metal talk
metal talk
  INTENSIVE BASS COURSE WITH BILLY SHEEHAN
CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN
3 September 2013

chris dale



When you're a freelance backline technician like me, its similar to any other self employed job. You take what you can get and you do what you're asked irrespective of who the client is.

For example, a plumber will accept a job cleaning the drains at the local zoo's elephant enclosure but he'd probably be happier putting in a new bidet for Kerry King.

Sometimes I get offered an interesting tour. Sometimes not so much but it's all the same to me really. Either way, I unload some cases, set up some equipment and tune up some guitars. After that the band can play whatever they like through it all and I'll pack it down when they've finished.

Article continues below...



I have no problem with that and besides, most bands are actually quite fun to work for once you get to know them.

Then one day out of the blue, I got recommended to work on a tour as bass technician for Billy Sheehan. He's the guy that was in Mr Big and David Lee Roth's band. If like me you're lucky enough to be a bass player, then you've already heard of him. If you're not of our blessed breed, allow me to educate you. He is quite literally and with no exaggeration or doubt the most incredible rock bass player of the last 30 years. Have a look at this:



He was also one of my heroes when I was a youngster. I literally spent years locked in my bedroom, trying to work out some of his basslines. I didn't succeed, but I tried an awful lot.

I always dreamed that if I ever got a chance to meet him face to face there'd be so much I'd want to ask about; his three fingered picking technique, his use of tapped harmonics or where he learned this all from. The first thing I wanted to know though was exactly how he got his unique bass sound.

I'd read loads of interviews with him in music magazines where he explained his sound but I never really understood the nuts and bolts of it. As a backline technician the first thing I have to ask any musician that I work for is how they want their gear set up and how they want it to sound. This tour was going to be great fun, I would get to ask all my questions and especially the big question and he would have to answer in as much detail as I wanted to know!

We first met at a pre-production rehearsal day in Zoetemeer, Holland the day before the Devil's Slingshot European tour kicked off. The band was Tony MacAlpine on guitar and keyboards, Virgil Donatti on drums and the aforementioned Mr Sheehan on bass.

They are all incredible musicians. The three of them had just finished another tour as Steve Vai's band. I learned so much seeing how they worked over the tour, watching the gigs and just in casual conversation with them. I could write columns on all of them but never understand them fully. Sometimes it was like talking to aliens who are trying to explain to you how simply their time-warping anti-gravity drive system works.

Billy was a pleasure to work with and that first day he went into great detail about his equipment and sound but all in a fairly casual way. I was fascinated.

bully sheehan
Billy's Amp Racks

So it seemed that my job on tour was to make sure his basses sounded great through his rig every night, set it all up, clean it all up, change some strings and then stretch them in. That meant playing with his basses all day long. As a bass player myself it was a treat. As a fan it was a dream.

Each day I'd play through his rig and check it all out. Is there quite enough grind there? Will it keep tune if I bend the strings up a tone or two or three? (His basses play so beautifully). Do the harmonics scream out today? Do the lows rumble my colon? If the answer to all these questions was yes, all was good.

billy sheehan
Yours truly with one of Billy's crazy basses

Billy and I got on very well. We both like watching Family Guy and Peep Show. We both like discussing bass playing and politics into the small hours of the night to the gentle clinking sound of empty bottles swaying on the tour bus. He's intelligent, well read and a very funny guy. His tales of the road would make a whore blush and a vicar wet himself. You'd like him.

As a bass player myself, watching Billy play every night close up was like an intensive bass course for six weeks. It was very inspiring and just made me want to practice more. There's nothing this guy can't do. He can pump and groove like Bootsy, solo like Eddie VH but on bass or lay out vocal harmonies like Paul McC.

Some of the playing I've seen him do, I still don't understand to this day. Other parts of it I just started to understand as we went along but there was always this one annoying lick that he did in the set on that first tour that I just couldn't figure out. I heard it night after night. I even filmed it some nights and watched it back on my laptop in close-up on his fretboard with his spare bass in my hands but still I had no idea how he was doing it.

So one day in Belgium, I thought I should really just take advantage of my job position and knock on his dressing room door.

Billy plays bass all day. He's constantly striving to improve himself.

