Photo by Ben Christopher Smith
Meet Sean Fairchild, a well-traveled bassist who says he didn’t decide to play bass, rather the bass decided on him.
Sean keeps busy playing in bands, including “funkifying the clave” in one of them. He is No Treble’s reader in the spotlight for the week of September 22, 2014.
Born and raised overseas before settling in Seattle, I’ve always got one hand in the pocket and my eyes set on the horizon! With a huge respect for the wonderful canon the electric bass has built over the past 60 years, I’m excited to keep learning new things and to try to push the instrument further whenever possible. I have loved being a bassist for 2 decades now, starting down this road on a fateful summer’s day in Tokyo, of all places…
Seattle, WA, USA
I’m a Product Specialist on the Marketing Communications team at MUSIC Group.
20 years this year (2014)
Bands & Gigs:
I’m almost always in at least one! My main focus right now is a trio called Combinator (www.combinatorband.com) that I sing lead and play bass in. Combinator is a ton of fun, because I get to share the soundscape with two other local brilliant musicians, Isaac Chirino and Greg Pascale, and we use it as a platform to explore pretty much everything we’re into, from funk and soul to hard rock, reggae, afro-cuban, hip hop and electronic styles. I probably left out one or two.
I also really enjoy playing in a local Salsa big band, La Klave 11. The lineup varies between 11 and 13 people or so, and the bass gets to be LOUD in salsa, which is a ton of fun for me! While not traditionally very open to harmonic exploration, I’ve really enjoyed digging into the rhythmical variations and possibilities, “funkifying the clave” wherever I can.
Playing primarily 6 string for the last 7 years, my main axe is a Jerzy Drozd Soul VI.
I found the perfect 5-string for me in the Warwick Streamer Stage II more than 15 years ago.
I also love my Warwick Streamer LX 6 string
Genz Benz gear was so good, I’m sad they’re not around anymore. I love my ShuttleMAX 9.2 head and NX2-212T speaker cab.
I’m an effects junkie, and always have a soft spot for loopers, the Digitech Bass Whammy, 3Leaf Audio envelope filters (local shoutout!), and all kinds of other goodness.
Why I play the bass:
I’m glad you asked! Nothing. Well, I did make a decision to KEEP playing the bass, but perhaps, as many others have said before, the bass decided on me. I started on my instrumental journey as a saxophonist somewhere around the age of 11 or 12. Due to my parents being US diplomats at the time, I had the fortune to have been born overseas (shoutout to KL, Malaysia!) and to have lived elsewhere in Asia and Europe, before my parents moved to Seattle, WA.
My dad was later assigned to Tokyo, Japan, where he befriended a local Australian cover band called The Hitmen – the bassist of which randomly offered to give me a bass on one of my visits that he was given and never used. It was a Kasuga copy of a Gibson EB-style bass that was found in a dumpster there in Tokyo. I was like, “what’s a bass?”. Within 6 months, I was set on my new primary instrument, had played in a rock band and was super excited about that, and the course of my life was forever altered.
My bass superpower/claim to fame:
Well if I told you that, my normal, everyday bass persona would be compromised and I’d have to wear the cape all the time! I think my ear has been my biggest asset over the years. And I think the development of that skill is related to learning multiple languages, especially when young, as you learn to hone in on that particular sense and pay attention to varying sounds a little more. Having a good ear and being able to visualize music on a mental fretboard has come in handy many more times than any other skill, as my sight-reading skills fluctuate depending on what I’m involved in.
It’s a long list, but among others it would include a diverse selection from rock/popular music guys like Flea, Les Claypool, James Jamerson, Jeff Ament, and Geddy Lee to guys in the jazz/”muso”/other vein like Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Squarepusher, and tons more.