Tag Teaming Da Phunk
Dumpstaphunk is such a deep
funk band because its dual
bassists don’t simply come
together “on the one”—they
play as one. Listen to the
band’s incredibly groovy CDs or shut
your eyes at a show, and you’ll have a
hard time telling where Tony Hall’s bass
ends and Nick Daniels’ begins. Coupled
with Raymond Weber’s cannon-shot kick
drum, guitarist Ian Neville’s precision
rhythms, and keyboardist Ivan Neville’s
nifty organ and Clavinet moves—Dumpsta’s
phunk is downright profound.
New Orleans’ first family of funk—the
Nevilles—continues its reign in the current
generation at the expense of the previous
one. Although its origins date back
to 2003, Dumpstaphunk languished until
Ivan and Ian Neville—along with Nick
Daniels—broke away from the venerable
Neville Brothers band in 2006. Tony
Hall, who is also an accomplished guitarist,
was in the Dumpsta mix, but he
was busy playing with Emmylou Harris,
Dave Matthews & Friends, and Phish’s
Trey Anastasio. Dumpstaphunk found
itself in exile abroad when Hurricane
Katrina hit, so the supergroup kept gigging
until it became a top priority for all
its mighty members, most of whom also
sing lead and background vocals.
How did you both wind up playing bass
in the same band, and what made you
believe having two bass players could
TONY HALL Nick and I have known
each other for a long time, and we came
to play together in this band organically.
I was playing bass on Ivan’s solo dates
[a band often billed as Ivan Neville’s
Dumpstaphunk], but I had a schedule
conflict one night, so Nick stepped in.
For the next show, I brought a guitar and
a bass. Once we heard what it sounded
like when we both played bass together,
it was like—“Wow! This is different.”
NICK DANIELS What makes it work
is that even though it’s a dual-bass band,
there’s no actual bass dueling going on.
HALL Right. Some people might roll
their eyes and think, “Oh, no—two bass
players . . . .”
DANIELS “They’re going to be dueling.”
But it’s never been like that.
HALL It’s not a competition.
It’s uncanny how you finish each other’s
phrases and play off each other to
form a single, intricate bass presence.
How do you work it out?
HALL A lot of our tunes are made
out of riffs we throw out and jam on at
soundcheck. One of us will start playing
something, and the others will jump
right in—or not. Sometimes the best thing
is to lie out for a minute.
DANIELS Sometimes Tony will play
guitar, and the rest of the time we do
double bass. We’ve done it enough that
we have a general sense of how it should
go, and we’ve never had a problem working
out who should play what when. We
just start throwing ideas around. If it’s a
new song, we might look at each other
and say, “What are you going to do? All
right, then I’m going to do this.”
HALL We like the same kind of stuff,
and we have the same kind of feel, so it
works together naturally.
George Porter Jr. laid the blueprint
for New Orleans funk in the Meters. Gearwise,
did you consciously stay away from
his territory as a Fender Precision fingerstylist?
HALL No. Those are just the instruments
we play. A long time ago, I
played a Precision Bass, and I had one
of George’s Telecaster Basses for a long
time. I was looking for a new bass—I’m
not even going to tell you the year that was
[laughs]—and Nick showed me his Peavey
T-40. I liked his, so I bought one like it,
and I’ve been playing Peavey ever since.
Well, I actually played Spector basses for a
while, but I decided not to use my Spector
in this band because it sounded too much
like Nick’s Tobias bass.
Can you describe the primary differences
in your tones?
HALL I have more bottom end.
DANIELS And I have more high-end punch.
What do you like most about your basses?
HALL I like mine because I can hit it as
hard as I want and still get a big, round note.
When you hit some basses hard, the sound
thins out before it gets big. When I play, the
sound starts big and stays big and powerful.
DANIELS I like to get the bottom end
going too, but in this band my territory is
more in the high end. The Tobias feels and
sounds good for that kind of thing. Most
of the time I’ve got an envelope filter on,
which adds even more treble. Lately, I’ve
actually been rolling a bit of the treble off
my bass in order to keep the sound from
being too trebly.
