If you've been scanning the digital pages of Bass Gear Magazine lately, you may have noticed that we've started to include more reviews of bass-related media; most recently an instructional book aimed directly at bass players, and now with coverage of Nick Wells' highly enjoyable feature-length film, Beneath the Bassline. As bassists in the modern era, it helps to be aware not only of the newest gadgets and bizmos (that's a bass gizmo, if you were wondering), but also of the popularly circulated content that comprises our shared "lowly" experience.
Using the tried-and-true unseen interviewer/artist storytelling format that has helped to make so many documentaries engaging and fresher-feeling than a two-person onscreen debrief, Nick and his small crew were able to elicit some very unique and special moments from some of the biggest artist and luthier names in North America and the UK, particularly centered around those in New York and the East Coast of the US, and in the greater London area of the UK. Being an Englander himself, it is admirable that Nick was able to accomplish so much on the US side of things in what he has described as a relatively short production trip.
Beneath the Bassline Documentary
The film runs one hour and 31 minutes, and you'll hear anecdotes, playing, origin stories and more from famed artists, gear producers, and luthiers, including: Bootsy Collins, Roger Sadowsky, Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Vinny Fodera, Duff McKagan, Richard Bona, Stefan Redtenbacher, Dave Boonshoft, Mark King, Stanley Clarke, Nolly Getgood, Sheldon Dingwall, Thundercat... the list really goes on and on, and it's challenging to start listing any of these names without continuing to go through them all (my apologies to all the other A-list names I neglected to mention here!).
Moments I found particularly interesting were scattered throughout the film's entirety like little secret Easter eggs of wisdom and personal "a-ha" moments, such as when Duff is breaking down specifically who and what comprised his iconic, chorus-laden bass tone, from pick use to melodic influence to the genesis of the (conscious) choice to use the chorus effect nearly full time; the special relationship that's so clearly on display between Will Lee and Richard Bona as they talk and play with one another, both of whom feature prominently in the documentary; Michael Manring's retelling of Joe Zon's courtship of him as an artist and the origin of the Hyperbass; John Patitucci's sentiments on playing solo bass as well as more traditional supporting bass roles and not needing to choose between the two; and of course Will Lee, again, getting down - on vocals. There are once again too many to list.
Upon watching for the first time, it did strike me that Beneath the Bassline was perhaps a bit skewed towards the New York scene, which upon discussion with filmmaker Wells was indeed largely a logistical byproduct of filming overseas and needing the greatest density of available interviewees in the time allowed. I would have loved to have seen some of the LA and West Coast players and manufacturers included, as well, but I can certainly understand the constraints imposed on the undertaking of such a grand project; and really, after you watch it, you'll be simply impressed by how many heavyweights of the bass world were in fact a part of this film! It's really a gift to us bassists.
So the next time it's looking like a Netflix night for you, or you've got some time to yourself but you just can't stomach anymore super locrian arpeggiation exercises, head over to https://beneaththebassline.com instead and download the movie - allow yourself some bass-related entertainment! The digital download will set you back 9 quid (about $12 USD). Physical media is also available. The download server spirited the 5.15 GB to me very quickly, and I was ready to watch in full 1080 HD. Being that there are so few labors of love like this available to and produced by us bassists, I'd like to personally thank Nick Wells on behalf of all of us thick stringers for the effort. Your work is much appreciated!