Interview - Alain Caron
My next interview is with Canadian iconic bassist Alain Caron. I first heard Alain in Halifax in the 1980s with his group UZEB. That experience blew my mind and has been an inspiration to me to this day. He continues to inspire bassists worldwide.
Canadian bassist Alain Caron's musical career began at age 11 when he won an amateur contest. He began touring shortly after that and has since become one of the most revered electric bassists in the world. In the early 1980s he began touring with the super fusion group UZEB. That group toured worldwide and sold over 400,000 records. He has also toured and recorded with Gino Vannelli, Mike Stern, Billie Cobham, Didier Lockwood and many others. He has won numerous awards, released more than 20 records, collaborated on more than 25 recordings and was ranked Best Bass Player for 10 years in a row by The Jazz Report.
What are some important musical and other lessons you've learned that you can pass on to aspiring bassists?
Well, there are many things! But probably the first one would be to make sure you like playing the bass! This means understanding the role of the bass line in any style of music you play, enjoying supporting others and being responsible! Second, I suggest you learn harmony! The more you know about harmony the better you play the bass, especially if you want to play jazz and improvise! Third, try to always remember why you started playing music, this passion that you have! And last, the day you think you're good, the next day go in your shed and practice!
What are three of your favourite recordings that you consider essential for any bassist to check out?
Any recording of Ray Brown (Night Train with Oscar Peterson!)
Jaco Pastorius (Jaco or Word of Mouth, with Weather Report (Heavy Weather)
with Joni Mitchell (Don Juan's Reckless Daughter)
Stanley Clarke (Stanley Clarke and School Days)
Can you share some practice ideas? What should aspiring bassists focus on? What worked/works for you? I realize this is a very broad question that varies with individuals' needs, but I'm looking for some general ideas, and in particular what worked for you.
First, work on rhythm and groove! Any bass line or melody you play without groove has no impact! Second, learn harmony with a good piano player or arranger. It starts by knowing your scales and how to make music with it! Analyze what you play and any bass line or music you transcribe so that you can develop your how language and identity!
Do you have any advice for overcoming difficulties or obstacles?
Think long term, picture yourself where you want to be in one year, two years, five years then work on it everyday with that in mind - make a plan!
Do you have any gear advice (specific pickups, strings, amps, etc. and what to look for)?
It starts with your hands and your bass - the source! I suggest you go in a good studio, plug your bass through a good D.I and listen to it on great studio monitors, ask questions to the sound engineer, to have a basic knowledge of frequencies! If you don’t like the sound you have in the studio, you might have to try a different bass or pick ups, then find the amp that will amplify that sound!
What's coming up for you and how can we follow you (website, social media, etc,)?
I’ll still be traveling playing with my band and other special projects, also doing clinics and master classes. I’d like to make another record next year! I’ll also start teaching at the University of Montreal next September.
Any other thoughts to pass along?
I wish you all a very good musical year in 2016!