Artist Interviews Bass Month News

Interview – Billy Sheehan

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There are great bass players, there are bass legends and then there are bass heroes. Billy Sheehan however is a bass icon.

#1 – Let’s start with a reader question from Pierre F. “Fact or Fiction: Billy Sheehan’s finger tips are so tough, he can strike a match on any one of them.”

I’ve never tried it, but that may be so! Ha!

#2 – You have always managed to get almost a lead guitar sound out of your bass while also holding down the low end which is mostly performance but partially due to the dual input on your signature Yamaha basses. Since most don’t have the dual input, can you suggest a way one might get close with a signal input?

It’s not lead guitar. It’s bass. It’s a bass sound. It’s the sound of a bass. Any bass is capable of many, many sounds. Anyone can split a single output into two. Very easy.

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Vintage Billy Sheehan & Steve Vai

#3 – With many bass players and guitarists switching to compact and condensed digital setups featuring Kemper Profiling Amps and the Axefx units, have you ever considered such a rig even just for overseas gigs?

I use the Helix everywhere. It sounds great and has infinite possibilities. I’ve used it on the last 3 tours I’ve done.

#4 – You have shared the stage with some of music’s most legendary guitarists. Who are some of the young guitarists these days out there that blow your mind?

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I’m actually much more interested in drummers. It’s the drums that the bass connects with. Locking in with the drummer is the most satisfying thing for me.

#5 – Bass players have seemingly started to get away from using 15” speakers on their own. Some say it’s not tight enough yet your tone begs to differ. What’s the secret to making it work?

Who said bass players are getting away from 15” speakers? A speaker is a speaker. It’s size matters very little.

#6 – Regarding your Ashly CLX-52 compressor, I’ve read you use it at two points in yours signal chain. Can you explain where in the chain and how you set things up?

I don’t always use it these days, but I still do occasionally. Compression is used to even out dynamics, so at any point where that is required, that’s where I’d use it. Usually at the end of any signal chain—which is the traditional placement for compression or limiting.

#7 – When you put down the bass and pick up the guitar, what does your rig entail?

I just use guitar for writing, so there’s no specific guitar rig.

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Two of the greatest of all time right here

#8 – Bass amp simulation software and digital bass gear have come a very long way in recent years. Have you had the opportunity to try out any of it? If so, which products and what were your thoughts?

I like the Helix very much. My original Pearce pre-amp is modeled and contained in its software. This is well documented in dozens of videos all over the internet. LINK #1 / LINK #2

#9 – Has there ever been an amp or cabinet that came out over the years that almost had you lean away from your trusted Hartke set-up? Or perhaps even an amp in the Hartke line that had you considering a move from the LH1000 you have loved for so long?

I tried the Class D amp from Hartke the other day—liked it very much. There are very few “bad” amps around. Most do their job very well. I get used to working with a particular set-up and stay with it. That’s one less variable in the chain. When you’re having a bad night or a tough time on stage, you’ll then know that it’s not the amp, because you’ve used it successfully many times before. If I change something I try to only do one thing at a time, so I’ll know whether it’s working or not.

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What a rig!!

#10 – It doesn’t matter how famous or unknown, musicians can always connect on certain levels. One of those areas of common ground is gear malfunctions and problems on stage. Would you mind sharing one such story from your career?

If you can imagine it, it’s happened to me on stage. After many decades, you learn to handle anything. It’s good to go through that and learn from it.

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Sheehan, Kotzen and Portnoy are The Winery Dogs

#11 – You’ve been consistently one of the hardest working bass players in the industry since the 70s. What projects, tours, albums and other events do you have coming up over the next year and a half?

Since 1971, actually. And beginning in 1965.
New Sons of Apollo coming
New Sons of Apollo live release
New Winery Dogs at some point next year
Many Bass Clinics around the world this fall
Currently writing a Bass & Drum record with Ray Luzier from Korn
Many recording sessions.
It’s a busy time.

It’s not every day you get to talk to one of the most influential and original bass players to ever strap up. There’s no question that Billy Sheehan has likely been asked every bass and bass gear related question that can be thought up so this one had me almost a little nervous but it turned out great and all of us at HASR want to thank Billy for his time! He was a great player to talk to and learn from and we hope all of you enjoy. Please check out all of the links and the video below!!

FACEBOOK / WEBSITE / SONS OF APOLLO / WINERY DOGS /

MR.BIG / YAMAHA BASSES / HARTKE AMPS / EBS PEDALS

(Not the best quality video but this video is incredible!!)