|Bass to Bass - David Dubas' Interview with Oteil
Posted by: Lana
David Dubas, bass player with the Matt Barranti Band recently got together with Oteil for an interview which Hittin' the Web is happy to share with you now. Thanks David and Oteil!
Q. 2003 has been a pretty big year for you. As usual, you've been pretty busy. What can you tell me about your recent tour of Japan with fellow bass virtuoso Victor Wooten?
That was something I've wanted to do for a long time. It was everything that I imagined it would be and more. It's really a great challenge to play with someone who blows you off the stage every night. It's hard on the ego but it makes you reach deeper into yourself if you don't get trapped in trying to "compete". He's such a force of nature that you can't help but be part of the audience even though you are onstage with him. He's also one of the most gracious humans that I've ever worked with. We played Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe.
It was just me, him and an incredible drummer named Derico Watson. This guy is truly unbelievable! I really hope that we get to do it in the states sometime. We had a few songs worked up but a lot of it was improv too. A great time!
Q. Your new CD from Oteil and the Peacemakers, The Family Secret, also came out in 2003. What was the direction that you were going with on this CD?
Forward! I never have a "direction" other than that when I do a record. I just record whatever I've written. All of it will end up having elements of funk, latin, jazz, blues, european classical, etc. cause I listen to all kinds of music. The only thing that wasdeliberately different from my last record was that I wanted to have vocals. I really wanted vocals on the first one though, it just didn't work out.
Q. The Song "Hard to Find" has an odd time signature, but still posesses an infectious groove to it. What can you tell me about this song?
Well, sometimes I hear things in terms of the groove first. I really wasn't thinking about this being in an odd time signature, it just came out that way. I guess you could say that it's a latin groove in 5/4. When we first did the record it was everybody's favorite song as far as how it turned out in the studio. It's the kind of thing that will keep you from getting a major record deal though. It's so sad how pathetic the music industry is nowadays. If you step outside of whatever they define as the norm then you are penalized. That's life though. Of course there are exceptions. Derek Trucks is on Colombia records and he's doing Pakistani tunes. That's thrilling to see!
Q. Please talk a little about your rendition of "America the Beautiful."
It really has three meanings to me. Firstly, its a protest song. Thats why the chords are so dark. I'm strongly against America's foreign policy and I think that 911 was inevitable. We killed their innocents and they wanted us to see how it felt. The fact that the vast majority of Americans are unaware of this is frightening and sad. They're too busy watching stupid ***** like Joe Millionaire and Survivor. Secondly its a requiem for our innocents who died. Revenge is never a solution and it will never stop if we keep going back and forth.
Look at Israel and Palestine. Don't get me wrong, I think that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda should be punished. It makes you wonder why we abandoned that for Saddam Hussein. (Or at least it should.) Thirdly it has a feeling of hope at the end. I think that the Constitution provides us with that hope. I have no illusions that the writers of the Constitution really meant what they said because they certainly did not provide liberty and justice for all, but they still wrote those words into the document and consequently, after much toil and bloodshed, I was born free and not a slave.
That same document holds out the hope that one day the government will again be "by, of, and for the people" and not big corporations. Until we have campaign finance reform our government will continue to wage open and secret wars for the Texacos and Halliburtons of the world and create more enemies. Sorry for the rant but you asked!
Q. Congratulations on your grammy nomination for best instrumental rock song for "Instrumental Illness." How did you and Warren Haynes go about writing this?
Thank you. We really didn't take very long writing this song. Warren had the first section already done and I just added the groove in the second section, and then Warren put in the melodies and unison lines. I don't think it took much more than an hour. I think its really the performance that is in the spotlight more than the writing. The playing really give the song its wings in my opinion.
Q. Lets go back to 1997. Please talk about the experience of your auditions with the Allman Brothers.
Well there's not much to it really. It was me and three or four other guys and we all gave it a shot and I got the gig. The funny part was that initially, they called and offered me the gig. When Dickey found out that I didn't have any of their records and didn't really know any of the tunes, then he decided that he wanted to hold auditions. Music is music though and I still knew I could get the gig if I did the homework. It's not like like had to learn to play the sitar for the gig. It's still bass.
