Steve Jenkins "Coaxial Flutter"

Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins is clearly enthused about the release of his long-awaited new album Steve Jenkins and the Coaxial Flutter. And how could he not be? His last album as a bandleader was 2004’s critically-acclaimed Mad Science, which cemented his status as one of the new breed of modern electric bassists who fuse Jazz, Rock, Avant-Garde, Funk and Heavy Metal into an experimental springboard for musical exploration.

Jenkins sets himself apart from the pack through his strong compositional sense rather than his instrumental prowess – although both, not surprisingly, are incredible. But raid-fire bebop licks or machine gun slapping is not where Jenkins puts his focus. Lately, his use of sonic manipulation is intended to be revelatory and inspiring to the listener. His use of effect pedals on …Coaxial Flutter will leave even the most jaded listeners questioning if what they are hearing is indeed a bass solo! This approach allowed him to expand his musical vocabulary and opened up new possibilities for his solos, which, rather than merely impressing listeners will certainly surprise many.

We recently got the chance to talk to Steve about the making of his new album and how he got some of those cool bass sounds!

You recorded the album during different sessions and over a long stretch of time. How did the recording change from the initial sessions?

Initially I demo’d everything at home, so much of the material was already fleshed out. We recorded in October of 2011 but actually finished tracking a year ago in early 2012. I knew that I had a couple more things that I wanted to do but they weren’t fully realized yet, mainly on Sphere and Parallax. I was happy with them but they needed something ‘extra’ - although everything was pretty much hashed out in terms of length of time. Parallax was the kind of thing where I knew there was more there than just the main part of it. That was the trickiest one to flesh out. But by the time we were done I wanted some time to sit with it for a little bit and figure out what it needed. And I have to say – the time was worth it! There were some 11th hour decisions I made that really made a difference in the way some of those tracks sounded.

Can you give an example of those types of changes?

On the first track, Leave This City Before You Can’t, it was initially just John Shannon playing guitar but as much as I really love John’s playing, I felt like the heavier parts needed more ‘heft’ to them. So, I added some tracks to reinforce what was there. There’s a lot of guitar on that track – half of it is John and half is me and the way the tones blend is very lush but having that on there really made the difference.

Since it’s been such a long time since my first album, I wanted to put a little more thought into how I put this album out there and how it sounded. But at the same time, I wasn’t over-indulgent with the recording process.

The album is so rhythmically interesting – how did that develop when you added the musician’s on top of your demo tracks?

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight was a tune that I demoed with just the basic drums in Logic. By the time Gene Lake came and played on it there was much more of a human feel going on. It really gives it what I was hoping it would give because Gene is such a great player and it made things sit in a more organic way. There are a couple “push & pull” moments at various points but it’s not like anyone was speeding up or dragging, it’s just three human beings playing these parts together. That kind of thing is the element that got added.

I should say that I always have something on in the background when I’m working and The Untouchables came on the TV one night so I used that for the title! I tend to write silly titles for instrumental songs because the best thing about instrumental music is that there is no lyrical connection so people can assign their own meaning to it.

Steve's Rig
Jenkins Live Gear

Steve's current live rig includes: Tone Hammer 500, GS 210, GS 212, Filter Twin, and AGRO

"I've been using my Aguilar rig for a long time and its never let me down or left anything to be desired tone-wise. No matter if its R&B, fusion, funk, or super aggressive prog-metal, my sound is always really easy to dial in no matter what. I make use all of all the frequencies and lots of different tones and Aguilar is just IT for me."

How much direction was given to the musician's?

It’s strange because I felt like I was more of a casting agent with the musicians versus a “we’re a band and we’re gonna do this together”-type of mentality. Of course I didn’t have to give them a lot of direction; I knew what they were going to do, because a lot was already spelled out on the demos.

You get some really wild and unique tones on your solos! How did you approach the sonic aspect for your leads?

When I was doing the solos on these tunes, and by the way, those are bass solos on tracks 1 and 3 (Leave this City and Parallax) – I’m just playing through guitar pedals. For Leave this City… John Shannon played the melody but that’s me doing the solo. I ran my bass through the Amplitube plug-in and gave it the old EVH setting with a phase 90 and everything! On Parallax, I’m going through a Micro-Pog with the front pickup all the way up and the back pickup off so it sounds almost like a hollow-body guitar. A lot of people think its guitar but it’s not. I just didn’t want to use the ‘fusion bass solo sound’ that a lot of people use for those songs. The only other soloist on this album is Vernon Reid [tracks 2 and 3] but everything else is me.

It took a lot of time to get the sounds that I wanted but when I was doing these solos, I wouldn’t let myself do more than seven takes at any given time. And I didn’t piece things together afterwards. So I really spent more time on the arrangements and trying to figure out what to do.

How did you record your bass?

Basically every bass track ran through my Tone Hammer pedal which I run right into my computer interface. I also used the AGRO pedal on Sphere and also used the Tone Hammer 500 quite a bit as well. But it was still done ‘in the box’; I didn’t use any cabinets – it was all direct. I also experimented with doubling tracks and making one track distorted but it was still mainly just my direct sound with the Tone Hammer. But it did make a pretty noticeable difference because most of the instruments I used were passive and going through the Tone Hammer really added a lot of warmth to the sound.

I did my basic tracks with the other musicians at my friend Jamie Siegel’s studio in Chelsea [ed. note J Rock Studios]. And then the overdubs, I did back at my place and when I brought my bass tracks back in to Jamie’s – because he mixed the entire thing – he was really into the sounds I got! And he has recorded everybody under the sun including a lot of mutual friends like Matt Rubano and Stu Brooks - bass players with really great sounds. It made me feel really good to get some props from an engineer that really knows tone! And in 2013, you can’t have a wimpy bass sound!

You were the first player to get a set of our Super Single pickups – how are getting along with them?

They’ve been great - I really love the way they sound! I was a little reluctant to put them in my bass originally because my Callow Hill bass is so awesome but the B-string has so much more clarity now when going below the D flat. The Super Singles sound great going from string-to-string and are really smooth overall. I can even get some really cool old-school, vintage sounds out of them so I’m happy!

What's next for you after the album release?

I just filmed a couple of instructional things that will be coming out soon – one is a project with Chris Buono and Keith Carlock. I’m also re-launching my website and will be doing a lot more teaching via Skype this year.

I’m also going to Brazil for a few days with Vernon Reid and then doing a bunch of sideman things and hopefully play some shows with this new project. That’s the idea – I just want to keep moving onward and upward!

Thanks for giving us the low-down Steve!


Steve Jenkins and the Coaxial Flutter is available now. Check out the song below or for more information click here.

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