We caught up with bass maestro and modern funk future-legend Sven Atterton for a chat ahead of his forthcoming collaboration ‘Visions Of The Life’ on Inkswel’s ‘All The Way Live EP.’
Press play and enjoy our exclusive premiere while you get familiar with Mr Atterton:
Sven Atterton in conversation with Dom Duchamp
Holy shit, you went to Berklee College Of Music, do tell. I read you met Stanley Clarke???!!
Yes Berklee was an amazing experience, it literally broke me down and built me up again. I wasn’t a strong reader of music and didn’t know too much theory so I really struggled in the beginning. I had also developed some bad techniques with my Bass playing, but my tutors were amazing, they soon got me on the right path. None of it was easy, I really had to trust them and I’m so glad I did. They really know how to treat every student of every level. I was playing with some amazing musicians there, and got to meet a lot of my childhood heroes, including Stanley Clarke. He gave a great seminar and it was great to hear some stories of someone with so much experience. Marcus Miller also came through, he played an amazing concert with a band made up from Berklee students, They always had huge music icons visiting, I really was lucky to have gone there.
Who are pigbag?
Pigbag are a band who formed back in the 1980s, their music has changed over the years. They are known for playing up tempo experimental grooves influenced by Afrobeat. The band has evolved more into a mixture of World and broken beat music now, but we still have a few tunes that cover Afro Cuban and Latin flavours. I met Chris Lee (trumpet) at a jam session in East London (we used to play in a Jazz quartet together) Pigbag were going through some changes of personnel and he asked me if I would want to come in and play bass. I really enjoy playing with that band, we have huge sections that go completely free, so it’s a lot of fun improvising.
What bass guitars do you play and how do you get your own Atterton sound?
I have a nice selection of basses that include Kawai, Music Man Stingray, Fender Jazz, I mainly play the Fender or Stingray, they really have that punch that I need to carry across the slap thing I do. The Stingray I use is a 25th anniversary limited edition, so it has slightly more higher quality materials, so I guess that helps me get more of a signature tone. I also have a few ‘different’ basses that are lovely to play but aren’t too practical. I have one made by the Manson brothers that literally weighs a ton, but has the loudest pick ups I’ve ever heard. I also have a Piccolo Bass that I use, a lot of people mistake it for guitar in my music.
How did you hook up with Jules for this new music?
I met Jules in Amsterdam earlier this year, we hung out a bit and I went to see him DJ a couple of times. We realised we share similar tastes in music so he sent a few tracks over that he wanted me to try bass on.
I think ‘The Cove’ is an almost perfect modern funk record, it sounds retro and modern in equal amounts. Tell us about that album and in particular how you managed to make anything quite so magnif as ‘Starting Again’
Thank you that’s nice of you to say, although its far from perfect. Its probably going to sound a bit like a cliche but most of it was just pure fumbling around on synths lol. I’m really new to the production game. I always thought I would just be a session player, but as the years went by I found myself being more interested in synthesis and how to record. I’ve always experimented with 8 tracks and beats but really got a buzz out of playing people my tracks so I wanted to learn how to do it properly.
‘Starting Again’ all came from the chords at the beginning, I played that on the Juno 6 then tried to fit everything in and around the spaces, it seem to happen quite easily, don’t the best tracks always happen like that? even the guitar, which I don’t really understand how to play properly, seemed to just be effortless. The synth solo is all one take, I wanted it to sound a bit live and totally honest. I had no idea it would get the interest it has done, that goes for the whole album as well.
OK, I’m going to go ahead and say it…why don’t you put out more music. I have this idea that every time you jam there is liquid 80’s magma pouring out, but you release quite rarely?
Yeh I suppose i’m too self critical, it took me forever to get to a point where I thought my music would even be listened to by anyone. Seriously I would sit there and go backwards and forwards in my mind wondering if I should even post it up on Soundcloud. Most of my stuff is unfinished, I have loads of incomplete tracks on my computer, But I do have enough material for another album, so hopefully I’ll get round to putting that out sooner rather than later.
Top 5 bass players? But tell us why and don’t spare us the gory music nerd details.
In no order Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Pino Paladino, Tom Jenkinson aka (Squarepusher) Francis Rocco Prestia
Jaco, well come on Jaco! there will never be another, he literally innovated the way the bass is played, he laughed in everyone’s face when they said ‘you cant play jazz on an electric!’ he broke every rule, re-wrote the rule book, then tore up the book! not to mention his level of composition! different class, he lived his life to the full and died tragically, anyone into music should at lest know something about Jaco.
Stanley Clarke was doing his thing around the same time as Jaco, Return to Forever are one of my favourite bands, but love Stanley’s solo stuff just as much. people should check out the track Vulcan Worlds if not familiar. unlike Jaco Stanley was slapping the bass a lot as well as playing up right bass. I really wanted to include Larry Graham in this list, after all he is probably responsible for influencing bass players to slap the bass.
Pino has been a big influence on me. I really love his playing on D’angelo’s record Voodoo. His interplay with drummers is second to none. He always seems to play exactly whats required in the song. That’s probably why he’s the number one go to session bassist in the world.
Squarepusher, well there doesn’t seem like there’s anything he cant do. His music is so advanced, at times its perfect chaos, he can do it all! I saw him live in Glasgow once and literally had my face taken off. His live rig is insane, from what i can make out he’s using two Eventide ultra harmonizers, he had about eight floor pedals that all control different parameters. I’ve never heard anything like it. I know Mike Walsh at Zoot bass, he made Tom’s six string bass, he was telling me he put some kind of midi system in his bass that gives him other capabilities, it’s all over my head but very interesting. Tom has to be one of the closest bassists I’ve heard to Jaco.
I had to mention Francis Rocco Prestia of Tower of Power for his relentless 16th note funk lines. He made a hole career out of his ability to maintain an incredible level of stamina and consistency in his index and middle finger. I was lucky enough to see his seminar at Berklee, he talked about the old days on the road and showed us some of his technique. Hes still funking hard even after a kidney transplant!
What is the best bassline ever made? (we won’t hold you to it?)
Ahh I’ve always shied away from this question, it really isn’t possible to name just one, but so long as you don’t hold me to it. Actually some of my favourite bass lines aren’t only played on electric bass, but on synths as well. and then you have all the different styles of bass playing,, too hard, but…
For finger technique i would say ‘Teen Town’ by Jaco Pastorius still blows me away, i mean how do you even go about writing a line like that!? incredible.
For inventiveness I really like Herbie Flowers’s bass line on Lou Reads ‘Take A Walk On The Wild Side’ it was recorded with two basses, one upright bass sliding one way and then an electric bass line sliding the opposite way. Well there’s just two of many bass lines i really like.
You have 5 tracks you can DJ before Dam Funk comes on, what do you pick? Yes, you may play live over the top.
Well I would probably play something by the SOS band, but not ‘High Hopes’ because I know Damon likes to play that one. So probably ‘For Your Love’
Prince – Scarlet Pussy, The Family – Crimes of Passion, The System – You’re In My System, Prime Time – Anytime is Prime Time.
What else is happening in 2016, what’s in the funkboog pipeline?
Lots of new music to be released, as well as a few collaborations.
Sven’s collabo with Inkswel ‘Visions Of Life’ will be out at the end of the month on Inkswel’s ‘All The Way Live EP.’We’ll keep you posted.