Julie Slick: Cooking Up Hot Low End with Adrian Belew

April 14, 2015

Bass Player first featured Paul Green School of Rock graduate Julie Slick in August ’06 when she had begun playing in the Adrian Belew Power Trio. ABPT recently capped a comprehensive American tour, and Slick is currently focused on her progressive bass duo with multi-instrumentalist Marco Machera. Rather than sounding like one too many cooks on their debut CD, Fourth Dementia, Slick and Machera strike an intriguing balance of highs and lows. Effected sounds abound, but are never overbearing. We wondered if Slick’s expertise in the actual kitchen—she often plays chef for the Belew crew on the road—informs her work in the sonic kitchen.

Can you draw a comparison about playing live and cooking for guests?

Like playing a song or bass line that you wrote, there is something very satisfying about coming up with your own recipe and cooking it for others, but I also love to freely improvise in both the kitchen and onstage. It’s important to balance both in a show. The audience comes away more satisfied when there are certain familiar hooks or “flavors” displayed.

Can you draw a correlation regarding effects?

Effects are like spices that punch up beautiful ingredients and can sometimes turn the simplest recipe or sequence of notes into a unique experience—consider steamed broccoli versus Thai curry. But sometimes salt and pepper will do. Apply the proper technique, and the song can speak for itself.

Improper seasoning is a common mistake. It boils down to training the senses. A well-trained palate leads to the right balance of seasoning, or can help fix a disaster. The same is true in the audio realm. If your ears aren’t trained, the chance of creating a successful song is diminished. Over- or under-seasoning is like playing too many or too few notes. It’s all about taste in both cases.

How do you go about sharing the kitchen, so to speak, with another bassist such as Marco Machera?

It can be difficult to carve out space, but our instruments themselves make it a bit easier. On Dementia, I play mostly a 6-string tuned E to E, so I have extended high range. Marco mainly plays a Yamaha 5-string, which has the predictable low B. We consciously avoid playing in the same octave, and we hit a lot of cool, heavy harmonies as a result. I mainly play with a pick, whereas he plays finger-style and uses Funk Fingers [made famous by Tony Levin and reproduced by Expanding Hands Music]. Additionally, I use my Eventide PitchFactor and Roland VB-99 Virtual Bass System to hit notes out of my acoustic range and even access different types of instruments via MIDI. It’s a delicate balance—just like cooking with two proteins. We’re essentially a surf-and-turf platter!

INFO

LISTEN

Julie Slick & Marco Machera, Fourth Dementia [2014, Slick Sound]; Solo, Terroir [2012, Slick Sound]; The Crimson Projekct, Live in Tokyo [2014, Inside Out]

EQUIP

Basses Lakland Decade 6 with D’Addario EXL156 Nickel Wound Bass VI strings, Lakland Bob Glaub Signature with D’Addario EPS165SL ProSteels
Rig Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 head, Gallien-Krueger Neo 212-II 2x12 cabinet
Effects Pigtronix Bass Station, Pigtronix Infinity Looper, Mantic Vitriol distortion, Creation Audio Grizzly Bass overdrive

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