Welcome to the first installment of Bassic Connections! The goal of this series is to spread the word about independent musicians and manufacturers I‘ve met in my travels who are making a name for themselves.
This first post features bassist and producer from Charleston, West Virginia, John Inghram. His killer new album, Slugfest, is out November 19, 2015. The album is steeped in Muscle Shoals-influenced southern soul, R&B, and Gospel. John steps out on occasion, but this is a groove album through and through! He takes on vocals in the heart felt “Second Time”, plays sweet melodic fretless on “Prayer In Spring”, and grooves so hard on tunes like “Scumbutt” that you can’t help but bob your head and smile!
JL: How long has this album been in the works?
JI: I have been working on the record for a year with the exception of two tracks (“The Gospel” and “Prayer in Spring”) which I have had for about three years. They both went under some facelifts but came out nicely I think. I was working on “The Gospel” up until the final renders were done. It’s kind of the long, “epic” tune of the cd.
JL: What gear did you use most?
JI: As far as equipment, I used Aguilar Th 500 for almost everything direct. We miked up my epifani ul-II 12 with a shure ksm32 then we blended accordingly. I used my source audio envelope pro for any of the filter sounds. That pedal is ridiculous. Steep learning curve but very flexible.
JL: Was the album tracked live or built up? A combo?
JI: We tracked the rhythm tracks live to the best of our abilities. Then I supplemented those with solos, multiple guitar tracks, strings or pads, percussion… Anything like that came after the fact. We can control things better that way and obviously it’s easier to mix. Or at least it’s easier to isolate and get individual tracks on point
JL: What gear did you use most in the studio?
JI: I used an ‘06 USA Jazz (rosewood, audere pre dimarzio pups), Tobias Killer B 6, NS Design Radius 5, F bass bn-5 fretless (unique OLD F bass, I’m told 1987), and a tenor e-c bass that was made by a friend Steve Arnett here in WV.
The TC HOF reverb pedal made it on the record. It was beating out some of the plug-ins we were messing with at times. Bass Big Muff on the bass part on “The People”. I used an EH memory toy on the intro of *The People” also. OC-2 on “Prayer in Spring” key board solo. and any whammy sounds come from a boss super shifter. Dimarzio cables, DR lo rider nickel strings on everything.
JL: I knew that was an oc-2! The album sounds great by the way! It has a great combo of southern gospel, R&B, and soul. Can you describe your writing process?
JI: Thank you! I wondered if it were too juxtaposed stylistically, but I think at this point it makes sense to show a few of the different things that I do, i.e. singing, grooving, soloing, arranging, but namely writing and producing. I am very esoteric in what I listen to so naturally that comes out in my compositions. I don’t generally go in with an idea of what style or genre the tunes are going to be, but I did do that on “Second Time”. I wanted a Muscle Shoals-ish southern soul vibe on that one. I wanted to do another vocal tune on the record so I wrote it with that in mind. Everything else happened very organically. I usually have a small idea for a groove or baseline. Sometimes a progression. Then I grab that gem of an idea and try to take it somewhere. I’m not the kind of person that writes something then it’s finished, unfortunately. It takes a tremendous amount of refining (both when I’m writing and on the production side) before I get to be satisfied… almost satisfied. Haha. Usually I run out of money and/or time.
JL: The Muscle Shoals vibe is strong! Donald “Duck” Dunn would be proud for sure! The album is very balanced… I noticed you spend the vast majority of time grooving, but when you step out, man… you step out! You’ve got some killer musicians on the record… I take it there is a strong scene in your area?
JI: Well I wondered if I was stepping out enough but I figured there’s always time for that in the live show. Again I wanted to make a record that showed off my producing as much as my playing, if not more so. Everyone except for Theron Brown (who’s in your neck of the woods -from Zanesville but lives in Akron now) is from WV. Some are in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, etc now, but 98% of folks call Charleston, WV home currently. We have a great scene here and it’s growing and growing. I keep telling people there is an arts renaissance happening here and the wave is about to break. It was also recorded at the Fishbowl Recording here in town, AND the graphic design was done by Mark Wolfe Design who’s a Charlestonian. Loads of talent in CWV.
JL: I feel the same about Akron right now… Do you play any other instruments?
