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Out Front: An Interview with Andrew Gouché

Andrew Gouché

Judging by the excitement in his voice, you’d think gospel legend Andrew Gouché was just getting his start in the music industry. Sure, he’s worked with The Winans, Prince, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, Andraé Crouch, and many more. But after nearly four decades of playing behind the world’s biggest gospel and R&B stars, the bassist is stepping out on his own with his debut solo album, entitled We Don’t Need No Bass.

The 11-song project features nine original tracks as well as a song written by fellow gospel musicians Fred Hammond and an arrangement of the classic Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby.” Gouché brings his all to each song, switching between lyrical melodies, heavy grooving, and inspired solos.

We caught up with Gouché to get the scoop on the album, his practicing, and how many strings he likes on his bass.

The name of the album seems a little counter intuitive. Could you explain why you chose to call it “We Don’t Need No Bass”?

The title comes from when I grew up playing in church. I started playing in the ’70s and in the Baptist church back in those days they didn’t really have bass guitar. I would play in different churches and they would literally tell me, “We don’t need no bass. The organ player can play bass on the pedals.” So the name comes from actual experiences I had when I was first starting out.

You’ve had such an illustrious career and you’ve worked with so many incredible artists. What made you wait until now to put your album out?

Andrew Gouché: We Don’t Need No BassYou know, I started dabbling in recording my own music in around 2003, but I was still doing a lot of work with other people. I got a gig as musical director for Chaka Khan and we worked so much that my project just got put on the back burner.

It’s been long overdue. I wanted to do it actually since 1999. I started to do it and would get a couple of things done and then I’d have to just put everything on the back burner. It’s funny because there’s only one song that I used from when I started doing this record in 2003. It’s been a kind of evolution. I spent almost forty years as sideman playing on everybody’s records and touring with everybody, but I have my own musical voice. It was just time for me to express myself in a different capacity. That’s where this record came from.

Which song stuck with you the whole time?

It’s a song called “Secret Place”. We recorded that song live in 2003. That’s the only one, but even then I didn’t use all the elements from that live recording. I used some of the keyboards and the drums, but everything else I recut. For the sake of the time being perfect, I put some loops in that.

Fred Hammond wrote that song. He’s actually starting to playing bass again. He still dabbles and plays on a lot of his tracks, but he doesn’t play it live much. He can still play, though.

Have you two worked together a lot?

Not really, but we’ve known each other for a long time. I’ve known Fred since 1983. He’s from Detroit and I spent a lot of time in Detroit when I was working with the Winans. So we’ve just been friends. We’ve probably played together twice.

Would you describe your style as rooted in Gospel and church music?

Absolutely. That’s where I started. My main influences were great gospel singers. That’s why I think my playing is not like traditional bass players. I’m not formally trained at all; I’m self-taught and I learned how to play in church. You can still hear my gospel roots in there.

You can hear some funk and fusion in there, too, right?

I guess you could say that, but I was never really into it that much. I listened to it a long time ago with Stanley Clarke in his “School Days” era and all that stuff. But I didn’t listen to a lot and I’m not familiar with much now. People just relate my music to fusion but I know very little fusion music.

I just play what I feel and I leave it up to everybody else to categorize it how they want to. That’s just the way that I’ve always been. I play what I feel and everyone turns around to put names on it. That’s how I learned the technical terms for a lot of the stuff I do, just by people asking me about it. I just don’t approach my music like that.

What’s the story behind “Jump Start”?

Most of the original songs on the record [started out] as grooves. You know, everyone has a little warm up or a little groove that you play that’s your own. “Jump Start” just started as a little groove. The melody is a little groove that I used a lot to warm up with but I never used it in a song before. Then I just made a conscious effort to take my grooves and turn them into songs. “Jump Start” started out as that melody. The bass line and the bridge all came later. It just turned out to be a really funky, cool song that people really dig.

You also cover “Eleanor Rigby”… Are you a big Beatles fan or did that song just call to you?

When I got married somebody gave me a box set of the Beatles’ complete catalog. That was actually my favorite wedding gift out of everything that we got. The song “Eleanor Rigby” just stuck out to me because I was amazed at how they put it together with a string quartet and how they did the verses. I used to play it every week live here in L.A. with my band called The Band of Brothers. We just started playing that song and everybody freaked out when we played, so that’s why I recorded it. It’s one of my favorite Beatles songs, though.

Did you use your signature bass to record the whole album?

Yes. There’s one song where I’m playing a Tobias piccolo bass. Mike Tobias only ever made two piccolo basses and I have one of them. I think he made it in about 1985. All the other songs are either my MTD signature 4, 5, or 6-string. On We Don’t Need No Bass, that’s my four-string signature. Most of the songs are done on my six-string.

Is there one you’re most comfortable on? If you had your four, five and six-strings all sitting out, would you grab the six first?

Andrew GouchéYes. I always grab the six. But for me, when I started there was no such thing as a five or six-string. So four-string is where I started but I’ve been playing my six for so long. I play my four-string bass to challenge myself because I have to think more. On a six-string bass, all the notes are in one general area so you don’t have to go up and down the neck. On a four-string, there are things I could do on a six that I really have to think about on the four-string. For me it’s like a practice session. I’ll play the melody on my six and then pick up my four string and figure it out like that.

I like playing my four-string, too, because you have to do more with less. That’s a challenge for me and I like challenging myself.

Are you the kind of guy that sits down to practice or do you just work on songs?

My practice is always writing. I’m always trying to come up with new grooves, and that’s what my practice is. I’m very, very blessed because my basses sound so incredible that they inspire me to play, so practicing is never a drag for me. I really enjoy every time I sit down and play between my bass rig and my basses.

Are you trying tour behind the album?

Yes, I am. That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to tour as much as I can. This is something I’ve never done. I’ve been playing for 41 years, but I’m very excited about getting out and playing my music. I’m actually in the process of auditioning musicians now, which is a trip. I’m auditioning musicians for my band.

My first official show will be at the Long Beach Jazz Fest on August 8th. I’m working toward putting my own show together. I want to have a professional presentation. I want people to come away feeling like they really heard something special.

I’m just excited, man. I’ve done this for everybody else for all these years and I’m doing it for myself now. It’s really exciting.

We Don’t Need No Bass is available now on iTunes and on Gouché’s website, where you can order autographed copies.

We Don’t Need No Bass Track List:

  1. We Don’t Need No Bass
  2. Eleanor Rigby
  3. The Vamp
  4. Sundays
  5. Jump Start
  6. Secret Place (Featuring Fred Hammond)
  7. Way Back When
  8. Geronimo
  9. No Ways Tired
  10. MTD4Lyfe
  11. Early in the Morning