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Fretless Questions: Josquin des Pres
FB: How long have you been playing fretless bass?
Josquin des Pres: I started playing Fretless Bass at the age of 20, this was back in 1974 and Fretless Bass was a pretty rare instrument.
FB: What influenced you to play fretless?
Josquin des Pres: I friend had pull out the frets on his Gibson EB2 and he then realized he could not play it anymore so he sold it to me for $200.
FB: Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
Josquin des Pres: I never took lessons.
FB: Who are your main fretless bass influences or favorite players?
Josquin des Pres: First it was Alphonso Johnson but when Jaco Pastorius appeared on the world scene in 1974 he re-wrote all the rules. In just a few years he made the instrument what it his today and what it will be forever. Every fretless bass player is directly or indirectly influenced by Jaco, whether they know it or not, and no one has been able to match his amazing intonation, groove and musicality ever since.
FB: Do you play upright, electric, or both? Which do you prefer?
Josquin des Pres: Currently I play a Washburn acoustic Fretless with black nylon strings and a Carvin BB70 Fretless. I love the acoustic for it’s very rich tone.
FB: What was your very first fretless bass? Do you still own it? Have you had or played others?
Josquin des Pres: Gibson EB 2, followed by a Rickenbacker and then a Fender Precision. Favorite – Fender Precision with a Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge position. I still own the Carvin and the Washburn.
FB: What types of strings and fingerboards do you prefer?
Josquin des Pres: Black nylon on the acoustic and LaBella Hard Rocking steel on the Electric basses. I like an ebony fingerboard on the acoustic and boat resin on the electric.
FB: What playing styles do you use?
Josquin des Pres: I only play with my fingers (index and middle finger).
FB: What bands or projects feature you playing fretless bass?
Josquin des Pres: Being a studio musician and record producer for over 25 years I have played on more projects then I could ever remember. I started in the 1970s with French Jazz violinist Didier Lockwood, then I played for a while with Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra & Dixie Dregs) and then jumped in the studio session world. Most recently I wrote a Fretless Bass instruction book with Bunny Brunel (a fretless bass master). The book is simply titled Fretless Bass (Hal Leonard Publishing). The audio CD is killer, we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. A current project would be my first solo CD (due late 2006), that features Dennis Chambers and Vinny Colaiuta on drums, Tonino Baliardo and Patchai Reyes from the Gipsy Kings on guitar and vocals, and host of guests fretless bass players (Steve Bailey, Bunny Brunel and many more to be announced).
FB: Do you have a favorite song you played fretless bass on or some notable songs or experiences?
Josquin des Pres: “Where’s Home” by Lisa Sanders. I don’t know if it’s still in print. It’s on a CD titled “Isn’t Life Fine” or “Truly Divine” on MCA Records. Alex Acuna was on Drums… the closest to Jaco I ever felt…
I also like the intro of “First Flight” on my brother’s CD. Tristan des Pres, “World Affair”.
FB: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?
Josquin des Pres: When tastefully used, fretless bass is wonderful in pop music. I am not as much of a bass acrobat as some fretless players are… Since I am a pop music producer and player I focus more on bringing out the tone and melodic possibilities of this amazing instrument.
FB: Are you still actively playing fretless bass?
Josquin des Pres: Yes, everyday!
FB: Do you have any basic advice for bass players looking to take up fretless or those who are currently playing?
Josquin des Pres: Practice groove, melody and intonation. I used to have a very effective yet unconventional practice method… I used to sit in front of TV and play melodies to movie soundtracks for hours, it helped my melodic approach and intonation tremendously.
FB: Do you have websites or social media sites you would like to share?
Josquin des Pres: www.josquindespres.com
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