How do you make pop music cool again? One way is to have Dirty Loops cover it.
Since posting their cover of Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” on YouTube, the Swedish trio has caught the attention of fans across the world.
Their latest cover of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” has gotten over 1.3 million views in about a month’s time.
A key element to Dirty Loops’ success is the incredible bass playing of Henrik Linder, whose tight grooves and over-the-top solos have sparked cover videos of their own. Influenced by virtuosic players from early on, Linder’s impressive technique and feel have been keeping the bass community talking.
We reached out to Linder to get the scoop on Dirty Loops, his technique, and his secret to great tone.
How did you get your start playing bass?
Because the girl I was interested at that time said it was the sexiest instrument; she was my first girlfriend.
Who are your biggest bass influences?
My biggest influence is Gary Willis of Tribal Tech, and my first childhood idol was Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers.
How did Dirty Loops come about?
While studying, [Dirty Loops drummer] Aaron and I were practicing together almost everyday. [Vocalist] Jonah was also a fellow study partner at an early age. Aaron got an idea for a jam where Jonah would sing and play the keys. Jonah came to the first jam session with a reharmonized chorus of Rihanna’s “Please Don’t Stop The Music.” We completed the arrangement and had a blast doing so. Then we continued to reharmonize and rearrange more covers. Those jam sessions were also amazing, and gave us a chance to really do all kinds of stuff you’d get fired up for in a regular session. It went from there.
One of the really cool things about your pop covers are the chord substitutions and interesting use of harmony. What’s your writing and arranging process like?
Every tune is a bit different. Some of them have started with a programmed idea from Jonah, some have come from Aaron or me, and some we arranged during a jam session. It’s not the same procedure all the time, however the programming from Jonah has been the skeleton for about half the covers.
What’s your approach to writing bass parts and developing those funk grooves?
Again, it’s different on each song. On some songs like “Just Dance” I had been playing around with some slap idea, while on others like “Prude Girl” I play the same bass line as the keys. For some of the grooves, we’ve tried to orchestrate the 16 patterns between the instrument so that I won’t play the same hits as the kick or the keys.
To what degree do you pre-compose and write out your lines and solos, and how much room do you leave for improvisation?
I’ve pre-composed lots of lines for those solos. I like to do that in a recording situation, especially when the solos are as short as they are here.
What kind of a practice routine do you have?
It varies. Right now we’re writing our debut album and most of our time goes into writing music. Much of my practice time focuses on being able to play everything Aaron and Jonah want me to play. In practicing improvisation, I focus a lot on trying to play through the changes instead of static box playing, working on establishing motives and melodies.
Additionally, I constantly work on expanding my harmonic knowledge. Another one of Aaron’s and my practice routines are to do two bars loops of grooves and tempos that we feel aren’t “in the pocket”, and play them for say three and a half minutes. When we studied, we used to sit with two of those loops for three and a half minutes a day for a week and then move on to another groove we didn’t play well. Practicing with him in this format has created a special bond between us playing-wise.
My bass teacher Robert Sundin has also helped out tremendously with my practicing routines; making me practice on the worst [aspects] of my playing. In doing so, all of the other stuff I am good at started sounding much better.
What advice do you have up-and-coming bassists?
Go your own way, and if you get a teacher, get one that helps you develop the way you want to play instead of teaching you how to play like everybody else.
Can you give us a rundown of your gear?
Currently, I play 2 Mattissonbasses: one 6 string and one 5 string for slap. I also have my old Yamaha TRB6P.
I play an EBS Fafner or EBS TD 660 and 2 EBS Proline 4x10s for extra tweeter action compared to a 8X10.
My pedal board now has EBS Octabass, reverb, compressor and chorus effects.
I have a Line 6 delay and a Source Audio distortion with three presets that I use as an EQ for finger slap and solo boost.
I play some strings I get from Mattissonbass and Elixir strings on my Yamaha.
So many fans want to know what you do to get your incredible tone. What’s your secret?
One of the reasons I sound the way I do is that the Yamaha that I have played for eight years has a broken bridge pickup with a very low output. While adjusting to that, I had to come up with new ways to get the notes punchy. I also have a very soft touch on the strings, and I’m often turning up the amp; I guess that’s a way to play more dynamically. I also use a lot of legato playing, making the left hand do the work.
Dirty Loops has been in the studio working on original material… When will that be released, and when will we see the trio on tour?
That is yet to be determined, however, about half of the record is finished. We’re working on it constantly, yet we don’t want to rush anything. As soon as the record is released in 2012, then we’ll go on tour!
Special thanks to our Facebook friends who contributed questions for this interview: Jordan Newman, Thomas Greenway, Lasse Winther Wehner, Paddy Donnelly, Jared Spear, Christian Schenk, Adam Castle, Matthew Scott Wyckoff, Neil Bertrand, Andreas Ehret, Flemming Dørken, Martin Hodgson, and Matt Devonshire.