Jasper Høiby - Bass

“I got into bass when I started to pick music apart,” says Høiby. “I remember hearing the Chick Corea album Now He Sings – Now He Sobs with Miroslav Vitous playing bass. He just blew me away he was so individual. It was like… wow, who is this? He doesn’t sound human, he sounds like an animal or something. It was as though he had his own language. Totally inspiring.”

Høiby started on the electric bass. “My first bass was a shiny red thing with a triangular head. It was really cheap, about £25. So you can imagine the state of it. I bought it when I was at boarding school and kept it for about a year. My second bass was a Fender Precision – an old American one. A friend of mine said: ‘My parents have a bass in the attic.’ So I went to see it and thought oh my God. It had the serial number on the back of the head and everything.” I ask if he still has this instrument. “Sadly, no I don’t. Unfortunately I have always been in the position where I have had to sell one thing to get another because I’ve never had the money. So it had to go because I wanted to get a Fender Jazz.” The Fender Jazz never materialised, but instead Høiby bought an ESP. “Then I got two Celinder Jazz basses,” he enthuses. “A fretted four string and a fretless five string. These are fantastic handmade Danish basses – you should check them out on the web!”

Høiby realised that all he really wanted to do was to play music: “my goal was to go to a conservatoire. I spent a year at a Danish ‘Foundation’ school, before auditioning for the Royal Academy. It was during that year that I took up the double bass. But when I auditioned for the Royal Academy, I actually played the electric bass. When I got given a place, I said right, now I’m going to play the double bass.”

So what does Høiby look for in a double bass and what was his first instrument? “I’ll reverse that question if I may. My first double bass was a solid wood Czech bass from the 50s – it was a really nice instrument.” Hoiby pauses for thought. “It’s got to be something that sings really naturally and that has a certain clarity to it. I try to make my sound quite clear as a bass. I’m also looking for volume. I’m not playing with a massive action so I need to have a lot of volume to start with.”

After the Czech bass Høiby went on to an American ‘Upton’ bass. “I bought this on a blindfold as you might say. I had heard really good things about the bass from a friend of mine who owns one and I just thought, I want that bass. So I ordered it online – and I got it. I’ve had the ‘Upton’ for about a year now and made six records with it. I’ve given it time to settle… for the sounds to come through, but I don’t think that this is the one for me.” He continues. “It’s not that I don’t think that it’s a really good sounding instrument – it is. It’s just that I don’t think that it has the fundamentals that I need. I’m looking for something that is a bit louder and more smooth.”

When it comes to strings, Høiby’s a Thomastik player. “I play the Spirocore ‘thick red’ medium tension Thomastiks. I always had Thomastiks on my Czech bass, so I’ve got used to the feel, the response and the sound – they’ve also got great character and depth. I like the fact that they are quite elastic and you don’t have a really high tension and that suits me.”

How does Høiby go about amplifying his instrument? “ I play a Realist pickup. It’s not that I like the Realist you understand – there’s always a compromise with amplification. It’s just that I don’t hate it as much as I hate all the other pickups!”

And amplifiers? “I previously played a David Eden cabinet that sounded really good but weighed a massive 27 Kg. But now I play through a Mark bass speaker cabinet with two 10-inch speakers and a little tweeter which weighs in at just 15 Kg. I couple that with an Italian LMK 600 watt head that conveniently comes in a small rucksack type carrier bag. With that sort of power I can play pretty much anywhere – I don’t need anything else.”

We return to the question of a replacement for the Upton bass. “I’m going to Budapest, to see if I can find one there. I met this Hungarian guitarist at a gig at the Pizza Express and he said that he knows lots of people in Budapest and there are some great basses available over there for very little money – and I have only a limited budget. So the Upton’s going to have to go and I’m hoping to get lucky in Budapest! I’m looking for an old bass, but I’m open to anything. I’ll use my ears and let them guide me. I don’t care if it looks really rough, or it looks great, or if it’s got rounded corners – I just really want to try and find something that sounds right – or at least that has the potential to sound right.”

Interview - David Gallant