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Kiwi

Basschat interview with Lee Sklar

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I can't describe how chuffed I am to be able to post this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present...Mr Leland Sklar.


[i]
1. You've mentioned in previous interviews that you never set out to become a full time session musician and you planned on being a medical illustrator. At what point did you decide to give your illustration career away and what were the circumstances?

When I met James Taylor and he asked me to play with him. We had met before the advent of Fire & Rain being a monster hit and he had a gig at the Troubadour in LA. When we did the gig his manager, Peter Asher, asked if I could do the upcoming tour and from that moment on I never looked back.


2. Who influenced you as a bass player when you were learning to play?

So many guys. From Mingus and Ray Brown to McCartney, Jack Bruce, Bob Mosley….almost anyone who was playing bass I was into. They all bring something to the table and I still feel that way. There are so many great players and I respect and love them all. My God, from Will Lee to Pino Palladino, etc…….. crap, I feel happy to be working!!!!


3. Why did you choose to play bass?

When I entered Junior High School I fully expected to be playing piano, which I had played for many years. There were tons of pianists but they need and upright player. Mr. Ted Lynn, who was the music teacher asked if I would try the bass. I said, "Why not?" he and it changed my life forever.


4. What was your very first bass guitar?

My first electric bass was a Melody Bass and a St. George amp. When I really got into it I got an Eko Beatle style bass and a Standel Super Imperial amp. Boy, I was in the big time now!!!!!! hahahaha!


5. I know you've mentioned to me in the past that you're not much of a gear guy but what swings it for you when choosing basses and amps?

I have played everything from $100 flea market find to many thousands of dollar basses and I like them all about the same, if they do the job. I have gone to jams and just ended up playing whatever was there and had a great time. I, of course, like something that is comfortable to play and dialed in but really not into anything in particular. I have been using my Dingwall Bass on the road and in the studio and my old Frankenstein bass, which was pieces of different things that we assembled and it turned out to be the best bass possible. A total crap shoot………as for amps, I have been using Euphonic Audio amps and like them very much. They are great for they do not saturate the stage with bass. Very focused sound. The house mixers love it.


6. When creating a bass line, do you have a set formula, do you plan the bassline in advance or do you live in the moment and play whatever comes into your head? What criteria do you use to judge your own playing?

I am a total fly by the seat of my pants player. I never play the same thing twice and the only time I can is if it is written out. I always think of the line from Star Wars….."Use the FORCE Luke" I just go with the moment and really almost have an out of body experience when I play. The most important thing to me is LISTEN TO THE SONG!!!! It will tell you what to do. I am not there to show off chops or anything like that. I am there to create the best bass part for THAT SONG!


7. Out of all of your recorded live performances across your career, which ones have given you the most satisfaction?

There are so many. I still get guys saying, "You're the guy on Spectrum?" I love all the music in the James Taylor catalog and the Phil Collins songs too. But, every time I strap on the bass I live for that moment and relish it as best I can. After 40+ years of doing this I still get a boner when the phone rings and someone wants me to play on their project.


8. Your ability to step in at the last minute is almost legendary, especially when Mike P had to pull out of Toto's Falling InBetween tour and Luke approached you 5 days before the tour began. Any tips for learning lines quickly or does it get easier with experience?

I just totally immerse myself in the music. When I get a call like subbing for Mike I want to look like I belong there on stage so I never use charts, even to learn the songs. A chart is like Heroin to me. Once I have one in front of me it is very hard to get away from it. And being in the front of the stage there is no place to hide a stand and music. So, I just play the stuff over and over until I have it under my belt. It is hard but so is life. How is that for some philosophy?????


9. Being on tour can be an intense and grueling experience, do you have any survival tips for other touring musicians? Way to keep morale up despite fatigue and lack of personal time?

I always say to myself, "I have a gig!" That gets me through it all. It is tough but I have always said that I do the shows for free and get paid to kill 21 hours a day. Comes with the territory. Just try to get out and take advantage of what each place might have to offer and realize that if it were not for music you might never get there.


