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Bassist Doug Wimbish on Playing Well with Others

The floor on Doug Wimbish’s side of the stage is carpeted with pedals of every shape, size, color, and sound, flanked by an Apple iBook full of effects and two Alesis Air Fx boxes. In this interview, Doug explains how he chooses what to play and how he integrates it all into the hard-rocking musical art that is Living Colour.

“It’s mostly about chemistry – and about enhancing and supporting the others on stage,” says Doug Wimbish, while chilling on the well-worn sofa after an afternoon recording session at Island Recorders studio in Chicago.

“If the template is there, and you are working within the role that is designated, you can use your talents to create a sense of enhancement without overstating the point.”

Doug tours a lot, with Living Colour and various other projects, such as Tackhead and Head>>Fake. Playing the same material show after show, how does he keep it so fresh?

“Some songs have room for continuous growth,” said Wimbish. “It depends on the original components. Also, some projects take a complete turn, doors open, creating new opportunities.”

As for drummers, Wimbish has played with the best of the best including; Will Calhoun in Living Colour, Keith LeBlanc, Dennis Chambers and Terry Bozzio. When asked his opinion about the relationship between the bassist and the drummer, he likened it to the relationship between the center and quarterback in football.

“The center has to get the ball to the quarterback so the play can happen. It’s that combination that creates the play.”

Wimbish explains. “The drums create the rhythm, but it’s the bass that governs that rhythm by presenting sonic ideas and tying in time between rhythms and notes. The bass and drums create one vehicle. Each must find the median – based on the space in the song. Bass and drums should help enhance each other. It’s natural. It depends on the space that’s created by the mindset of the individual musician.

The success of the relationship is defined by how you think and how generous you are – how willing you are to put the music first. It’s best if the two people are not selfish and have respect for the music. If you can park the personality and come to the stage or session with respect for the music and each other, you’re automatically a 50% better player.”