Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gary Shea - 10 Questions

Rocker Gary Shea grew up in Conneticut.  Gary has shared the stage with many incredible musicians, including Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen, and toured the world with Alcatrazz and New England.  His travels have led him to his his home in Royal Oak. He currently records and performs with New England.

Gary on stage with Steve Vai, in the band Alcatrazz

Gary kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to answer 10 questions about his journey, his musical interests and his gear, for Detroit Bass Players.

1.) How did your bass journey start?

 I grew up in Southington Connecticut in a musical family. My grandfather played piano for Rudy Valee in the 20`s and my dad played played drums in a fife and drum corps. I started my career late at 14 years old, playing guitar, taking lessons and working my way up to buying a brand new `65 Fender Strat. One day I was in an electronics store where a guitarist friend and I had gone to use their tube tester. On the wall were a few used guitars and a bass. I took down the used Fender Bass and had a melt down. It was huge, like an aircraft carrier, kind of like a big Strat. It felt incredible in my hands and being tall it was a great fit. When and plugged it in and discovered it was the heart of all music, no matter what style, I was hooked forever. From that day on I set out to shake the buiding where ever I went.

 2.) What was and do you still have your first bass?

 The bass I picked up at the electronics store was my first bass. It was a sunburst 1964 Fender Precision Bass for $125.00 used. It was amazing, but after seeing Ronnie Wood play with the Jeff Beck Group, I decided I had to have a new Telecaster bass that Fender reissued in the late 60`s. I traded in my P Bass at Manny`s Music in New York City to get one. Bad move, I hated it. Very weak in comparison. I now have a sunburst Fender American Standard Precision 5 string trying to make up for it.

 3.) Who influenced you most?

I grew up on 60`s radio, listening to James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Sam and Dave etc, as well as the English bands. I always loved John Entwhistle who sounded like a freight train and marveled at the musicality and rhythm of James Jamerson. I also love the playing of David Brown on the first few Santanna lps. Amazing groove. I got to see David, Larry Graham with Sly, and The Who all play live at Woodstock. The Earth shook and everyone was dancing to the bass.

4.) What are your favorite recordings?

I have a wide range of favorites and influences. I love Stan Getz with Joao & Astrud Gilberto, Weather Report Heavy Weather, Pat Metheny Letters From Home, Diana Krall The Look Of Love, The Beatles Revolver, Magical Mystery Tour, The Who Sings My Generation, Spooky Tooth Spooky Two, The Nazz, The Jeff Beck Group, Soft MachineTwo, The Court Of The Crimson King, James Brown Live At The Apollo, Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind, Holtz The Planets, and Samuel Barber`s Adagio For Strings.  Its very hard to only name a few.  Some artists I am a listener and some I listen to for the bass playing, like Yes or Stanley Clarke.

 5.) What do you enjoy most about bass?

Bass is the pulse, the heartbeat of every style of music. It`s what people groove to listening to music, or dancing along with it. The bass is the ultimate instrument of depth and the bedrock of the band.
When the bass is swinging and grooving on the one it`s unbeatable and hypnotic. Every day when I play my bass all troubles are left behind and I am smiling. I love making thunder.

 6.) Is there a favorite project you've worked on?

I am very pleased to be working on new music with New England. We have a wonderful history together and when we stop joking around we get to play some very satisfying music.  Also I am currently recording with my good friend guitarist DH cooper in London along with guest vocal and drum spots from Pete French ex Cactus and Herman Rarebell ex Scorpions. We had a band together in the very early seventies but Herman and I ran into immigration problems in England. It`s great to be part of that again as well.

 7.) Do you have a "go to" bass for recording or live use?

I have many basses but my all time love is my `65 L series Fender Jazz Bass, with a Precision C neck. I`ve been playing it every day for almost 45 years and it is part of me. It sounds and feels fantastic. It is the bass I judge all others against. It sounds amazing in the studio, direct or live in concert. I also have a brand new Dudacus Tiberius bass which features Bartolini pick ups and an Aguilar pre amp. It is super low and thunderous, with beautiful workmanship.

Gary with his Dudacus Tiberius bass

8.) What effects do you use?

I have used many things over the years such as Moog Taurus foot pedals, but at the moment I am keeping it very simple with just a Boss Octave OC-2 and a Sans amp Bass Driver.

 9.) What is your signal chain, from the bass to the board (live and recording)?

From the bass I use My Star cables ( made locally in Sterling Heights Mi ), into a Fender volume pedal, into the Boss Octave 2, into a Korg PX4 processor ( I helped design some of the presets ) and into the Sans Amp. From there I use a One Control Black N Loop A B switching box allowing me to switch between two basses and into an Ampeg PF 500 amplifier and Ampeg SVT HLF4x10 cabinets. From the back of the Portaflex I send a clean signal to the Front Of House.

 10.) Do you have any advice for young players?

The best advice is to play with older muscians as much as you can and play around in different styles. I had a chance to do this and it helped me progress and learn music at a faster pace. Take the time and learn how to play a polka or country tune before jumping into hardcore or thrash metal. Always practice to a click and be honest with yourself if you are doing your best. Try nailing the kick drum in perfect time, every time. Without great timing your cool licks mean nothing to a band. If you want to make music a career never take no for an answer. If a band breaks up or you fail an audition, dust yourself off and come back out swinging. Learn and be as prepared as possible. A lot of this is attitude and being in the right place, at the right time, with the goods.

All the best to my bass brothers and sisters,

Gary Shea


Find out more about Gary at

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