Billy Sheehan is to the electric bass what Eddie Van Halen is to the electric guitar. Over the years, the Buffalo, New York-born Sheehan has changed the way people think about the four-stringed instrument. His use of chording, two-handed tapping, and controlled feedback have made him a superstar of a style that has become known as "lead bass."
While it is certainly true that Sheehan, since his days with his first band, the power-trio Talas (in which he both played and sang lead), is not shy about stepping into the spotlight, he is quick to stress that a bassist's essential role is that of an accompanist. "Too many kids coming up get caught up in the flash and the pyrotechnics," says Sheehan. "I love John Entwhistle and Tim Bogart from Vanilla Fudge -- those guys blew my mind in every way -- but I also love the Beatles and Motown. Great songs, but with steady, inventive bass playing."
Since leaving Buffalo, Sheehan has made a name for himself in more ways than one: as part of the two-headed shred monster in David Lee Roth's band, as an equal in the hugely successful group Mr. Big, and lately as a solo artist (he's currently recording his third album, due out later this year). In-between these efforts, he formed his own traveling bass extravaganza called Bx3, which also included Stu Hamm and Jeff Berlin, and has guested on more records than he probably realizes.
During a recent telephone interview with MusicRadar, Sheehan recalled his early influences, spoke of the heady times playing Japan with Mr. Big, and talked excitedly about the follow-up to his Yamaha Attitude bass, the new Yamaha BB714BS signature bass, which will hit music stores this summer.
Part one - Billy discusses his first bass heroes, his love of singing, and how he almost joined Van Halen
Part two - Billy on Mr. Big, Bx3, his new album, and his upcoming Yamaha bass
More information on Billy's signature bass is available at www.yamaha.com.