He's been playing long enough now to have what most people would consider to be mastery of his instrument but he still practises all day, every day, if he can. Pretty much, leave him in a room with his bass, a practice amp, sustenance and a camp bed and he will be happy.

He told me once about the theory of a plateau of learning. When somebody learns a new skill they rapidly soak up information to begin with until they are adequate at the task. Then their learning curve naturally plateaus off as they become comfortable with their ability.

For example, most people learn to drive a car in a few weeks, then once they have the ability to get to work and back without hitting too many obstacles along the way they don't get a lot better over the next few decades. Not many people go on to be advanced stunt car instructors or professional racing drivers. This is because it is hard to break through the plateau of learning.

It is the same with musicians. Most musicians learn their instrument to a level with which they are comfortable then don't stretch themselves much further over the coming years.

So when I dropped by the dressing room that day Billy was, of course, practising on one of his basses. I had the other.

"Sorry to interrupt mate, but you know that sweeping arpeggio type thing you do in unison with Tony? How does it go? Can you show it to me?" I asked.

He paused for a second and said, "I think its like this..."

A blur of sixteenth notes followed.

"Err... OK," I said "Can you play it a bit slower?"

Another blur of notes.

"... and slower again?" I asked.

Eventually he played it slowly enough for me to figure it out, sort of. I had it very roughly and very slowly. This lick was going to take months or possibly years of practice, I thought. At the time I didn't know how many years.

Go on, you have a go...

billy sheehan

If you're a bass player you'll notice that this is physically impossible to play as 16th notes. If you're not a musician, you'll think I've misunderstood the basics of Sudoku.

"Or if you want to do it in a minor key it'd go like this," he offered along with a further blur of notes. He was up to full speed again.

"And if you want to tap a few more notes at the top you could go like this". More flurries of notes passed me by.

"Right, yeah," I nodded unconvincingly "I see..."

He wasn't convinced.

"It's easy" he said "anyone can do it".

I think that's the point though isn't it? Not everyone can do it. If they could, they would and Billy Sheehan wouldn't be a household name (if your household is full of bass players).

That first tour I did with him was five years ago now. I've worked with him a lot since then all over the world and although we've shared some great times I have to say that I still can't play that one bit he showed me on the first tour anywhere near up to speed.

Billy is currently working with a new band called Winery Dogs with Richie Kotzen and and Mike Portnoy. Their self-titled debut album is out now. They play the London Islington Academy later this week on Thursday September 5th.

See www.thewinerydogs.com for more tour dates.






MORE CHRIS DALE'S METAL MELTDOWN COLUMNS HERE...

April 2015: Undiscovered Kisstory: The Kiss Drummer Auditions Of 1980
March 2015: Matthew Trippe RIP - The strange case of the man who would be Nikki Sixx
November 2014: Kiss: 'Love Gun' Deluxe Edition
October 2014: Mr. Big – Live Review at Koko, London
September 2014: Mr. Big: 'The Stories We Could Tell' album review
September 2013: Intensive Bass Course with Billy Sheehan
August 2013: Booking Agents vs Promoters
July 2013: Rock and Metal Pub Quiz
June 2013: Communication Tips For European Festivals, Or How To Learn A Language In An Evening
May 2013: Storm Thorgerson (1944-2013) RIP
April 2013: Daily Mail Columnist Richard Littlejohn Sinks To New Low With Anti-Heavy Metal Article
April 2013: The Future Of Classic Bands
March 2013: Smashing Pumpkins Video Shoot
Febuary 2013: Ten Years On Total Rock
January 2013: Kiss Follow Up To Monster 2013
December 2012: Kiss Reformation Magick
November 2012: Exclusive Interview With Geoff Tate
November 2012: Morally Worrying Session
October 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Review
October 2012: The Best Invention Of All Time
September 2012: A Conversation With Rudy Sarzo
August 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 3
July 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 2
June 2012: Scream For Me Sarajevo Part 1
May 2012: Managers v Producers
April 2012: Kiss 'Monster' Album Preview
March 2012: London Venue's Nazi Past?
February 2012: How Not to Join the Ozzy Osbourne Band
January 2012: Metal Evilution
December 2011: Take Your Pick Competition
November 2011: The Pandora's Box Of Pop
October 2011: Tank Tour Diary 2011
September 2011: Festival Stage Collapses
August 2011: Bruce Air, The Early Days
July 2011: European Festival Round-Up
June 2011: Bernie Torme Proud To Be Part Of MT Ozzy Article
June 2011: Who's Your Favourite Ozzy Guitarist?
May 2011: Japanese Tsunami Disaster
April 2011: 10,000 Tank Albums!
March 2011: Death Metal Session!
6th February 2011: Gary Moore (4th April 1952 - 6th February 2011)
February 2011: Recording Bass at Steve Harris'
January 2011: A Column About Columns











