Since first picking up a bass in 1985, Rev Jones has gone on to infuse some of the biggest names in hard rock with incredible energy and musicality, utilizing an array of techniques, both conventional and otherwise. Jones recently completed a tour of Indonesia with Steelheart, one of his main gigs, and is planning to embark upon a U.S. tour with another steady employer, guitarist Michael Schenker. He’s also been playing bass with Leslie West for several years, and recently wrapped up work on the Mountain guitarist’s latest, Still Climbing.
Who inspired the two-handed tapping techniques you use?
My biggest influence is Tony Levin. His choice of notes—that’s the cool stuff to me. With King Crimson, some of the bass lines seem easy, but they’re very odd. He could have played [technical] parts to blow everybody away, but instead just played in a way that was quirky and musical.
How did Still Climbing come together?
The first song I recorded was “When a Man Loves a Woman,” and it was just me, Leslie, and a piano—no drums. I laid down the bass in one take, thinking it was just a going to be a scratch track, but that’s the bass that ended up on the record. They went back and replayed the piano to match the bass and then added everyone else. There was no click—I was keeping time. It really set the vibe.
How do you come up with your bass parts?
I like to play fills that are more like passing phrases; they don’t jump out at you, but without them, a song would sound empty. Chuck Jacobs from Kenny Rogers’ band is one of those guys you don’t notice unless you decide to really listen to the bass part. Some of those Kenny Rogers songs have amazing bass lines. Jacobs has that older, Nashville-style feel, but you can hear a James Jamerson influence. He’s like a country version of a Motown guy.
What’s your approach to playing the classic material with Leslie, whether it’s Mountain or West, Bruce & Laing?
There are only a couple songs that I sat and learned because they had to be exact. Most of the time, I’m hearing in my head what those guys would have played. If I went and played on something that Greg Lake played on, it would sound just like I was playing his bass parts, even if I didn’t learn the song note-for-note.
You claim your basses never go out of tune. How is that possible?
I only give each string three-quarters of a wrap around the tuning peg, so they don’t stretch out. I usually don’t even check my tuning during the show; unless the tuning keys got hit, it’ll be in tune.
Can you offer any practice tips?
You don’t need a metronome to develop your timing. It’s good if you’re trying to speed something up or you’re trying to learn some weird little parts, but if you have to rely on a metronome to practice, it’d be like somebody always telling you, “Play that note, now play this one,” without ever learning the notes for yourself. Eventually they won’t be there and you’ll be going, “Now what do I do?” I never even owned a metronome. Records were my metronome when I was learning how to play.
Leslie West, Still Climbing [2013, Mascot]
Basses Dean Guitars Custom Rev Cadillac, Custom ML, Demonator, Hollywood Z, Pace Bass; Warr Guitars custom 12-string touch bass (fretted/ fretless hybrid)
Rig Phil Jones D-600 and D-200 heads; Phil Jones C4 Red & C4 Black 4x5 cabinets
Effects Maxon Vintage Jet Riser, Stereo Chorus Pro, OD808 Overdrive, AD-9 Pro Analog Delay; TWA Great Divide Multi-Voice Octaver
Strings Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky Nickel Round Wound (.045– .105 and .032–.130); Ernie Ball Flatwound (.045–.105)
Picks Intune GrippX Standard 1mm
Accessories Kahler Bass Bridges and Bass Tremolos; Sennheiser EW 300 IEM G2 wireless system; Ultimate Ears UE-10 in-ear monitors