DetroitBassPlayers group meets to take a group photo.  What started as a simple “meet and greet” has become “Detroit Bass Day” with the help of Kern Brantley and friends putting together a themed concert.  This will be the second year the concert runs in conjunction with the gathering.  Last year’s concert was a tribute to James Jamerson that included performances by several prominent touring and local bassists. The Jamerson family also attended.  This year is a tribute to Funk, to be held inside Studio A at USSRS.  We’re hoping to make Detroit Bass Day an annual tradition. 

There will be various prizes given away throughout the event.  All prizes have been donated by our most gracious sponsors: GHS Strings, Hipshot Products, PickGuy Custom Picks, and GruvGear.

The Detroit Bass Players raffle is free to all members.  You will get a raffle ticket when you arrive. Various promotional items, in gift bags, will also be given to attendees.  Supplies are limited.

A 11" by 17", limited edition, Bass Day - United Sound poster will also be available for purchase. Price to be determined.

The gathering starts at 11:00 am on August 9th. Doors open for the concert at 1:00 pm.  We would love to see you! 

You do not need a ticket to attend the Detroit Bass Players meeting, outside United Sound.  You will, however, need a ticket for the concert.

TICKETS AVAILABLE at DetroitBassDay.com

Press Release:  

Join famed Detroit musician Mr. Kern Brantley and friends honoring funk music pioneers like Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham and George Duke. 

This year #DetroitBassDay will take place at the legendary United Sounds Systems Recording Studio home of the late great Don Davis as well as George Clinton and P-Funk Labs. The day’s events include performances from an elite group of bass players, all whom have been inspired by the hypnotic groove of the Funk and stay on the One. Detroit Bass Day 2014 will “tear the roof off the mutha sucka...”

TICKETS AVAILABLE at DetroitBassDay.com

Welcoming Special Guest - Bobby Vega:

Detroit Bass Players is proud to announce special guest Bobby Vega will be appearing at the Bass Day 2014 event! He's not just coming to play; he's coming to hang out with everyone!

Bobby is a recording artist, clinician, and product representative. He has performed and recorded with Tower Of Power, Sly and The Family Stone, Etta James, Jefferson Starship, and many others! We're looking forward to having Bobby play a tune in the Bass Day 2014 show!

We would like to thank EMG Pickups for sponsoring Bobby's trip to Detroit.

Huge thanks go out to our friend, Rene' Santiago, for his help setting this in motion.

Bass Day 2014 Performing Bassists:

Kern Brantley , Emily Rogers, Nate Watts, Lamont Johnson, Ralphe Armstrong, Brandon Rose, Lonnie Motley, Wendell Lucas, Brad Russell, Craig Skoney, Micheal K. Fredricks, Ivan (Big Ive) Williams, William Pope, Goldie Glenn, Lone Wolf, Bobby Vega, Larry Lee, Craig Shephard, and Edward Tony (T-Money) Green.

The Band:
Eric Gaston, Kevin Ritter, Kevin Carter, Alex Goss, Brandon Blane, Ladarell Sax, D.Love, Paula, Tosha O, Donna, Donal Ray, Lola George, Keithe John, Curtis Boone, and Gwen Foxx.

Get ready for some of the baddest funkin' bass players in the city to converge at the laboratory of the notorious Dr. Funkenstein!

TICKETS AVAILABLE at DetroitBassDay.com

• 11:00 The Detroit Bass Players meet in front of United Sound Systems
Recording Studios
• 12:00 The Detroit Bass Players group photo shoot.
• 1:00 Doors open for Meet and Greet with a “round table discussion” Tours of the historic United
Sound Systems Recording Studios
• 2:00 Awards, Speeches and Acknowledgments: (a small tribute to the passing of Don
Davis and co-founder of Bass Day Yvonne C. Butler)
• 3:00 The Tribute to the Funk Concert (featuring the performers listed above)
• 5:00 Grand Prize Raffle. There will be smaller raffles throughout the whole event from our
most appreciated sponsors.
• Special Invited Guest Appearances: by Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Amp
Fidler, Luis Resto and Jeff Bass.
• 9:00 Official After Party and Open Jam.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Major 7 Fingerboard Pattern Exercise - Eddie Kohen

Detroit Bass Player Eddie Kohen.
Detroit Bass Players is proud to welcome Eddie Kohen as a columnist. This is Eddie's first of (hopefully) many installments in a series of exercises to help improve your knowledge of the bass.  Thank you, Eddie!

