London Bass Guitar Show star Cody Wright and his funky rhythmic stylings have been the talk of the bass-playing town ever since he first ditched his acoustic to step out as bassist with the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra in 2011.
Very much a bassist for the new millennium, Wright combines Youtube-era savvy with solid, technically-impressive playing – attributes that have helped him land a tutor spot on Scott’s Bass Lessons, among other projects.
His list of fans is a who’s who of bass legends, with everyone from Victor Wooten to Felix Pastorius singing his praises. We grabbed ten minutes with the Florida wunderkind ahead of the London Bass Guitar Show to find out what all the fuss is about...
Hi Cody. We’ve heard tell that your masterclass show at LBGS is likely to be a real crowd-pleaser. Have you got a specific plan in mind?
"The technical side of things will play a big part, but what I really want to do there is dig up a guitar and play some guitar stuff and show how a person who plays guitar can transition into bass but also the vice versa – showing how a person can take bass ideas and use them to become a more unique guitar player."
That was the same move that you made wasn’t it?
"Yeah, I played electric for about nine years and then in about 2008 I started playing more acoustic. And I was actually going to be putting out an acoustic EP – a kind of demo thing – at about the time I joined the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra. But I actually had to cancel it because I picked up a gig with him."
Sounds like you might have a bit of nostalgia for the guitar then? You’re not about to cross back over the divide?
"No, not really - I enjoy writing for the guitar tremendously still, like, listening to how the chords relate to each other. But you can bring that to the bass.
"There’s something about the guitar chords that’s different to bass double stop chords and if you can figure out guitar chords and how to relate those to each other, it’s a little more interesting, texturally, to bring that to the bass."
You’re a bit of a polymath. Do you consider yourself a musician, essentially, or is bass your one true love?
"I love bass and I’d say it’s my favourite instrument to play with people. But I love playing it all, every instrument that I mess with, guitar and piano as well. I’d consider myself a music fan first, I just really get off on listening."
What are some of your favourite artists? I’ve had your cover of Skymall (Vulfpeck) in my head all afternoon after listening to it - ridiculously catchy!
"That’s such a cool song. That was one of the first songs I had heard by Vulfpeck and I couldn’t believe the way he sped up at the end! Wheew! Crazy!"
A bit of a challenge in playing terms?
"Definitely a challenge!"
With young players there’s sometimes a focus on speed – what do you think of that?
"A lot of people feel the need to prove themselves when they first pick up a guitar. All of that ended when I first heard of this guy Shawn Lane. After hearing his work I just gave up that competitive side of things.
"I started playing acoustic and focussing on writing and being myself. A lot of people say they want to be unique but they don’t realise that being yourself is being unique. There’s only one of you!"
You’ve got a very trademark style. How did you ‘hone’ that or was it natural? Did you base your approach around the work of a specific artist? "When I first picked up a bass I was just playing my guitar licks. It kind of sounded like a hybrid of Stevie Ray Vaughan and for example, guitar players who study Charlie Parker. So it was a blues with bebop style licks in there. It was a mixture of those two worlds coming together.
"So I picked up a bass and I could play mean solos already because of my guitar playing – but I didn’t know how to groove, feel time, play with a band. Really the guy that I looked up to was Bobby Vega. Because he took pick technique and brought all this groove to it and all this tone to it. I knew that I had the technique but I didn’t have that kind of approach."
How do you learn that? Is it a case of just copying and seeing what comes naturally?
"No I copied the crap out of [Bobby]! I infringed! I copied him very closely for a while. Still, when I play rhythmically, I will sound a lot like him - you know, the funk thing. Also there are tremendous elements/influences in my style from guitar players in there. Some of the most noticeable ones are Stevie Ray and Frank Gambale.
"I do a lot of what’s called hybrid and economy picking. Economy picking is basically kind of a sweep and a lot of the close sweeps I do on bass is from studying Frank Gambale. Also Tommy Emmanuel and of course, as mentioned Shawn Lane."
How did you come to those influences? Is that what you would listen to on a day off? What styles did you listen to as a kid? Blues, rock, heavy metal. "When I was a really young kid the style that was around a lot was hair metal. A blend of hair bands and just… the 90s.
Let’s talk gear. What’s your normal set-up for touring? What will you bring to the show?
"My normal bass for touring – which I will also bring along – is a Zon Sonus Special. It’s a four string – a ‘97 – but the neck is 2015 which they basically rebuilt for me. Bubinga wood top and ash body.
"It walks the line between being a full range bass but also handling like a guitar. I have light strings on it so that I can really bend with the graphite neck and articulate in a way that a lot of electric basses can’t because the action is too high and the strings too thick.
"Which is also a very beautiful thing obviously – you can get a very big sound like that. But that’s not what I particularly want..."
The LBGS obviously has a massive marketplace area – are you on the lookout for a bargain? What do you look for in a bass?
"I always enjoy playing other basses and instruments. My thing when I plug a bass in is that I want the action to be low and the playability to be very comfortable. But I also want to hear tone, I want to hear pickups.
"I don’t really want to hear the amp. An amp shouldn’t colour the tone too much. I can understand a little bit of colouring to the tone, but I just want to hear a nice, big clean sound out of my bass."
What’s your attitude towards pedal use?
"This is something I will talk about a lot in my masterclass: how I approach effects. For chords and things, if I’m using a loop that has some chordal parts I like to put a little bit of a phase sound or a modulation type sound like a chorus or a phaser on my chords.
"That way the chords are not all just sitting there, sterile, they become vibrant and move around and for recordings I also like to have a bit of panning going on with my chords."
Dmitry Lisenko (one of the other LBGS performers) said that he was really looking forward to seeing your show. Is there anyone you’re particularly looking forward to seeing yourself?
"Oh man – everybody! Obviously Ida [Nielsen]. Very excited to meet her. The groove challenge that she did – wow! So that’s going to be cool. But yeah, everybody really!"
Challenge accepted😊 #jobrobassgroovechallenge @notafrontman @LJohnsonMusic @tjmusic21 #bass #player #funk #slap pic.twitter.com/gRFeqOIkcq18 September 2016
Are you a Glen Matlock/Sex Pistols fan? He just got added to the line-up. "Yeah, I saw that! I’m interested to see what everyone brings to the table!"
Do you have any guitar-shop party-tricks?
"It would probably be this tapping thing that I do that’s a sus chord over a dom bend... the top note goes from the fourth to the third. [Emulates a very complicated, fast bass-line with his voice.]
"When I was a kid with nothing to do, I would just see how fast I could go with it and it seemed to be something that people… felt a certain way about. [Ed. note – he’s being modest, but what we imagine he means here is that people were wowed by it...] It starts on a funny note, it starts on the seventh. [Starts singing again] Ah well, you’ll see!"
I’ll listen out for that one in the halls! Finally, if you could only have one bass for the rest of you life what would that be?
"Basically the Zon, the same one I have now, but if I could get that as a PJ with a precision pickup."
Have you suggested that to Zon?
"Oh yeah! In the future we will see what will develop."
Cody Wright will be performing and speaking at the London Bass Guitar Show 2017 on March 4 and 5. For information, visit www.londonbassguitarshow.com,www.facebook.com/londonbassguitarshow or @bassguitarshow.
We also have a 20% discount for MusicRadar users! Simply visit http://www.londonbassguitarshow.com/buy-tickets/, type in the code 'MUSICRADAR' and your discount will be applied.