Bass Players Collective
A Full Review And Analysis Of "All The Dolls In The Same Place"
A Chat with Jay Terrien about "All The Dolls In The Same Place"
by Martin Simpson
Jay sent me a pre-release copy of his new “Power Duo” disc (with Pat Mastelotto) which I’ve listened to extensively since putting it in the CD player for the first time. This album, believe me, is full of surprises, from the first notes of track one to the finishing textures of track 69 (that’s right!!!!). My initial thought was that “This is probably going to really sound empty”, but as soon as the first notes sounded, I knew I was in for the ride of a lifetime! Actually, there’s just so much happening, that you don’t notice that there are no guitar or keyboard contributions on the album. I can’t pass any comment on the cover art as Jay sent me an advance copy before the sleeve had actually been designed!!! I e-mailed Jay in late September and put some questions to him regarding the project and this is what he had to say.
Before we get to the actual music, can I ask if you’ve got the cover art underway yet?
“My artwork is finally finished and the record should be saleable by late October. Design-wise, my artwork took me about a month to conceptualise. But before that, I sent out about 2,000 advance copies to industry contacts.
I designed the artwork for this record but it’s important to note that both Arthur Coddish and Ferron Crush contributed some intriguing design aesthetics as well. I had to wade through 3 GB of images on my hard drive before I finally found the right combinations of mesmerizing images that meshed well together on print and matched the intensity of the compositions.”
What’s the title going to be?
“This record is entitled “All The Dolls In The Same Place”. I think that I am the first bassist in music history to have an affair with a blow up doll named “Betty”.
Getting onto the music. You obviously KNEW this was going to be something very special. Did the other people around you have the same confidence in you that you had in yourself?
“I knew that my recording sessions would be special because I had been so patient throughout the creative process while composing the music for this record. The uniqueness of this album comes from the conceptual standpoint of creating a bass and drums only “Power Duo” recording that attempts to capture my rhythmic and melodic imagination. I met with Ronan several times before I decided to bring him onto the project. He was pretty psyched about it right away, I think primarily because he loves forward-thinking compositions, which ultimately allow him the creative space to conjure up unique ways to track bass and drums parts, which is certainly one of his fortes. Ronan’s stellar track record with King Crimson, Tony Levin, Terry Bozzio, and the California Guitar Trio assured me that I was in extremely competent hands. Obviously, when I go into a studio, I don’t want to worry about the technical ability of my engineers and I certainly don’t want to worry about being a tone and frequency task master! I really just want to focus on shaping my arrangements and getting the best performances (and layering of sound designs) down to hard disk.
The “Which Drummer Will Work Best For This Record?” discussion was relatively simple. We discussed bringing on several local Los Angeles-based professional drummers that I admire like Gregg Bissonette, Danny Carey, etc. But here’s the thing, I am a HUGE X.T.C. fan, and remembering that Pat Mastelotto tore it up on “Oranges And Lemons” and also that he is one of Ronan’s favorite go-to guys, I simply trusted Ronan’s decision that Pat was THE GUY. Ronan said it best over dinner one night: “King Crimson and X.T.C. are a hard combination to beat!”
But there was also the personality factor involved and that’s why I choose a hard-working and inspirational drummer like Pat. Ronan was very aware that an uninspired contributor with tons of other musical commitments would lead to a train wreck. Once we started throwing around my pre-session demos and compositional ideas, both Pat and Ronan recognized that they would be working with an extremely structured and organized solo artist who had everything prepared and thought out. For me, being over-prepared business-wise before I hit the studio, ultimately allowed all parties involved to solely focus on their own creative contributions.
How long did the project take from conception to final mastering?
“I guess you could say that my record took shape as soon as I shifted my professional focus towards Los Angeles earlier this year. As soon as I arrived, I started aggressively auditioning perspective instrumentalists and producers. There was a lot of interest in this project within the LA scene.