So, until I can figure this video stuff out I thought I would try to write out some fun exercises to stay busy during this beautiful weather.  If this is familiar it can be made as challenging as you like, I will explain at the end. This is an exercise that will quickly improve your ability to recognize chord shapes wherever you are on the fingerboard. For the first part of this we will do Major 7th chords thru the circle of 4ths (all keys).

There are 3 common patterns that use 3 strings, forward (starting with 1st finger), middle (starting with middle finger), and backward (starting with pinky). You should try starting the etude with each pattern so it varies, you will pick the next pattern by finding the next closest root.

I'll get ya started with the middle pattern, as it is common. Ascend then descend:
C (2nd finger, 3rd fret A string) E (1st finger, 2nd fret D string)
G (4th finger, 5th fret D string) B (3rd finger, 4th fret G string) 

Next chord F (forward pattern):
F (1st finger, 1st fret E string) A (4th finger, 5th fret E string)
C (2nd finger, 3rd fret A string) E (1st finger, 2nd fret D string)

 Next chord Bb (forward pattern):

Next chord Eb (backward pattern):
Eb (4th finger, 6th fret A string) G (3rd finger, 5th fret D string)
Bb (1st finger, 3rd fret G string) D (4th finger, 7th fret G string)

Continue on through the circle of fourths using the described patterns:
  • Ab (middle pattern)
  • Db (middle pattern)
  • Gb (forward pattern)
  • B (forward pattern)
  • E (backward pattern)
  • A (middle pattern)
  • D (middle pattern)
  • G (forward pattern)

You can make this more challenging by ascending the first chord then descend the 2nd and so on. This is one of many permutations that can keep this interesting. Of course, we will move on to other chord types. In just one week, this will drastically improve your ability to quickly recognize chord shapes on your fingerboard. So, go on! Do It! :)

Eddie Kohen currently teaches at Motor City Guitar, Monday through Thursday. He can be reached directly at 248-880-0042.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shawn May of May Custom Basses

In the basement of 312 S. Ashley, in Ann Arbor, is the dusty, slightly cluttered workshop of Shawn May of May Custom Basses. You might describe the shop as "lived in".  To me, it looks like a guitar bomb exploded.  My favorite kind of place! There are basses here and there, all at different stages of completion, as well as pieces and parts waiting to be used for the various projects. Several wood working machines fill the room.  Wood blanks are stored on a rack in the corner. Figured wood veneers are leaning against a table in the front of the room. Twelve Foot Ninja is playing on the sound system.

Fred Robinson's May SC5 (single cut 5-string)
When I arrived, Shawn was fine tuning Fred Robinson's (aka Detroit Bass Player Freddy Rodriguez) single cut 5 string.  A beautiful bass!  A tweak here a little filing there. Freddy plays the bass. Shawn tweaks a little more. Freddy plays for a few minutes while Shawn heads outside for a break.  Back to tweaking then playing...  There it is! Ready to go.  Freddy smiles as he says goodbye. Another happy customer!  

Shawn moves directly onto the next project. He tells me  the next customer will be there soon. He jokes and says "I need to make it look like I'm doing something". Watching him work, I can tell Shawn isn't one to sit idle in the shop.

Shawn is now carefully sanding a nice flame maple body that belongs to only the third bolt on bass he has been asked to build. He says it's the first bolt on bass to have the LED side markers.  He never stopped working as long as I was there.

This is the bass Shawn was working on, during the interview.

*You'll have to pardon my amateur attempt at interviewing.  This is my first face to face.  I didn't write out any questions, so I'm 'winging it'.

DBP:  What got you started, as a luthier?

