FOR BOSTON-BORN BASSIST DAVID Hull, the life of an in-demand session musician is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, playing with an array of different artists has imbibed him with a chameleon-like ability to blend in. On the other hand, it has left little time for him to express himself and his musical roots in his own right. Since his first professional break as a teenager in the Buddy Miles band in 1970, Hull has pushed and expanded his style and technique in the context of the many players he’s backed up—most recently, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. With the release of his first solo album, Soul in Motion, Hull has finally been able to break out from the sidelines to take the lead.
How did you come to play with Joe Perry?
In the late ’70s, my band Dirty Angels supported Aerosmith on their 1978 tour. Soon after, Joe called me to play on his first Joe Perry Project album [Let the Music Do the Talking, Columbia, 1980], and I’ve stayed with him on and off ever since. I’ve also stepped in for Tom Hamilton on a couple Aerosmith tours, so we understand each other’s styles.
Why did you wait until now to venture solo?
With all my other commitments in the past five years—the Joe Perry album and tour among them—I haven’t had an outlet for my own music. I thought it was about time I sorted that out.
Which of your basses did you record with?
For the lion’s share of the album, I played my ’75 P-Bass. I also own a number of basses that I rarely play live, but do record with. I have a ’65 Höfner that sounds great on record, but it’s too inconsistent to take out on the road. I also use a ’72 Fender Telecaster Bass. During the ’70s and ’80s I used Musicman Stingrays. Live, I’ve been leaning heavily on my G&L ASAT.
As an established session player, you’ve spent years in recording studios. Did that experience help you in recording your solo album?
Defi nitely. Working with many different artists and producers has taught me just how important it is to get the studio set up right, and how using various recording techniques can greatly aid the finished product. For example, on “Your Second Biggest Mistake,” I play the ’75 P-Bass with the E string tuned down to D through a ’70s Ampeg SVT. I then doubled the Fender bass track with a Hagstrom 8-string played with a pick through a Marshall Plexi. Those are the kinds of tricks you learn when spend hours in studios.
What’s your preferred playing style?
It’s got to be fingerstyle over playing with a pick; I find that gives me more control over my playing. When I did some stuff for Ted Nugent’s Weekend Warriors album [Epic, 1978], I initially thought they were going to ask me to use a pick for a heavier sound, but I knew Steve [Klein, engineer] could record my fingerstyle playing and make it sound really clear and with a lot of thump. For a Ted Nugent record, you can’t let up on the intensity. You have to keep the pedal down all the time, and I can do that more easily playing fi ngerstyle.
With your solo album finally out, are you planning to take it out on the road?
We will certainly be doing some shows this year. The live band has Pete Cassani on guitar and Steve Hart on drums. They’re both from the Boston punk rock band the Peasants, and they’re both superb. And I’ve just added Jim Gambino from a great Boston band, the Swinging Steaks. He’ll be playing keys, and doubling on bass when I pick up the guitar, which will be about half of the time. Rehearsals are going really well—it’s starting to sound nice and potent. There is nothing better than playing your own material with accomplished musicians around you. For me, that’s what being a musician is all about. —RICHARD BENNETT
HEAR HIM ON
David Hull, Soul In Motion [Oarfin, 2010]; Joe Perry, Have Guitar Will Travel [Roman Records, 2009]
Basses 1975 Fender Precision Bass with P/J pickups, Hagstrom 8-string with J-style bridge pickup, ’72 Fender Telecaster Bass, ’79 Musicman Stingray, Lakland 55-94, G&L ASAT
Studio rig A Designs Reddi Tube DI, Neve 1272 mic preamp split to a ’70sera Ampeg SVT and a ’70s-era Marshall Plexi with Marshall 4x12 cab, ’60s Fender Showman, Ampeg B-15R
Live rig Hartke LH100 head, Hartke 410XL and 115BXL cabs
Effects Boss OC-3 Super Octave Divider, Line 6 DM4 Distortion Modeler, Electro- Harmonix Bass Balls