The Industry

The Coolest Bass Players of All Time By BIMM Berlin

17th May 2017

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Genuinely good bassists are few and far between, but at BIMM Berlin, we’ve got a dedicated team of bass enthusiasts #obsessed with a good bass pluck. Our College Principal, Events Manager and Head of Bass have put their heads together and come up with a list of their favourites. Here are the BIMM Berlin team’s most dearly beloved bass players:

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  1. Jaco Pastorius standing as arguably the most groundbreaking electric bassist of the 20th century, the wildly undercelebrated Pastorius was the invisible pioneer of the jazz bass. A university lecturer at the age of 22, the Floridian was renowned for his blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms, free jazz and old blues. Due to the nature of his untimely demise in 1987, the Weather Report band member brought the topic of mental health issues within music back to the forefront of conversation.
  1. Melissa auf der Maur – this Quebec native earnt her stripes as the bassist for Hole and The Smashing Pumpkins, alongside writing, recording, producing, mixing and releasing her own solo projects.
  1. Gary Valentine – as a founding member of the new wave outfit Blondie, Valentine is now a freelance writer specialising in occultism. Something of an eminent composer, Valentine spent most of the 1980s writing tracks for the likes of Annie Lennox, or rubbing shoulders with Iggy Pop as part of his backing band.
  1. Kim Deal – the first lady of The Pixies, The Breeders and The Amps earns her place on this list due to her contributions within the alternative rock sphere. A pioneer of the All Wave recording philosophy, Deal avoids all aspects of the digital recording process. Preferring to appreciate the instrument in its rawest, most basic state, Deal toys with the simplicity of the humble bassline in her work.
  1. Flea – whilst being primarily famous for his founding role in the Californian quartet Red Hot Chili Peppers, Michael Balzary might be separately considered more than proficient as a jazz trumpeter. His signature slap/pop bass style has defined the sound of RHCP, combining funk and soul with psychedelia and punk. Exotic performances and committed soloing aside, Flea has firmly cemented his place on this list chiefly due to his choice in onstage legwear alone (see above).

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  1. Roger Waters – prog-rock pioneer Waters is best known as the bassist and chief composer for Pink Floyd. He’s unobtrusive; he’s not a show-off – he’s happy acting as the glue that holds the band together. Moreover, his playing doesn’t need to be ostentatious – he lays such a solid foundation for each track that doesn’t need any more flash. Waters is the driving force behind a legendary group, and for that he earns his spot on this list.
  1. D’arcy Wretzky – as the original bassist for The Smashing Pumpkins, Wretzky developed a distinctive pick technique, helping the band create their innovative and distinctive sound. Her cleverly constructed basslines defined the group’s records, and helped reserve their place as one of the most prominent bands of the 1990s.
  1. Lemmy – Motörhead’s moustachioed frontman was, and still is, a beloved member of the metal microcosm. The guitar-like nuances in his bass playing gave way to unbridled creativity and a characteristic strumming system which became as recognisable to Motörhead fans as those mutton chops.
  1. Colin Greenwood – Greenwood’s ability to take the complex arrangements and often abstract thinking of Yorke (and his brother Jonny) to even greater music ingenuity is, with a group this talented, astounding. Legend has it that the bassline for ‘Airbag’, one of Radiohead’s most famous songs, was created within minutes of arriving at the studio to record the track. The reason for the part’s sparse and unpredictable nature is due to Greenwood never having learnt the song or written a set line – but what a riff!
  1. Bootsy Collins – Parliament-Funkadelic, flavourful grooves and soulful melodies are the signature of James Brown’s bassist Bootsy Collins. After mingling with soul legends, such as James Brown, Collins set up shop with the iconic collective Parliament-Funkadelic. A juggernaut within the funk soul groove world, Collins perfectly encapsulates the essence of the genre. Flea credits Collins as inspiring him to pick up a bass… so he’s probably worth a listen.

Want to try your hand at earning a place on this list? Take a look at the BIMM Berlin bass course here.

Image credit: Elizabeth Jacyshyn-Owen

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Author

Elizabeth Jacyshyn-Owen

Elizabeth Jacyshyn-Owen is a Berlin based writer and BIMM Bristol graduate. She has an MA in Musicology from Oxford Brookes University and currently writes for music and arts collective Dash Majesty.