The Stereophonics lifer Richard Jones on slap bass, the benefits of jury service - and stealing Brit-rock’s greatest bass gig.
How did you get into playing bass?
“I always had an affinity with the bass. I loved all the funky James Brown stuff from the '70s, even the disco stuff when I was a kid growing up in the '80s. I already knew I wanted to be in a band, but as soon as I heard Andy Fraser from Free - y’know, All Right Now and Mr Big - it was like, ‘That’s my place.’
“It was heavily competitive to play guitar around where we grew up, but there were only two or three bass players in the town. Kelly [Jones, guitar/vocals] and Stuart [Cable, late drummer] were already in a band, so I took over while the bass player was on holiday… and he’s been on holiday ever since!”
What was your first bass?
“When I was 13, I had a milk round, so I saved up a couple of hundred quid and went down to Cranes Music in Cardiff. For some reason, my eyes settled on a Hohner fretless bass, haha! But it was a good starting point for getting good ears, because to play along, you had to be in the right places.
“My first bassline was Peter Gunn. I’d keep on playing that over and over. I remember being up in my bedroom with my parents shouting up at me: ‘Learn something else…’”
Do you play five- or six-string bass?
“I play mainly four, but I do have a five-string and whenever a producer goes, ‘We need something really low,’ I’ll chuck it on there because it’s far easier than detuning and what have you. There’s been tracks like Superman and Devil - and I used the five-string on the track Sunny, too. That’s got a real down-low feel.”
Do you play slap bass?
“I have a muck-around when we’re jamming. I loved Flea growing up - so I like trying to emulate him and Les Claypool. But I’m not the best at it. When you’re a musician, it’s easy to overplay things - but it’s really about listening to the vocals, the melody the drums and the rhythm - and finding something in between so they all complement each other.”
What gear do you use?
“When I joined the Stereophonics, I had to do jury service with the local courts - and the good thing about jury service is that you can tell them you earn £500 a week and they pay your wages. I was there for three weeks and they gave me about £1,600, so I borrowed £300 off my brother and bought a Wine Red Fender Jazz from about ’92.
“When we were in New York for the first time, I bought a lovely ’74 P-Bass too - because me and Kelly wanted to get a guitar from the year we were born. But my Yamaha BB P34 has the sound I’ve been after for God knows how long.”
Who are your influences?
“Number one would be Andy Fraser. Free were basically a three-piece with a vocalist who didn’t play, and everything worked really well. He did a lot of the filling in and that kind of helped me when I joined Kelly and Stuart. That’s what I had to do, too - fill in a lot of the spaces, because we were only a three-piece.
“That’s why I loved Andy Fraser’s groove - and he looked so cool in that Isle Of Wight footage. Numbers two and three would be a fight between Flea and John Entwistle. I like the way that Robert DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots plays, too. He’s a real stylish player - he’s very good with melodies.”