Presenting Janek Gwizdala...
For those of you that are not familiar with Janek's work (and I imagine that's a small percentage!) let me introduce you... Janek is a very well respected music director, producer and side man responsible for laying down the low-end for artists such as Randy Brecker, Jojo Mayer, Mike Stern, Hiram Bullock and many many more. Janek is also a band leader, releasing records under his own name which combine more influences and genres that you can shake a stick at. While the tag from outside might read 'Modern Jazz', delve a little deep and you'll find so much more!
One thing that Janek does do with serious style is manage to splice his love of effects pedals with his varied music style in ways that many other musicians would be insisting on a clean tone. Janek has (in my opinion) one of the most musical approaches to the composition of modern music and i urge everyone to check out his back catalogue from start to finish.
You can find out more about Janek and check out his music here:
- Check out this recent video shot at NAMM, where Janek builds a groove using some of the TC Pedal range including the TC Flashback Delay/Looper. His approach to musical composition is often done in this live and 'on the spot' manner:
- How long have you been playing bass & when did effects start to become a part of your sound?
"It must be about 16 or 17 years ago that I first picked up a bass, and I think I was always fascinated by the immense range of sounds you can make on the instrument even before you get effects into the mix.
The first effect I heard was chorus on Jaco's bass, and then probably an octave pedal of some sort. I remember going to the Bass Center in Wapping London when it was still at that location and buying my first pedals from Nick and Grant who worked there. I didn't really use them for anything creative though when I look back on that time, it was just to copy what I was hearing on records."
- How would you describe your live sound?
"Well what I'm going for, before you get anything in the signal chain, is control over my sound with my fingers. No EQ on either the amp or the bass, just a range of sonic motion using the wood, the strings, and my hands. Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes not, but that's the concept at least.
My live sound is something I struggle with internally pretty much constantly regardless of how good it sounds out front. And it normally sounds great. It's been a long process of learning how to let go and just play no matter what. I'm getting better at it, and I'm actually trying to play as many different basses as possible when I'm practicing so I'm ready for anything when it comes to play live."
- What is your current live/studio set up (bass, amp & those all important effects)?
"I always travel with my TC Electronic RH750 head, and will often play that through either pair of TC Electronic 2x10's or 4x10's. My home studio has a 2x10 with the RH450 for practicing, and I have a spare TC "flashback" and "Nova Delay" pedal set up permanently for shedding.
I do find that when I'm on tour that backline companies don't always have the TC gear available, especially when I'm in small countries or cities in the middle of nowhere. I was just in Brazil for instance playing a festival about 175km outside of Rio and they only had one SWR Goliath 4x10. But that's what I love about the RH750, there hasn't been a single cabinet in the world I've plugged it into that hasn't sounded great. I used an Ampeg 8x10 for instance on a recent record date in NYC with the RH750 and it sounded huge.
The effects list could take up and entire interview... my current setup probably won't be my current setup for very long as I'm always changing it depending on what gig I'm doing. And I'm also just trying to be as creative as possible with the sounds and am constantly searching for new ideas, so it doesn't stay the same for very long. I guess the couple of pedals that always seem to end up on the board would be the Boss OC-2, some kind of distortion, an envelope filter, looper, and a delay pedal.
Right now the signal chain is:
- Boss OC-2 Octave >
- ElectroHarmonix Bass Balls Nano >
- New prototype harmonizer pedal >
- Xotic BB Bass Preamp that I use for distortion >
- Moog Moogerfooger Ring Modulator with Moog EP-2 expression pedal >
- Boss PN-2 Tremolo >
- WMD Super FatMan Envelope Filter >
- TC Electronic Vortex Flanger >
- DOD FX32 Meatbox Subharmonic Generator >
- TC Electronic Nova Repeater >
- TC Electronic Flashback Delay.
That about sums it up!"
- A Few shots of Janek's pedal board at the moment:
- Always great to see another Moogerfooger user! I hear the unmistakable sound of the Moog Ring Modulator on the new album – How do you approach using typically ‘less musical’ effects like this?
"To me the Moog Ring Mod is great if it's used sparingly. I have the expression pedal controlling the "mix", and can bring the effect in and out of my clean sound to create tension when I need it. It's also great for finding subtle sub harmonics for bass lines, and is generally a very creative pedal to modulate my sound."
- Janek talks about composing music and his practice approach at a recent clinic:
- You use quite a bit of delay in your sound (and like myself, it’s provided by the excellent TC Electronic units) even though delay is often over-looked by bass players. How do you use it and what does it bring to your sound?
"When I'm soloing or playing chordal material it gives me some depth and really helps me play less notes. I can hang out on one note and let it ring way longer with a delay pedal than if it was clean.
Also when I'm playing bass lines, quite often in electronic music, I can set a dotted quarter note on an aggressive setting with the OC-2 and get some really cool bass line variations. It brings the music and the bass into a multi dimensional playing field when I start to expand with delay."
- You recently put out some ‘TonePrints’ for the new line of TC pedals. How does it feel creating sounds that others can take away and use in their own music? What do you think to the new TonePrint technology?
"Well first of all I think what the incredible folks at TC are doing with their innovative product technology is off the hook. Who would have thought that you were going to be able to walk down the street having a phone conversation 50 years ago... never mind beaming a preset into your pedal via your phone! Although I know very little about gear when it comes to the bass, I am a big tech geek and love stuff like that.