SM: I wish I had a more involved story.  It started with a book. When I was in school, my step-mom would go to the library. She was an avid reader, and when she went to the library, she would be there for hours, so I'd have to find something to keep myself busy. I found the music section of the library. I'm poking through and I found this book titled "Make Your Own Electric Guitar". I had been playing about a year or so, but I was really into reading Bass Player Magazine.  I was up on all the builders and being 17, I really couldn't afford anything and there's this book about making your own electric guitar or bass. You know, I'll try it and see what happens. I've always been more on the artistic side doing hands on kind of stuff, so I started building this bass. My buddy had a table saw and basically just enough stuff to start it.  It was kind of slow progressing, because I didn't really know what I was doing.  That's when I lost interest for a while. There was a lot of other things going on with high school and I started working... But the interest was always there. I kept pursuing it and pursuing it and I was about 22 or so when I got my first one together.  It turned out a lot better than I expected.  That gave me more confidence to try another one and all of a sudden I get a phone call "hey, I heard you're making basses".  Wow!  You want to pay me to attempt to make you an instrument?! Cool! And that's it.  Here I am 36 instruments later.  That's not a lot, but it's a good amount.

DBP: Give me an idea of your build process.

SM:  After the woods are selected by the customer, all the wood has to be cut and glued together.  I have templates for the bodies.  They're all cut out by hand. Nothing is machined. I can't stress that enough.  Not that I have any issue with anyone [using machines to cut their instruments]. If that's their thing, that's their thing. Some people use CNCs (Computer Numeric Control [Computer controlled milling machines]). In time, when my back gives out (chuckle), you know I'll probably end up using a CNC, but until then, this is the creation for me. Like right now, my legs are killing me (Shawn is kneeling on the shop floor), I'm half way done sanding this, my arms are going to be 'noodley'. But this is what I like. It's like therapy.  I can just shut everything out and focus on what I'm doing, listen to some music... Next thing you know, it's done! 

*There is a brief break in the interview when customer Michael St. Antoine arrives. It is Michael's bass Shawn has been sanding as we were talking.  A testament to the quality of May basses, this is Michael's second May bass. 

Michael St. Antoine's new bass with the stain applied.

DBP:  Talk about your bass, Michael. What do you like about about May basses?

MSA: I'd say the main thing is the feel. You could spend $10,000.00 for a 'custom' off the shelf, but I like how this guy just knows how they should feel. The sound is up to you, though.

*Note: Shawn is not only a builder, but he's a player with some major label success. 

SM:  I don't really play much anymore. I'm usually building.  I'll always own an instrument, but I don't even own one of my custom basses, because I'm always making them for other people. (Shawn does have a fretless May Bass in process for himself.  He works on it if there is time.)

DBP: Let's talk about choosing the wood.  Is it a customer choice? Do you choose?  Do you have recommendations for specific woods? Do you think wood affects the tone a lot or do the strings and the pickups matter more? 

SM:  It all depends on the person.  I start by asking “what does the customer want?”. Are you looking for a certain look? Are you looking for a certain sound? If they don't know, I can make suggestions based on the type of music they're into or...

I believe there's more coming from the electronics than from the wood, but the wood is your foundation and it's going to generate tone, however, now-a-days with all the different options in electronics, you can manipulate that tone to just about anything, anymore. I've had people order and they want a light colored or a dark colored bass.  That's pretty generic, considering how many hundreds of species of wood there are.  It's a matter of narrowing it down from there. I've also had people say "hey, do your thing. Surprise me!" You know, not like that's any pressure or anything.

DBP: That lets you be creative, though. I've seen some of your basses I think are incredibly beautiful. One you just finished with gold hardware I recently spoke to you about, is probably my favorite so far. (pictured below)

SM:  It's funny.  Every one I'm working on or have just finished is my favorite.

DBP: Bolt on or neck through?  What's your preference and why?

