Mike Hall Bass - 10 Questions Interview
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
It may sound extremely cliche, but I genuinely think that the main catalyst for me to pursue music seriously was due to being raised on quality music: I vividly remember being taken on road trips as a child, with my parents making it a point to play an entire album's worth of material from start to finish... and the genre's they exposed me to were all over the place: sometimes they would play the entirety of Thriller, other times it would be Led Zeppelin IV (I was the kind of kid who wanted to hear Stairway to Heaven on repeat, all while playing air guitar for hours on end). There were many other trips that also involved listening sessions of The Beach Boys, Bee Gee's, Stevie Wonder, Metallica, and even broadway soundtracks. I really believe that those family experiences had an impact on developing my rather eclectic creative identity, and honestly, most of what I do now can definitely be traced back to those moments.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
My goodness, where do I even start with this? Well; after spearheading an original project that went through numerous iterations for over 10 years, let's just say that I've seen quite the fair share of craziness. That being said, I do have one story which is both relatively crazy, and mildly tame: back in 2010; my band was accruing a lot of traction in the north Jersey college scene, and we were invited to come down to Sony Music's headquarters in Rockefeller Center to participate in this "Major Label Showcase". The whole thing was being staged like an MTV reality show; with a small camera crew, and these ridiculous A&R's who were saying how they signed Rhianna and Wiz Khalifa when they were nobodies (which really made me question, as a bassist in a pop rock band, why they're even interested in us to begin with).
Anyways, the band and I went to a waiting area 12 floors up, and this girl who was a singer/songwriter stepped into this other A&R's office right before us, which had paper thin walls mind you. The guy listened to maybe the first verse and chorus of her single, and said something along the lines of "We already have Taylor Swift, why should we even bother with what you have to offer?". The poor girl just burst out of his office with her guitar, bawling her eyes out, and the camera crew just smiled as they recorded all of it. Shortly after that transpired, my band was called into this guy's office, who then played our DIY recorded EP through these huge speakers (we were too broke to afford a decent producer), which he seemed to mildly enjoy. He told us that we could “really play our instruments”, to continue to build our college fanbase, and named us as one of the "winners" of this showcase series.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, nothing ever really came of that, other than one of the most bizarre events to personally be a part of that transpired at a major label’s headquarters.
What has been the high point of your music path?
For a question that should be easy, I've had so many high points that it really makes it hard to list just one. However, I think the highest point of my music path has got to be what I'm doing right now - breaking out as a solo bassist, which has allowed me the freedom to perform the material I want, how I want, and whenever I want. Although I'm still aspiring to audition to major label / notable independent projects; I can't help but be excited about all of the awesome opportunities that are opening up for me as a solo creative, especially with the added quirk of utilizing an instrument that isn't very well known for solo material.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
My creative process depends a lot on what kind of material is inspiring me. For example: if I'm creating a solo bass arrangement of another song, I aim to listen to the original track dozens of times and hone in on the kind of feelings that it elicits. After which; I construct an idea in my mind about how I would want to personally convey those feelings or vibes as my own, and begin toying around with lots of harmonics, and a variety of other techniques. The end result is always an arrangement that pays homage to the source material, all while making it my own.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
As both a full-time musician, and a marketing consultant, I can confidently say that the biggest challenge is one that has also run rampant in many other industries: artists being monetized on being fed information that they "want" to hear, not what they "need" to hear.
The music industry is an extremely erratic and unforgiving place; you can live on the road and perform for decades with little ROI... or you can end up like Florence Welch, who got discovered after singing some Etta James plastered in a bathroom stall. The reality is that this industry is a business first - almost anyone who is getting signed to a label, major management firm, licensing deal, etc, has demonstrated that they can be monetized to a large demographic of people, regardless of having any “real” talent. Unfortunately for many artists, this is a harsh pill to swallow, and considering that music is extremely subjective: what makes the opinions of an A&R more “valid” than their own, especially when it comes to the music they create? In a vacuum, absolutely nothing.
This, in my opinion; created a market full of fraudulent companies, labels, licensing firms, and management that have made millions in preying upon naive artists, all providing outlandish promises infused with the classic line of “if you don’t want to invest in us financially, who else will want to invest in you?” You see them littered across nearly every independent music conference or expo, in addition to being all over the place online, and its so sad to see. What artists need to hear is that if they’re chasing a record deal, and failing to reach the attention of influencers, curators, and A&R’s… then they need to make some better damn music and try again. Artists have to learn how to take accountability for where they are in their careers, and think about how they can get better at their craft.
If you couldn't tell, I’m extremely passionate about this subject. In fact, it's something I’m planning to write a book about in the near future.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
This is probably the only question I have an easy answer for: the Red Hot Chili Peppers! They are by far my favorite live band, and Flea has played a tremendous role in my development as a bassist.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
My rehearsal schedule is pretty nontraditional, at least to what many would expect. I generally practice anywhere between 20 minutes to 5ish hours a day, while sometimes pulling all nighters, depending on my motivation at the time. When I'm preparing for a live show, I usually do a few sets while stationary as a warmup. If I'm playing with a band, I'll then do a few sets that incorporate how I want to be moving on stage. Finally, I'll do a set or two where I close my eyes and never look down at my instrument.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
For me, the song that was the greatest challenge for me to arrange has got to be my solo bass cover of "Sweet Child O'Mine". While we were all in the middle of lockdown; I wanted to create an arrangement that was going to both push the limits of what I could do, as well as provide an escape for people to not lose hope. Throughout my creative process; I realized that the only way I was going to be able to pull this off was to incorporate two, mid-song tuning adjustments, which was a nightmare to figure out... especially without the aid of a hipshot. However, the result was an arrangement that I can genuinely say I'm the most proud of.
What's coming up in the future?
Well; I'm happy to announce that I'm working on a really cool, solo bass arrangement of "Californication" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which should be ready in a few weeks time. Additionally; I'll also be showcasing Skjold Design Guitars' brand new, Cathedral model series bass - decked out in piccolo bass strings, which I'm super excited to demo to my audience!
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Fans can check out my music at: http://www.mikehallbass.com Also; be sure to follow me on Instagram to stay up to speed with all of my latest music, news, and more: http://www.instagram.com/mikehall.bass
About Mike Hall Bass
Mike Hall is a critically acclaimed bassist from New Jersey who has been featured in numerous major publications such as Bass Musician Magazine and Bass Magazine; primarily for his creativity, coupled with his signature playing style: which involves a heavy blend of harmonics, altered tunings, mutes, slap, tap, and flamenco style percussion. He is also an endorsed artist to Skjold Design Guitars, and has performed alongside some of the biggest names in the music industry; such as Third Eye Blind, MGMT, Collective Soul, Howie Day, Lifehouse, Three Doors Down, Blondie, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Eve 6, Everclear, and numerous others.