 

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gary rossington LYNYRD SKYNYRD UPDATE WITH MORE CANCELLATIONS DUE TO GARY ROSSINGTON ILLNESS
"Currently the band hopes to resume touring on Thursday 4th August at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands..."

extreme EXTREME CELEBRATE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF 'PORNOGRAFFITI' ALBUM WITH 'PORNOGRAFFITI LIVE 25/METAL MELTDOWN'
"Some of these songs were never played live before so we had to go back and relearn them for the tour."

ozzy osbourne OZZY OSBOURNE: "I'M NOT HAPPY BEING SOBER"
"It scares me. I hear all the time people say that they have another drink in them but they may not have another sobriety in them..."

paul rodgers IT'S NOT ALL RIGHT NOW! PAUL RODGERS SUES DONALD TRUMP
"We will make America great again. God bless you and good night, I love you."

heavy metal HEAVY METAL HELPS PEOPLE DEAL WITH MORTALITY ACCORDING TO OFFICIAL STUDY
"Metal music can be seen as cultural good for fans and thereby can form part of their social identity."

motorhead MOTÖRHEAD STILL RUNNING DOWN THE HIGHWAY: PHIL, MIKKEY AND EDDIE ALL GEARED UP FOR FORTHCOMING DATES
"Every snare hit I do from now on until the end of my career will be a small tribute to Lemmy..."

iron maiden IRON MAIDEN'S STEVE HARRIS DROPS THE PRICE OF HIS ESSEX MANSION BY £1MILLION
The eight-bedroom mansion was on the market for £6.75million in 2012 but it's "guide price" is now a mere £3.95million...

hrh aor ALL GUNS BLAZING FOR NEW HRH AOR 5 ANNOUNCEMENT
Phil Lewis & Tracii Guns unite under the L.A. Guns banner once again for next year's HRH AOR 5 being held next March at Camp HRH in North Wales...

deep purple DEEP PURPLE 'LIVE AT THE NEC' DVD ON THE WAY: FAREWELL JON, WELCOME DON
The two share keyboard duties during the night in a very fitting "passing-of-the-torch" moment...

status quo ROCK 'TIL YOU DROP WITH STATUS QUO 1981-1986 VINYL BOX SET
In addition to the studio albums the box set will include an extra disc of b-sides and extended mixes...

zz top ZZ TOP TO RELEASE THEIR VERY FIRST OFFICIAL LIVE ALBUM IN SEPTEMBER
"In an abstract surrealism style, this collection is a definitive chronicle of the band hangin' together for four plus deluxe decades..."

tygers of pan tang TYGERS OF PAN TANG "SPECIAL TIME" HAS COME WITH NEW RELEASE
"The new Tygers album is finished, done and dusted and ready to unleash on our 'Tygertastic' audience. You're gonna love this one, it's a MONSTER..."

andy fraser ANDY FRASER OF FREE'S LAST RECORDING WITH SAIICHI SUGIYAMA ONLINE HERE
"'Melting Away' became one of Andy's last recordings. He still had so much to offer and I was really looking forward to continuing to work with him."

ritchie blackmore RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW TO PLAY AGAIN BUT WITH LESS DEEP PURPLE SONGS
"I would do probably ninety-five percent Rainbow songs; that's what they seem to want to hear. And it didn't occur to me. I just naturally assumed they wanted to hear everything."

saxon EXCLUSIVE: THIS IS WHAT OUR FAVOURITE ROCKERS THINK OF THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE
Comment from Saxon, Slash, Thunder, Iron Maiden, Uli Jon Roth, Hawkwind, Cher, Johnny Rotten, Machine Head And More...

