Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interview: Wilco's John Stirratt talks melody

Wilco bass player and founding member John Stirratt has an affinity for good melodies, so it makes sense Paul McCartney is one of his musical icons.

"I'm always just absolutely in awe of his playing," Stirratt said, chatting from his hometown of Chicago, Ill. "You can always find new things in the Beatles catalog that are just beautifully expressive and rocking. He was able to do some wonderful harmonic touches with that band."

Stirratt's other bass playing idols?

"I also like these soul-bass guys from the '60s," he said. "Tommy Cogbill, who played in Memphis, was a fantastic player and super funky. In that same era, Joe Osborne was a southern guy who went to Los Angeles and played on a million tunes. He was a big session guy. And the Motown scene was great, especially James Jamerson."

Judging by that list, it's easy to see why Wilco brings so many diverse musical influences into their sound. The Grammy Award-winning band is on a 2010 world tour that takes the band through the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Wilco's music is characterized by subtle, tuneful embellishments, and Stirratt says the biggest challenge of playing is knowing when to hold back on bass.

"With where Wilco is right now, there's so much melodic information going on and, and there's so much atmosphere with Nels (Cline, guitarist) and Patrick (Sansone, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist) doing really fantastic melodic stuff on top, so there are so many options," he said.

"I think that's the main challenge: Trying to find spaces in the music. Luckily, we don't have to talk about it very much. It just kind of happens."

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