GET READY TO ROLL! gives a double thumbs-up to LARS LEHMANN who has just returned from an extremely successful tour of Europe playing bass in Vinnie Moore's band. After watching Lars in action at the London show it's easy to see why this German bass professor is so much in demand for his slapping, tapping, picking, plucking, popping, and double-thumbing!
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Hi Lars! That was a manic schedule - 84756 countries in 23 days, covering 2,945,914 miles (or thereabouts!) but reviews from every show have been outstanding. Please tell us how it all went - the gigs, the audiences, the traveling etc... also the special highlights and the craziness.
Well, first of all let me say thank you for having me for this interview! You are absolutely right – the schedule has been incredible. This was not just a tour, it was THE MOTHER OF ALL TOURS! But the wonderful thing is, we got along so well musically and as a group… no matter how tired we were the gigs were always amazing. Special highlights were cities like London – which will always be one of my favorite cities of the universe – but also Las Palmas, Bilbao, Istanbul, Ankara, Athens, Thessaloniki… and, of course, Beirut. None of us had been to that area before and believe me, some of the Americans got really nervous, haha. But as it turned out there was nothing to worry about, and the people we met in Beirut were some the most warm-hearted and nicest people you can think of.
As far as craziness goes, how about this one: we didn't get much sleep when we came from Spain for the show in Habach, Germany, and after the gig in Habach we had to drive directly to Munich airport to fly to Beirut. About eight hours later we arrived at the Beirut venue, did the soundcheck, had dinner, played the gig... and left straight afterwards for Vienna. We arrived in Vienna some time in the afternoon, and – guess what – went immediately to the soundcheck! We did not get any sleep for pretty much three days… this was the most exhausting thing I have ever experienced in my life! Insane!
Watching the video footage, even from the opening gig in Italy on Feb 4th, it's hard to believe that this was the first time that Vinnie, Mike DiMeo, Aquiles Priester and yourself had ever played together. Did it feel like a 'team' right from the beginning?
It may sound funny – but yes! The feeling was perfect, from the very beginning… I guess the chemistry was just "happening". We have been home for more than a week now, but there is not one day yet where we haven't sent each other emails, pictures, links to new YouTube videos etc. The good news is that we will definitely try to keep working together. This might not be too easy because Vinnie and Mike are from the US, Aquiles is from Brazil and I'm from Germany, but I'm sure we'll give it a try. It's definitely worth the effort because a good chemistry like this is hard to find. I think everybody in the band has the same thoughts about this.
I was only able to get to the London show, but my jaw was on the floor watching you play. The faster your fingers moved, the longer they seemed to get! Anyone watching will have been impressed, but I know that other bassplayers are also in awe of your technique - and at the way you don't let the mechanics of the basscraft get in the way of the passion and enjoyment of the music. What makes someone able to play like that?
hanx so much for your kind words and… good question! I guess it's just love for the instrument and music in general that keeps me going on and trying to push the boundaries a little further. Of course playing an instrument requires a lot of work. But you should not get stuck in your practicing...
Nowadays I like to see the instrument more as a child who discovers new things every day. I found that this point of view puts way less stress on me! Playing bass is still my greatest hobby - I just can't get enough of this wicked piece of wood with 4, 5 or 6 strings on it!
I've put a lot of my way of thinking, practicing etc into my method book on slapping bass, SLAP-ATTACK, which so far is only available in German. But by later this year the English translation will be finished. The book can be ordered from my website.
You've recently brought out a solo CD that has a very different vibe to what you've been playing with Vinnie and Uli Jon Roth etc. Tell us the story behind MUSIC LIKE PICTURES, and also about your fetish for being stripped naked and covered with thick bright paint.
Hahaha, the cover design was an idea my girlfriend and I had several months ago when we saw a poster in a shop window. That's why you see my face with lots of body paint on it on the cover. Since the title of the album is MUSIC LIKE PICTURES, that painted face turned out to be an excellent idea for the cover. As for the musical style, you are right: the music of this album has nothing to do with rock music… Like I mentioned earlier I have lots of love for all sorts of styles, especially funk, soul, but also pop, jazz and even reggae!
I've played with people such as re-mixer Mousse T, (who produced the club hits "Horny" featuring Emma Lanford and "Sex Bomb" featuring Tom Jones) and with singer Sydney Youngblood… as well as Mark Boals and Marty Friedman - and I love it all! Usually when people ask me "How come you play so many different styles and do not concentrate on just one style?" my reply will be: "Because I can!" Most people want to put any musician in a specific drawer, stylewise. I don't fit into just one drawer, which sometimes confuses people… but the cool thing is: that is their problem, not mine! But for those who want to hear more rock stuff, I can tell you that I'm already working on the next solo album, which is going to be the heaviest riff-oriented rock music á la Rage Against The Machine that you can imagine!
What basses/amps etc are you using at the moment?
I've always played Music Man Stingray basses… I love their sound and playing comfort! I've been an international MUSIC MAN artist since 2005, and couldn't be happier with the great instruments and the support of the company especially their German distributor Musik Meyer from Marburg. Their product manager Philipp Salb and myself have become good friends over the years. If anything goes wrong with my instrument while I am on the road, I can always give him an SOS call and he'll help me out, no matter when or where.
That's one huge benefit of endorsements - an instrument can always break on the plane or on the bus or get stolen, but when you have the right international company behind you, you don't have to consider suicide as soon as the instrument fucks up.
