WHICH ONE’S PINK? WHO’S THE BASS player in Ween? Such questions have multiple answers. Guitarist and singer Mickey Melchiondo, AKA Dean Ween, plays plenty of bass on the recordings. Singer/guitarist Aaron Freeman, AKA Gene Ween, does too. In addition, producer and former Rollins Band bassist Andrew Weiss usually plays a bit on each record. Since 1997, Dave Dreiwitz has been Ween’s bassman whenever the wackedout alt-rock outfit attacks the stage. He usually plays a cut or three in the studio, as well.
How does the band decide who plays bass in the studio?
Usually a tune’s primary songwriter will play bass. The songs I track are the ones we’ve worked out on tour. Mickey, Aaron, and Andrew are three of the bass players I respect most, because they know exactly what is best for their records. It’s always exciting to be surrounded by them in the studio, and to take their studio lines to the stage.
What are their stylistic hallmarks on bass?
Aaron has a Paul McCartney-meets-reggae style. “Blue Balloon” from La Cucaracha is a good example of his playing. Mickey is more aggressive, and he often plays with a pick. I typically use a 1.0mm Dunlop Tortex pick, but to play Mickey’s lines I’ll use one of his .73mm picks to cop the right sound and feel.
How do your early influences inform your own style?
John Paul Jones inspired me to start playing bass. I learned music by playing along with Motown and Led Zeppelin records, and I still do that at home for fun. In a hard rock context, Jones built on Jamerson’s way of being melodic—yet never in the way—and that’s the definition of great bass playing to me. Trevor Bolder’s playing with David Bowie is some of my favorite stuff. He went on to do more good work with Uriah Heap. I also love bassists whose playing really sticks out—Jack Casady, Jack Bruce, and Jaco Pastorius. I try to think about what Felix Pappalardi did in Mountain, and bring some of that really low end to picture.
How does that figure in your approach to gear?
I play a Rickenbacker with the tone knobs turned all the way down in order to get a dark, deep sound. Sometimes I let out a treble for more bite. Distorted bass is one of my favorite things.
How much do you improvise?
Ween’s music is all over the place. Sometimes a busy line works on the recording, but not onstage. I reduce those until they sound best at stage volume. I like to stay in the first position, and keep the most solid rock groove possible. That might be simply playing roots and 5ths, or riding a riff in a classic rock style. But I’m able to throw my own stuff in because we let songs out live. We just follow our ears, and keep one eye up one the other guy.
HEAR HIM ON
and Men” [La
2007]; “Chocolate Town” [Quebec,
Sanctuary, 2004]; Live in Chicago
Bass 1980 Rickenbacker 4001
Rig Gallien-Krueger 800RB head,
Acoustic 2x15 cabinet
Effects MXR Distortion+, MXR
Strings & Picks D’Addario XL Nickel Roundwounds
(.045–.100), Dunlop Tortex (1.0mm