You are both liable to play slap bass at any
given time. Is one of you more the slap guy,
or do you both do everything equally?
DANIELS We both do everything.
HALL But he is more slap guy and I’m
more the fingerstyle guy. Nick can really slap.
DANIELS That’s the first thing I ever did
on a bass. When I started playing in 1976,
I was listening to Paul Jackson, Stanley
Clarke, and Marcus Miller. Everybody was
slapping back then. Larry Graham was a
huge influence for me, but there are differences
in our slap styles. He often uses his
thumb and first finger to snap his after he
slaps with his thumb—which is so long that
the tip curves upward. His hand is so big it
looks like a spider plucking the bass! My
plucking position is more overhand, and I
usually use one finger to pull for the pop.
I’ll also slap with my thumb, and then flick
my fingers forward for a strummed pop.
How does that compare to the way you
HALL I usually pull with my 1st finger,
whereas Nick pulls with his middle finger.
And my fingerstyle lines are kind of muted.
I keep my finger on the string after I hit the
note to mute it.
Let’s talk about a few songs on Everybody
Wants Sum, starting with “Do Ya.”
HALL Raymond wrote that line on a
keyboard. We both play bass on that tune.
We play the same line, but Nick plays it an
octave up with his envelope filter on.
“Neutral Rat” is a particularly funky song
with a cool bass part.
HALL Nick plays the only bass guitar
part on that song. I play guitar.
Do you apply bass techniques to
HALL No. I pretty much play the guitar
like a guitar. I mostly play a Stratocaster
with a pick, although I can get a pick-like
sound by playing with my 1st finger using
a pick-like motion.
“Gasman Chronicles” features a hyper
groove with nifty syncopation and killer
call-and-response in the bridge.
HALL That came about in the studio.
We finished something like 13 songs in five
days. Some had been recorded earlier, some
were unfinished, and some were new. I came
up with that bass line by playing off Ivan’s
keyboard. Ian added those upbeat hits, and
then we all did them together. That gave the
whole song its syncopated feel.
DANIELS When we were working on the
change, Raymond suggested that I answer
Tony. We run the passage that comes after
that in unison.
You mentioned the studio. How were
you set up?
HALL We all set up together in one room.
Typically, I listen to the way each song’s
sound is shaping up. If there’s too much
bass, I grab a guitar. Sometimes you only
need one bass.
DANIELS I remember going direct to
the board through an Avalon 737 preamp.
HALL I had one signal going through
an Avalon as well, and I had my live rig
miked up too.
“Everybody Wants Sum” is another bass
boomer. Who’s playing what?
DANIELS I’m playing the eighth-note,
boom boom line, and he’s answering me.
HALL I’m answering him with those
octave stabs and playing that Larry Graham-
style walk up in there.
DANIELS That always reminds me of Sly
& the Family Stone.
How do you manage to incorporate so
much bass and still stay out of Ivan’s way?
[Ivan Neville walks in the room.]
IVAN NEVILLE I stay out of their way!
DANIELS We’ve all known each other
for years, and we can read each other like
books, so we never get in each other’s way
musically. We get in each other’s way after
HEAR THEM ON
Sum [DP, 2010];
Listen Here [DP,
TONY HALL’S PHUNK JUNK
Bass Peavey Millennium 5 AC-BXP
Rig Peavey Tour 450 head, two Peavey
VB-410 4x10 cabinets
Effects Akai Deep Impact SB1 bass synth,
EBS BassIQ envelope filter, EBS OctaBass
Strings GHS Bass Boomers (.045–.131)
NICK DANIELS’ PHUNK JUNK
Bass Tobias Classic 5
Rig Mesa M9 Carbine head, two Mesa
Boogie 4x10 cabinets
Effects DOD FX25B Envelope Filter,
DigiTech XBW Bass Synth Wah, DigiTech
Strings Dunlop Stainless Steels (.040–