JI: Akron has a beautiful scene IMO. I play Electric Guitar on “The People”, as well as percussion on a few tracks. I dabble with piano for writing/arranging purposes and play enough drums to hold down a groove. Bass has always been my love and my strength. I took to it pretty quickly when I was 12 or 13. I switched from trumpet & baritone to bass in middle school because I was falling in love rock ‘n roll and figured the girls would dig it more. Plus the band room smelled like spit and mildew. I guess I am nostalgic. That’s why I have horn players in my band now… nothing like slipping in a puddle of your horn players spittle on the bandstand. Haha.
JL: Sounds like we have more than bass in common. What other projects are you working on?
JI: Great bass players really understand the functions and roles of so many instruments typically. I think it’s because we are so accustomed to playing our role to a T and also listening to everyone else in the process. Gotta groove or nobody is happy, ya know. Other instrumentalists don’t require that kind of dedication to playing simply and tastefully to be considered great IMO. Not always but as a whole I think that’s true. That skill ends up helping us be better producers and band leaders a lot of the time too. We can remove ourselves from the equation and listen objectively. Other projects I am involved in currently are jazz piano player Bob Thompson’s new record Look Beyond the Rain. It should be out before 2016. I cut my teeth with Bob and learned more from him than any other human being. He is a spectacular musician and an even better person. He is a real treasure here in WV and was subsequently inducted into the WV Music HOF a couple of weeks ago. Next weekend I am going into the studio to record a new record with contemporary bluegrass mandolin player Johnny Staats & the Delivery Boys. That one will probably be out just after the new year.
Other than that I am learning music for a five-week European tour with the Kenneth Brian Band sometime in the summer of 2016, and writing and booking for the Slugfest band, which includes Randraiz Wharton on keys, Ryan Kennedy on guitar, Chris Clark on sax, Tajae Mosely on drums, and Chris Tanzey on trumpet.
JL: Awesome! Great to see you keeping busy. Who are your biggest influences musically?
JI: Well, I am a huge fan of Oteil and also the Grateful Dead. So right now I am super-excited that he is touring with Dead & Co. As far as my earliest influences on bass I of course love Stanley, Jaco, Rocco, Vic, Marcus, Patitucci, and McBride. I also play double bass (which I play on zero % of this record!) so I love the guys I mentioned on both E and Upright. Also, I love Sam Jones, Paul Chambers, Percy Heath, and Scott LaFaro. I can’t stop!!! There are so many!
I REALLY like where Thundercat is going, and my friend Tal Wilkenfeld is the bomb. I hear she has a new record coming out soon… I’m excited for that.
As far as the groove stuff goes nobody beats Willie Weeks, Duck, Jemmott, Carol Kaye, Bob Babbitt, Willie Dixon, and of course James Jamerson. I geek out on that stuff pretty hard, too… Lol.
JL: I’m really stoked to see what Tal has been working on… Hopefully more singing; she has a great soulful voice.
JI: I agree! She has a wonderful voice!!
JL: Any thoughts on the effect modern technology and social media are having on us musicians these days or how it has impacted your career?
JI: I really love all of the outlets there are on social, and usually they are free if not affordable. I’m kind of a newbie with social promo and everything else but since I started with several platforms (FB, Twitter, Instagram, bandsintown, etc.) I’ve noticed a big response to what I was putting out there. Much better than had I NOT done it. I think it’s really helping many folks. It gives an outlet to people who aren’t so great. So you have to look a little harder to find people you really dig but I think all in all it’s a huge asset to musicians these days. Specifically ones like myself who need help in the grassroots level. Original music is not easy to get out there. These platforms DEFINITELY help with that.
JL: Bandsintown is new to me, I’ll have to check it out. I’ve stumbled across a lot of players that are incredible on the social sites… Any of these musicians caught your ear lately?
JI: Mike Gordon from Phish is great at social media even though he doesn’t need to be. I love getting a window into someone’s life … At least that’s how it feels when I see his stuff on instagram or elsewhere. Even big stars are using it.
JL: Where can folks find you on the internet?
JI: My website is under construction and should be done before December. The address will be www.johninghrammusic.com.
(Keep up with John on Facebook here- https://www.facebook.com/JPInghram/?fref=ts )
JL: Cool. Any thing else you want folks to know about the album?
JI: Man I just appreciate your interest and your willingness to do this. As soon as I get an opportunity, probably between January and March, I’m going to record a three to four song EP so that’s another thing to look out for. Trying to keep the momentum going. I’m just having so much fun doing all these different things; it’s such a blessing! Life is GOOD!!