Stew McKinsey is a bassist with an affinity for extended range instruments. It wasn’t long after getting into the 4-string that he was introduced to a 5-string, then a 6-string, and so on. His current arsenal includes a 10-string Conklin Sidewinder. While that may seem extreme, McKinsey is quick to point out his efforts are to be a musician first.
What makes you new school?
It’s an interesting question. Stylistically, I don’t think I am particularly new school, but maybe my aesthetic could be described that way. I compose and perform exclusively on bass. And all my solo recordings of the last 25 years or so have been either bass in a true solo format, or bass played in duet, trio, quartet or similar small ensemble format. In terms of technique or pyrotechnics, however, I am definitely not breaking new ground.
How did you discover your new school style?
I think as is the case with most artists, it was and continues to be an organic process. I started on another instrument – on several other instruments, actually – but bass was the first instrument that made sense, that I truly loved. Whenever I was playing it in a band or on a session, I found it was mixed down or even taken out of the mix altogether. That was tough for me. So I started writing music that was just for me, my family and my friends. Eventually I was encouraged to perform and release it, I’ve never looked back.
Share some of your videos with us
Tell us about your gear
I play extended range instruments in my solo work, generally 8 and 10 string basses.
I prefer passive instruments, fourths tunings and pickups wired directly to the output jack. I endorse Conklin and Bee Basses, but I also own and play basses made by Nordstrand, Skjold, Wyn as well as a few that I made myself.
My amp is a Genz Benz Streamliner 900 and I put it through an AccuGroove Tri115 and an El Gordo.
What kinds of gigs do you get with your new school style?
For the most part I am invited to perform and teach as a solo artist, but I am also a columnist for Bass Guitar Magazine (“The Extended Range Specialist”) and I contribute to the Bass Players United website.
Any traditional playing gigs?
I get a bit of sideman work and some session gigs, but these are generally not using my 8 or 10 string basses. I built my career as a gigging player and doing sessions, so I still get calls for that kind of work. I love playing in a band and making the groove happen, so I am always glad when I get these calls!
Do you have albums where we can hear your new school style?
My first solo albums are out of print, but I am just about to release my first solo album in several years. I think there is a compilation I played on a few years back called Jaguar that is still available.
Where can we find you on the web?
I took down my original website earlier this year and am hoping to launch a new one before long, but at the moment I can be found online at Facebook, Youtube, Bass Players United and Bass Guitar Magazine’s website.
What’s next for you?
I plan to continue my solo work, but I’m also hoping to take on some students again and ideally to put together a few bands. No matter what I am or am not doing in the public eye, I am always writing music. And I’m writing a series of science fiction novels that I may or may not try and publish soon.
What else do you want to share?
I believe that it’s very easy with the internet to learn another player’s style and to cop his or her technique. What’s far more challenging is to develop ones own style and to follow the inner voice. I am definitely not the flashiest or the fastest player doing solo bass, but I don’t think people are listening to me because they want to hear shredding. There are players light years beyond me in terms of technical ability and in terms of theory. But I continue to try and develop as an individual and I hope that is a part of what comes through in my music.