Some of this music is a few years old while two of the songs, “Judging By The Size Of Carnie” and “JTIWYP!”, were written and recorded on the spot, a few days before I handed off my demo arrangements to my producer-mixer, Ronan Chris Murphy. Granted, this was the first time that I really had no pre-conceived and strict notion of what the drum role should be, so I didn’t have to waste any additional time chopping up my own drum loops and beats in Pro Tools. I gladly handed off that duty to Pat Mastelotto. Before Pat even hit Los Angeles, I had sent him a huge DVD-R of the actual Pro Tools sessions that we would be utilizing. As soon as he received the sessions (which already possessed my tempo and time signature maps, primary bass arrangements, measure numbers, etc.), he went out to his garage in Austin, TX and dropped in all kinds of electronic textures and odd percussion arrangements. So, we were swapping his drumming ideas via e-mail before he arrived in LA. Pat tracked with us for about a week and then Ronan and I spent an additional three weeks dropping in additional bass textures, editing, mixing, and then finally handing off his final mixes to Stephen Marsh at Threshold Sound for mastering.”
How did you guys go about the recording and mixing process – did you work on one piece at a time to get ‘into’ it or were you coming back to pieces time and again as new ideas were thought of by each member of the team?
“We worked on the pieces one at a time with a tracking process that was basically dictated by my bass tunings. I wanted to do all the work possible using the tuning that applied to several tunes so that I did not have to retune. After primary tracking, we went in and tracked additional bass parts, percussion overdubs, and bass soundscapes. Once all of the tracks for each song were recorded, Ronan edited the session files and then we started the mix process.
Can you tell us about the instruments you used for this album?
“I only used two basses on this entire record but it sounds like there is a lot more going on, sonically speaking, since all of my compositions are in altered tunings. All of the fretless tracks were recorded with my custom Status Graphite Stealth-2 6 String Headless Fretless Bass (tuned EADGCF) built by Rob Green at Status Graphite in the UK. My flawlessly constructed Stealth-2 is an extremely lightweight and balanced, one-piece graphite monocoque bass that possesses a strikingly perfect blue graphite tint finish and has the finest and flattest phenolic fretless fingerboard on the planet! I also used my Parker Fly 5-String Fretted Bass (tuned EADGC) for all of the fretted contributions.”
That is remarkable!! Dave Pomeroy would have used upwards of six hundred basses for an album like this!!!
“It was logical to use only a few basses because my Status 6 and my Parker 5 are incredibly versatile in a studio setting. Hopefully, I’ll have a couple of custom extended range basses (an 8 or a 9 string) built for me before my next record so that I can access additional registers and tonalities.
Obviously, the multi-tracking of bass parts adds to the fullness of the sound but the drums are also helping things to sound busy and interesting. Can you tell us a bit about Pat Mastelotto and what it’s like working with him?
“P@ RULES! Outside of the musical world, he is a very genuine and affable guy and a very good friend. You probably won’t find an equally honest and capable musician who is in this business FOR THE MUSIC and for the hard-on that he gets out of the creative process. After I spoke to him on the phone about a month before our sessions, I told my wife that I trusted him 100% with my compositions and she was in shock. It was even great watching him rip apart his drum tracks at the console with Ronan, methodically dropping in ear-ripping rhythmic fragments and textures (just listen to the frenetic end of “Consequence” and you’ll see what I mean) on Ronan’s Mac-based Pro Tools rig. That’s artistic dedication at its finest!!”
You’ve obviously discovered a winning formula here with this concept. Will you work with Pat again or will you be looking at working with different drummers/percussionists/programmers in future?
“My strategy of running a tight ship with a dedicated, committed and small family dynamic certainly resulted in a great record. This concept probably won’t garner me an MTV Music Award or a Malaysian Grammy Award but it did yield a very genuine work of art as well as a notable recorded contribution that has been well-received by the incredibly picky bass playing community. I enjoy working with intelligent musicians with strong personalities and that’s what you get with guys like Ronan Chris Murphy and Pat Mastelotto. Compositionally-speaking, I will surely branch out and start writing some music geared for other instrumentalists but there surely is something magical about my approach to working in a duo setting with inventive drummers. It would be amazing to do a quartet record (two drummers AND two bassists) with Pat Mastelotto, Terry Bozzio, and a bass whiz like my pal Michael Manring provided that I can compose something that is uniquely marketable. But definitely, I would love to work with Pat Mastelotto again, providing that he conquers his Red Vines licorice addiction and finishes the rehabilitation program that his therapist suggested.”
