Bassist Doug Wimbish talks candidly with MC about the WimBASH event for NAMM's charity, his relationship with TEC Award winner Eventide and offers advice to young, hungry artists to get an endorsement deal.
Read More: Gear Review: Eventide H9 MAX
Music Connection: Tell us about WimBASH last night—awesome event with a great lineup you put together. How did you put it all together?
Doug Wimbish: I’m blessed to have a lot of good friends. When you have friends and family…I reached out to Daru Jones, Paul Pesco, Corey from Living Colour and my band mate and some of my old friends from my Sugar Hill days. The Chops Horns section, we did all the Sugar Hill records and Scott Healy, who plays for Conan O’Brien.
I was that kid that’s dreaming and I’m still dreaming, so I always like to make sure that I can find young talent, young up and coming artists—to be able to put them on. Kyle Ward was a sophomore at Berkley…college Music up in Boston I ran into him and he’s phenomenal guitar player. Christone “Kingfish” Ingram? Wicked new, up and coming guitar player—16 years old—and I saw him when I was on a United Airlines flight and there was an article on Mississippi that had him in there. Next thing you know I’m getting a call from some folks and they say, “Hey, would you mind having him a part of your WimBASH?” I’m like, “Sure!”
The whole WimBASH brand started off as me giving my mentor, Skip McDonald, who did all the Sugar Hill records—and I’ve been working with him from 1974; still working with him right now. We lived in London, I came back here to Connecticut, he was still over there and he hadn’t been back in years, so I’m likem, “Let me give back my mentor a ‘coming home’ party so he can see all of his friends.” At the same time, there was a club in Hartford named Sully’s, the one club like CBGB’s that puts all artists on—doesn’t matter if you’re an acoustic guitar player or whatever—a poet seven nights a week there’s music going on. And he’s like, “Doug, man, we’re glad you’re back home but would you wanna do something?”
Thirdly, I have a lot of friends I grew up with who aren’t playing in bands anymore, so you see cats all the time, “Hey, man! Hey, Doug, what’s going on, man? Let’s do something!” A lot of times it’s hollow conversation people have, and you know you’re not gonna do anything…I don’t like to have hollow conversation, so I said, “I’m gonna put all three of these things together. Have a party at the club, get my friends at a weekend warriors and have all of the come and participate in the event!” At the same time, I met John McCarthy from Rockhouse—he was at the party and saw the event. Started off with one band, before you know it I’ve got 10 bands performing! And it was all natural, all organic, and it just built from the earth and I loved it. People encouraged me to do it again, and the John from Rockhouse was like, “This was 12 years ago, let’s bring it out today. I love what you’re doing.” So we brought it out to NAMM…all these folks here get involved, and every year it just grew. I’ve moved it to different locations—we’ve had WimBASHes in Miami Beach; Philadelphia; Anchorage, Alaska; United Kingdom; I’ve done it over in Frankfurt. It’s just naturally grew into something that when I wake up everyday…[you] look forward to seeing your friends, and if it’s anything, how can I keep to have this big family party going on?
And now the family has expanded to my sponsors, which Eventide has been a gracious and key sponsor. They’re really good guys, and I like the sounds. And they have, to me, one of the best devices that’s come out today. The H9 is a product that I stand by.
MC: Tell us a bit about that.
Wimbish: It’s almost like Jesus came down and blessed somebody with an effects pedal that I personally like. Eventide is one of these companies that does really high-end stuff, and they’ve been doing it for years. And it’s almost like this is a toy for them—it’s like, “Oh, okay, we can make a pedal and we can make it really, really good for everybody,” so I just fell in love with it.
I met the guys who came by my house in the early stages when they were still putting algorithms and patches together, and I was like, “Man, this is gonna be a total game changer.” For me, personally, I was the kid that used to plug in my bass into an Echoplex and wah-wah pedal and fuzz boxes trying to emulate all my heroes, and [Eventide] put all of that in these little devices I like to use in one small box that I can run on my iPhone or my iPad! It’s amazing!
So I’ve personally been able to explore more with it, but not just that—I like to turn my friends on to what’s going on. I’m not the kind of guy that takes the basketball, plays the game and then I go home but my friends are still there and wanna use the ball and I take the ball home. I’m like, “No. Let me turn my friends on to this pedal.” Victor Wooten, Roy “Futureman,” I’ve got them engaged in it and a lot of other folks who have seen me use it, and they’re like, “Man, that’s kinda cool.”
As a bassist, you get full-range frequencies coming out of the bass; that’s in another lane than guitarists—between the harmonics and low end frequencies, you can really hear the pedal, in my opinion, at its fullest cause of the range of the bass. For me, it’s been a total game changer.
MC: Sounds like you’re really passionate about helping young artists. What kind of career advice would you have for artists that are looking to be sponsored?
Wimbish: First of all, just believe. Find your lane, find your tone, find your own imprint. Listen to everybody, obviously, cause that’s what we all do. One of the things is just be patient. You have to be in the ballpark to get a hit, you can’t be in the stands talking about swing, so find a way to get into the ballpark whether you’re around the people that are inspiring you, people that you’re digging.
So as you’re younger, nowadays you have many opportunities to explore: go on YouTube, you can see who was playing the night before and see what Victor Wooten was doing just last night, or myself, or drummers, musicians of different calibers. There’s many ways as a young artist to get the information and process it. At the same time, there’s a lot more distractions, in my opinion, in this generation than my generation. In my generation, it was get a turntable, put a penny on the needle, make sure it doesn’t skip, put your ear there, listen to the records and stuff. Or you get a book or we learn from our friends. And now, I find myself going on YouTube saying, “Now how does someone do this, this and this?” So all the musicians right now there is no excuse—you should all be geniuses, man, major Beethovens all over the place.
But again…follow your spirit. That’s important. Never let anybody tell you what you can’t do. Remember there’s a lot of musical police officers in this business, and they’re waiting to arrest you. For example, a lot of times you’ll get into one groove in a band and it can be so centered it’s like, “Yo, man, we’re the only ones who are doing this,” so if you try to go outside of the bar, sometimes you get suppressed by your own friends. “I’m playing metal, so we just stay metal.” If you wanna listen to a jazz artist, a reggae artist, or blues, so for my advice? Listen to everything. Your world is free right now—the frequencies are there.
And if you can listen, then you can learn. That’s the key: listen.
MC: That’s great advice for artists. So what are your plans here at NAMM? What’s been cool, what did you enjoy?
Wimbish: First of all, NAMM is like a class reunion, I get to meet you guys from Music Connection, I get to see friends from the industrial side that’s been in the game for awhile, whether they’re coming from Europe or wherever. Also, all of our musicians, this is our class reunion. We get a chance, for one weekend, break bread, maybe we see each other for 30 seconds, but those 30 seconds mean the world to me.
I’m a fan of a lot of musicians—if I see fellow bassists—I’m so happy to see them. If I see other folks… I only get to sometimes see them here, so if it’s anything I bless NAMM for being able to have this as way of means for us musicians to get together and break bread.
Stay tuned! Shade is coming out! Living Colour 2016!
For more information, visit dougwimbish.com.