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Touché: An Interview with Federico Malaman

Federico Malaman with basses

If you’ve ever looked for great bassists online, chances are you’ve watched a clip of Federico Malaman. The Italian bassist has gained a solid following on Facebook and YouTube with videos that blend quirky humor and amazing bass playing. Whether he was covering Michael Jackson or collaborating on original songs, his magnetic persona makes for a fun watching experience.

Now Malaman has teamed up with guitarist Riccardo Bertuzzi and drummer Ricky Quagliato to create the Malafede Trio, which has just released Touché. The album features all of Malaman’s intensity in eleven songs including two covers. We caught up the bassist to get the scoop on Touché, his start on bass, and his classical background.

How did you first get into playing the bass?

It was 1989. I was ten years old, and I was listening to Zucchero Sugar Fornaciari, a very famous Italian Artist. I heard something super groovy & I asked my father, “Daddy… What is this?” He said, “Federico, it’s a BASS!” so I said, “OK… I wanna play the bass!” Then everything started.

You studied classical double bass at conservatory. How do you see that studying applied in your music now?

Classical music is the perfect and fundamental thing to start with, in my opinion). With classical music, you learn the ABC’s of music: theory, reading, technical skills and everything you need! If you start with classical music, you’ll be a better musician. (For me, of course)

Who are some of your influences on double bass and electric bass?

Everybody! Everyone has something to “teach”! Ray Brown, Ron Carter, Gary Peacock, Scott La Faro, Eddie Gomez, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, John Patitucci, Jaco Pastorius, Marcus Miller, Alain Caron, Jeff Berlin, Mike Porcaro, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, Flea, Polo Jones, James Jamerson, Andrew Gouché… Want more? Dario Deidda, Hadrien Feraud, Marco Panascia, Faso, Saturnino, Paolo Costa, Dino D’Autorio and more!

You have unbelievable speed and precision. How did you work those up?

Slowly! I studied very slowly and then I tried to speed up with the click. That’s all. Practice, practice, practice.

How did you decide to make Touché? What was the process like?

Malafede Trio: TouchéWe were a fusion “covers” trio and then we decided to make an album, but we decided to compose something to give a real own sound to the band! Touché is a trio album, because everyone has written something original to build the sound of the band.

What does the intro to “Il Mistero del signor Piler” say/translate to?

It says, “I discovered a tremendous law that links the color green, the musical fifth, and heat. I have lost my will to live. I am frightened by power.” These words were written by Gustavo Rol, Italy’s most famous clairvoyant, and the voice you hear is his real voice reading his diary during an interview. “Il mistero del signor Piler” is strongly influenced by the idea of telepathy and transcendence, and it’s the story of an old man who suddenly disappears with no apparent reason. It’s written by guitarist Riccardo Bertuzzi.

Malafede Trio

What made you choose to cover The Crusaders’ “Street Life” and Allan Holdsworth’s “Fred” along with your originals?

Simply because we love these songs. “Street Life” has a “new dress” and the great “Sax Voice” by Donald Hayes. “Fred” does not have a different arrangement except for the bass solo. I’ve done something that I’ve never done in other albums: a slap solo!

What gear are you using?

I’m using Laurus and Mayones Basses, IQS strings, Eich Amps, Proamp cables, Aguilar and TC Electonic Pedals, and for the solo slap I used the famous fretwrap by Gruv Gear.

What do you look for in creating your tone?

I’m trying to have the right sound for every song. I like to change EQ or pickups for every song. If I change the sound, I change a little bit of the way to play, and it’s perfect to be more creative.

What’s the trick in growing your online presence as a bassist?

No tricks: I’m just lucky. I made funny videos where I play, and I’m myself. People loved it, and that’s it. And of course, I have to say thanks to the bass Facebook pages like No Treble, Basstheworld.com, Bass Players United and more all over the world.

What advice do you have for young bass players trying to reach your level?

Study and be very honest with yourself. No excuses, just study! Being self-critical is the main thing for growth, in my opinion. Listen to the giants and be open mind! Music is music, and the bass is a voice inside of the musical world. The bass has not only one way to be played. The more you know, the better it is for you.

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