This week Ross from Songplistic got together with Jack Davidson, session bassist and Edinburgh college alumni to discuss his course, session work and talk about some of his experiences doing both.
Ross: Hi Jack, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. To start off tell me about your music course.
Jack: No bother, I studied at Edinburgh college on their BMus course which is in partnership with Kingston University, so basically Kingston give them the course work and told them how to teach and then we do the work. I actually messed up auditioning the first time as I didn't know I had to send in videos of me playing at grade 8 on bass, instead I sent in a grade 6 piece and a grade 7 piece; they replied saying that unless I get two grade 8 pieces done by the deadline (which was 4 days away) I wouldn't get in so I cracked on and learnt two grade 8 pieces in those 4 days! Definitely the hardest thing I've done as I was up from the early hours until about 1Opm playing bass just so I had a shot, and I guess it all paid off because I got place. When you get in you get to pick two modules within the course which include: jazz studies, a teaching module, a composition and arranging module and some others. I chose the teaching and composition as I felt these would probably be the best for becoming a teacher which is my current job goal. The composition module was rather fun due to the course work just being arranging music which had already been released but having to change the genre, or arrange it for a string quartet and for the final assignment you had to pick a theme, like a genre or a composer. I picked to arrange in the style of Koji Kondo (famous Nintendo video game composer) so I just got to sit and arrange music from some of my favourite video games like legend of Zelda and Mario. All in all the course was good, the only down side was some of the lecturers would go back on their word, for instance I was told, for my final performance which was worth 60% of my grade, that I should change my chosen set list from the one I had made and learnt which was basically full of primus songs and to change it to something with more variety, So I did a funk rock set list but it went from Rage Against The Machine to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Alien Ant Farm, kinda exploring as many sounds and techniques as I could that are in that genre, but when I got my feedback I was criticised for it and was told that the primus style was really good.
Ross: Both ideas sound pretty interesting to me! I've heard that you've gotten into some session work on the side while at uni. Can you tell me what are some of your experiences as a session player.
Jack: I've been a session player for a band as well as a singer/studio. The first job was a lot of fun but the second wasn't as good. The first job I got asked to be the bass session player for a band called Angry Man Car Park, and from doing this job I would later go on to join them when their bass player left. This took place in Glasgow and I was given very little time to prepare, I think it was about 3 days? Hahah but I knew some of the band members and they were friends so I was happy enough to help them out. I got down to Glasgow with the lads and we got into the studio where we would be recording two songs, with one I hadn't even heard before and the other being one I hadn't played in months, but I got to work learning the parts and the lads were happy enough with my work which is the most important thing! The second job I worked for a studio where I would learn a singer's whole album with the end idea being that I would be the live bass player. Everyone there was lovely but they wanted me to learn the songs absolutely perfectly, not even the tiniest mistake was allowed on my part, they even forced me to come to the studio to rehearsal when I was ill with the flu, not the kindest thing I guess. After a while I just decided this wasn't making me happy, I was basically becoming a backing track, and as a musician I'd rather have fun on stage and I'm sure audience members would prefer to see people on stage having fun rather than looking like a robot who's so focused on not making a mistake.
Ross: Tell me about Angry Man Car Park, recording their new single and how you got involved.
Jack: I began to work with Angry Man Car Park after a while of knowing the guys. I had auditioned with the boys a while back but due to miscommunication they thought I wasn't interested and chose someone else. It wasn't until we spoke about this that we found out the mistake and they worked on getting me into the band as their bass player. I played and wrote with them for a while, playing a good few gigs such as Aberdeen Pride, going on a tour, supporting Vistas and other bands. It was a good project but after a while I felt I had
to leave so that I could stay friends with the members due to creative differences. Luckily it worked and I'm still good friends with all the members including their current bass player who I think is doing even better than I ever could! They've just released a single which was a part of the session in Glasgow called I'm Strange, it's a weird but amazing experience hearing the finished project when all I had was a very very early mix. The producer Jamie Holmes did an amazing job and I honestly highly recommend him to anyone wanting to get an amazing single or album recorded, mixed and mastered. Recording the single was a surreal experience, I was a barman from Orkney and then less than a year later I am in a proper studio as a session player recording a single. I never thought I'd ever get to that point and I'm very proud of the end product. The two days we were there we ate pizza, I ate a bag of crickets, we slept in an Indian couples spare room (the lady was extremely lovely and was so excited when she found out why we were staying and demanded a photo with us haha). If I can ever give a few tips to anyone going to a recording studio to record stuff; be nice to the staff, they are the ones that make sure your stuff sounds good, and most importantly know your songs inside and out. And if you're a bass player, spend someone money on getting a fresh pair of strings, that's essential!
Ross: Sounds like you've had quite a bit of studio experience! Any other recording experiences you want to share?
Jack: During my last year on my HND course I chose to do a project on composition. Now I misheard my lecturer when he discussed what I had to for my project, the guideline was to create a portfolio of work that shows I can create an hour of music for a film. I thought I had to actually create an hours worth of music! This was also during the start of lockdown which actually helped me focus, I was producing a large amount of work in a few weeks. The style of the portfolio was rather abstract music which sadly is no longer up online as it got taken down by myself and I then lost the master files. I'm sure they'll be floating about on a USB or my lecturers hard drive. I may have to ask if they have them so I can remaster them and release them again. I had to write and record all this with just a digital piano, a trial version of pro tools, which I had never worked with before, and a very dodgy Scarlet interface, but I got there and received an A which I was still very proud of!
Ross: That's a shame you lost all of that work! It would be great to hear it. Before I let you go, tell us a bit about your musical influences?
Jack: My musical influences have a great span, it started with bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, and System Of A Down. I still see these bands as a great source of inspiration to this day. My taste of music has expanded and I now draw inspiration from many different bands and artists, like Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Victor Wooten, Les Claypool, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Tommy Emmanuel, all these artists have inspired me to learn new things and keep pushing myself further and further.
Ross: Any musical plans for the future you can discuss?
Jack: I'm currently in discussions with a producer who is looking to hire me for recording for a band. I've heard the demos and it's really exciting stuff and I hope it gets off the ground.
Ross: That's great, I hope that works out for you! Well thanks again for taking the time to chat Jack, was great talking to you!
Jack is currently working on session work. Be sure to check out Angry Man Car Park's single I'm Strange to hear what he can do!
Contact Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a killer session bassist on your track!
Instagram: Jack Hourston (@jack_hourston)
Angry Man Car Park:
Instagram: Angry Man Car Park (@angrymancarpark)
Facebook: Angry Man Car Park | Facebook