10. Without necessarily naming names, do you have any particularly entertaining or interesting stories based on situations you've found yourself in while on tour?

So many but best left alone. Some of those folks are still alive!!!


11. You've been in the music biz for over 45 years, what broad changes have you witnessed in the industry and how have these affected you personally?

I feel very fortunate that I have not really been affected by the changes in the business. My role has stayed the same. The process is different and the way tours are run and live performance is treated have changed but what I actually do has not. I just go with the ups and downs that come with all of this. Do not really put much thought into it.


12. Most important question of all, favorite dish and favorite tipple?

I have never had a drink or drugs so those are out of the picture but food becomes a big part of touring and recording. I love food with impact. Mexican, Italian, Indian. MMMMMMMMMMmmmmmm! Getting hungry just writing this. There are so many places in the world that when I know we are going to play there I already know where I will eat. [/i]

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Nice interview, Steve - I just looked the guy up, as I remember him playing for Phil Collins, but wanted to see who else he'd played for... Now that's one impressive resume! :)

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I've sent him a link to this thread. He has this week off after James Taylor and Lyall Lovett's tour begins next week so the chances are he will be watching. :) I've developed a huge amount of respect for him during our exchanges, he really deserves to be considered one of the best.

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Lee's sound on the Spectrum album is just fantastic - and his control is amazing, playing his part perfectly so that everyone else sounds good.

Thanks for the interview!

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He's a legend! And it's Basschat's honour that you have an interview with him. Nice one Steve!

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I've seen Lee live a few times - one of those guys who always looks like he's having a great time :)

Superb beard as well :rolleyes:

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He is the absolute epitomy of bass playing, love his insight on playing what the song needs, and immersion in the material.

Nice one!

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Great stuff Steve, interviews like this can only help to lift the site up to another level. Let's have some more.

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Leland Sklar?!

The actual legend?

Wow. A major influence on my playing, and i'm still looking to find one of the Gibson Custom Shop Leland Sklar Basses.

Love watching his playing - exactly as a bassist should be.

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[quote name='molan' post='908034' date='Jul 28 2010, 11:51 AM']Superb beard as well :)[/quote]

This is [i]that [/i]beard in January this year, at NAMM.

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[quote name='Born 2B Mild' post='912331' date='Aug 1 2010, 10:48 PM']This is [i]that [/i]beard in January this year, at NAMM.[/quote]

Best beard in rock (IMHO) :)

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To my shame, I have only just got round to reading this. Good interview, and insightful answers... much good advice in there too. What an absolutely throughly bloody nice bloke.

[quote name='molan' post='912339' date='Aug 1 2010, 10:58 PM']Best beard in rock (IMHO) :)[/quote]
Agreed. Lee's beard makes Billy Gibbons' look like itchy bumfluff.

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[quote]I do the shows for free and get paid to kill 21 hours a day.[/quote]
What a quote - as a teacher I'll have to use that!

I've also seen him live with Collins and it was difficult not to spend all your time honing in on the big ZZ Top reject! :)
I think he used a Steinberger a lot in the show but all that spicy food must have helped cos he was [b]sh*t hot![/b]

If you're looking in Lee - have a respectful middle finger back right at you!

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He's not been on line a lot recently but if I get a chance, I'll pass the message on. He has seen the thread already.

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What a top bloke ,love his comments about not being there to show off his licks just to play the bass for that track . great stuff!

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Excellent interview, and Leland definitely is one of the all time greatest! His feeling and choice of tones is just wonderful.

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This interview at The Bass Guitar magazine could not be more true!..


"Doug Wimbish continues to push the sonic boundaries of the bass"

The man IS A LEGEND!

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[quote name='Kiwi' timestamp='1282982028' post='938611']
He's not been on line a lot recently but if I get a chance, I'll pass the message on. He has seen the thread already.
[/quote]
If he wants me to look after the Steinbergers he used in the 80s cos they're not good enough any more, I'll put myself out for him!

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