beyond the black UK EXCLUSIVE: BEYOND THE BLACK SINGER JENNIFER HABEN IS LOST IN FOREVER AS FIVE MEMBERS DEPART THE BAND
"I have enjoyed the time together with the guys very much and am grateful for everything we have achieved together in Germany. I am currently looking for new colleagues..."

cats in space CATS IN SPACE SET TO RELEASE SLADE CLASSIC WITH DANNY BOWES OF THUNDER ON GUEST VOCALS
"It's is one of my favourite Slade songs, so when they asked me to sing on their version it took me a good second and a half to say yes..."

guns n roses WAS BREAKING NEWS: GUNS N' ROSES ADD MORE TOUR DATES FOR OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER
The Gunners' newly announced dates are for South America with ten dates in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Chile and Colombia with more to be announced soon...

keith moon YOU WON'T GET FOOLED WITH OFFICIAL KEITH MOON COMMEMORATIVE DRUM HEAD
Manufactured as a special, custom product by Remo, these 14" high-gloss drum heads are a perfect collector's item for true fans of the legendary drummer and The Who...

the answer WAS BREAKING NEWS: THE ANSWER AND THE DEAD DAISIES ANNOUNCE NOVEMBER UK TOUR
"The fact that we get to debut this new material with our mates The Dead Daisies just adds to the rush we're currently experiencing. You really don't want to miss this one!"

ian gillan IAN GILLAN SAYS: "IT'S A WONDERFUL THING, VINYL..." WITH NEW COLLECTION ABOUT TO BE RELEASED
"You just bought something significant, not easily disposable. And look at the sleeves - aren't they cool..."

quireboys THE QUIREBOYS NEW ALBUM ON THE WAY: "THE LYRICS ON THE TITLE TRACK ARE SOME OF SPIKE'S BEST EVER!"
"I approached the songwriting from a different angle and it felt good. There's a lot of passion there."

48 hours 48 HOURS TO ROCK THE UK TO A CITY OF ASHES
"We're hitting the road in September for a co-headline tour with our broseph's City Of Ashes! This will be one of the unsigned tours of the year!"

hammerfall WAS BREAKING NEWS: LIVE LIFE LOUD WITH HAMMERFALL ON 2017 EUROPEAN TOUR: NEW ALBUM ON THE WAY
"We can't wait to get back on stage again to have a gigantic Heavy Metal party every night with all our Templar friends!"

joe perry AEROSMITH GUITARIST JOE PERRY REPORTEDLY SUFFERS HEART ATTACK DURING HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRES GIG
"Thanks to everyone asking about our brother Joe Perry," Alice Cooper wrote. "He is stable right now, with family and is under the best care."

onslaught ONSLAUGHT, BEHOLDER AND ANIHILATED TOUR PROMISES TO BE A TOUR DE FORCE
"By the time we hit the road in November it will be well over two-and-a-half years since we did the last run and we feel the time is now right..."

arw ARW (JON ANDERSON, TREVOR RABIN AND RICK WAKEMAN) ANNOUNCE BAND FOR UPCOMING WORLD TOUR
"I have played with arguably the three greatest bass players ever and I can't wait to play with one of them again!"

marillion MARILLION UNVEIL 'THE NEW KINGS' FROM FORTHCOMING STUDIO ALBUM 'FEAR'
'The New Kings' can also be heard on Marillion's current tour which starts on Monday 11th July in Barcelona...

michael des barres AN AMERICAN WRITER ASKS WHY IT TAKES A BRITISH EX-PAT TO ASK, "WHAT'S GOING ON?" MICHAEL DES BARRES HAS THE ANSWER
This incendiary cover of Marvin Gaye's classic confronts America's issues in an incredibly timely and head-on manner...

freedom call FREEDOM CALL RELEASE A NEW METAL HYMN 'HAMMER OF THE GODS', AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD NOW
The trademark bold vocal harmonies remain. The track is taken from forthcoming opus 'Master Of Light'...

guns n roses STEVEN ADLER JOINS GUNS N' ROSES ON STAGE IN OHIO: FOUR FIFTHS OF 'APPETITE' LINE-UP PLAY TOGETHER FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1990
"On the drums, you might know this guy. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Steven Adler..."

