“KEEPING THE HISTORY OF MUSIC alive is the most important aspect of playing,” says Ashish “Hash” Vyas. Like a lot of self-taught rock kids, he discovered blues and jazz by tracing the roots of Led Zeppelin. “I wanted to be Jimmy Page on bass,” he admits. As a teenager, Vyas was into the punk aesthetics of Sonic Youth and Nirvana. Serving as a DJ at San Diego State University opened his ears to everything. In 1995, he started the experimental outfit Gogogo Airheart. The band released five albums on Gold Standard Labs records, which was co-owned by Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez. Since 2004, Vyas has applied his deep and varied music appreciation to the world-oriented, DJ-driven livetronica outfit Thievery Corporation, and he works with several artists on the band’s ESL label
How does playing to backing tracks in Thievery Corporation compare to playing organically?
Playing to backing tracks is like playing along with a drum machine or a record. It only gets tricky when you can’t hear the track. We’re lucky enough to have a capable person dialing in the monitor mix most of the time, but since the track is so important, I usually ask to have it exclusively in my wedges. I rely on my cabinet to hear my bass onstage. I can usually hear some bass and backing track coming from the front wedges as well. When playing with tracks, there are positives and negatives. On the positive side, the beat is constant. That’s great because if you lose your place, you can jump right back on. The negative aspect is that when you’re off—you’re off
What kind of tone do you go for in Thievery Corporation?
Since most of our stuff is groove oriented and focused on the low end, I usually go for a sub-y sound. I’ll roll off all the highs, and then I’ll mess with the lows and mids. It usually depends on the venue. The sound onstage can vary greatly from night to night. I use flatwound strings with Thievery Corporation, but I’ve been using steel roundwounds otherwise. I play primarily with my fingers because that’s most comfortable, although I do occasionally use a pick
What’s the key to being a great bass player in many genres?
To be a good bass player, you need to know about the music you intend to play. To be a great bass player, you need to know about all the music that has been created, and transfer that energy into your playing. I’m a fan first, and a musician second.
HEAR HIM ON
Thievery Corporation, Radio Retaliation [ESL, 2008]; All Gogogo Airheart CDs [GSL, Various]
Basses Warmoth J-Style bass with Basslines STJK2 Hot Stack pickups, Squier Jazz Bass (de-fretted) with Basslines Quarter Pounders, Palatino upright
Rig Markbass Jeff Berlin combo, Markbass Little Mark Tube 800, Avatar 4x10 cabinet