Studio Legend David Hood on the Road with the Waterboys

August 12, 2015

“I go on tour about every 20 years,” says David Hood in his well-worn Southern accent. “I went out with Traffic in 1972 and ’73, and then in ’93 with Little Milton and Denise LaSalle.” More than two decades later, Hood decided to hit the road with the Waterboys in support of their latest release, Modern Blues, a critically acclaimed album that features Hood’s distinctly deep tones and perfect pocket.

It’s not like the man has been taking extended vacations. As one fourth of the famed Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, Hood spent the ’60s and ’70s laying the foundation for American music, appearing on seminal albums by Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Linda Ronstadt, Boz Scaggs, Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson, James Brown, and Carlos Santana. The rhythm section, affectionately known as the Swampers, racked up more than 75 gold or platinum hits and were eventually inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. After Muscle Shoals Sound studio was sold in 1985, Hood’s recording career continued to roll, as it does to this day. Says David: “I’m a studio guy.”

So when Waterboys leader Mike Scott thought about asking Hood to join the band on the road this year, he was pretty certain the offer would be declined. To Scott’s surprise, Hood accepted, and the Waterboys have taken their show to enthusiastic audiences everywhere. If you have a chance to catch Hood with the band, jump on it. You may not see him on tour again until 2035.

How did you hook up with Mike Scott and the Waterboys?

I met their manager in Nashville, and she asked whether I’d be interested in recording with one of her artists. I said sure, that’s what I do. And then about two years passed before we worked out the details.

How were the songs presented to you?

They sent me mp3s, but I didn’t know it was the Waterboys. I started listening to these songs and I thought, Damn, do they know who I am? I’m a 70-year-old R&B player, you know, and these songs sound young and they kind of rock. But I guess they thought I’d be all right. They were just guitar and vocal demos, and each song I’d listen to, I’d think, This is cool stuff. The words are great, and I like Mike’s voice and his guitar playing. I made maybe eight or nine chord charts on the fly, in-between other work and things.

Did you work out the arrangements with the band?

Yeah, I played them at first just with Mike, then with Mike and Ralph Salmins, the drummer, and then everybody else came in and added their element. So that’s how I met the band, rehearsing at SIR in Nashville, and after two or three days, we moved over to Sound Emporium, which is a studio in Nashville that I really enjoy recording at. We stayed there for about two and a half weeks hammering out these songs. We would tackle two a day—which to me is slow, because I’ve always been a studio guy and I’m used to doing five or six songs a day.

You’ve built your legacy on being able to do that.

You’ve got to do it fast, because studio time is expensive and engineers are expensive. So we had a luxury of time, which I really enjoyed. I rarely get to do that. At the end of it, we had a great album.

How did you approach coming up with your bass parts?

Mike gave me a lot of leeway. He said, just play what you feel. But I could tell that even though it’s very much a rock & roll band, they wanted a bit of the rhythm & blues influence, so I did that as much as I could. I also followed some of Mike’s suggestions about what to do.

What basses did you use on the album?

I was playing a Lakland Joe Osborn model with flatwound strings. It’s like a real good vintage Fender Jazz Bass, the one with stacked knobs. I think I used that bass on everything except for one song, “I Can See Elvis.” They needed a thumpier sound on that one. I used a ’57 Fender Precision, a workhorse and a great bass that looks like crap. That bass has flatwound strings, and I put some foam rubber in front of the bridge.

Is the Lakland Osborn your main bass these days?

I think so. It didn’t start out to be. At a NAMM show, Dan Lakin said to me, “Come up to the hotel. I want you to meet Joe Osborn.” I thought, Wow, he’s one of my heroes. So I go and meet Joe, and we’re talkin’ and he’s playing, and when it was over, Dan said, “Would you like to take that bass with you?” It was a pink bass, and I thought, Pink? I don’t want a damn pink bass [laughs]. He said, “It’s not pink, it’s Burgundy Mist. It’s a General Motors color.” My wife was with me, and she nudged me and said, “Take the bass.” So I took it.

I didn’t play it for almost two years. I didn’t really like the sound of it; I thought it was too bright. But after two years, I finally realized that when I turn the treble back on both pickups a little, it has a really nice sound. It’s got nice Lindy Fralin pickups. I just cut the treble and play with my fingers, and it’s got a warm, rich sound. I’ve fallen in love with that bass ever since, so I have been using it quite a bit.

What made you accept Mike’s invitation to go on the road?

I just liked him and the other guys in the band, and I liked the music. I figured I’m 71 years old, and if I ever do something like this again, I’d better do it now while my health is good. It just seemed this was the right one. I’m really havin’ fun—our shows are going really well, and people are saying it’s the best version of the Waterboys they’ve ever heard.

INFO
LISTEN

The Waterboys, Modern Blues [2015, Harlequin and Clown]

EQUIP

Basses Lakland 44-94, Lakland Joe Osborn, Fender 1957 Precision
Rig Gallien-Krueger Fusion 550, Gallien- Krueger RBH410 4x10 and 1x8
Other Demeter Tube Direct Box, TC Electronic Polytune tuner  

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