Latest Project Release – Dean Cramer’s SoLow

Date: 04 June, 2011  |  Posted By: Mark  |  Category: Bass Playing  |  Comments: 0
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Well it took about two years of Dean and I goofing off and recording things in what little spare time we had and then another year of sparse mixing – this was definitely a “spare time” project which is something that both Dean and I have very little of!  Some nights we spent bullshitting and fooling around with amps than actual recording which is probably a major contributing factor to the extensive project timeline. But it’s finally done. I produced, engineered, mixed and played bass on every track. The record came out pretty good and I hope you will get a copy. Dean and I are both very proud of our efforts.

We recorded everyting at my studio using mostly my amps and a few of Dean’s. We recorded V-drums here with Alex Hicks using my Roland kit with live hi-hats. The best thing about the V-Drum kit is the realism, it required very little MIDI editing and even then it was mostly velocity or double triggering issues. I used a variety of kits pieces, from BFD 1.5, 2.0, Steven Slate Platinum and even some choice drum samples thrown in here and there meticulously crafted by Scott Spelbring and Beau Hill.

From a bass player perspective, I’m quite pleased with all the bass tones. There are some really great bass sounds on this record and I had a lot of fun experimenting with different bass signal chains. You won’t hear the dismal results of the hairbrained experiments which were at times quite comedic, you get only the good stuff!

There is almost no editing on this entire CD. I hate using the cliche “old school” but that’s how we did everything, take after take until it was right. I did the bass tracks on my own (without Dean around to tell me to play more like Geddy Lee and less like John Entwistle lol) and there are a few speedy bass parts I must have done 20 or 30 takes to get it right rather than fall back on sliding things around in Pro Tools to make timing better. We did the same with the guitar solos, some nights spending four hours on one solo instead of comping parts together later.  There is not a single tuned vocal note either which is a strong testament to Dean’s ability to sing in key, even if we redid some phrases here and there at different times.

Let me also add that I’m working hard on mixes for the new Funny Money CD. We are getting closer and closer and things are sounding pretty good!

So listen to a few of my favorite cuts and buy it! Dean will be happy you did and so will you.

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Dean Cramer’s So Low – Put It On Your Lips – BUY IT NOW!

The Ugly Rosewood Girl

Date: 09 August, 2009  |  Posted By: Mark  |  Category: Bass Playing  |  Comments: 0
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A couple of years ago, I bought this Fender Power Jazz Special bass on eBay. I had been looking sporadically for an original 80’s model for a number of years and had never seen even one, let alone in the color I’d want. I’ve always liked Duff McKagan’s bass sound on the first G&R record, it’s got all the things I love to hear in a bass tone. It cuts in the mix, it’s got great top end (no doubt due to his choice of using a pick when he plays) and has round, tight, very defined low end. For whatever reason, in my opinion, he was never able to duplicate that sound since. He used a made in Japan Fender Power Jazz Special, and still does as far as I can tell from pictures. I’ve always kept that little factoid in the back of my mind for the occasional bored-at-trying-to-find-whatever-else-I-was-looking-for eBay hunt. What makes this bass slightly rare is a combination of several things; Fender manufactured them for only a few years in the 80’s, it is a Precision body with a Jazz neck, a P-J Bass active pickup configuration – active being a highly noteworthy item for a Fender back then – hence the designation of special.

Fender Power Jazz Bass Special 2The problem with this bass is, I totally hate the color. It’s Miami Vice teal. I love Miami Vice, but this color makes me want to go push over old ladies at the mall. I almost didn’t buy it just because of the color, but like I said, I had never seen one for sale and I might not ever see one in a color I was crazy about. It was cheap enough so I figured what the hell.
This ugly little girl with the silky rosewood neck has been sitting around here in my house for about three years, once in a while getting my attention enough to pick it up and play it. It’s kind of like that one girl who like maybe has a really nice physical attribute, but you look further along and she’s got other problems that are not so evident. Or like she’s rather bland in every other way other than she’s really super smart and you have a cool conversation with her once in a while. Like she has one memorable thing that makes you say, “yeah I know you got a little something going on there…” but there are other aspects that kind of cancel the one thing out that you can’t forget about or rationalize away. I’ve used it on a couple of my own demos and on one track I recorded for my bud Scott, and no matter what I’ve tried while tracking, it’s always sounded rather poor – on a good day – but it plays freakin’ great!  The neck is very much like the Warwick LX I use all the time so I have consistently felt right at home whenever I pick her up and play. But man – it sounded just awful! How can that be? I could be sitting there tracking, fiddling with eq and compression to try to bring this thing out of the gutter, get frustrated, unplug this bass, plug in a Warwick with the exact same signal chain setup and it would sound stellar. It had to be the bass. Pickups? Strings? Bridge? I dunno. All of the above? One odd thing about this bass, it sounds so good just “in the room” – like it has a great ring to it when I just sit there and wank around on it without plugging it in. I generally won’t buy a guitar or bass if it doesn’t have that “ring” to it when I pick it up and play it without plugging it in. Of course, buying shit on eBay, I’m rolling the dice a little but if it’s something I want, who cares right? Ebay has a good “return” policy that I use in my own mind to justify a purchase like this, if you buy something you hate you can turn around and sell it to some other mook the next week. You may lose a few bucks but I consider any losses incurred a rental fee to try something out that I couldn’t otherwise find at the local Overpriced Musical Instruments and Accessories Conglomerate store.