Ampwise I have been working with German company Tecamp by Thomas Eich for the last three years. Thomas is building some amazing stuff… the huge rig I was using when I played with Uli Jon Roth supporting the Scorpions in the UK in 2008... that was a head delivering pure 2100 Watts – one of the most powerful amps in the world.
Unfortunately I was not able to bring my own amp and cabs for the Vinnie tour, so I had to cope with whatever the clubs gave me which was a pain in the ass sometimes. Wish I could have taken my Tecamp stuff with me. But that's life…
So, going back a few years, how did you get started as a bassplayer, and who inspired you? How did your style develop towards slap bass and what other directions have you followed?
I grew up with bands like Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Uriah Heep and Alice Cooper and started playing bass at around 15 or 16. Mr. Big with Billy Sheehan on bass were also very important to me. Some time later, due to my bass lessons, I discovered funk music and the slap bass style, mainly through players like Level 42's Mark King or Jonas Hellborg.
But I still had this thing for hard rock… so as a result I got interested in bands like Living Color. Bands with heavy riffs who also brought in a funky beat and bass. In my early bands I tried to come up with something in that style. Later on, when I studied bass, there was a lot of Jaco Pastorius and Jazz happening which was also great. After I had finished the university I became the bassplayer and also musical director of a band called Soulpower which was pure funk… in fact we invited one or two special guests from those old funk families, like Prince's NPG or James Brown's band EVERY MONTH in order to do a European tour with them, and we did that for about three years. That gave me some amazing experience… I don't ever want to forget that particular time of my life! Can you imagine how it feels to a bassist to play "Sex Machine" with Clyde Stubblefield, the original drummer who played on the hit recording? Whoooow…!
How does working in the orchestra pit at musicals such as Footloose, Rocky Horror Show, Crazy For You etc, compare with touring in a rock band....?
Well, for sure that is something completely different. The musical jobs in Germany are my 'bread and butter' jobs. The good thing about playing those shows is: you can sleep in your own bed every night, there is not much traveling, you put your headphones on and put your written music on the stand in front of you, and... off you go… And a few shows like that will pay your rent! Plus playing musical shows is very good for your reading and musical overview. Sometimes you play electric bass, sometimes fretless, sometimes double bass… it never gets boring and it keeps pushing you as a musician.
But of course the traveling is great when you're out on the road. I love the warmth of the vibe from an audience, and really enjoy the mental exchange between the band and the people… and you'll just never get that while you're sitting in the orchestra pit. But in the end, all of these gigs are a part of the life of a working musician. I am very grateful to be part of whatever comes up!
As yet another string to your bow, you are also a prolific music journalist, writing press reviews and also editing BASS PROFESSOR magazine. What are the best things about being in the business on both sides of the counter?
I've always been interested in journalistic work ever since I studied "music & culture" in Germany. That's why my friend Roland Kaschube and I formed the bass magazine BASS PROFESSOR in 1996. Most people get amazed when they realize that the editor-in-chief of the mag is working as a professional musician at the same time. I guess that has something to so with the drawer-thing again… I get a little heavy sometimes schedule-wise, that's why my bandmates know me for sitting on the tourbus with my Macbook on my knees, but everyone gets used to this view rather quickly, haha!
What's coming up next for Lars Lehmann?
Well, for now I am concentrating on promoting MUSIC LIKE PICTURES which can be ordered via my website. Also I hope to get back on the road with Vinnie Moore and the band as soon as possible… can't wait to play with those guys again! I'm also looking forward to playing with Uli Jon Roth this April in Hamburg, Germany. As well as that I will keep on playing the daily gigs which include musical shows, function gigs etc. I also teach at the university of Hanover, Germany, when I am available, and do clinics/workshops for MUSIC MAN: the MUSIC MAN BASS CAMP. As you see… there is a lot of work to be done!
So in between playing bass, teaching bass, editing Bass Professor magazine, taking part in the MUSIC MAN BASS CAMP workshop, and writing books about bassplaying... how do you spend your spare time? Don't tell me you have photos of basses on your bedroom ceiling...
Oh, come on… some of 'em are pretty sexy, don't ya think? HAHAHA! Well, I like to spend time with Anja, my girlfriend. We have just bought a flat in Hanover and are looking forward to moving in some time in the summer.
Apart from that I like to do some sports such as jogging, some bodybuilding… and some yoga and meditation here and there. And I like to go to a nice restaurant in the evening with my beloved friends.
My good friend Ossi needs to be mentioned here. Sometimes we catch up at a café and keep laughing our heads off at whoever passes by.… just for the fun of it! I like people with a great sense of humor – that's why we got along so well in Vinnie's band!
What's the wisest advice you've ever been given, and how has it affected the way you live and work?
Wow, now we're talking! Some of the best pieces of advice I've ever received were these: Allow yourself to be happy! Do not worry about a fucked up bass solo when the gig was great! Play less notes with more passion! Be just and fear not! Relax! Let it be! Sounds good, eh? That is only some of the stuff that I like to keep in mind… a lot of that came to me when I started doing yoga and meditation.
Which musicians would you like to record and tour with in the future, and what would you like to be doing in five years time?
I am very happy with the development my career has taken over the past years. My greatest wish is to stay healthy and to be able to enjoy whatever I do. And to get to know new people, and to get to know better the ones I already know… and to become a perfect ambassador for the bass guitar and music in general.
© Get Ready To Roll - 8th March 2010