Craig Kew Interview

Bassist for Kerry Livgren, Proto-Kaw

Craig Kew

Craig Kew is one of the most exceptional musicians I know and he is really smart. The definition of a Guitar Thinker. He plays everything from jazz gigs, to country sessions, to touring the world with Kerry Livgren (you know, the guy who wrote “Dust in the Wind”) and Kerry’s epic rock band Proto-Kaw. Read on, and learn from a master!

Nate: Any suggestions for guitarists out there who also find themselves having to play some bass?

Craig: Craig: 3 things: Time, Taste & Tone. Time is so critical when it comes to bass. You can have all the fretboard technique in the world, but if you can’t put the notes (and rests) EXACTLY where they need to be- consistently- it still won’t be happening. Always strive to play at the right time- even if it’s the wrong note. In the bassist’s world, taste usually means distilling (simplifying) one’s part down to the essentials. It’s all about being nurturing and supportive to the music and the other musicians- simultaneously laying it down while staying out of the way. It’s important to have a good sounding instrument, but it’s critical to consistently play confidently and in the pocket……mastering this usually takes some (a lifetime of) practice. Much of tone is in the mind and hands of the player. Take care to avoid the all-too-common mistake of dumping all the mids on your bass- unless you don’t want to be heard, of course.

Nate: How do you approach solos in a song where the chord progression is simple? (like straight 1-4-5)

Craig: Craig: Bass solo? Not on a PAYING gig! Seriously, unless you’re gigging routinely in a jazz trio, bass solos are going to be a fairly rare occurrence for many players. Bass solos are often rhythmically centered- a slightly more exciting (or busy) replica of the tune’s bass line. Usually, everyone but the drummer drops out for it’s duration…………predictably resulting in a lot of flailing, but little music. It’s not 1939 anymore and I don’t need bloody fingers or a silenced band to be heard. I enjoy working with musicians who can conceptualize backing up a soloist as musical role swapping. Bass playing is largely about being supportive- why then should we not be afforded the same courtesy when we assume the role of soloist? Learn to play melodies- pick a song you know and learn the melody….then pick another……and another. As your playing becomes more melodic, it should become less mathematic or pattern-based which is never a bad thing.

Nate: What is your favorite chord? Why?

Craig: Work hard and learn as much as you can when you’re young- you won’t have the time later. Music is communication- make sure you’re listening. When you look around you and realize you’re the weakest player in the group, you’re EXACTLY where you need to be.