The Best Of "Bill's Science Corner"


THE OCTOBER ’92 ISSUE HAD THE 14th—and final—installment of “Bill’s Science Corner.” I was sorry to see it go. What a trip it had been working on that column with Billy Sheehan . . . .

After I interviewed Billy for the cover story in BP’s premiere issue, I got the idea of asking him to do a regular column. But instead of the usual instructional fare, I wanted a short, lively Q&A that would run up front. The concept was simple: readers would send in questions, and Billy would answer them. He loved the idea.

I sorted through the questions and looked for the most interesting ones. (And, uh … occasionally we made up one.) I sent them to Billy, and a while later he would call to give me his responses. I’d record our conversation, and then transcribe and edit Billy’s answers for publication. Most of the questions were serious inquiries about gear or technique or performing, and Billy got really good at giving concise answers to those. But many of Billy’s best responses were the funny ones. Herewith, some of my favorites

When I play my bass while I’m naked, it feels cold, but when I’m wearing clothes, it doesn’t. Why?
Eddie Current
Oneonta, NY

That has to do with thermal conductivity. Humans, being warm-blooded, can retain body heat with layers of clothing. Without clothes, the instrument conducts heat away from the body. But, in a live situation, you’ll fi nd that your crowd reaction will be much higher in direct proportion to the lack of clothing, depending on your body hair and height-to-weight ratio. You may also need to figure gender into the equation.

October ’92Does wearing Spandex help you play faster? If not, what’s the deal?
Dirk Starr
Eugene, OR

Actually, Spandex only makes you look faster,because it’s worn by so many sprinters and bicycle racers. Also, according to the latest psychological research, if the audience sees you dressed like an aerobics instructor, it affects them subconsciously. They suddenly feel tired, and, voilà, your licks seem faster.

I know it’s a good idea to practice with a metronome, but will it help my timing if I sleep while listening to a metronome through headphones?
Trent Opaloch
St. Albert, Alberta

Absolutely not—in fact, it may hurt it. The headphones will annoy your girlfriend, and she’ll cut you off. With your resultant anxiety, your band will notice you rushing and lagging all over the place and will throw you out. Then you’ll be home at night alone, suffering from metronomeinduced insomnia.

What’s the difference between a riff and a lick?
Mark R. Konzen
Matteson, IL

Riff: Derived from “refrain,” a short phrase repeated over and over. Lick: Derived from “cowlick,” an uncooperative lock of hair that sticks up as if a cow had licked your head. Therefore a lick should make your hair stand on end.

I’m confused about ohms. I’ve got a 2x15 cabinet with two 8-ohm speakers. Does this mean I should say “Ohm” 8 times when I meditate before playing? Or should I say it 16 times?
Dennis E. Hill
Williams AFB, AZ

I called the Ohm Shopping Network, and one of the ohmboys there said “Ohmigod” would be a fitting mantra in this circumstance. The correct number of repetitions can be determined by an ohmmeter, but don’t mistakenly use an ’ome-eater. (That’s a termite.) The preceding has been a series of extremely bad puns. Sorry.

I practice with a drum machine every night just before bed. Even though I unplug it when I’m done, I can still hear it going “tap, tap, tap” all night long. It’s driving me crazy. What can I do?
Edgar A. Poe
Boston, MA

Learn some songs by Raven.

In the Bill’s Science Corner photo, you bear a striking resemblance to Garth Algar from Wayne’s World. Are you related?
Bobby Schallau
Palos Verdes, CA

Yes, but not to each other.

When I shut off my amp, I get a loud “POP” from the speaker. I’ve tried turning down the volume on both my bass and my amp, but that doesn’t seem to help. What can I do?
Nathan You
Lake Placid, NY

It’s hard to say, exactly. I suggest contacting the manufacturer or taking the amp to a repairman. I used to have a loud, annoying pop, too, but my mom divorced him.


Bill Wyman on Making The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St.

“That the album ever came out at all was a complete miracle,” marvels Bill Wyman of the 1972 landmark Rolling Stones album Exile On Main St. Though critics initially overlooked the band’s provocative blend of American roots music with Brit-style rock (“Everybody slagged it off,” Wyman bitterly recalls), the album has since gained recognition as one of the Stones’ most potent statements. This year, Universal has re-mastered the seminal double album, reissuing it with a blistering batch of bonus tracks.

Juan Alderete : Shining In The Relative : Simplicity Of Octahedron

NO ONE CAN REASONABLY SAY THAT JUAN Alderete’s body of work with renowed experimental rock act the Mars Volta is insufficiently challenging. Their previous record was infamously marred by personnel changes, equipment failures, mental breakdowns, and even a studio flood, and yet the chaotic density and unapologetic freneticism of The Bedlam In Goliath smashed enough musical boundaries to earn the band a Grammy. Their latest, Octahedron, is a deliberate step towards a relatively simpler sonic and musical landscape, and while the famously speed-endowed Alderete can power it out with anyone, it’s in this clearer, cleaner context that his myriad tones (check out that list of effects!), grooves and ideas shine more brightly than ever.

Secrets Of The Motown Vault

CALL IT A PERFECT STORM OF BASS. The setting is Studio A at Universal Mastering Studios East, in midtown Manhattan. Sitting at opposite ends of the board are Anthony Jackson and James Jamerson Jr., the world’s foremost authorities on the style and substance of Motown master James Jamerson. Harry Weinger, VP of A&R for Universal Music’s catalog division, with a menu of original session tapes at his fingertips, starts the Supremes’ 1968 single, “Reflections.” Instantly, and without noticing the other, Anthony and James Jr. begin intently playing air bass, each precisely matching the notes emanating from the speakers. And what notes they are. With several instruments turned off in our custom mix, and Jamerson’s bass boosted, his part is more than just ghost-in-the-machine groove, it’s a living, breathing entity that can physically move you—as we learn when one of his token drops causes our collective bodies to bend sideways in delighted reaction. Recalling his vault experie

William Murderface Of Dethklok

You can’t put into words what I do. It’s like asking Robert DeNiro how to act, or why George Burns was a comedy genius. I mean, we’ve just got the goods. There’s no secret formula. And I’m sure all the sad struggling bassists out there will read this hoping for the secret to being an amazing bass player like me, and there isn’t one and then they’ll kill themselves.

John Campbell of Lamb Of God

 Honestly, I never saw the bass and was like, “I’m going to play bass.” I had friends [and] the opportunity to play music came up…they had a house with stuff set up, and I was playing my friend’s drums with his roommates and the bass playin’ roommate took off for the summer. My friends whose drums they were was like, “Hey, why don’t you just let me play my drums and you can play Mike’s bass rig.” And that was when I was 18, and that’s how I ended up playing bass.