Songs Belong to the Night: An Interview with Moto Fukushima
Whether he’s playing in House of Waters, making his own music, or just sharing practice pieces, Moto Fukushima never fails to blow me away. His virtuosic playing adds depth and character to any context he’s in.
His latest endeavor is a solo album called Songs Belong to the Night, highlighting the possibilities of the six-string bass.
“For this album, I composed pieces for a six-string bass as a solo instrument,” he shared. “That’s a bit different from the regular bass role in the ensemble – but this instrument has a unique tone and performance approach which is distinct from a guitar or cello.”
We caught up with Fukushima to discuss the new album, how to arrange for solo bass, and what’s coming up for House of Waters.
What first drew you to the six-string bass?
My friend sold me a Japanese brand “Tune” six-string bass for $100… I didn’t have any interest in six-string bass until he asked. Once I tried it, it fit very well – size, range, tone, and everything. Later, I found the range is similar to my vocal range. Probably, that’s one of the reasons I love playing six-string bass.
How do you suggest bassists get started on the six-string? Is there a good way to transition into it?
They are both “guitar” types of instruments, so that we can keep a similar approach. It’s not like switching between double bass and bass guitar. The main challenge is muting – we need to control two extra strings with wide spacing (wider than the guitar).
Songs Belong to the Night is a solo bass album. What are some of your favorite solo bass albums by other artists?
I love Miroslav Vitous’s solo bass albums from ECM. I listened to those a lot when I was a student at Berklee, and he is one of my main influences – playing style, ensemble interaction, solos, and more.
The music on your new album is absolutely beautiful. Since you had training on piano, how does that inform your composition style?
I wasn’t a great piano student or player, hahaha. However, starting my music experience with piano makes it sound very natural to me. This led me to study and explore piano pieces and techniques, so I read and played those piano pieces (left and right hand separately and with much slower tempos). I keep discovering amazing ideas from Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms, and many others.
“Shiki” struck me as very provocative. What is the word’s meaning, and how does it relate to the music?
The word “shiki” has various meanings in Japanese – color, four seasons, conduct, or even “last hour.” I usually give random titles to my compositions, and they don’t necessarily directly relate to the music. And this was an improvised piece with a loop pedal.
What is the key to arranging music for solo bass?
I compose for the six-string bass, including solo compositions and other regular pieces. I didn’t need to “arrange” these songs on the album since they were originally written for the six-string bass. In general, I aim to manage and control three voices – the simplest approach is using the B & E strings for the bass, A & D for the tenor, and G & C for the alto/soprano.
What gear did you use to record the album? The sounds on “Place” are sublime.
I play an Adamovic Katana using two pedals: a Line 6 Helix and Whammy. I go direct into an audio interface. On “Place,” I used the swell effect delay from Line 6.
I added reverb and a very small amount of compression during mixing. This simple approach provides the best sound to match what I hear in my mind.
You have lots of great etudes on your website. How do you approach creating them?
Limitations often spark ideas and focus. Those etudes are based on “limitations” and aim to generate the most musical and melodic ideas from them.
What is coming up for House of Waters?
We’re releasing a new album on September 8th, and then we’ll be the opening act for Snarky Puppy on the US west coast and southwest.
House of Waters Tour Dates:
|Sep 15||Moore Theater||Seattle, WA|
|Sep 16||Roseland Theater||Portland, OR|
|Sep 19||Pioneer Center||Reno, NV|
|Sep 20||The Center for the Arts||Grass Valley, CA|
|Sep 21||Mondavi Center||Davis, CA|
|Sep 22||Fox Theater||Oakland, CA|
|Sep 24||Orpheum Theater||Los Angeles, CA|
|Sep 25||Minneapolis Global Roots Festival||Minneapolis, MN|
|Sep 26||Pepsi Amphitheater||Flagstaff, CA|
|Sep 27||Mesa Arts Center||Mesa, AZ|
|Sep 30||Chicago Global Peace Picnic||Chicago, IL|