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Basschat interview with Lee Sklar


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#1 Kiwi

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 07:32 AM

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

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



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.

Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve

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Backline: Effectrode PC2A compressor, Empress Parametric Eq, Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 Burman Pro 501 50w combo and Fender Concert II (Rivera era)

Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Burman GX3 preamp, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live + soft synths

#2 OutToPlayJazz

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 07:38 AM

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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#3 Kiwi

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Posted 27 July 2010 - 07:52 AM

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.
Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve

Guitar: Alan Knight 'Hitmaker' tribute, Klein-berger replica with sustainer, Warmoth HSS Strat (signed by Nile Rodgers), Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 1, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 2
Backline: Effectrode PC2A compressor, Empress Parametric Eq, Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 Burman Pro 501 50w combo and Fender Concert II (Rivera era)

Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Burman GX3 preamp, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live + soft synths

#4 BassBod

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 08:56 AM

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!

#5 xilddx

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 09:03 AM

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

#6 chris_b

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 10:24 AM

Some of my favourite bass lines of all time are on James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim.
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#7 molan

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 10:51 AM

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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#8 51m0n

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 10:53 AM

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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#9 Rayman

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 11:04 AM

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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#10 yorick

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 11:08 AM

Nice... and check out the Barefoot Servants.
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#11 wotnwhy

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Posted 28 July 2010 - 11:19 AM

Great interview, thanks!
:)

#12 peted

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Posted 31 July 2010 - 01:15 PM

Wow! Thanks for sharing :)

#13 Etienne

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 09:24 PM

Great work CK, really enjoyed that! Hopefully more of the same in the not-too-distant future... :)

#14 AndyTravis

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 09:34 PM

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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#15 Born 2B Mild

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 09:48 PM

View Postmolan, on Jul 28 2010, 11:51 AM, said:

Superb beard as well :)

This is that beard in January this year, at NAMM.
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#16 molan

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 09:58 PM

View PostBorn 2B Mild, on Aug 1 2010, 10:48 PM, said:

This is that beard in January this year, at NAMM.

Best beard in rock (IMHO) :)
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#17 niceguyhomer

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:20 AM

Saw him on Toto's falling In Between tour - he was absolutely brilliant and a great guy. Thanks for posting Steve.
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#18 Rich

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Posted 11 August 2010 - 11:31 AM

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.

View Postmolan, on Aug 1 2010, 10:58 PM, said:

Best beard in rock (IMHO) :)
Agreed. Lee's beard makes Billy Gibbons' look like itchy bumfluff.

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#19 merello

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 07:35 AM

Quote

I do the shows for free and get paid to kill 21 hours a day.
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 sh*t hot!

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

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Posted 28 August 2010 - 07:53 AM

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.
Bass: Self built 5-string semi hollow headless, '79 Alembic Series 1 graphite, '78 Musicman Stingray, '86 Pangborn Warlord graphite, '93 Pedulla Pentabuzz, '09 Shuker Headless 6 MIDI (signed by Lee Sklar, Doug Wimbish and Billy Sheehan),'00 Spector NS5CR, '90 Status Series 1 5 string.
Backline: EBS Microbass, Future Impact, Zoom B3 into two Genz Benz Shuttle 6's and two fEARful F112 cabs, two Burman Pro4000HD 140w valve heads, Trace Elliot Hexavalve

Guitar: Alan Knight 'Hitmaker' tribute, Klein-berger replica with sustainer, Warmoth HSS Strat (signed by Nile Rodgers), Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 1, Yamaha MSG Deluxe Mk 2
Backline: Effectrode PC2A compressor, Empress Parametric Eq, Amptweaker Tight Rock, Joyo JF14 American Sound, Zoom G3X, Lexicon MPXG2 + R1 foot controller, Ibanez TSA5 x2 Burman Pro 501 50w combo and Fender Concert II (Rivera era)

Studio: Yamaha CS6R synth module, Axon AX100 pitch to MIDI, Burman GX3 preamp, Lexicon MPXG2 and MIDIman 16ch mixer, Ableton Live + soft synths

#21 gub

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 04:42 PM

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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#22 silverfoxnik

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 09:49 PM

Only just seen this CK; absolutely fantastic! More of the same please... :)
So many basses, so little time...

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#23 BB3000S

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Posted 02 April 2011 - 10:09 PM

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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#24 TMB

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 07:54 PM

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!

#25 merello

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Posted 31 March 2012 - 04:08 PM

View PostKiwi, on 28 August 2010 - 07:53 AM, said:

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.
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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#26 lowdown

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Posted 03 September 2012 - 02:55 PM

I subscribed to LS's Facebook page a while back,
Pretty interesting stuff all round on a regular basis.
Everything from Bass to his love of bikes.
Top guy and very humble.
If you fancy it, link here.
Enjoy.
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#27 jezzaboy

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 12:32 PM

I have just read a Neil Young book called Shakey, basically Neil`s life story. Damm good read by the way but back on topic.

In the book, Graham Nash recounts this story regarding Mr Sklar....

Wanna know why Lee Sklar wouldn`t work with us (Crosby, Stills and Nash)? Because Stephen (Stills) who fancies himself as a bass player, would go up, take the bass from out of his hands and say "NO,NO, play it like this!"

Leland can play rings around anything that Stephen can`t even do on the f***ing guitar!

So there you go.

Edited by jezzaboy, 05 October 2012 - 12:33 PM.


#28 merello

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 04:35 PM

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#29 Gorbyrev

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 10:06 PM

Lee Sklar - awesome player. Love his sig Dingwall too. I'm sure the first time I saw him was as a guest on Sesame St.!

#30 Spingere

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Posted 17 January 2013 - 11:35 AM

Enjoyed this interview. Lee Sklar has some great philosphies.





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