Wojtek Pilichowski - No secret, no magic, just hard work

In today's age-obsessed musical climate, it is surprising for a new artist to emerge over the age of 22. And by 25, those artists are looked at as industry veterans! But occasionally, we are lucky enough to have a musician hit the circuit whose sound and style are already "fully-formed" through years of honing their craft. In the case of Polish bassist Wojtek Pilichowski, his rise to prominence in the bass-playing community comes after more than two decades of performing, recording, teaching and good, old-fashioned, "roll-up your sleeves and get dirty" practice.

Over the past two years, Wojtek's reputation has grown thanks to the multitude of viral video clips showcasing his formidable slap-style skills. Yet, despite his impressive instrumental chops, it is Pilichowski's musicality that began to win over an audience all over the world, culminating with him appearing at the Bass Player Live 2014 show in Los Angeles.

To date, Pilichowski has released eight solo albums, four live albums and three live DVD's! His most recent album is the stylistically diverse INTRO, which melds his astounding slap technique with both electronic and full-band arrangements. While there are plenty of moments chock full of Pilichowski's hyperkinetic playing, these are balanced out by songs where his bass takes a supporting seat to the song itself as on Take Control, Mniej Niz Zero and his down-tempo cover of the Depeche Mode classic, Enjoy the Silence.

Let's sit down with Wojtek to get the scoop on the INTRO album and how he developed that stunning slap technique!

 

Can you tell us a bit of background information on the INTRO album? Who were some of the collaborators?

INTRO is really a collaborative effort with my band who my fans will know from the previous album Fair of Noise. Most of the material was written by me and Tomek Swierk with input from the other musicians. We began by renting a house and converting it into a studio to write and record the material and then I moved to NY where we mixed the tracks with Tim McDowell.

What gear was used to capture your bass tone?

Obviously, the bass is an important part of INTRO. There were three tracks of bass recorded - one direct from the DB 751 preamp [Ed. note – XLR in "Post-EQ" mode] and two tracks from mic'ing the cabinets. The entire bass tone throughout the album was produced using the DB751 with two DB 410 cabinets. So the album is essentially a demonstration of Aguilar amplification!

Can you share your thoughts on your Aguilar rig (DB 751 with two, DB 410 cabinets)?

It is a very versatile rig with lots of power. The DB 751 is like a 500 HP engine – the power is there when you need it and it responds to your every move. INTRO is very broad in terms of musical styles and there were times when I wondered whether I should use separate amps for certain passages, but there was no need; Aguilar took care of everything! The DB 751 has a wide tonal palette, so I can get anything I need from sharp slap-style to rich, warm sounds for ballads to explosive rock-style playing.

Are you playing fretless on Enjoy the Silence?

Yes, exactly, it is a Mayones Jabba fretless.

Are you using a pick to play Rifokosta?

I have been looking for a proper sound for that song for a while. Eventually I turned to my roots, when I was using pick a lot. While fans know me for my thumb-style playing, the pick approach worked out perfectly on this and it was a nice way to supplement the album with something completely different.

You sync up perfectly to the sequencers on the tracks – how did you develop that?

No secret, no magic - just hard work! I practice a lot even nowadays. When a band wants to play along with computers, they have to develop perfect timing which can only be attained through practice. It may be brutal at first, but it is worth it!

You have phenomenal technique. Can you tell us how you worked on that?

Thank you! It is nice to hear that. The genesis of the thumb-style playing was really out of necessity at first. As a young musician I always wanted to play precisely but the options for good instruments were pretty much non-existent at the time. So basically I ended up having to strike the strings really hard to get the tone I wanted. After some time it became a habit and then turned into a style.

Also, I had played for many years in trios where my duty was often to provide colorful fills and variations on the bass line itself which further led me down this path. I was always looking for new ways to creatively connect my bass lines with the drums, so it really became less about technique and more about an approach to music as such.

Your stylistic approach is quite broad – what artists or bassists do you consider to be an influence?

Everything that involves music inspires me. Music is everywhere; it is a universal way of expression and has endless potential for creativity. I am deeply grateful for everyone who helped me find my personality, but my development is far from over. Nowadays I help young musicians to unleash their potential and quite often they surprise me with their energy and fresh ideas.

Thank you for taking the time to talk of your new album Wojtek!

The INTRO album is available online here


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