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Frode Berg: Feature Interview

Discussion in 'Features' started by TalkBass, Mar 23, 2004.


  1. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    Note: This feature was published on TalkBass.com November, 2000

    From touring with Donna Summer and performing with Luciano Pavarotti, to Jazz with Crazy Energy and Erik Smith, Norwegian bassist Frode Berg has done it all....
     
  2. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <center><img src="../images/frodeberg.jpg" width="144" height="207" align="left"><b><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="5">Frode
    Berg:<br>
    Bass From the Northern Perspective </font></b>
    </center>
    <p> </p>
    <p align="center"><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2"><i>Interview
    for TalkBass by Imre Komaromi</i></font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2"><br>
    From touring with Donna Summer and performing with Luciano Pavarotti to
    Jazz with Crazy Energy and Erik Smith, Frode Berg has done it all. Schooled
    in Norway and having had private lessons with both Mark Egan and John
    Patitucci, Frode has developed a mastery of both electric and acoustic
    bass, and is being hailed as Norway’s answer to John Patitucci. Never
    one to be satisfied with a single project, he has done over 20 recordings
    and has become an in demand session player for jingles and television
    shows. In addition to his recording works, Frode also teaches at the State
    Academy in Oslo, and the Manglerud High School, and hosts various bass
    clinics for Yamaha and personally endorses SWR and DR strings. TalkBass
    got a chance to sit and talk with Frode and discuss his thoughts on music,
    teaching, and where bass playing is headed for the 21st century.</font></p>
    <p></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: When
    taking gigs, do you look at whether you’ll be playing electric or
    upright?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: It
    varies - yesterday was all electric. If it's more jazz type tunes, I would
    bring the acoustic.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Do you
    prefer playing electric to upright, or is it more of whatever the job
    calls for?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    prefer to do 50% of each instrument. I try to set up my schedule so that
    I can keep doing interesting gigs on both instruments. I don't look at
    any of them as superior to the other. I have had, and read countless discussions
    about that! People saying the electric does not belong in a big band and
    things like that. It’s the player, not the horn! Miles would have
    been great on kazoo!</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Good
    point. I have read many articles about that very thing. Many Jazz purists
    believe the electric bass has no role in modern jazz, or classic jazz
    for that matter. How do you feel about the state of Jazz? It seems many
    feel it's been watered down past the point of relevance.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Well,
    the "state of jazz" as you put it, I guess varies from which
    part of the world you are in. Jazz is an art form that seeks development,
    and reflects the people performing it. Here in Europe people have always
    been into finding ways of merging the European classical music tradition
    and folk music with jazz. This has resulted in a lot of very interesting
    players. On the other hand the danger is that one doesn't learn the history
    and language of jazz. Lot's of great "jazz" players here cannot
    play the changes to Solar if you see what I mean. On the other hand, a
    lot of people have a unique musical voice to share, and don't necessarily
    need the bebop licks. But then again, you need people to take care of
    the tradition, and keep us all aware of where we came from, and when people
    successfully merge those two, magic happens, for me anyway.... So I guess
    the question might be: what is jazz, and why do we want to label everything?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: How do
    feel growing up in Europe has influenced your playing? Are your influences
    more from Europe, America, or from other sources? What got you into playing?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    grew up in different parts of the world actually. My father was in the
    Seamans Mission, so I lived in Belgium, Australia and London for several
    years before settling in Norway. I started playing the recorder in London
    and then later the piano. I took piano lessons for about 10 years or so.
    I also played trumpet in the school marching band once we got home to
    Norway. Nothing unique about why I started on bass, though. You know,
    old story, a bunch of guitar-playing friends wanted to start a band. I
    didn't want to play keyboards in it because I was really bored with classical
    piano lessons at the time, so I found an old beat up bass (Sigma I think)
    and a guitar amp with a blown speaker lying around in the music room at
    my school. After a while I convinced the headmaster to lend it to me for
    the weekends, and I actually never heard how a clean bass sounded before
    plugging into a freinds "not blown" guitar amp 8 months later...</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: What
    kind of music did you start out playing with that band? Did you start
    out with rock and move from there?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    took bass lessons for a few years from a great Czech teacher called "Remo".
    I took lessons from him through high school, but in the last year, we
    figured that he didn't have much left to offer, so I majored in upright
    bass for my final year.... When I auditioned for the state academy classical
    bass study, I had only played upright bass for 6 months... In my first
    band we played covers of Iron Maiden, Dio, that kind of thing. The guitar
    players (who are also pros now by the way) both wrote music. I didn't
    start writing until much later though. After a while they started getting
    into jazz and fusion; Mahavishnu orchestra, Allan Holdsworth and that
    kind of thing. I thought it sounded like noise...we argued a lot... Then
    I borrowed a Mahavishnu record (the first one with the band with Hellborg)
    and I said to myself : my friends are intelligent people, there must be
    something I'm missing....so I listened to it 10 times a day, and suddenly
    started liking it... Danny Gottlieb is credited on that, so I really felt
    it meant something when we recorded our first CD together. That was really
    fulfilling!! After that, I heard Jeff Berlin and Jaco, and the world opened
    up....</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: In your
    opinion how important is taking lessons to developing one's ability? Many
    people have a staunch aversion to lessons, believing that learning by
    ear is the only way to go. Does it hinder one's growth as a musician to
    avoid seeking some formal training in their chosen instrument?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Yes,
    because if you are only going to learn by your own mistake, you’re
    missing out. It's like inventing the wheel over and over again for every
    car a factory wants to build. You don't loose any musical integrity by
    having someone show you how to play your instrument without getting hurt,
    know what I mean? I sincerely think that those people who loose their
    musical voice by taking lessons, really don't have much to offer anyway.
    If you have a true musical voice, it will come across. Of course a lot
    of the greatest performer didn't take lessons, but why was that? Because
    it was a different time and age, and it wasn't practical where they lived
    and worked. Anyway, everyone has influences, and that’s like a life-long
    lesson, right?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: True,
    and you host clinics also. Do you enjoy that? And what are your theories
    you have on teaching?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    do some Yamaha clinics every year, mainly in stores, but a few times at
    larger venues. (I never really get used to hearing my voice on a large
    PA talking about bass...) I enjoy teaching, but it can be tough. It's
    about chemistry between people. Some people are easy and nice to teach,
    and some people oh well... I try to think of all my students (I currently
    have 7) as individuals. I don't force them through the same routines,
    because we all learn at different paces and in different ways. I have
    some topics that I insist on teaching though, like proper technique, chord
    theory, modes etc. Sometimes it's good to work on a specific topic, and
    other time it's good to just jam on some tune, or listen to CD's and hang
    out.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: What
    CD's are you currently listening to? Are there any artists out there (bass
    or otherwise) that you particularly like?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: The
    last CD I bought was Joshua Redman's latest. I heard him here at a jazz
    festival I played at, and he totally blew me away! He has complete command
    of his instrument, technically, and musically, and he plays with such
    integrity that you instantly recognize him! Great! I also listen to the
    Keith Jarrett trio, and of course Steve Swallow. Regarding bassists, favorites
    include Anthony Jackson, Patitucci, and Charlie Haden.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Do you
    think that there's anything exciting going on in rock music?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    haven't really been updating myself too well lately. I hear a lot of nice
    things on the radio, and guys are doing amazing things with computers
    these days! I'm more into playing than looping, so that’s one thing
    I want to learn more about! It's interesting to see how the world evolves
    around the importance of the song...in the 80's you had the "neo
    classical speed guitarists" who were with few exceptions all technique,
    then you had the reaction to that which was a bunch of bands with good
    songs, but almost incompetent players...now it's all this computer technique....
    I really like nice songs played well!</font></p>
     
