The new Fender American Professional II series of electric guitars and basses has attracted some of the most exciting young players around right now - including Lindsay Ell, Orville Peck, Este Haim and Dwayne Thomas Jr aka bassist MonoNeon; the maverick musician who was one of the last artists to work with Prince.
We caught up with MonoNeon to talk bass guitar, what he's been up to with his recent projects and his memories of the late legend.
Can you give us your first impressions after having played the American Professional II range?
"The bass feels amazing in my hands. I’ve been recording with it too and I don’t have to add much to it for it to sound good!
"When I first picked up the bass it felt like butter, I didn’t have to fight the instrument."
There are updates to both of the classic designs - The P-Bass and the Jazz Bass. Why do you gravitate towards the Jazz Bass?
"Well I like both the P-bass and J-bass. They both got a thang to ‘em… I love the timbre of each instrument."
What do you look for in an instrument?
"I look for tone, how it feels in my hands, how it records and does it mix well in a live setting."
You're known for playing right-handed basses upside down. How does the American Professional II series feel to play that way?
"It’s easy to play… in lower and upper register."
The ongoing pandemic has brought a halt to almost all live performances and hindered the ability to gather and jam. How are you staying creative during this time?
"I’ve been working on my own music. Been writing more original stuff and putting whatever I have out for people to hear. I’ve also been hanging with my mom, grandma and cousins… they give me inspiration to continue to doing what I do with my creative stuff."
Your YouTube videos usually end with your artist manifesto, of which one of the main statements is to "Reject the worldly idea of becoming a great musician, and just live music". How has that outlook shaped your playing over the years?
"I guess it has shaped me to embrace the good and the bad… the ugly and the beautiful. Not only in music but life in general. That’s what I get from it."
Tell us about the rest of your rig. Which amps have you been using with the new American Professional II basses?
"I use EBS amps and cabinets, sometimes TC Electronic rigs. If that’s not around I use whatever that has plenty of headroom and power."
The natural tone of your bass always comes through in your playing, but are there any effects you can't live without?
"I love the Digitech Whammy pedal, I use that a lot… I never leave home without one!"
You've been very prolific over the last decade, but are there any of your projects that you are particularly proud of? Either solo recordings, live performances or collaborations?
"I’m proud of my solo recordings/albums, even though I don’t like ‘em anymore… haha!! I just be putting out music and let people see and hear the evolution of whatever I’m doing.
"Some of my favourite collaborations have been playing on Mac Miller’s posthumous release Circles on the song Complicated. Mac hit me up on Instagram March of 2018 asking me to play bass on the song… it was cool to work on something with him!
"A recent collaboration was with Anderson Paak for Nas’ album King’s Disease on the song All Bad and Jacob Collier on the song In My Bones.
"I am proud of one recent song I released called, We Somebody Ya’ll… I wrote and produced that song with Davy Nathan. That song really is different in terms of how I record and produce my singing… but I like it!"
And lastly, we couldn't really go without bringing up your ,me playing with Prince. How did working with him inform your musical path afterwards?
"Mane I miss Prince so much!!! Those times playing music with Prince at Paisley Park was life-changing. Every time I get asked what was it like working with Prince it’s kinda hard for me to put into words. But hanging with Prince inspired me to start writing more of my original songs."