ac dc AC/DC BASSIST CLIFF WILLIAMS TO RETIRE AFTER ROCK OR BUST WORLD TOUR: "IT'S BEEN SURREAL"
"AC/DC has been... you know, just... I don't know what else I would wanna do. I love the music and I love playing in the band, and I'm all filled up..."

guns n roses GUNS N' ROSES USE THEIR ILLUSION TO SILENCE THE DOUBTERS WITH US TOUR GOING SO FINE
Axl is clearly in his element on this tour, running across the stage to jump on the monitors mid-song and displaying all the panache of a man completely on top of his game...

stray del bromham STRAY TO ROAM AROUND THE UK ON TOUR INCLUDING A RARE REUNION OF THE ORIGINAL LINE-UP
No need to move a mountain as both Stray and Del Bromham's Blues Devils are on their way to a venue near you...

amorettes THE AMORETTES ANNOY THE NEIGHBOURS WITH RAUCOUS NEW SINGLE
'Let The Neighbours Call The Cops' was co- written by vocalist Gill Montgomery and Black Star Riders front man Ricky Warwick...

eagles of death metal WAS BREAKING NEWS: EAGLES OF DEATH METAL WANT YOU SO BAD ON TWO UK DATES IN AUGUST
This is EODM's first visit to the UK since the band were caught up in the terrible events at The Bataclan Theatre in Paris back in November 2015...

soil SOiL 'SHINE ON' THE UK WITH COMPREHENSIVE TOUR
"We are looking forward to seeing some new places and making some new friends this time around..."

acid reign ACID REIGN GET IN FESTIVE MOOD EARLY WITH SPECIAL GIG ANNOUNCEMENT
'Tis the season to Thrash as Acid Reign team up with Shrapnel with far from obnoxious results...

iron maiden IRON MAIDEN: LEGACY OF THE BEAST MOBILE RPG GAME IS OUT NOW
"We've always wanted to make a quality Maiden mobile game as we think the combination of Eddie and the music is so well suited..."

rick parfitt status quo EXCLUSIVE: STATUS QUO'S RICK PARFITT SEEMS TO BE 'FINE FINE FINE' AS HE IS SPOTTED OUT AND ABOUT
Following the recent health scare a picture has emerged online of him taking a walk in Kingston over the weekend...

bullet for my valentine BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE TO PLAY 'THE POISON' IN FULL FOR THE FIRST EVER TIME
"We promised you something special right? See 'The Poison' played in full for the first time in Manchester! Tickets on sale now here..."

alter bridge WAS BREAKING NEWS: ALTER BRIDGE TO HEADLINE ARENAS ACROSS EUROPE THIS WINTER WITH GOJIRA AND VOLBEAT
This will be their biggest headline tour yet with twenty-four dates across fifteen countries, kicking off on November 4th 2016

the mission WAS BREAKING NEWS: BAUHAUS FRONTMAN PETER MURPHY TO GUEST WITH THE MISSION ON THEIR 30th ANNIVERSARY UK TOUR
"Peter's appearance will help make these shows the special events that we always wanted and hoped they'd be..."

iron maiden IRON MAIDEN ILLUSTRATOR DESIGNS SHIRT FOR ONE DIRECTION'S ZAYN MALIK, MAIDEN LAUNCH THIRD TROOPER BEER AND HI-ON-MAIDEN TO HEADLINE PICCSTOCK
A full-bodied beer using a blend of chocolate and crystal malts to give "a roasted malt and caramel backbone with hints of liquorice and honey"...

bruce dickinson BRUCE DICKINSON TO TAKE PART IN TOP GEAR STYLE CHARITY ROAD TRIP
"The enthusiasm from the group is amazing which will lend itself to making it an unforgettable trip..."

anvil WAS BREAKING NEWS: ANVIL ANNOUNCE UK AND EUROPEAN TOUR FOR OCTOBER/NOVEMBER
Anvil will not only be playing dates in Scotland and Wales but also English towns which rarely see major international artists, such as Huddersfield, Doncaster and Grimsby.

status quo IT'S TIME TO GET 'DOWN DOWN' TO BUTLINS AS SECOND STATUS QUO FAN CLUB CONVENTION IS ANNOUNCED
The weekend will feature live music from ex-Quo drummer John Coghlan and his band with long time friend of the band, Jackie Lynton also scheduled to appear...

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