SM: All of the above. Neck through, as a builder, is typically easier for me.  I don't really have any set options.  Some builders that are more established have set measurements. "This is our neck width. If you don't like it, too bad." Because I build these [basses] to extreme custom order, we can change spacing and everything.  I just have to make a template every time, for each instrument, other than the body.  If anybody wants a narrow spaced five string or a wide spaced six string or whatever, I make a new template. So, for me, neck through is easier.  I also like the unhindered access to the upper frets, but sometimes there's a "tone thing" with a bolt on. Maybe it goes back to the Fender thing.  The Jazz Bass, for me, I can pick up a Jazz Bass and it just feels "right".

DBP:  Describe the "tone thing" you just mentioned. Is it punchier? What is it? I recognize it, but I'm not sure how to describe it.

SM: Maybe it's an aggressive type thing. It's like being slapped in the face versus being punched in the face, if that makes any sense.

DBP: Which one would the bolt on be?

Shawn playing his '77 Jazz Bass at a rare show

SM:  That would be the punch. Or if you’re talking about my '77 Jazz, that would be a swift kick instead of a punch. That thing's a beast.

DBP: Talking about your '77 Jazz.  I've had it on my shoulder and it's heavy.

SM:  It probably hurt!

DBP: Do you think weight matters? Some people equate weight with sustain. What's your opinion?

SM: Dense material has a tendency to sustain more. With some woods, the tone can get 'swallowed up'. For me, I actually prefer a little heavier instrument. It just feels more solid to me. Not saying light means cheap. But there's a security for me with a heavier instrument.  This is coming from a guy that has a 12 pound Jazz Bass.  I also had a Warwick and a Tobias that weighed 12 pounds. Yeah me, the 130 pound guy (laughter). 

DBP: Every May bass I've held feels like a feather compared to those. 

SM:  My basses are typically smaller than your average Fender or...

Bassist William Pope and Shawn May
DBP:  Who owns your basses that we might know?

SM: Reg Canty! Fred Robinson, Guy Warren, the dude from Alien Ant Farm, and I just sent one to Australia for a rock band over there called Karnivool[link].  I think William Pope has one.  Oh wait...  No he doesn't! 

DBP: I just had a vision of a AAA flame maple with an orange stain and great big mother of pearl Popestar inlays!

SM: with some sort of crushed velour or something... (laughter) It says "mannnnn...."  (more laughter [we love you Pope!])

DBP:  How many basses do you have in queue?

SM: Last time I counted, 11. For most builders that doesn't sound like a lot, but considering I have a full time job, that's next year for me. A year worth of work.

DBP:  I realize it could vary greatly based on the options chosen for each bass, but about how long on average does it take you to finish a bass?

SM: I'd say 8 to 12 months to the customer.  That doesn't mean it actually takes that long to build each bass.  I'm usually working in batches, so I'll do four or five t a time. How long it actually takes to make them, I couldn't tell you.  I never really kept track. I don't want to spend time logging how many hours.  I want to spend my time on the work. One of these days I'll have to figure it all out to find out if it's worthwhile to do this. As long as I'm not losing money, it's worthwhile. 30 years from now, I hope to be the Vinnie Fodera of Michigan! I admire that he is still hands on.  He's not handling paperwork. He's building basses.

Left to right:  The legendary Chuck Rainey, bassist Doug Johns and Shawn May

DBP:  Is there something you might like to say that you haven't said in any other interview, or anything you think is important to mention?

SM: Whether it be food or music or instruments or whatever... Preference is a huge word for me. If we're talking about building an instrument for someone, their preference might be a color,  a style or weight. I hear people trash bands, sometimes. Not everyone likes the same thing. I had a conversation recently.  We were talking about companies that make, basically, Jazz Basses, but they're $5000.00. I'm a Jazz Bass guy, for sure, but paying $5000.00 for a Jazz Bass is not my thing.  Am I going to say "that guy's dumb for buying that."? No. It's just preference. That's it. That's my philosophy, right there.  You see my bass and you don't like it.  You've got an issue with it.  Okay. That's fine. I'm not trying to say I make the best basses you'll ever play. It might not be for you. It's all preference.  That's huge with me.

DBP:  I'd like to thank Shawn for taking some time to talk to Detroit Bass Players!

Visit http://www.maycustombasses.com/ for more information on May Custom Basses.