Reader Spotlight: Matt Schalles
Meet Matt Schalles (aka Professor Hazmatt). Matt played guitar for three years (among other instruments) before switching to bass (yes to that!)
Matt is this week’s No Treble reader in the spotlight (you could be next). Here’s his story…
I got into music through my piano-playing father and organist grandfather. Grandpa was a freaking one-man band with percussion assigned to the two manuals and foot pedals on his Hammond! I took piano lessons until I grew tired of transposing classical music, and picked up trombone, then guitar, before finding bass. After some classic and psychedelic rock bands, it was a combination of Brazilian Forro and Afrolatin/Nyabinghi bands that I discovered my niche in groovy tropical rhythms. This prepared me to take on some band-leading duties under the tutelage of Geoffrey Omadhebo in the Lagos Roots Afrobeat ensemble. In 2016 I had a life-altering experience – My Oakland band Bicicletas por la Paz, took our brand of Latin circus funk on the road for a 32-show run from Vancouver, BC, to Oakland, CA, transported by cargo bicycles, which converted into stationary generator bikes for audience members to power our sound system. We each pedaled 100+ pounds of long-tail cargo bike and gear for 1500 miles in 10 weeks. Raised by an ecologist father, I was already concerned about global warming, but seeing that we could pull off a high-caliber tour and performances without fossil fuels, catalyzed my approach to sustainability as a musician. Time commitments to a dream day job recording dolphin brainwaves prevent me from touring as often as I’d like these days. However, I still bike to my gigs in San Diego, like backing Chris Montez with my trio, The Good Vibes Band.
San Diego, CA, USA
Why I play the bass:
After three years of playing guitar, the bass just clicked and made more sense when I picked it up to fill in for a high school jazz band show.
I like to optimize around the size, weight, and ergonomics of gear. My current go-to basses for gigs and recording are a Steinberger with Rio Grande pickups and a Fender Mustang, both four strings. My long-time workhorse amp is a Markbass Mini CMD 121p – with the matching 121 NY cab for higher SPL needs. Last year I acquired a Phil Jones Bass Cub Pro and the matching C2 cab, and this powers probably half my gigs now. I go pretty light with pedals. Maybe a Markbass Miniboost to get a touch of the VPF filter with the Phil Jones or a Boss autowah-3. But just as often, I’ll have my little Roland Boutique JP-08 to bust out some synth bass lines on a handful of songs a night.
Paul Horn was probably my biggest influence as a mentor, bandmate, and all-around rhythmatist. Jaco was already on my radar when I met Paul, but full of anecdotes and energy from that Florida scene, Paul took my playing and musical appreciation to another level. As far as bass players, John Paul Jones, Billy Cox, and John Entwistle showed me how bass could drive the band. Chris Wood turned me on to new phrasing ideas, and Bootsy Collins was by far the grooviest bass influence. Honorable mention to Johnny Guitar Watson, Stevie Wonder, and Herbie Hancock for influencing my approach to bass and thinking in terms of arrangements.
My bass superpower/claim to fame:
I’m the bicycling bassist! Even before participating in the grand musical bicycle tour, I was trying to ride to rehearsal with a jazz bass on my back and a Minimark 602 strapped to my rear rack. I don’t recommend that! Cargo bikes are the way to go, although they don’t always play nice with transit. Now it is either the Markbass strapped to my long tail cargo bike or the Phil Jones rig on my regular bike if I need a bus or trolley assist.
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