David Bailis on Multitasking Onstage

“Tone is King for me,” Says David Bailis, who linked up with Brooklyn’s Pimps Of Joytime in late 2010 succeeding Hagar Ben Ari, who is now in Reggie Watts’ band on The Late Late Show With James Corden.
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“Tone is King for me,” Says David Bailis, who linked up with Brooklyn’s Pimps Of Joytime in late 2010 succeeding Hagar Ben Ari, who is now in Reggie Watts’ band on The Late Late Show With James Corden. Bailis brings a ton of tones to the Pimps’ table on top of traditional electric bass, adding sick synth bass and tricky samples that mesh seamlessly with wicked beats provided by super-drummer John Staten (Karl Denson). The Pimps Of Joytime honor classic funk and soul while pushing forward with fresh flavors on their fourth full-length record, Third Wall Chronicles, coproduced by guitarist/lead vocalist Brian J and Steve Berlin (Los Lobos). Bailis’ stanky staccato sensibility anchors standout cuts including “Mud” (featuring Ivan Neville), “On Tap,” and the irresistibly infectious opener, “This Funk (Give Me a Hand), penned by Anthony Cole (JJ Grey & Mofro).

How did you develop your singular fingerstyle?

I grew up in Boston and went to Berklee College of Music as a guitar player. Playing with so many great bass players as I was developing helped define my approach. I have a right-hand technique of primarily using my thumb and index finger, a style that can fluidly go back and forth between bass and guitar. I use a lot of thumb for the warmth and varied tones it can provide. My approach is somewhat similar to the technique Sting developed after his pick phase with the Police.

Can you delve deeper, using “This Funk” as an example, and also hip us to how you got that great filter tone?

I alternate back and forth between thumb and index a lot, varying the level of palm-mute to bring out different textures. It’s not a slap thing, although I throw in a few pops. The technique sounds great with an envelope filter to help facilitate super-staccato notes. I use an Aguilar Filter Twin dual envelope filter because it’s small and sounds consistent, and I use a specific setting as my starting point: velocity-down at 10 o’clock, velocity-up at 2 o’clock, blend at 11 o’clock, and threshold at 1 o’clock.

What are you juggling on a typical Pimps Of Joytime gig, and how do you generate so many sounds?

In addition to playing electric bass and key bass, I have my hands and feet full triggering samples including keyboard parts, soundscapes, vocals, drum beats, pads, and electronic elements throughout the show. I do all that by triggering Ableton Live software with an Akai MPD218 pad and a Keith McMillen SoftStep. I love the portability of that foot controller. After years of lugging bulky ones, the SoftStep—at around one pound—has been a complete game-changer. Some samples are tucked in to created a big sound in a subtle way, such as the keys and horns on “Play,” or the drums and horns on “Jack Stackin’.” Others are blasting to make the hook pop out, such as the wild electro-synth octaves and 5ths on “Everywhere I Go.” And others, such as the zydeco accordion on “If You’re Pimpi-zon, Do It,” provide the basis for the tune’s whole groove.

The band isn’t always locked to tracks. We have freedom to follow Brian’s slight changes in the moment, and we stretch out and jam when we’re feeling it. I devised an interactive triggering system by programming set arrangements in Ableton so that I can cue sections as we navigate through the roadmap of a song. I try to anticipate which sections may be extended, and I program loops or samples that can used as holding patterns. For a jam section, I’ll program different scenes to keep it progressing, so as to avoid any overly static moments. The gig presents a serious multitasking challenge that keeps me on my toes, fully engaged, and 100 percent focused onstage at all times.


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Pimps Of Joytime, Third Wall Chronicles [2017, Sugar Road]


Bass Lakland Skyline 44-64
Strings D’Addario EXL160 Nickel Wound Medium
Synth bass Vintage Moog Rogue (studio), Moog Minitaur (tour)
Effects Aguilar Filter Twin, Boss OC-2 Octave, Iron Ether Oxide morphing gated fuzz
Rig Mesa Boogie Carbine M9 or Subway D-800 head, Mesa Boogie Standard Powerhouse 6x10 cabinet
Sampling rig Akai Professional MPD218, Ableton Live software, Keith McMillen SoftStep MIDI footcontroller

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