I’m pretty sure Ronan Chris Murphy will be involved in your future productions!
Going back to your idea of two drummers and two bass players – it has a kind of romantic air to it – the brothers of the groove working together with the exclusion of axe men and keyboardists – but compromises would have to be made to keep everyone happy and that’s where this disc scores big time. There didn’t have to be any compromises.
“It’s all about taste. If you have great taste and vision then you should never have to compromise anything. Writing unique music has nothing to do with compromising instrument choice or censuring yourself. Sonically-speaking, I simply feel that you can create darker, more aggressive textures when you write for bass-range instruments and this album is a good example of that.
What I’d like to do now is to go through the disc, track by track to get the inside info on the inspiration and instrumentation. I’ll let you take it from here. Kicking off with:
1.) Double Entendre (5:17):
“During the opening entrance of the bass fingerpicking introduction, you hear Pat come in with a simple percussion passage: CLICK! CLICK! That’s actually the sound of Pat hitting a brick….which was holding the door open at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, in London! The primary rhythmic motive of this song centers on a double and triple stop bass passage written in an EBD#F#C# tuning. That was the first riff that I wrote on this particular Parker 5-String bass. The principal theme consists of the following phrase structure: A bar of 6/8, a bar of 7/8, and two bars of 6/8. This then shifts into an 8/8 secondary section. It’s really important to note that all of the upper fretless solo voicings that you hear on this entire record are 100% improvisational in nature and recorded on the spot as such. The busy end section of this song (before the final harmonics section) features a retrograde looping idea that consists of two shifting chords. I think I got this idea from listening to a live version of “Meat Is Murder” recorded in Italy in 1985 by The Smiths. This is Ronan’s favorite track and mix on this album.”
2.) Emo (4:26):
“Emo is a song which features “THE GRUNGE PEDAL”. Listen up guys, if you ever want to know the industry’s best kept secret to obtaining that 90’s Seattle GRUNGE sound, look no further than getting your hands on this piece of distortion pedal madness. Upon Ronan’s suggestion, I played the distorted melodic fragment with a HUGE triangle pick as well. It just wouldn’t have worked any other way. Pat and I tracked an additional 300 measures of improvisational stuff (weird tapping polyrhythms, etc.) at the end of this tune but it didn’t make it onto the final mixes.”
3.) Judging By The Size Of Carnie (5:39):
“This is one of the songs that I wrote just before I handed off my final pre-session demos to Ronan Chris Murphy. I recorded this using my Status Graphite fretless 6 in an EBDF#C#E tuning exclusively. There is the primary fretless progression track as well as a few improvised tracks above that (improvised oddly enough, in the same tuning!). I’ll give you the basic structure of the song:
Bars 1-9 (Intro in 4/8 time at 75 BPM) (Tapping Intro)
C-Section: Bars 9-25 in 4/8 (Tapping Theme)
A: Bars 25-41 in 5/8 (Slapping Motive)
R: Bars 41-57 in 6/8 (Fingerstyle Fragment)
N: Bars 57-73 in 7/8 (“Heavy Metal” Muted Fingerpicking)
I: Bars 73-105 in 8/8 (Tapping Harmonics)
E: Bars 105-121 in 9/8 (WEIRD Harmonics and Soundscape Outro)
This is Pat’s favorite song on the whole record, which is probably due to the fact that he doesn’t play any live acoustic drums on this composition. What you hear is the pre-production drum loops and hits that P@ programmed in his garage back in Austin, which he then dumped them into my Pro Tools sessions. His programming work was so phenomenal that Ronan decided NOT to mess it up by adding any other drum parts on top of it. You can’t argue with that. This song clearly showcases how Pat’s advanced production and drum programming abilities (and proper compositional placement of beats) provide a platform for my fretless lines to carve into.”
