Un Poquito Mas Sobre Mi – Q and A
KEEPING THE GROOVE SACRED
Interview with Darryl White
After over 30 years of playing, electric bassist, Alan Ace Cooper decided to step back and take a “true” look at the “Claimed” Christian Music environment. Some of his answers may surprise you!
WHEN DID YOU START PLAYING THE ELECTRIC BASS GUITAR?
I started playing, seriously, in 1976. I pretty much taught myself, as I still do from time to time. I learned a lot by watching television and family members that played either guitar or bass.
SO YOU NEVER RECEIVED ANY FORMAL TRAINING?
Nope! I passed the audition for my Jr. High School mostly because I taught myself basic music reading from studying the Mel Bay Electric Bass Volume I book. The band teacher at my Jr. High School, a guy named Robert Wright, helped me get a better understanding of music notation. That was enough for me to pass an audition for the Duke Ellington, Senior High School for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. I learned a little bit of theory and how to adapt electric bass playing to Acoustic/Upright bass. There was a horrible teachers strike in DC in 79-80, so what I learned on acoustic bass was taught to me by the older students. I did receive some never-used formal training on Trombone.
WHO WERE YOUR EARLY BASS INFLUENCES?
That is a tough question. How much time do I have? In the beginning, it was Verdine White of Earth Wind and Fire. Verdine was the reason that I wanted to play bass. I saw EWF on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in the mid 70’s and knew that is what I wanted to do. Afterwards, I listened to Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Gene Simmons w/ Kiss, Chris Squire w/ Yes, Felix Robinson w/ Angel and Michael Anthony w/Van Halen. My cousin Larry turned me on to Stanley Clarke and Chic Corea’s Return to Forever. Later I got into Jaco Pastorius, Geddy Lee w/ Rush, Sting w/and without the Police, John Taylor w/Duran Duran, Wizard w/Mother’s Finest, and a ton of other people. When I started playing Gospel stuff in 1982, I got into Joel Smith w/the Hawkins Family, Stephen Huff w/Milton Brunson. I learned the basics of thumping (Slap and Pop) from Tim Linzy w/The Richard Smallwood Singers. Tim passed away in 1998. He was an awesome player! Producer, Tommy Sims, when he was playing bass on a lot of the CCM stuff and being a member of White Heart. Tommy was a major influence during the early 90’s.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR CURRENT OR MID-LIFE INFLUENCES?
I like the mid-life part! Currently, I try to listen to those that are interesting. I think that Marcus Miller is the best in the business! No one else has such a defined, “you know it is me” tone. I also like the works for Abraham Laboriel, Victor Bailey, Andy Waldek w/Egypt, Mark King w/Level 42, and Willie Weeks. I loved Willie’s work with Wynonna Judd. His solo on Donny Hathaway’s “Voices Inside of Everything is Everything”, still rules in my book! I try to stay away from overly influential players. Marcus and Geddy are the only exceptions to that rule. I am not amused by people that learn a technique and want to consider themselves funky. Many of them lack feel or the knowledge to hold down a groove in a band setting. They can slap real fast though! Works for showcase stuff, open mic nights and NAMM shows but not much else.
LISTENING TO YOUR WORK, ONE NOTICES THAT YOU ARE MORE OF A GROOVE PLAYER. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT THAT POINT, CONSIDERING ALL OF THE ROCK INFLUENCES YOU LISTED?
Just simply learning to play within the context of the music, no matter what the music. Music genres were not as separated during the late 70’s through the 80’s as they are now. Duran Duran was placed in the Rock section in the music stores, even though they were very much a groove oriented band. They were not as funky as say, The Average White Band, but groovy nonetheless. So I just tried to adapt a particular style to every kind of music. Thankfully, by the late 80’s and beyond, there were groups like Living Colour, Fishbone,White Heart, Egypt and the Power Station, that stretched all of the racial and musical boundaries. They were able to go back and forth and between with Funk, R&B, Rock, Metal, Reggae, Jazz and just about anything else they could blend in. As a result, their audiences were well blended. Much like I imagine Heaven will be, well blended! To get in on the act, I was a member of a band named, Under One Sky. We did stuff by many of the above groups as well as a lot of original stuff. Doing a wide variety of music in one sitting is a whole lot of fun: one of the reasons I like some of the Praise & Worship stuff that many of the modern, contemporary churches are doing. Some churches are still very Black or very White, but I have noticed the Praise & Worship music is breaking a lot of color barriers within the church. Ron Kenoly and the incredible band and singers that he utilizes is a major player in getting churches to blend musically. Israel Houghton has picked up the torch. It is nice to see some of the Black vs White music ignorance finally losing its place in the church. It is still very racially binding, but there seems to be some slow moving hope.
DO I DETECT A BIT OF INNER RACIAL TENSION ABOUT THE CHURCH AND ITS MUSIC?
Oh yes, quite a bit! Being someone that attended a multiracial senior high school, was raised to like and accept everyone as human, I am quite angered by the attitudes of some of the church and ministry leadership that I have encountered over the years. Blacks saying, “That sounds too White” or Whites saying, “I think that is a little too rhythmic for what we are trying to do”. Sickening! What’s worse is that many of them are still taught subtle forms of racism from the pulpit, by their pastors. As a result of this “well glossed form of Christianic ignorance” many churches and ministries suffer.
SACRED GROOVE, THE BAND YOU WERE INVOLVED IN, WAS AN INTERRACIAL BAND? SO THESE THINGS MUST BE CLOSE TO YOUR HEART?
It was rough sometimes! Sometimes people wanted to write off the soulfulness of the music because they saw a White guy in the photo on the back of the CD. I would imagine on the other side of the fence, there may have been some that assumed that just because Blacks were on the cover, there must have been some hard Rap music going on! Ignorance causes some folk to determine how they will perceive the music before they even hear it, simply by looking at the faces on the cover. The cool thing about Sacred Groove was that we were able to walk into just about any music situation and be comfortable. Individually, we worshiped in or attended churches that were racially well blended – as well as churches that were predominately one race. As a result, we dragged each other into either setting. It’s always cool watching God’s “instrumental” music break down all of those, religious, racial and musical barriers.
WHAT TYPE OF GEAR ARE YOU USING FOR YOUR MUSICAL SITUATIONS?
Sometimes I feel like I am changing like the direction of the wind. I am totally satisfied with a few things; I am a lover of EMG pickups and electronics. The staff, at EMG Active Pickups have been a tremendous blessing for me and my music. I don’t know what I would have done without Jack Nau and Marcus Shefer there. Sadly, Jack passed away a few years ago. Sacred Groove was one of the featured artist on the EMG 25th Anniversary CD The track chosen was “It’ll Be Joy!” from the “When 3 Become One” disc. I am also very satisfied with Bag End cabinets. They have an excellent tonal range. Other things I can’t seem to live without are 90’s Trace Elliot amplifiers and DR Lo-Rider strings. Anthony Corona there is awesome! My Boss TU-2 tuner and my Sans Amp Bass Driver are also needed items.
WHAT ABOUT BASSES?
I started out in 2K playing Music Man Stingray 5 string basses. I recorded the majority of Sacred Groove’s ”When 3 Become One” CD using a MM Sting 5, with various pickup modifications. I switched from those and started playing Warrior basses. I was an endorsee for them for two years. As with the Sacred Groove situation, sometimes things are only for a season. It just became easier for me to use basses with a more “Fender like” fingerboard radius. Currently, all of my basses are Jazz Bass style basses. I started playing bass because I was inspired by the Fender Jazz body style. After all of these years, the Jazz Bass body still inspires me to play! I started playing Devon basses in 2002 and haven’t looked back! I found out about Devon Guitars from some of the bassist that communicate through the Church Bass Digest e-mail group. A few of the guys there are playing his basses and are very satisfied with them. Devon Smullen is an amazing bass builder and person based in Wisconsin. He has built instruments for the bassist of Christian Based artist like – Jars Of Clay, 77’s, Rebecca St. James and others. I have a personalized Jazz Bass. It is based around his Diamond J model. I felt very positive about the collaboration and I am very pleased with the results! Devon took the Jazz Bass concept, some cosmetic and electronic request of mine, then combined them with his technical know how and wood working skills. By doing this, he created my dream bass. The body is Padauk with some custom Devon features, a custom fitted wide spaced Devon neck – Maple w/Ebony fingerboard with Hipshot hardware. I have one of the Prototype models of the EMG 40TW split coil pickup. The TW is in the bridge position, since it is switchable from a CS humbucker to a separate single coil.Jazz Bass pickup. A EMG 40CS at the neck position. The preamp is an EMG BTS with a PA-2 booster for the single coil side of the TW. I also have a 2005 Devon Jazz 5 with Swamp Ash body, quilted Maple top, Maple neck and board, and Bartolini vintage jazz pickups with Demeter preamp. My only four string is a Frankenstein Fender Jazz with a 72’ neck. It has EMG J Bass pickups and a Bad Ass II bridge. I also have a beautiful Samick, Greg Bennett designed acoustic electric bass for gigs requiring an “acoustic” flavor. Most of these types of gigs are performed with my buddy, Larry Thomas.
ANY IDEAS ON HOW TO ACHIEVE A COMFORT LEVEL AS A MUSICIAN?
This is one of those raise the bar questions. My answer. Learn and listen to as much as you can. Go outside of your close minded box and listen to some stutf that you have never listened to before or often. I have found an incredible amount of comfort in listening to Country music! Why Country? Basic fundamental stuff. I also listen for the values in many of the lyrics (not to learn the latest lick or line). I would have never heard any of the newer Willie Weeks stuff or bass lines by Michael Rhodes, Glenn Worf, Mike Brignardello or some other great bassist. How sad to never realize how great a vocalist Collin Raye, Martina McBride and Faith Hill are or the awesome guitar and vocal work of Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. Some Rap artists come up with some incredible low end stuff. Lyrically, a lot of them have some interesting things to say. I think that Craig Mack’s “Project: Funk The World” is one of the best Rap albums ever made. Nowadays, I listen to a lot of Punjabi and Latin music. If you take in a lot of information by listening to and playing other stuff, if the situation arises, you can handle it because you are used to hearing it. Sometimes closing your mind, closes opportunities.
WHAT MAKES YOU COMFORTABLE AS A MUSICIAN?
All of the above and faith in God and learning to love people like Jesus Christ. Those, along with listening to a lot of different music styles keeps my mind open to new and fresh ideas. Obviously, I have gotten to a certain spiritual maturity point, so I can’t involve myself to play in “every” situation. Not that I am holier than thou, but I know my weaknesses and limits. So, I just need to keep my thoughts as pure as possible for the goal of pleasing God and reaching Heaven.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OTHER BASS PLAYERS OR ARTISTS?
Yeah, see all of the above and go out and have some fun. Get out of those situations where people are beating you down, mentally or musically. Life is not meant to be an unpleasant experience. Sometimes God is leading us to other places but we don’t go because, “We have always gone here” or “I don’t know anyplace else to go”. Neither of which are good excuses for allowing your life’s fire to be extinguished because someone’s ego needs to be satisfied! Be the best that you can be. Learn to read music, learn to hear it, and especially learn to play it.
ANY DREAMS OR WISHES, MUSICAL OR OTHERWISE?
Yeah, I have two beautiful daughters, Sharayah and Tatiana. I would love to see them grow up and become awesome women of God! I want to meet their future husbands and know that I raised them well. Musically, I really, really believe in my RED Music Book project. I would
love for it to go places. I want everyone to hear Chaz Mason and Mike Himes sing. I want people to hear what it feels like to live outside of your own box! After that, I’d like to start and finish another project and have it produced by Marcus Miller or Tommy Sims. Now that would be a dream come true!