Q. The Allman Brothers line-up is very different than when many of their earlier hits were written, and is also very different than when you first joined them. Combined with the fact of having Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks in the band, do you ever have to fight the urge to step outside with some of the harmonically simpler songs?
ALL the songs are harmonically simple so I lose that battle a lot! I feel that Duane would love it though if he were still alive. He was extremely progressive. Sometime it's not right though. You have to serve the song. That being said, if you're swimming in the river of improvisation, where else are you going to go? Going around in circles gets really boring after a while, and come to think of it, that's the one thing you never see a fish do, unless it's trapped in a small aquarium. Right? That's why jazz evolved the way it did. If you're doing true exploration then you naturally will branch out into not only different harmonies but also different rythms.
Q. What's it like playing with three drummers/percussionists?
It's different, but so is playing with two guitarists. Every situation is different so I just take it one situation at a time. They've been playing together for a long time so it makes it a lot easier. I did a gig with about 20 bassists and that was a lot harder!
Q. How much did the work of the previous bass players of the Allman Brothers affect how and what you play with the band?
They totally affect it! You have to play what they did to a certain extent because it's part of the framework of the song. In the jams you do your own thing and try to stay in the spirit of what they did. Fortunately for me there were some very fine bassists that came before me and they did some very interesting things that are fun to work from. People may take for granted how much music out there nowadays doesn't even have a "real" bass in it. Of course, ABB fans probably don't listen to much of that.
Q. Could you please talk a little about the great drummer Elvin Jones, who you have mentioned as being one of your biggest influences?
Well, I was a drummer long before I picked up the bass so many of my influences are drummers. Elvin just happens to be my favorite. He played swing in a totally different way than drummers before him. He was one of those people that came along with a knew idea and people imitated and built off of it and took swing in another direction. He just heard it differently and had the guts to play what he heard. And to keep playing it even if people didn't understand it at first. He also happens to be Butch and Jaimoe's favorite drummer so it makes it easier to play with them because we have that in common.
Q. Are you still planning on recording together with Derek Trucks and Elvin Jones?
It's something that Derek conceived of and is still working on hopefully.
Q. If you could do a session and have a one-on-one conversation with any musician, alive or deceased, who would you choose?
The Rev. James Cleveland. I wouldn't want to record with him as much as talk to him though. There's nothing for me to add to what he already did. As far as doing a session I would have to say the guys in my band, (The Peacemakers) because I haven't really pursued recording or playing with my heroes for some reason. I've met Elvin, Jaco and Bootsy so I've had a chance to talk to them.
Q. Who do you consider to be the hottest players on the scene today?
I'm assuming that you mean the "jamband" scene and I really don't listen to much of that. It's a short list for me as far as that scene is conerned. I'll just look through my CD cases and list some of what's in there: Ralph Towner, D'Gary, The Meters, Wayne Shorter, Rev. James Cleveland, The Fairfield Four, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Waller, Bobby Blue Bland, Otis Redding, Little Milton, Etta James, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, George Benson, Pat Martino, Jaco Pastorius, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Marcus Miller, Ralph Stanley, Flatt and Scruggs, Vassar Clements, The Three Kings(B.B., Freddie, and Albert), Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Bob Marley, Bootsy, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, Hendrix, The Roots, Tribe Called, Quest, The Bulgarian Women's Choir, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Gregorian chants, Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanches, Grupo Afro Cuba, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Cedell Davis, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Herbie Hancock, Miles, Coltrane,Thelonius Monk Joni Mitchell, etc. I could go on and on within each category you know?!
As far as the "jamband" scene it would be Medeski Martin and Wood, Soulive, Derek Trucks Band, Fareed Haque(Garage Mahal), Susan Tedeschi, Gov't Mule, Victor Wooten, I really can't think of much more than that, honestly. The interesting thing is that I don't really consider any of those groups "jambands". They are really in the tradition of the people on the list above but they're just younger!
As far as more modern stuff it would be Dave Fiuczynski (The Screaming Headless Torsos, Hasidic New Wave, Kif, Tao), D'angelo, Meshell Ndegeocello, The Campbell Brothers (Sacred Steel), Jack Pearson, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Adam Rodgers, Fima Ephron,
Q. Paper or Plastic?
Paper definitely, but my wife prefers plastic so that's what I end up using!