4.) Sittingstill (5:34):
“I play fretted 5 in a DADF#C# tuning throughout this piece. The introduction is a soundscape retrograde version of the introductory motive from “Iceberg”, by the Trash Can Sinatras. “Talent Borrows. Genius Steals.” This song has some interesting fretless explorations on it towards the end of the song. We mixed “Sittingstill” so that it would seamlessly bleed into “Consequence”.
5.) Consequence (6:50):
“This song is entirely fretless 6 in an EBDF#C#E tuning. It starts out in 6/4 and then shifts to 4/4 for the secondary theme, which features touch-style tapping. The end section was written to be one of the loudest spots on the entire record, second probably to the middle D# minor bass riff (at measure number 83) of Double-Entendre. Both sections are FFF, triple forte sections.”
You can hear the MP3 for yourself here at:
6.) Hereiam (4:16):
“I joked throughout the sessions that this was perhaps the only song that I could sell to the California Guitar Trio for huge profits! This song was written using a BADF#D tuning on my Parker Fly Fretted 5 bass with a pretty non-offensive DMaj.7 to A Maj. to Bm progression. Considering the fact that we tracked Pat live playing an empty Red Vines plastic container to get that Table-like sound in the first theme, this song in its barest essence, is a glorified car commercial jingle……For Porsche!!!”
7.) Wedren (6:05):
“Lots of weird bass technique on this one, which is in the same EBD#F#C# tuning as “Double-Entendre”. This song gave Ronan and me nightmares. We would start working on this tune in the late afternoon and even with a large iced coffee in us, the change of tonality, texture, and mood of this piece just put us to sleep. We spent a lot of time trying to figure out why this piece drove us nuts, which of course, turned out to be all Pat’s fault. He created some eerie Taos drum loops that operated on such a low-bass level drone that the tune just sapped our energies! Once we pulled down some of the low bass frequencies, we came up with a solid mix for this ethereal sounding composition. Ironically enough, a lot of great bassists such as Adam Nitti, Jauqo III-X, and Garry Goodman really enjoyed this particular tune. It must be because of the GROOVE.”
You can listen to the MP3 here:
8.) Fastidious (4:49):
“I am now a multi-millionaire because this song received airplay on Mike Watt’s “The Watt From Pedro Show”. Not!! It’s so great that Mike gave this tune a spin! It was written primarily in a BADF#D tuning with my fretted 5 bass and it spits a 7/4 section and a 6/4 section back and forth. We used a cool Eventide effect called “Backwards RF3” on this song. Any knowledgeable King Crimson fan might recognize this effect. For me, I love the fretless shapes and seemingly inspired noodling conjured up for this one. As you listen to the end of the tune, you can slowly feel the pulse of the kick drum getting louder and louder. Techno music fans, I have you in my radar!!!! I am finally threatening Moby’s market share.”
9.) Textural Route (4:08):
“This song is written in a DADF#C# fretted 5 tuning. The primary bass part features a strumming motive followed by some slippery double-stop chords. Pat’s opening count-off of 1-2-3-4 was flipped around in Pro Tools so that’s why it sounds so “Twin Peaks” (Hooray for my boy Michael Anderson!). There is some thick and warm fretless texture all throughout this song. My favorite moment comes at about 2:25m where you can hear Pat whirling and whipping around some percussion device of death, which he obviously purchased in Amsterdam.”