  3. TalkBass

    TalkBass News Poster

    Mar 12, 2004
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Do you
    like the fact that computers have become so prevalent in music? Many artists
    feel that you lose an "organic" sound with all the digital work
    being done and like to stay analog.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I'm
    not really to heavy into this, but I like the freedom a PC and some recording
    software gives you. However, this freedom often turns out to be a prison.
    I mean I used to love to recording demos on my 4-track reel-to-reel AKAI
    tape machine. Now I often sit in front of my PC and record something,
    and end up using a lot of time tweaking effects making bizarre noises...If
    only I could figure out how to use the computer like to old 4-track and
    forget about the possibilities... It's like "free-jazz". It
    isn't really free, is it? I mean, there are so many rules and codes for
    what you can and can't do in free jazz, that I doubt it's any more free
    than other types of jazz. So much freedom gives you a big responsibility.
    I feel a lot of the radio hits are meaningless, and a product of technology.
    I mean, you can make the computer generate a pop song for you in Band
    in a box that sounds more musical and less lame than a lot of the hits
    of today......but, maybe I'm getting old?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: What
    about the work you do, do enjoy being a session artist, per se, or being
    in a band you formed with other guys.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Well,
    you know after a while, it's not really a choice anymore. I enjoy playing
    in a band, but all my bills mean I can't quit session work... It's true
    that some sessions are really horrible, and I wish I was in some other
    business, but I guess every profession has these kinds of problems. I
    enjoy organizing my own schedule, and playing a lot of varied types of
    music with great players. I don't feel like I'm a looser when I have to
    play root-fifth bass on a TV show for senior age people. I look out and
    see so many happy faces with gray hair around them, and that does it for
    me! That's no less meaningful than playing Giant steps in 250 in 7/8 (which
    incidentally we do in Erik Smith's trio).</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Who have
    been some of your favorite people to work with.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Danny
    Gottlieb obviously. He is such a wonderful drummer. From the first beat,
    it just worked. You know how it is sometimes with some guys? You have
    to work them a bit before you find the pocket. This was just instant.
    And he's a wonderful guy too! Couldn't be better. Then there’s Frank
    Gambale - what an unbelievable crazy guitar player!! I don't think there’s
    anything he couldn't play, yet people often fail to see the great music
    he's playing! He must be one of the most distinct voices on guitar out
    there. And then there's a bunch of great Norwegian guys. They really need
    to get their acts known outside of Norway! People like Nils Petter Molvær
    (trumpet player on ECM records with great success these days), Bugge Wesseltoft
    (keyboardist with own label), of course Erik Smith and Roy Powell. All
    brilliant musicians. I worked with Jim McNeely the other week. Wonderful
    pianist and bandleader! There are so many great players, I can't really
    list them all. I played with Luciano Pavarotti once. Man, he was something
    else!!! We had rehersals a few days prior to him arriving, and we were
    having a sound check in Stockholm an a huge venue, when suddenly the hairs
    on my head started rising. I didn't know what was happening, but then
    I turned around, and this huge, smiling, bearded Italian man walked into
    the venue spreading his arms towards the orchestra! Man, he has so much
    charisma it was frightening! I have never experienced anything like that
    since!</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: That
    would be truly amazing. Are you a fan of opera?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Not
    an opera fan, per se, but I studied classical, so I'm really into that,
    which of course would have to include some operas. I particularly like
    some of the Wagner operas. They are really long, though, so it takes time.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: What
    about your equipment, what's your current set-up like?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    use Yamaha basses, in fact I got the new TRB-6P not too long ago. It's
    a great bass with neck-through construction, piezo pickups, three band
    eq, and exotic woods. It also has a 35 scale neck. I also have a few other
    Yamaha's. Right now there is actually a new bass waiting for me to pick
    it up at Yamaha Scandinavia. It is their new upright bass, in the "silent
    string instrument" series. It's supposed to be really good, so I
    can't wait to check it out! I use DR Hi Beam strings, and SWR amps. Right
    now it's SM900 into one or two Goliath III's, depending on the size of
    the venue, and a Workingman 12, and a workingman 10. I also have a Grand
    Prix preamp in my home studio rack. Great stuff! Oh yes, and I use D'addario
    Helicore hybrid upright strings (when I can afford to change...they’re
    expensive here!!!)</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: In your
    opinion, do the ten's in the Goliath III's capture the depth of the low
    b on five and six string basses?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Yes.
    It's four of them, so that spreads the sound over a large speaker area.
    I don't like playing with 15" speakers, but that’s just me.
    It muddies the sound too much, they don't really react quickly enough.
    They also seem to make life harder for the sound guy if there are a lot
    of open microphones on stage. Of course on the workingman’s 10, you
    don't really get much punch down low, but what can you expect....?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Do you
    tend to stick to six-string basses?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: I
    tend to use the 6 as my main instrument. It's practical, it has all the
    range you'll need. I do own 4-strings and 5-strings though, but for some
    reason I tend to not play the 5 much. Don't know why. I'd rather play
    the 4, or the 6.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: Do you
    use any effects when recording or playing out?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: When
    recording, the compressor is usually on to some degree. I used to use
    a lot of wild effects for soloing. I like using the occasional fuzz box,
    but not much other than that. I have a flanger, octave and some Zoom stuff,
    but I rarely use it. I like the way the bass sounds, and really enjoy
    trying to get different sounds from it with my fingers and nails. These
    things do change though, so I'm not saying I won't be using wild effects
    again..... I like to use reverb for solos, but I trust the sound guy with
    that on live gigs.</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">tb: What
    advice would you give to young bass players or musicians trying to grow
    and be heard?</font></p>
    <p><font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Frode: Keep
    playing, and don't get hung up about what people think! Be who you are,
    don't get caught up in current trends, because when you have practiced
    something to perfection, it's suddenly not trendy anymore!! Be honest
    with yourself about your goals. If you are uncertain you want to be a
    musician, then don't, but if that is the only way of life you can think
    of, go for it completely! Immense yourself with music! Listen to everything
    you can get your hands on, transcribe records (not just the bass part),
    learn as much as you can! Learn to read! That will open many doors! A
    reading bassist with knowledge of different styles, good sound, and a
    good attitude is a working bassist. Have respect for other musicians.
    Your voice will come to you, while you wait, why not learn something on
    your instrument? Get out there and play as much as you can!</font></p>

    <hr>
    <font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">For more
    information on Frode Berg, including a complete discography, visit his
    website at <a href="http://www.frodeberg.com/">http://www.frodeberg.com/</a></font>