Craig Schoedler - "Fire and Love"
New Jersey bassist Craig Schoedler is mostly known for playing recording sessions and live gigs in jazz clubs and on festivals - an accomplished sideman popular for his chops and thick five-string sound. Now his recent CD "By The Water" - his first own project - aimes at international attention, featuring prominent musicians like Mike Stern, Steve Jordan or Tom Petroski.
Carina: You started playing the bass at the age of 12 - were you ever interested in playing another instrument? Why did you pick the bass - or did the bass "pick you"? And what about the double-bass, fretless e-bass, piccolo basses?
Craig: I played the trombone for a few years before I started playing bass. I had to give up the trombone because the thing always gave me a head ache - I guess I wasn´t playing it right.
I think I started playing bass, because It was the first "cool" instrument that I was introduced to. A friend of mine got one, and I used to play his. I think people with artistic talent (intelligence) will end up using that ability on whatever instrument that that person is exposed to. I´m sure my sons will eventually show an interest in bass - just because it´s around.
I have played upright bass in the past, but never had a "love" for it like the electric. Just this year I´ve been thinking about Piccolo basses and the Chapmanstick. I would not be surprised if I eventually play them both; I´m just waiting on the endorsements, though: I need a new roof on my house, if you know what I mean ...
Carina: You used to play in rock- and pop-bands and then turned to jazz. Do you sometimes think about "going back" and playing some rock music again - maybe "just for fun" - or is it beyond thinking?
Craig: I enjoy playing most styles of music. Some more than others. I´m definitely not one of those guys who just plays jazz and thinks "everything else stinks". The compositions on my CD really represent what I like to a large degree.
I can find enjoyment in any musical situation. While most of the time you´d hear me soloing over a nice contemporary jazz groove, I would also have just as much fun touring with Sting , Anita Baker or the Rolling Stones.
Carina: Mike Stern contributes to three tracks on your latest album - and Mike is also a guest on the album of Jeff Berlin, another prominent bassplayer. Is the US-jazz scene a sort of big family? Or how is your comment about it?
Craig: Mike is just an outstanding player and a really nice guy. I´m not surprised that he plays on a lot of projects. I´ve received a lot of encouragement and support from USA musicians since recording my CD. I´ve also been very pleased with the interest and encouragement from Japan, Germany, Italy and France.
Releasing a CD on the internet allows you to become known in a "global" sense. It makes me very happy that someone in Japan is downloading one of my compositions and listening to it on their cell phone. It´s always interesting to me how the word spreads in a global way.
Carina: Your instrument is a five-string fretted Ken Smith-bass. Why a five-string bass and not a four- or six-string?
Craig: I like the five-string because of the bottom potential. When you hit a low b with the octave above it - well that´s just beyond words! When playing bass, I try to be as solid and supportive as I can for whoever is soloing or singing over me. The lower end of a five-string is just sonically supportive.
I also like having the extra range so that I can get out of other musicians registers. If I find that a soloist is playing in the same register as me, I usually try to get out of his or her way - "sonically speaking". I think that I will eventually try a six-string in the future.
Carina: Ken Smith basses are equipped with active electronics - how much influence does that have on the sound and on your feeling when you play the bass?
Craig: The active electronics just give you a fuller sound which I like. While I would never get rid of my Ken Smith bass, I would be interested in other basses. I am now being contacted by various companies regarding endorsements. If I don´t have to worry about the cost of basses and speakers, I´m sure that I will eventually try more product lines.
Carina: Is there something like a "dream-bass" that hasn't yet been built? How would it look like, what features should it have?
Craig: I would eventually like to see a midi bass that allows you to mix other instrument sounds with the bass sound. I always think of how Pat Metheney mixes his guitar sound with a brass patch - or at least that´s what it sounds like. I would be into something like that. I also like the bottom sound of a Chapmanstick. Now that I think of it, I should go out and get one of those. Sounds like this interview is talking me into it.
Carina: Would you say that your playing technique with the "thick tone" is what makes your playing unique - is there a kind of Craig-Schoedler-technique and -sound? Explain it a little bit.
Craig: I think there are a few things that make my playing style what it is. I try to play very supportive while creating interesting lines. Soloing is definitely something that I have focused on over the years. I had the great fortune to study with Jeff Andrews, Lincoln Goines, Mike Richmond and Vince Fay. I also transcribed the work of Anthony Jackson. I think that when you listen to my playing, you can hear shades of these guys. Luckily, nobody ever says "You sound exactly like ..."
My style of playing developed from emulating great players in different situations, much like an aspiring football quarterback will study the play of all the greats that came before him. I think that over time your own "signature sound" develops. People usually comment on my ability to remain melodic with chops and technique. A lot of people have told me that I have a thick sound as well. Those are probably the aspects that define my playing style at this point, but people change and evolve so let´s see what happens!
Carina: Playing live - what kind of other equipment do you use - amplifier, speaker, effects etc.?
Craig: I am currently using a Hartke Amp with SWR speakers and a Sadowsky outboard preamp. I also use a volume pedal. Like I said, I am being contacted by various companies for endorsements, so I might be playing through a completely different system in the future.
Carina: Before the release of your solo-album and shortly after, you were negotiating for a major deal and an international distributor. How is the situation like - now, some months later?
Craig: I have been a "promoting maniac" this past year. I decided to release the CD via my web site www.craigschoedler.com. I have advertised the sale of my CD in many countries with great response. Although Im pleased with the sales of the CD, I would welcome label involvement at this point - just because I would rather spend more time playing and composing.
It takes a lot of time being your own label, distributor, promoter, booking agent , etc. etc. etc. I would encourage any label or distributor with an interest in "By The Water" to contact me regarding a major deal, or a non-exclusive distribution deal for various territories. I am proud of what I have done on the business front - by myself. I feel much more at home on my bass than on the computer though.
Carina: Wherefrom do you get most of your inspiration - the big city, from nature, from your family life? The album title "By the water" implies that nature in general is a central theme in your life ...
Craig: I´ve never lacked a full supply of inspiration. Sometimes I think it´s a curse. I´ve had a fire in me since I picked up the bass at age 12. I often wonder where it comes from. There have been years that have been so hard to keep my head up and to keep my strides forward.
That ´s how I named one of the compositions - "Strides": The other night I wanted to go for a walk on the boardwalk. When I got there I realized that there was a stiff cold wind against me. Once I started to walk my usual six miles, I knew that I would finish. Just because that´s what I set out to do. There was never a doubt in my mind.
I have the same fire about my music career. I´ve always wanted to be the best that I could be. I never feel like I´m competing with other musicians though. I just push myself to the limit. I also have a great deal of love for my wife and kids. We talked about what defines my playing style. This is what defines me as a person: Fire and Love.
The title "By The Water" comes from my thoughts as I look at the ocean. I see the ocean as a great constant. It was here before us, and will be around long after our culture is gone. "By The Water" is this artists contribution to a temporary society that borders the constant. How´s that for deep? Just like the ocean.
Carina: Plans for the future?
Craig: After this year, the future is looking simple and clear. I have been submitting material for jazz festivals world wide, with great response. I see myself playing a lot of live performances in support of the CD. I´ve already begun to compose for the next CD as well. I also plan to teach on the college level and play as a sideman on various projects.
CD: Craig Schoedler - "By the water" (Progressive Music, 2001)
Craig Schoedler im Internet: www.craigschoedler.com
Fotos: Scott Griswold