It's a cool thing to be a small part of too. It's great that not only are TC engaging customers and fans of music by creating incredible products like the TonePrint series, but they're also connecting artists with fans through this preset medium.
I'm very humbled to be a part of it, and it's a relationship I hope will continue to grow."
- As you work and perform with a huge range of musicians, do you ever find that others don’t ‘click’ with the less traditional bass sounds? Have you ever had to drop using effects to please others, even when you feel they are really adding to the music?
"Well that all depends on the situation. If I've agreed to work for someone else as a sideman then my job is to listen. Listen not only to what I think is musically right for the situation, but also to what the artist wants. It's no use me agreeing to play a supporting role and then ignoring what the artist has to say!
In my experience you can get through almost any gig out there with a P-Bass strung with flat wound strings. If you're going to add anything to that incredibly effective method of making music, then you'd better make sure you really know what you're doing, and that you can definitely enhance the performance.
Most of the time I hear people using pedals and effects and it does nothing but make the sound more muddy. You really have to know what you're doing in terms of signal chain, how all those pedals change your EQ slightly, and how inconsistent your sound can become when you switch from pedal to pedal during a performance. The older I get the more I understand why so many people don't want a ton of effects when you're playing their music. When I go on tour with Mike Stern for instance I take a delay pedal and a tuner. I'm actually going to add a volume pedal to that little setup when we do this festival tour next week, but nothing crazy, and nothing that's going to modulate my sound at all.
I think it really comes down to being aware of your surroundings, and using your ears and good judgement to do what's right for the music you're playing."
- More clinic work from the recent London Bass Guitar Show. There are 3 parts to this video and I'd suggest watching all of it:
- Do you have a favourite pedal at the moment and what's the last pedal you bought/were given/stole/obtained by alternative means?
"Well my buddy John Davis (incredible bass player, musician, and engineer in NYC) laid a prototype harmonizer pedal on me during the recording of my latest album "it only happens once", and that's pretty funky. Not sure how much I can use it in every day situations but it's a great pedal. WMD recently gave me a Super FatMan which is really cool, and besides the Boss OC-2, I'm way into the DOD FX32 meatbox. Subharmonic is where it's at for me right now. Juan Alderete gave me my first Meatbox a couple of years ago, and I've picked up a couple for the collection since. They don't make it anymore just like any pedal that seems to have character these days, so I grab them when I can."
- Here is what Janek has to work with when he's putting a board together for a tour or studio session:
- What pedals etc. are on your most wanted list at the moment?
"An original Green Sovtek Big Muff made in Russia in the 70's, A Mutron, Zvex Wooly Mammoth... I mean shit, there are probably 50 more pedals that I would buy right now if I had the time to sit down and get to know each one of them..."
- Going beyond the pedals, how much thought do you put into the extras (like switching, quality of patch cables, instrument leads etc.) that you use in your set up?
"Well I have a deal with Planet Waves and D'Addario which is very cool. They're a great company and make incredible products. So it's very easy for me to be picky about what I use when it comes to the extras.
I make my own patch cables using the PW cable kits, and I also use their high end instrument and speaker cables. I'm going to start working on a setup for my pedal board where I run the entire effects collection as a separate loop so I can have true bypass on my clean sound. I hate getting hum and signal loss when I have the pedal board plugged in but I'm playing clean."
- Also from the London Bass Guitar Show... A stunning performance featuring Gary Husband on the drums:
- Do you have any hints or tips you can share with regards to effects/pedals/signal chains etc…?
"Well I guess the effects loop thing from the previous question would be my first recommendation, but I'm new to it so I can't really explain it in detail. I like the OC-2 early in the chain, then distortions, modulation, then delay at the end of the chain. Certain pedals drive other pedals really well, and sometimes they render other pedals in the chain useless. It's been an endless cycle of experimentation for me so far, and one that will probably never stop.
If you get a chance you should stop by my good friend Juan Alderete's new website www.pedalsandeffects.com, it's going to be full of how to route your pedal board and how to use pedals and effects with the bass."
- What's been the highlight of your last year in music?
"Still being here. I'm always amazed that I can keep doing what I love and make a living from it, and the longer that continues the better.
I'm fortunate to not only lead my own band all over the world and make albums as a leader, but to also play with some of my all time heroes like Mike Stern and Randy Brecker. Oh yeah, a recording date with John Mayer a few months back didn't exactly suck... But whether it's John Mayer or someone you've never heard of, it's all a big listening and learning experience that ultimately feeds back into influencing my own music.
Being a band leader, a recording artist, and a touring musician are the most important things to me musically. As long as I'm able to do that in some form or another then I'm happy and proud to do what I do."
- Here's great shot from a recent studio session:
- Black and white photgraphy by www.maneuver.no, used with permission.
Go get stuck into Janek's back catalogue and check out the huge range of genres and influences that his albums cover. Keep an eye on Janek's Twitter or Facebook for updates as he's an active poster who takes the time to interact with his fans and followers. You can also keep track of what Janek is up to and quiz him on all things musical in the dedicated Janek Gwizdala forum over on Talkbass.
My thanks to Janek for going into such detail!
Also a big thank you to everybody for reading.