Interview with Iris Ornig
You may remember that we recently featured New Ground by bassist Iris Ornig. Iris has been kind enough to take the time to share a bit about herself and her music.
Originally from Germany, she is now a working musician in New York City where she frequently plays in some of the hottest jazz bars around.
Here is our exclusive interview…
Everyone wants to know about your musical origins, how did you start playing the bass? Was it love at first site or did you start on a different instrument?
I started playing the bass when I was sixteen years old. Before that I was totally into sports and drawing. My friend came up to me and said we need a bass player in our band and I was excited by the idea playing in a band. But I didn’t really know what it meant to play the bass. I convinced my Mom and she bought me a bass a couple of weeks later and then I played in my first Rock Band.
Tell us what was it like coming from Europe to New York City. How would you compare working in the different music scenes?
I’ll just speak about where I grew up. It is a small beautiful city Lake of Constance, which is on the border of Switzerland and Germany and has approximately 70,000 inhabitants. We have a few places with live music from Rock, Pop, Jazz and Classical and basically you know every musician and have probably have played with all of the them at some point.
Compared to my hometown, New York is heaven. You have so many places to go and listen to live music, you have so many fantastic, gifted and great musicians on a confined space and you have excess to play with them.
You can meet and play everyday with such talented musicians and you can see a wonderful show every night. Speaking for myself as a musician, I am in heaven!
To follow up on that, what was it like to start your career in NYC? Any advice for aspiring musicians?
You have to be patient, believe in yourself and your music, keep going and never give up.
You recently released “New Ground,” can you tell us how you approach the composition process when you want to create new material?
I’ll do my best to describe itL I am coming from a different background. As I mentioned, I was totally into sports and drawing and music in our house wasn’t present, we didn’t own a record player, and the only radio we had was the little one that woke you up in the morning with music or a beep. When I realized that I had the gift, talent, blessing or whatever you’d like to call it – to be able to compose or create musical pieces not coming from a traditional musical background I realized that my inspiration comes from seeing pictures, colors and scenes, which have a deep impact on my emotional feelings, soul and heart.
The bass lines you create are always very melodic, how do you practice? Are there any drills or methods you find particularly useful?
I have my metronome, a timer and list of exercises that I want to practice. I spent for each exercise between 5 and 10 minutes and then I move on. I am not able to practice one exercise for hours and hours.
We’ve heard a lot of your jazz playing on the upright but we’re curious if you’ve done any work with the bow or bass guitar.
Yes, I started with electric bass and I am still playing with some singer songwriters. In Germany I collaborated with a DJ and we did many Tracks of Dance floor music where I played electric bass. But with the release of my new CD I am very focused on my own music and my band. I own a bow and have taken lessons but have not had a real connection with it yet but have recently thought about taking some more classes.
Tell us about the gear you use, what kind of basses and amplifiers do you have? Is there any other equipment that you use to shape your tone?
I am playing a German Rubner double bass build in 1954. Pick up is a Fishman. I also have a Kay Bass, which needs some repair and is sitting in the corner right now. It has a Realist Pick Up. My amps are Gallien & Krueger and Acoustic Image. I love both of them. I have a wonderful Fender Jazz bass from 1974 and a custom made 5 string bass from a German bass builder.
Who are your major influences?
Jaco Pastorius, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Charlie Haden, Joni Mitchelll, Prince.
Your website advertises your ensemble for hire, do you do much freelance playing? What are those experiences like compared to working with your own ensemble?
Yes, we are playing at weddings, Cocktail Parties and some Corporate Events. I am happy to mention that I have played parties for Mayor Bloomberg, Henry Kissinger and Donald Trump. Our program is mostly the Great American Songbook with my arrangements and in between originals of mine. I like to play on these kind of events because I can make people happy and I can accomplish this with the right selection of songs, attitude and just having a fun time. It almost has the same foundation as playing a concert except you can really let loose and go in different directions when playing a concert.
You’re a very versatile player, working with jazz, swing, R&B, boss nova and Latin genres, is one of those an absolute favorite of yours?
I played every style of music and I love every kind of music, which comes from my heart and soul. If I would be classical trained I also would play classical music.
We know you’re a regular in the NYC scene; do you have any plans to tour outside the city? Where can we hear more of you?
I would love to tour outside the city and with the release of my debut CD I’m hoping it will give me the opportunity to do so – so keep your eyes open!