I tried putting passive Duncan pickups in it one time and it still sounded pretty lame, I reverted back to the original pickups just to keep it stock for the time being. Finally, since I desperately wanted to give this girl a chance I decided to go all in and change everything I knew sucked about her to fix her, or just put it away in the case so she will stop tempting me. I bought a Bartolini 4.7 AP kit and paired that up with the passive Duncan Basslines SJB-2 Hot Jazz and SPB-3 Quarter Pounder I had bought a while back. I figured a Leo Quan black (if it ain’t black, send it back)  Badass Bridge couldn’t hurt. The bridge that was on her was definitely a problem, it was made out of some cheap non-sustaining pot metal, the same thing the Toyota Celica logo on your high school girlfriend’s car was made of. I wouldn’t even use it for a fishing weight. Garbage as far as creating good tone goes.

Bartolini Preamp and Basslines PickupsThe installation was fairly easy, I’ve always repaired and modified my own instruments, drawing the line at refretting, but the bridge install ended up being a bases loaded with a tired pitcher situation. The screw holes from the old bridge were not even close to the holes on the Badass bridge. So with a straightedge, some serious eyeballing and highly questionable deductive measurement procedures, I nailed the bridge in a spot where I figured I could intonate it even if it was at the limits of sharp or flat and faithfully sank the slick black screws into their new home. Side to side was another story, all I can say is that it looks symmetrical so it must be OK! Fender Power Jazz Bass Special 

I put a new set of DR High-beams on her and messed around with the EQ switch and boost/cut knobs for a while until I understood what each one did tonally and how the interaction made the bass respond differently to my touch.
Here is a song I wrote to try out the new tone and see how it sits in a mix. The bass is the resurrected ugly Fender, DI’d through a Radial JDV Mk3, then through an SSL E Signature Channel and then through an 1176LN compressor. I then made a copy of the track in Pro Tools, shelved off the low end at about 200hz, put a Massey Tape Head plugin on it with the bright switch on, then brought this track up underneath the DI track in the mix to give it some bark. Check it out…

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Road To Rocklahoma II

Date: 21 October, 2008  |  Posted By: Mark  |  Category: Rocklahoma 2008  |  Comments: 0
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OK so this is all the material I have for the Rocklahoma trip. I had a bunch of videos and pictures to sort through. I figured I’d keep it to my personal experiences here because you can always go visit KIX’ MySpace or fly around on YouTube to see pictures and videos of the band. I know it’s a little late (and probably largely irrelevant by now, even more so than it was a week after I got home lol) but with changing the Funny Money web site over to the new format and working with Dean to finish up some of his tracks so we can finish up working on the three new Funny Money tracks we recorded drums for, I just have not had the time to edit this mass of video footage together into something worth publishing – until now.

Scott, Jimmy and I got to Oklahoma City at about 3:00 am or so. Of course the hotel where all the bands were staying had no rooms available but we figured it was worth a shot, our rooms wouldn’t be ready until noon. No biggie, we went down the street and plopped into the Ramada for some well earned sleep. When we got back to the hotel around 1:00 the next afternoon, I saw Nuno Bettancourt from Extreme hanging around the lobby. They were playing Friday night and I was looking forward to seeing them. We decided to check in and head on over to the festival grounds to see what we were in for. Night Ranger was on the bill that day too, Scott especially was ready for that.

We caught the shuttle from the hotel over to the grounds, about a 45 minute drive to Pryor, and I was immediately impressed with the SIZE of the place. Campers, RV’s and crap just as far as the eye could see. The stage building was enormous and you could see the Jumbotrons from far far away. As clear as if you were holding one in your hand, even in the blazing bright southern sunlight. As we came through the gates, our driver commented on a crowd of big burly guys hanging around, apparently helping festival staff doing whatever was needed, saying, “there’s THC…” The were dressed in all black, wearing leather jackets (in 100 degree Oklahoma heat) with Texas Hippie Coalition logos on the back and the occasional cowboy hat. I’d kill for one of those jackets they were so cool! These were some downright serious looking dudes. Much later, like three weeks ago, Scott figured out that when he lived in Texas way back when, he used to play in a band with the guitar player. Small world indeed. At the time I didn’t know if they were a band or a motorcycle club or a pot smoking club (THC and all) or what, but I knew they had a cool name and I wanted one of their leather jackets!! Check out their MySpace, they are a killer southern rock/metal band, sort of like Pantera meets Lynyrd Skynyrd – and I dearly love me some Skynyrd! THC has some good songs and cleary they are good players in classic southern tradition. Buy their CD, you’ll be glad you did.