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Stepping up to bandleader/MD

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by Rob Mancini, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. Rob Mancini

    Rob Mancini Guest

    Feb 26, 2008
    I thought I'd pull this out of the effects thread for further discussion if anyone's interested:

    Originally Posted by Rob Mancini
    Justin, if it's OK to turn attention away from effects for just a second, I'd like to know how you made the transition from sideman to MD and bandleader in a lot of your projects. It's been my experience that if people never see you in the role, they think you're incapable of doing it without even inquiring if you can, so I'm curious as to what you think you did that set you apart. In my world (oldies gigs with the original artists), MD means a significant increase in pay like almost double, so I'm trying to land more MD work.

    Also, what kind of bandleader are you? I've been trying to picture what kind of bandleader you are since you got the MD gig with Beck, and I can't figure you out. Are you an experimental lassiez-faire type, or a stickler for every note being in place and handing out fines for people who show up late and don't play what you want?"

    This is the best question yet. I really appreciate you bringing this up, because I think it's an important area, and probably worth its own thread (by the way, Paul and the TalkBass.com guys are looking to give me a forum in that "ask a pro" area...this would be a great area to go over in detail there, so I'll be brief here and we'll re-address:

    I made the transition to MD in a de facto way; with Beck, there were originally only five of us but that eventually became twelve. Someone had to step up over time (I started around '98), and I was very much into it. Plus I'm musically savvy enough, have a strong personal relationship with Beck, and am really good at (this is very important) having a personal relationship with all the crew guys, down to the lighting assistant, carpenter, rigger, crew bus driver #3, whatever. The other thing needed was a lot of technological savvy, in terms of organizing programming, samples, the occasional backing track, triggers, delegating multi-tasking roles, etc. So it became me. Then over time, other people started having me do it (Air, Gnarls Barkley) and then other bands I don't even play in (Sea Wolf, Melee)...with young band Melee on Warner Bros, I'm rehearsing background vocals, sorting out gear, giving them show pointers, the whole deal. So there you go. I jumped in and learned.

    This is something I'd like to see more bass players do, because by and large they have the simplest job on stage and can devote some extra attention to everything else going on around them.

    So we should spend some time on this in another thread later, and other MD's on these boards can chime in too.

    What kind of bandleader am I? A laissez-faire experimental laid back guy 50% of the time and a stickler and "don't ever be late again" guy the other 50%. It's simply situation dependent. All the players have their act together even before their hired, so the "don't ever be late again" happens once in a blue moon. It's just more about creativity and using our soundchecks to refine, reduce, expand, etc. Overall, I'm a fun-loving sort of MD, though. People have a pretty good time working with me, so I hear.

  2. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Can I add one caveat to my quoted statement on this topic?

    It is a little glib of me to say that the bassist has the simplest job. But there is something about it that I find has a fundamental and "centralized" aspect, don't you think? You are the nexus between rhythm, melody and harmony, and all the "traffic" seems to flow through you. And, if you've got your bass player hat on right and are at ease with what you need to play, things get to that nicely effortless place...hence simplicity. So when one is there, it's a good time to have other duties put upon one.

    I don't know if that makes sense. But really what I'm trying to say is that sometimes bass players get to play some stupid simple stuff, and why not take on another job too?

  3. Rob Mancini

    Rob Mancini Guest

    Feb 26, 2008
    Dude, sorry to all the other bass players on here who think that bass playing is somehow rocket surgery, but I kind of agree with you. I do think I have the simplest job onstage. It has nothing to do with NPS (notes per second) like was suggested in the Ask JMJ thread. But in my bands, the keyboard players are often comping piano or organ chords while playing intricate synth or string lines, the drummers are using all 4 limbs independently, and the guitarists are playing chords, some that involve way more than 2 notes and have little things like "m7(add13)" written to describe them. Meanwhile, I'm playing one note at a time, and if I see one of those involved chords, I can just cop out and play the root and nobody knows I have no idea what the 13th is (I actually do know what it is, but you get the idea). So let's all quit pretending we're saving lives when we play bass. By and large, we DO have the simplest job, except for when we're forced to ride coach on a 7 hour flight to Stuttgart because Delta won't accept our Medallion request for upgrades because it's a foreign flight (next week is my turn in the barrel). Then we all have a pretty crappy job at that point ;)
  4. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    How did you work within IMA Robot since this is a more of a band instead of a bunch of session/professional musicians so you have more ego's to deal with that's not to say those guys aren't professional but hopefully you get what I'm saying.

    I find myself doing alot of buffering between band members but I could never say I'm a band leader even if it's meant as a job role instead of "I'm king of the band" statement I'm just wondering how you've dealt with this in the past.

  5. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    There it is. Truth spoken.
  6. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Ima Robot was five egos, but I have always been in bands, so it's not hard...I just let people do their thing, and in that band, because I was the "older/experienced" guy, I would sometimes be looked to for some wisdom during a disagreement or a situation that is stalemated (musically or professionally). Buffering between members seems to historically be a bass player's duty, my friend. ;)

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