10.) Insulin (6:26):
“One night I was speaking on the phone with Pat and he said that he had this great “Beastie Boys-esque riff” for the introduction of this song. Dear God. Panic ensued. Now, I’m no P- Diddy (actually, it’s just Diddy now) but I know a sweet hip-hop groove when I hear it. And over the past 12 years, I have never even dreamed of a hip-hop motive in one of my songs. But again, this is why Pat rules. He came up with a cool rhythm from a completely unrelated genre that gave my primary sliding “Arabic” fretless riff some true life. The whole structure of the tune makes sense. It’s all about tension and release, alternating from quiet to loud, soft to abrasive. The transitional elements and musical statements set forth between 2:32m to 3:28 are my favorite parts on the entire album. Right on that downbeat at 3:28m, I really tried hard to create a texture that makes the listener feel centered. At 4:19m, I unhinge that cozy feeling by attacking the ear with some distorted quadruple-stop fingerpicking. Composed in an EBDAC#E tuning, this entire song was tracked using my fretless 6. Listen close at the end of the song and you’ll hear Pat say “Two Pterodactyls In Heat”. You then hear me say “There’s only one!!”, which we recorded by having me scream and whistle directly into my fretless bass pickups. That’s how we created that eerie whistling at the beginning of the tune.”
11.) JTIWYP! (3:31):
“This one is in Eb Minor and we used my Parker fretted 5 in an EbBbEbGD tuning. This one is in 16/16. There are some cool moments on this song. The intro is pretty dissimilar to what the rest of the tune is all about. It’s a nice set-up for what this song is all about and that is frickin’ METAL and BASHING!!! OK, well, sort of. I played bash bash touch style bass throughout most of this song. I made sure that Pat used “The Bozzio Snare” on this song. It’s a snare that Terry Bozzio played at a gig at the Baked Potato and it just knocked my skull around. The kind folks at Drum Paradise (Thanks to Mike and Lee) hooked us up with a great DW kit and about 6 snare drums so we had lots of sound options to choose from. I really like the low-end rumbling at the end of the tune. That is the sound of a whirling Leslie speaker cabinet, which Ronan miced and cranked up the recording levels so that you can hear that cool sound.”
69.) RCMIWYP! (Hidden Track, #69) (1:56):
“RONANCHRISMURPHYISWATCHINGYOUPOOP! It was a sad day in rock and roll history when Robert Fripp’s old Eventide Harmonizer found its way into Ronan’s hands. Enough said. Viva La LXIX!!!”
One hour, three minutes and ten seconds of intense madness and astonishing musicianship – what does your wife think of it?
“She enjoys watching me tinker throughout the creative process. Keep in mind; she’s usually the one that gets to hear 6 different bass and drums parts layered upon one another when I use my Boomerang Phrase Sampler to come up with advanced arrangement ideas.”
“Betty enjoys watching me run through a parking lot of 25,000 tailgating soccer fans yelling, “USA! USA! USA!” She’s not much of a booze hound so my brother Chris and I tend to keep her away from the mixed drinks and Trinidadian fans.
Are you planning to take this album out on the road? How would you go about something like this?
“It’s relatively easy to go on the road. You simply have to have a business model that will be effective towards capturing and captivating your target demographic. I am planning on hitting the road, most likely as a 2 bassists/1 drummer trio project. I am aggressively searching for like-minded projects to share a bill with that would compliment my music. We all remember what happened to Béla Fleck when his project got the opening slot on the Dave Matthews Band Tour back in the late 90’s.
Is there any truth in the rumor (that I started) that your next POWER DUO disc will feature viola and drums?
“I am debating it. NOT! This conceivably could work if I purchased a 6 or 7 string electric viola. I think on each solo recording I do in the future, I’ll add one additional voicing. Bass, drums, and electric banjo would rule. Bass, electronic drums, and vibes would be an interesting combination as well.
What are your immediate plans and your intermediate (say, the next four or five years) plans?
“I am currently promoting and shopping this recording around. I am also in talks regarding the licensing of some of my music for television commercials and other suitable business interests. Outside of marketing this record, I am also extremely busy taking on freelance high-end session work, which means that I am playing half-notes as a work for hire bassist!
One last question – why was the hidden track #69 – is that yours and Betty’s favorite position?
“My favorite position is SWEEPER. Betty tends to enjoy playing up top, in a withdrawn striker role. She heads a lot of balls onto goal.
Thanks for the chat Jay. Good luck with the CD.
“Great questions Martin!! Thanks for the opportunity!”
Go to the link below to check out the record: