TEN QUESTIONS WITH GLENN LETSCH
By John Wardlaw
JW. Chris Squire of YES once said that he was influenced by John Entwistle of THE WHO and simply took The trebly (did I spell that right) bass sound a little further. Is there a any bass player in particular whose style influenced you ?
GL: My two biggest influences are James Jamerson (The Motown legend). I consider him EASILY the greatest electric bassist of all time. There certainly are others who also are great, but nobody is even close to Jamerson - not even Jaco. My other "hero" is Greg Ridley - bassist with Humble Pie. They were an English heavy rock band but their roots were in gospel, blues, rhythm & blues, and funk - so their music really moved. Ridley had the strongest stage presence of any bass player I've ever seen.
JW. Prior to joining Gamma for Gamma 2 what kind of projects had you worked on?
GL: Prior to Gamma, I had a band in Los Angeles with producer Mitchell Froom. We were called Bullet Park. Interestingly, Ronnie produced our demo. At the completion of those sessions, Ronnie asked me (and also drummer Denny Carmassi) to join Gamma.
JW. Although you have worked with Ronnie from time to time over the years, What was it like to be back in the studio with the whole Gamma Line up?
GL: That was a tremendous experience on two levels. First, musically we seemed to pick right up where Gamma left off, barely missing a beat! Everything clicked like it had been just a couple weeks since we last played together. Secondly, it was great to re-establish those friendships after so long a time not seeing each other. With some people, you can pick right up right where you left off no matter how long it's been - the jokes start flying, you share about family, etc. With the Gamma guys, that's the way it is.
JW. Ronnie had mentioned to me the pressure from the record label for Gamma to produce a hit single during the recording of Gamma 3. How did the recording of Gamma 4 differ from the recording of Gamma 3.
GL: Well for starters, the record company pressure was NOT an issue. There was NO outside pressure to influence this record in any way.
JW. You have worked on a lot of great projects and you have your teaching career. Do you prefer working in the studio or do you like to get out on the road and tour?
GL:That's a great question. I lOVE the studio. As I get older, I love it even more. It's the ultimate test for making great music. You have to be right on because the studio will expose any time inconsistency, or whatever. It puts you at the top of your game.
Touring is great too, as long as the logistics are A-1. But, it takes you away from home and as you get older, you want to be around family as much as possible.
JW.How has the response been to your web site glennletsch.com?
GL: It's been great, I get emails from people in Italy, Brazil, Japan, almost everywhere. I've been writing a workshop column in Bass Player magazine since Sept 99 and it is great to hear that my workshops are really helping bass players. It's very rewarding to know I can help bassists become better musicians.
JW. As an author, you have released "Bass Lessons With The Greats" (Warner Brothers Publishing) and "Glenn Letsch's Bass Masters Class" (Hal Leonard Publishing) as well as the instructional video, "Bass Guitar: The Lowdown" (Hot Licks Videos). You also give private lessons at your home studio. Is there any aspect of teaching bass guitar that gives you a special satisfaction?
GL: I have to say that teaching IS easily as rewarding as playing on a great track, or having a great show. Actually, it's probably more rewarding, It's one thing to have people dig your playing, and your music - that's satisfaction on an entertainment level. But, when students tell you how much they appreciate the difference you have made it their lives because they can now do what they could not do before, the reward is deeper.
JW. Can you tell us about your new line of custom bass guitars?
GL: The Pipemaster is my dream instrument. It's very easy to play, it sounds incredible, and it has a cool retro look. Each instrument is handmade to my exact specifications by the finest luthier in the land.
JW.You have performed with the likes of Robin Trower, Ronnie Montrose, Gamma, Gregg Allman, Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain of Journey and Eric Martin (Mr. Big). Is there any project you have worked on that you wish more people knew about?
GL: I had a band called The New Frontier in the late 1980's. We were on Polygram records. To this day, many people who have that CD consider it their favorite CD. The songs, the singing, the vibes of the music, were great. Unfortunately, we were a couple years before the Nashville, rock and country music marriage happened. In the music business, timing is everything.
JW. Has there been any particular artist or group that you performed with that you feel you learned a great deal from?
GL: I'd have to say I learned the most playing and recording with Jonathan Cain (keyboardist and songwriter for Journey). His knowledge of music and his feel for the right thing put him on a very special level. It's not so much that he overtly "teaches." Rather, you learn alot by paying very close attention to - his songwriting method, his song arrangements, and his quest for "reasonable perfection" in the studio (he recognizes when we've got the rippin' take, and knows when to stop). Jonathan is successful because he knows what he's doing. Additionally, he always writes tremendous and often times, involved bass lines on his demos. He expects you to match those parts note for note. And then, if you can, beat them. So, he always encourages excellence AND creativity. If you have something you want to say on your instrument, and it's right, he's always ready for it.
Special thanks to Glenn Letsch for taking the time to help make this site interesting and informative.