Meet Harry Ostrem, a busy bassist, educator and (sometimes) Mick Jagger impersonator. He has a great story, as you’ll see.
Harry is the No Treble reader in the spotlight for the week of April 21, 2014.
I first picked up a bass guitar in 8th grade and continuously played in rock bands and jazz combos during my high school and college years. I never considered music as a career until after graduating from Gonzaga University with a BA in History and English. During this time, I played cover gigs nearly every weekend for 3 years and realized that my true passion resided in music and in entertaining people. I decided to move to LA in the summer of 2005 with the goal of making a career playing bass, writing music, and being as creative as possible. During the last 10 years, I have played hundreds of gigs throughout Los Angeles and the country. Currently, I am a member of the original rock band Black Belt Karate, playing in Dizzy Reed’s solo band, and spearheading my own solo work simply entitled: “Harry”.
I currently split my time between playing bass in original and cover bands, working part-time as an educator, and landing the occasional acting gig. (You might remember me from such prestigious appearances as a Mick Jagger impersonator in the music video “Moves Like Jagger”. That’s me in the red dress.) I am continuously trying to find the balance between gigs that pay and gigs that allow me to be artistic and potentially pay larger dividends down the road. As with any career, a person must keep their eye on the prize while still attending to their financial and daily responsibilities.
I have been playing the bass since 1992. As the old adage goes, the more I learn the more I realize there is so much more to know.
Bands & Gigs:
I am playing all the time. Black Belt Karate plays at least a few shows a month and does mini-tours up and down the West coast. This coming Thursday, we are headlining the Satellite in LA. I also tour with Dizzy Reed across the country when he is not touring with Guns N’ Roses. There are also several cover bands I gig with on a monthly basis, as well as the occasional fill-in show. Some other cool gigs are in the works, but I don’t want to jinx them.
I’m not a big gear guy. I rely on the advice of people in LA that I know have an awesome understanding of bass and tone. Greg Coates is my main man, as well as my producer Tom Chandler. I use Ampeg gear and prefer my American Jazz bass. I also have a pedal board that consists of a Sans Amp, tuner, and Route 66 pedal. A bass player’s best friend is a Sans Amp. You never know when your backline might…not be there. :)
Why I play the bass:
As with many bass players, I initially started playing bass by accident. My best friend played guitar and I just wanted to hang out. From then on, there was ample opportunity to play; even in small town Montana. I started playing in my high school’s pep band, which led to several years of jazz band experience. That, coupled with Zeppelin and Cream, pretty much sealed my fate!
My bass superpower/claim to fame:
At this juncture, the Dizzy gig is my highest profile gig. However, I am super proud of some of my other work, including the album I helped write for my old band The Shrill. That was a year long process and the result is something I will always cherish. In terms of “bass superpower”, I think my best skill is the ability to prepare for a gig without a rehearsal. Charting tunes and thinking about what is needed for each specific gig is key in preparing for a variety of gigs with little to no band rehearsal.
There are far too many to list. Initially, I solely worshiped the rock legends of bass, including but not limited to Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, John Entwistle, and Geddy Lee. I then fell in love with great R&B players, my favorite being Bernard Edwards. Now, I pretty much love everyone that makes my ears perk up at least once. Countless times, I will be listening to a tune and I am instantly blown away by a solid, full, and beautiful line. There are several players in LA that I look up to: Greg Coats, Joe Ayoub, Divinity Roxx, and Chris Wyse. Other players that push me to be better include John Taylor, Graham Maby, Paul McCartney, Sting, and Phil Lynott.