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Bassist Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Thrillcall, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. Thrillcall


    Dec 9, 2011

    Hello folks,

    This is my first time publishing in this forum, so I apologize if this isn't in the right directory. My name is David, and I'm a music journalist.

    I recently interviewed bassist Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. During our chat, Barlow made one comment about being "just the bass player" in the band. It struck me as self-deprecating and sad. I wondered if other bass players, like yourselves, feel similarly. Please share your thoughts as I'd love to potentially include some commentary from other bassists in my article.

    Here's the original quote:

  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    "I'm just the bass player" is a typical joke amongst bassists but there is truth to it.
    A rock band consists of a good songwriter and a charismatic singer. Pretty much everything else is disposable. Of course there are exceptions but not many.

    "I'm just the bass player" is also a protection and very often, a comfy shell. A bass player is essential to a band and can change a lot about the way a song sounds. For the most part, what we do is invisible. We can have fun doing music and control everything in the dark without the hassle of being up front.
  3. Thrillcall


    Dec 9, 2011
    Is this a preference? I mean, does a bass player become a bass player because they want to be out of the spotlight?

    Lou Barlow seemed to feel the opposite. As though he was in this shell, maybe originally because it was comfortable, but when reflecting would have preferred to have more song writing control, input on direction, and overall value in the band.
  4. I can safely say that now I've seen everything.
  5. Son of Wobble

    Son of Wobble

    Mar 8, 2010

    Attached Files:

  6. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    East Bay, CA
    Dinosaur Jr. always seemed to be about guitar & vocals, with the rhythm section providing support. I thought that's why Lou did Sebadoh...he felt his contributions were overshadowed.

    BTW you may want to ask a moderator to move this to the Bassists forum.
  7. Bass_Thumper


    Oct 20, 2009
    Madison, MS
    I think that he may just be reacting to the fact that he and J. had a fallout a good while back and he learned that Dinosaur Jr. can and did go on without him. Even when he gets to include a track or two on a Dinosaur record, they sound like Sebadoh tunes and a little out of place to me (this last comment is related to the latest recordings after Lou came back).
  8. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I play drums and bass. I do think it's true that you can't have a good band without a good drummer and a good bass player (assuming, wrongly, that all bands have bass players and drummers). For myself, I never wanted to be the focal point of the band. At the same time, my ear always gravitated more to the bass part of a tune. As a child geek, Mr. Spock's introspective moment in Star Trek were always accompanied by a bass sound track. To me bass has always been cooler than guitar.
  9. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    East Bay, CA
    Priceless observation, I never knew that!
    :) :bassist: :hyper:
  10. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Well that would be a 'rock' assumption...and incorrect since there are alot of very upfront rock bassists.

    But you get into other genres, say old shool R&B/funk for instance, and the bassist is clearly the forward moving force, and the guitarist is merely a back-beat time keeper.
    Jazz! many groups with no guitarist.
  11. maxiegrant

    maxiegrant Bassist in Transition

    Nov 26, 2007
    Sellersburg, IN
    In my band I'm just the bass player too. And the lead singer. And the songwriter.

    I think unfortunately this stems from the star mentality we encourage in our culture. A good band can sound OK with a mediocre bassist because the rest of it is mixed over the top. I think specifically about Nirvana here -- there's one cut where Novoselic (sp?) plays the intro to the song and it is all over the place with tone and sounds super-shaky on the attack. Cue the rest of the band, and it's all good.

    But a good band can become a great band with a great bass player. The bass is a musical instrument, first and foremost. Played without much enthusiasm by people who say "I'm just the bass player." Played with great enthusiasm by others, with tremendous results.

    I don't think anyone should ever put up with a situation where you're "just the bass player." We're rarer and hard to find. A band that doesn't respect our contributions doesn't deserve them.

    My $.02.
  12. west*coast*bass

    west*coast*bass Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2003
    Agoura Hills, CA
    Well said...
  13. OnederTone

    OnederTone Aguilar Everywhere Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2002
    Thornton, CO
    Most of us take Lou's line of humility, we know what we do isn't rocket science... but like anyone that is good at what they do, they make it look simple. Watch a good carpenter hammer a nail... TAP...BAM. TAP... BAM... precision, power... and finesse. Watch your significant other hammer a nail to hang a picture... tap tap ta... dammit I bent the nail... tap ta... dammit it fell out... tap tap taDAMMIT I HIT MY THUMB.

    There were print ads for Seymour Duncan Basslines pickups a few years ago where there were pictures of people doing things and and arrow pointing to the one guy giving 110% that said "He's the bass player"... Pretty accurate IMHO.

    I always use baseball as an analogy when describing our role: When you're in a band starting out or when you're playing sandlot baseball, the bass player and the catcher are usually the same "type" of kid... They get saddled with the "boring job", They have unique equipment, everyone ignores them, they're the last picked, it physically hurts to play that position. At that level it doesn't matter much the pitcher is the star, everybody watches him. As long as we catch the ball and tag the runner out when they slide home we're pretty much ignored. Get much past the sandlot and the catcher becomes the linchpin of the team... he works harder and can make or break a team. If you're team doesn't have a good catcher, you're going to be playing golf in October. Get much past the garage and the same holds true for bands... everyone may look at the singer and guitar player, the drummer may get all the girls... but if the bass is not playing a solid groove something will be missing.

    Watch "Almost Famous" the part where William interviews the bass player... it's insightful.

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