(Soapbox Column #16)
Bass Player Magazine
Published August, 2002
Have you ever wondered why you play the way you do? Why your hands always want to sit in the same position? Or why you can play certain styles better than others? How you get a sound that others can't? How others get a sound that you can't?
As we all know, the things that make us unique as bassists don't end with technique. How about the sound you prefer, how you practice, the way you stand onstage, your pre-gig ritual, your relationships with other band members, your demeanor when things go well...and when they don't? What's the secret to your musical personality? Is it hereditary or environmental? Is there a specific DNA string for groove, chops, or the ability to play after four stiff drinks?
Well, I don't have all the answers, but they may be lurking above the venue. I'm talking, of course, about the stars. The science of astrology has been around for far longer than the electric or acoustic bass. (It even outdates vinyl.) The position of the earth in relation to the sun at the moment of your birth just may have determined things you had no idea were pre-determined. Curious as I am, I've read up on the basics, and I'm here to give you a little insight into how your astrological "sun sign" (meaning: one of twelve time periods inside of a year, each with its own characteristics and potential implications for those born in that period) may be impacting you as a bassist. And as a person. Just match your birthday and see if anything below rings a bell.
Aries (March 21-April 19)
You're a me - first person, a brash, pioneering, scout-on-point kind of player. The notes come hard and fast from your tireless hands, for which you are admired. But you don't care much for people telling you what or how to play. So naturally you're conflicted about being a bassist and the supporting role it often entails. You're the most likely guy in the band to get in a fistfight with the soundman.
Famous Aries bassist: Rocco Prestia
Taurus (April 20-May 20)
Slow and steady wins the race for the Taurean bassist, whose dogged, persistent nature is second to none. You're practical, reliable and punctual. You always know the tunes cold, and are predisposed to patterns and repetition, all traits bandleaders love. Given to materialism, you also probably have six basses with silly decorative inlays and red LED's for fret markers. If there's only one chair in the rehearsal room, chances are you're sitting on it - and won't give it up for anything. And woe be the bandmember who impedes your path to the deli tray backstage.
Famous Taurus bassist: Krist Novoselic
Gemini (May 21-June 21)
You know more about the bass than anyone else, because you've actually read books about it. And your musical versatility is breathtaking, because you're constantly listening to new music. You also talk a lot about what you know, which according to you is a lot. Some gigs you absolutely nail, others you spend thinking about why certain woods sound the way they do while the guitarist is cueing the end of his solo for the third time. You may be a poseur.
Famous Gemini bassist: John Taylor
Cancer (June 22-July 22)
The emotions are right out there on the sleeve-and fingers-of the Cancer bassist. You're extremely supportive of others both during and outside the gig, like a "band mother." You're also a family person, one who prefers the home to the road, and you'd make a great studio musician. You might find yourself on a cell phone with the wife (or husband) minutes before downbeat, checking to see if the plants have been watered. Not that you're oversensitive, but your usual reaction to constructive criticism is to say nothing for the rest of the night.
Famous Cancer bassist: Stanley Clarke
Leo (July 23-August 22)
You truly are the master of your domain, a natural-born bandleader who craves the center of attention at all times. Often you're a lead singer as well. You'll naturally dominate any group you're in, usually to the band's benefit. Of course, you believe the world simply must hear whatever it is you feel like playing, no matter what it is. If they don't get it, they don't deserve to. Not all are worthy of the majesty of a Leo's bassline.
Famous Leo bassist: Geddy Lee
Virgo (August 23-September 22)
Meticulous, analytical, obsessed with getting the little things right-that's you, the Virgo bassist. No detail-technique, tone, feel, string gauge, type of strap-is too small to fuss over, and eventually bring to perfection. No one else ever does anything right, which gives your true reason for being: professional bass critic. Sometimes you wrap the other band members' cables after the gig, because they can't do it in a way you can live with. At heart, you're a tech.
Famous Virgo bassist: Roger Waters
Libra (September 23-October 22)
You're the glue that holds the band together. You do whatever it takes to create a sense of teamwork, fairness, and balance, and if that means changing your bassline, feel, or even style of playing, you'll do it so everyone else feels good about themselves. However, you're so determined to avoid conflict that you appear to have no musical opinion-or style-of your own. But at least you're energetic about not offending the A & R guy who tells you to rock back and forth while you play.
Famous Libra bassist: Sting
Scorpio (October 23-November 21)
No one will ever get the best of you. Not slimy managers, late-paying bandleaders, other bassists auditioning against you-no one. The deep, emotional intensity you project musically has a subtle, sneaky way of dominating everything around it. Somehow or another, you get whatever you want: a better mix on the record, the best hotel room on the road, the post-show companion of your choice. Even if that companion happens to be the significant other of someone else in the band. Not that you'd ever let anyone find out.
Famous Scorpio bassist: Bootsy Collins
Sagittarius (November 22-December 21)
You're the ultimate explorer of new musical frontiers, one who needs constant forward motion in both music and in life. Forget about form; you'd prefer a jam to start every show. A perfect road dog, you're constantly out seeking new adventures, new gigs, and new musical styles to master. You're also arrogant as hell, never on time or where you're supposed to be for anything, and about as responsible as a thief in an unlocked bank vault.
Famous Sagittarius bassist: Jaco Pastorius
Capricorn (December 22-January 19) It's easy to spot you on the gig - you've got the cell phone on the hip, the Palm in hand, and the master plan to nail down the best paying gigs in town, no matter how long it takes. Your playing-highly competent, if not emotional-is just one small part of the overall business model. You're the quiet power behind the throne in every situation. And when it comes to money, you're tighter than a piccolo snare drum. The bartender does not like you very much.
Famous Capricorn bassist: John Paul Jones
Aquarius (January 20-February 18) They say "what the Aquarian thinks now, the world will think in fifty years." Your approach to playing bass is so unconventional, it may seem to contemporaries that you're straining to be different. This makes you seem aloof and detached in small group settings, which is unfair because others don't understand just what a genius you are. The good news is that you're right and they're wrong; the bad news is that they won't realize it until you're long gone, which in the meantime means you won't get hired for anything.
Famous Aquarius bassist: James Jamerson
Pisces (February 19-March 20) You're hypersensitive and sympathetic to everything around you, which gives you the near-psychic ability to perceive changes in musical dynamics before they actually happen. Deeply emotional in nature, you have a placid, otherworldly quality to your groove, and are especially suited for trance music or acid jazz. But you're so giving and selfless that you're probably being taken advantage of right this very second. If you have a roadie, he probably tells you what to do.
Famous Pisces bassist: Billy Sheehan
As you can see, some make more sense than others when practically applied. I just put it out there; whether or not you believe it is for you to decide.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm a Taurus, and I do fit the general profile. But, since I don't know Krist Novoselic very well, I researched other notable Taurean bassists to see how similar we might be. I could only find one: Sid Vicious.
After that, I stopped looking.
Reprinted with permission from the August, 2002 issue of BASS PLAYER. For subscription information, please visit http://www.bassplayer.com.