18 Fretless Questions: Steve Di Giorgio
1. FB: At what age did you start playing fretless bass, and how long have you been playing?
Steve Di Giorgio: I started on fretless electric bass probably around my early twenties after I changed the neck on my Fender copy from the stock fretted to a fretless jazz neck. But I kind of “cheated” back when I was in high school, by this I mean I played upright bass in orchestra class for a short while. Most people I know start with fretted bass and make the move to fretless and have to learn a new way of playing. The transition for me on fretless was pretty seamless because of my experience when I was a young teenager on stand-up. So all in all I would say it’s been roughly a couple of decades for me and the fretless bass.
2. FB: What influenced you to play fretless?
Steve Di Giorgio: The sound of it. I heard a Jethro Tull album “A” and a guy named Dave Pegg was tearing up a fretless storm and I knew that I wanted that sound too. Soon after that I was getting exposed to Mick Karn and Gary Willis. And like the opposite guy I usually am, later I found out about Jaco.
3. FB: Are you self-taught or did you take lessons?
Steve Di Giorgio: I’m a hybrid I guess. For the most part I’m self-taught on bass in a rock or metal context. But like I mentioned earlier I have some jazz training on the high school level, which isn’t much but helped me learn a few things with finger positioning and fundamentals. But it wasn’t until I sat next to the record player with my Rush, Yes, Tull, Maiden and Sabbath albums that I really learned how to play.
4. FB: Who are your main fretless bass influences?
Steve Di Giorgio: Most have already been mentioned with Pegg, Karn and Willis. Other than that there aren’t really many fretless influences left, for me. I listen to a lot of mid-east and Hindi music and there are a lot of cool sounds there that I apply to my playing. For slurs and slides no one glides between notes better than Ravi Shankar. Also a lot of Persian and Arabic singers bend between notes incredibly.
5. FB: Who is your favorite fretless bass player and why?
Steve Di Giorgio: Hmmm, well again…I like Dave Pegg, although I don’t think he really played too much fretless outside of the “A” and the “Broadsword And The Beast” albums, but that’s the sound I was first influenced by and still like to try and find. Mick Karn can sound really fretlessy and by that I mean that he intentionally makes the bass talk in that distinct voice, and that’s a thing I strive for in my own way. Some guys can play a fretless but it’s hard to tell by the way they play it. There are hardly any good rock or metal fretless players that I know of. A couple of guys who I also look up to who do the really blatant fretless thing are Tony Franklin and Randy Coven. Those guys are huge in my opinion.
6. FB: Do you play Stand-up, acoustic, electric, or all? Which do you prefer?
Steve Di Giorgio: I only played stand-up when I was a kid. And I never had one of those acoustic basses that look like a fat acoustic guitar. So it’s really all about the electric. That’s all I have to work with and that’s pretty much all I prefer for this modern-day way of recording and performing.
7. FB: What was your very first fretless bass? Do you still own it?
Steve Di Giorgio: Yeah, I still got it. Although I’m sure it’s really decomposing in the closet…! I haven’t even touched in years. My first electric (fretted) bass was that Fender P bass copy I mentioned earlier. I played it in a stock set up for a little while until I could afford my first Rickenbacker. A few years later I got the idea to dig out that Fender wannabe and remake it into a fretless project. I got a replacement neck from a Fender parts catalog and made a weird combo of that Fender P body, fretless J neck, Bartolini passive pickups, Badass 2 bridge and dug out a spot to add the J style pickup.
8. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass you’ve ever played?
Steve Di Giorgio: It’s between the two main fretless basses I alternate with. My green ESP fretless five stringer is getting most of the action in any session or live show. Also when I need the unique sound of my Carvin 5 string BB75F I’ll break it out.
9. FB: What fretless basses have you owned, which do you still own?
Steve Di Giorgio: I still own all the fretless basses I have acquired along the way. Included are my twin ESPs, the Carvin and the original Fender wannabe. Plus I have a really custom ESP double neck with one neck fretted and one fretless. Both necks are five string.
10. FB: What types of strings and fingerboard combinations do you like?
Steve Di Giorgio: I always use Rotosound round wounds, most of my basses are strung with a high C so the gauges are 105-35. I have the best sound with the ebony fingerboards, although maple and rosewood have their advantages too.
11. FB: What playing styles do you use – finger, thumb, or pick (or other)? What do you like about those styles?
Steve Di Giorgio: I’m mainly a finger guy. But I throw in the thumb once in a while and use a pick as much as I can. I try to use all forms of attack that are invented to mankind. I haven’t mastered all the slapping or tapping, but I try to give it a shot. The sound of the attack style in the music determines which is going on.
12. FB: What bands/projects have you played fretless bass in/on (list as many as you like)?
Steve Di Giorgio: Almost everything I’ve played on is fretless; I go with about an 80/20 percent ratio of fretless over fretted bass. I’m guessing the bands that kind of put me on the map are Sadus, Death, Testament, Vintersorg, Artension, Control Denied, Sebastian Bach and Dark Hall to name just a few.
13. FB: What is your favorite song you played fretless bass on (studio or live)?
Steve Di Giorgio: It’s always hard to pick just one. But if I had to show someone the best fretless sound of mine, I would direct them to a song called Sharpen Your Mind Tools, off of the Vintersorg album – A Focusing Blur. That’s my Carvin on that song and I got that beautifully obnoxious fretless smear going on.
14. FB: What is your favorite fretless bass riff you’ve written (if different from above)?
Steve Di Giorgio: This is a reach, but if playing with those bands I mentioned above put me on the map…then the part after the guitar solo on The Philosopher by Death is the bass line that put the streets on the map.
15. FB: What would you say is unique about your fretless style?
Steve Di Giorgio: Probably if you ask any guitar player I’ve played with they would say that I’m not afraid to play right on the edge. Sometimes it works nicely; sometimes it can get pretty sour.
16. FB: Are you still actively playing fretless bass?
Steve Di Giorgio: Hell yes!
17. FB: Do you have any basic advice for bass players looking to take up fretless or those who are currently playing?
Steve Di Giorgio: Basic advice? Just not to be afraid to play something no one has ever heard before and to make sure your shit is tight-and-tuned so those decibels are worth fighting for in the mix.
18. FB: Do you have a web site address you would like to share?
Steve Di Giorgio: www.stevedigiorgio.com There are a lot of links to the bands I’ve worked with as well as a link to my forum – c’mon in and talk some bass…!!!
From Wikipedia.com (full Wiki link):