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Steve Fossen's Tone

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by BarStarzBass, Apr 26, 2010.

  1. BarStarzBass


    Apr 25, 2010
    Hi, TB'ers. I'm fairly new to bass (converted guitarist who has seen the light) and still finding my tone (which I know from guitar is a life-long quest anyway!).

    I'm really drawn to Steve's tone from the classic Heart records - to my ears it seems a perfect blend between the classic soft-and-round-and-soulful Motown sound and the tight-edgy Chris Squire/Geddy sound - both of which I love too. I'll end up doing my own thing, but Steve's tone is a pretty good starting point for me.

    So other than raw talent and technique, what equipment did he use? I've Googled the TB forums and the consensus seems to be - a P-bass through a big SVT rig, though some have commented that he sometimes used J's and others.

    From my little-educated ears, the SVT sounds right, but the sound seems sharper than what I normally think comes from a P. Did he use a pick or some special plucking technique? An effect (I get somewhat there using a BrassMaster clone on very minimal fuzz setting). Some sharper-than-standard-Fender p/u?

    I understand that he works at BassNW - maybe next time I'm in Seattle I'll just ask him myself, but if anyone has anything, please share!

  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    He (along with Nancy Wilson, Roger Fisher, and Howard Leese) was interviewed in Guitar Player Magazine decades ago- I think it was around the time "Dog and Butterfly" was released. He was the first bassist I read about who talked about having a LOT of different instruments. Various combinations of Jazz Basses and Precisions, strung with all manner of strings- rounds, flats, and modded rounds. In the interview he specifically mentioned that he had so many basses it didn't make sense to use the same strings on all of them. And he talked about using different basses for specific songs.

    Pick and fingers, but I don't recall the amp information at all.

  3. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    Why not ask Steve yourself?

    He works at Bass Northwest. He is a good guy and I am sure that he would be willing to talk with you.

  4. BarStarzBass


    Apr 25, 2010
    JTE - thanks for the info.

    Axtman - good idea - I'll have to find an excuse to visit Seattle again.
  5. Spencer!


    Jun 25, 2006
    Owner, Pike Amplification & 3Leaf Audio
    Steve is the man - definitely hit him up at Bass NW the next time you're in Seattle. Here's what I remember him telling me: he never used tube amps until the last 10 years or so (now he owns 13 SVT's!), and a lot of the Heart stuff was recorded with an Alembic.
  6. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Steve's stuff with Heart is great. He and Mike Derosier were just it as far as a hard rock rhythm section back then.

    Keep in mind, Ann Wilson also played bass on some of their tracks. IIRC "Straight On" is her on bass but I could be wrong. Whether she used the same gear as Steve I don't know. "Straight On" always sounded more Rickenbacker-ish to me so I don't know.

    Cool to know he's still in the music biz even if he's not playing on the road anymore. I always felt like he and Derosier got a raw deal with Heart, and the band was never the same after those two left.
  7. Hoover

    Hoover Banned

    Nov 2, 2007
    New York City
    Kenny Aaronsen used to work at Rudy's Music Stop in NYC. It's an epidemic!
  8. LM Bass

    LM Bass

    Jul 19, 2002
    Vancouver, BC
  9. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    E-mail from Evan Sheeley

    Hi David,

    Steve says that Anne didn't play the bass part on "Straight On". He did.
    Steve used a 1964 Fender Jazz Bass and a Fender Showman amp for that song as well as a direct box.

    Evan Sheeley (owner)
  10. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Cool, thank you (and Steve) for the clarification. I'm in a project that's been thinking of covering that song and it's been fun digging into the bass part. Great stuff!
  11. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Rezlax -

    Thanks for the iso track. Couple of things:

    - Never knew he was on the high octave on that main riff as much as he is.

    - That is definitely a picked P-Bass, no question.

    - His articulation is amazingly clean.

    Thanks for posting.
  12. Spencer!


    Jun 25, 2006
    Owner, Pike Amplification & 3Leaf Audio
    Steve specifically told me that he played an Alembic on Barracuda.
  13. BarStarzBass


    Apr 25, 2010
    Ditto the thanks, from the OP. Our band has just added this song to our cover list - I THOuGHT the sound was too "sharp" for a P-bass (even picked). I've been getting close by using a JB-type sound on my bass (at least as close as I can get) so good to know I'm sort of in the ballpark.

    Showman amp . . . Mmmm . . .. Maybe that's where the warmth of his tone comes in. Have to see if I can get close to that with my Sansamp . . .
  14. BarStarzBass


    Apr 25, 2010
    Thanks to all for your answers - there's some really good info in this community!
  15. 9mmMike

    9mmMike Would you happen to have a cookie for me? Supporting Member

    Sittin' back chillin' to some Heart and doin' some TB searches. Have to agree with the above!
  16. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    He's not? I'm pretty sure he and Mike have a Heart band that plays quite often.
  17. JLY

    JLY Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I also felt that he and the drummer got the shaft
    Great bass tone, great rhythm section
    Heart went on to sell a lot of records but it was all bubble gum music to me
    They ceased being a true band when they got rid if Steve, the drummer and their lead guitarist (he was really good!), they ceased getting their input and their music went downhill-again even if they did sell a lot of records
    But it was cool seeing the original lineup at the RR HOF
  18. TBird1958

    TBird1958 As a matter of fact....I am your Queen! Staff Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Seattle Washington
    Endorsing Artist Mike Lull T Bass pickups
    A big thumbs up for Steve!

    I did meet him at BassNW when I was selling a Rick 4001 several years ago, really a great guy to talk with!
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I saw Heart just after the Wilson sisters broke up with the Fisher brothers, and Steve changed basses after almost every song, and I don't think he did more than two songs with any bass. Honestly, I thought it was distracting. Levels and tones were uneven for the first few seconds after every change, and some didn't sound so hot.

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