Amongst all the greats in rock and roll, certain performers stand alone. Eddie Van Halen on guitar, Paul Stanley as front man extraordinaire, and when thinking of bassists that truly have risen above the best of the best's standards - one of the first that any rocker would think of is Billy Sheehan. I caught up with the Bass God himself for a "quickie" interview.not an easy task considering each email I receive from the man comes from a different continent! Please read (and rock) on.
You've been participating in a lot of bass clinics all over the world, and obviously offer great knowledge to those who come to see you, but what do YOU get out of, or learn, from doing these clinics?
I don't get too much time to do more than a dozen or so a year, it's a microscopic part of the big picture actually, but I do enjoy helping my fellow players in any way possible. When you have to explain something, especially to a beginner, you gain a greater understanding of it yourself. Very enjoyable!
How was working with Eric Martin different than David Lee Roth?
From Dave I got respect, guidance, help and friendship that stands to this day. We may have had our differences at one point, but Dave never disrespected, mocked or humiliated me in public or private. He also respected my playing and would say so. He's never sat around and thought up names to call me or given me the finger behind my back on stage. He was not a coward, and if he had a beef with me, he'd deal with it like a man. That's the difference.
Who has been the most challenging person to work with as an artist?
Steve Vai has some VERY demanding music - amazing really. Some of the toughest stuff I've ever played. Niacin also with drummer Dennis Chambers, who to me is the best player I've ever known on any instrument.
When you toured with Roth you and Steve Vai performed dueling guitars on stage. He would have his guitar appear to ask yours something and it would go back and forth. How long did that take to develop - and what else did you learn from Steve?
I think it was Steve's idea from Yankee Rose, but the "call & return" soloing dates back about a hundred years I think. We had a blast on that tour!
You do a lot of shows with Happenin' Harry & the Haptones, how did you come to hook up with Harry and what is it that you enjoy about these jam sessions?
He's just a friend hanging out in LA. He used to come see Talas years ago. I just love to play! Play live! It's most of all I've done my whole life. Its fun in LA to have a few beers, get up & play a bunch of songs. I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to work with a lot of great folks.
Three double octave split fingered tapping, absolutely amazing to watch, what led to its creation?
I used to play (in Talas) seven nights a week, three or four sets a night. Once we did 21 nights in a row, moving our own gear & setting up each night. You learn to improvise, and since there's no time to learn new songs, you start adding whatever you can to make it interesting. Also, playing in a three-piece band, you had to make up for the lack of keyboards or a second guitar & EVERYBODY had to sing. It was the best experience ever in retrospect. It's where I learned most everything.
As a fellow cat lover/owner who misses my babies terribly when I'm away from home, do you ever wish you could bring Spooky with you with all the traveling you do?
I have a house sitter who watches her for me. She'd FREAK outside her little world though. She's acclimated to my home & doesn't even like to venture outside. She's the queen there!
Is there anything else that you'd like to accomplish as an artist that you haven't yet? If so, what?
I just want to get better, reach more people, make more & better records-keep doing what I'm doing. I love to play. I do little else.
Same question as above, but non-music related.is there anything else in your life besides music that you'd still like to accomplish?
I'm a student of life, philosophy, language & other things. I'm an insatiable student of it all! I thought about getting into politics, but I'm sure some of my shenanigans on the road would come back to haunt me! Ha!
Whom would you be interested in either recording and/or jamming with that you have not yet? And why?
Paco DeLucia, Snoop Dog, Slipknot, Tony Bennet. They are all masters of their chosen fields.
Has there been any talk at all about a Mr. Big reunion? (Hey, I can hope!)
Nope. I'll never allow myself to be treated like that again. I loved the band though. Everyone was a supreme talent. Undeniably so.
What's next on your agenda?
I'm on tour now in South America with Steve & get home Dec 14th. My new solo CD is done & coming soon, as well as Steve's new CD I played on, and we just got nominated for a Grammy for a live song we played together.
If you were to put together a time capsule today, what would be in it?
A rotary phone, Air Hockey, Pong, Richard Prior Here & Now live comedy performance.
People who are accountants, mechanics, music-journalists, etc, fantasize about being rock stars.what does Billy Sheehan fantasize about being when day dreaming?
Being His Majesty, the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the Universe. Just kidding.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in your life?
Getting about 40 or 50 people permanently off drugs & stopping several suicides.
Interview by Melanie "Sass" Falina