What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
Q: How long will it take to supply tracks? A: Usually less than 48 hours.
Q: What's the package deal rate? A: It depends on the # of songs, how long they are and how soon you need them.
Q: How should we credit you on the CD? A: "Dave DeMarco - bass" is fine.
Q: Can you create a custom bass tone for my project? A: Yes, if there's a specific tone you're wanting to hear, I can create that for you using a combination of plug-ins and mic'd amp tracks.
Analog or digital and why?
They both have their place. Play through a vintage Pultec EQ or API console and you'll know that there is no substitute. On the other hand, getting to run 8 instances of a UAD plug-in is a convenience that's hard to beat. I like both.
What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
I've been recording in studios since I was 14 and I remember reading in the music magazines about guys like Cozy Powell, Bill Bruford, Allan Holdsworth, Tony Levin and Aynsley Dunbar who got to play on other people's records even while they were members of another band. I loved the idea of being a studio musician. I never wanted to the guy who was associated with one band all his life. When I got to Berklee I really got bitten by the studio bug and sought out session work where ever I could find it. There was a lot of it going on there so it was pretty easy to accumulate a demo reel. When I moved back to Maryland in the mid-90s, I sent my demo reel to every studio in town and I got hired to be the house bassist for Artisan Studios. Digital was starting to be the big thing but they had an MCI 2" machine that sounded amazing so I used that for all my personal stuff. I played on loads of demos and jingles there; they had tons of work coming in so I was there 4-5 nights a week. It was great getting to play on so much diverse material. It was here that I first met Kevin Kadish ("All About That Bass") when he brought in a female singer he was producing. By the early 2000's, the proliferation of home studios had eroded the business to the point where many studios where shutting their doors. Eventually the MCI machines were sold to Billy Gibbons and Artisan shut its doors for good. By this time I had begun working with a guitarist named Stuart Hart whose company Selectracks was establishing itself as a big player in the licensing industry. Stuart began hiring me to play on cues for their music library as well as for clients like HBO, MTV, Fox and many of the major film companies. Music that I've played on or co-written with Stuart has been licensed all over the globe. In 2001 I was hired by RhythmTech VP Spencer Strand to provide content for a series of play-along CDs for drummers called Turn It Up and Lay It Down. My first CD for them also featured Steve Vai/James Brown bassist TM Stevens and Buddy Rich's bassist Chuck Bergeron. On my next two CDs for them, I was the sole bassist and composer of all the tracks. The product line has grown enormously and is sold nationally at Guitar Center and other fine music retailers. Also in the early 00’s, I returned to Boston to play on a world-music CD created by MOTU designer Matthew Davidson which featured Peter Gabriel’s keys man Larry Fast. I’ve played on some fusion records featuring Frank Gambale, Brett Garsed, Steve Hunt, Oz Noy, Matt Halpern and Jean-Paul Gaster. In 2009 I overhauled my home studio, created the website www.YourSessionBassist.com and I continue to play on wonderful recordings. I still occasionally travel to studios but these days 95% of my session work happens at home. Music (and high-end analog gear) is beautiful. Oh and lest you think that I never leave the house, since 1998 I've been averaging 200 shows a year.
What's your typical work process?
I'll start by listening to the client's track(s) so I can provide a quote and determine what combination of bass/mic pre will best suit the song. Once the quote has been accepted and payment received, I'll begin writing the bass part. I'll try out various basses to see which one sits in the track the best and then begin sketching the part and recording scratch tracks so I can listen back and decide which parts I like best. When I've got all the parts written then I'll go for a solid take. Then I'll make a rough mix mp3 to send to the client for approval. I encourage my clients to live with it for a day or so to make sure they love it. When they sign off on the track I'll do some minor editing to clean up the track and then I'll upload the wav file using Gobbler or Dropbox. If the client requests a mic'd amp track then this will also be provided.
If any revisions are needed then I'll get those turned around usually within the same day.
What questions do you ask prospective clients?
I'll ask who their favorite bassists are and how they envision the role of bass guitar in their music. It's also helpful to know whether they prefer a uniform bass tone for the entire record of it they are OK with me selecting different basses based on what the song calls for. I might use my '78 J-bass for half the record and then use a fretless on a slower tune, a 12-string bass on a jangle-y Brit-pop tune or a Fender Bass VI for some twang on a country tune. Options are king!
Which artist would you like to work with and why?
Jeff Beck. You know that whatever he brings in is going to be amazing.
What's your 'promise' to your clients?
I promise to deliver a world class performance that will exceed your expectations. I also promise to take an active role in promoting your music, just as if I was a member of your band. I write a feature with links about every artist I work with which appears in my monthly newsletter (and which are archived on my Twitter and FB pages). If your CD really ends up sounding amazing then I'll send copies to the stations where I have relationships with the DJs & program directors. In most cases you'll end up getting airplay.
Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
Last year I was hired by a band called Raven Tree to play on their debut record. They're a trio playing modern rock with a strong retro vibe. They tracked drums at a commercial studio and then guitars and vocals were being done at the singer's home studio. During the drum tracking sessions, they realized that their bass player was not going to work out long-term so I was brought in to do the record. From the outset they made it clear that they wanted strong, dominant bass lines which could carry the songs ala John Paul Jones. The first two songs they gave me were what they felt would be the epic center-pieces of the record. They loved the direction I took for both of the songs so I decided to push my luck and see exactly how much leash they would give me. For the song "Watch Me Die" I felt like the intros could use another texture so I sent them a track of me playing the chord progression on a Fender Bass VI, which is basically a guitar tuned down an octave. It's got a really unique sound that's hard to identify unless you know what you're listening for. I told them that if they liked it they could keep it and if they hated it just to throw it away. They ended up loving it and told me that I had free reign to contribute any other instrument tracks that I thought would fit. Later on I also ended up contributing lap steel, mandolin, Fender Rhodes and Mellotron tracks to other songs. You could say I took the ball and ran with the whole John Paul Jones thing! When I had finished tracking all of my parts, the guys told me that they thought my bass contributions impacted the songs substantially enough to warrant songwriting credits. That was a very kind gesture that I certainly did not see coming. My role in this project started off being solely a hired gun but I ended up getting involved in certain aspects of production and mixing in addition to being asked to provide input on marketing and booking. It became clear early on that this was going to end up being a record that I would be very proud of so I told the band that I would assist with promoting the record just as if I was a bandmember. Yes, I do this for all of the bands I work with but somewhere during this process, these guys stopped being clients and became friends so I admit that I have taken an extra special interest in helping the band get the traction they deserve. Even though they now have a wonderful bass player who has been touring with them and who will be appearing on their next record, they have let me know that they still want me to contribute to the next record in some capacity. I can't wait to hear the next batch of tunes!
What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
Folks who are new to remote session work can be skeptical about the quality of the finished product. Some feel that there's no way it's going to groove if the bassist and drummer aren't in the same room. That's a valid concern if they are new to this. The thing to remember is that session players have been tracking.to pre-recorded tracks for decades. The difference is that now everyone is in their own studios. This is why it's so important to audition your players by listening to their demo reel. If it feels good, you'll know it.
What do you like most about your job?
Getting to play with musicians from all over the world! And then 6 months later, getting that CD in the mail and enjoying the music. You're listening to it with fresh ears, rediscovering your parts and thinking "this never would have been possible 15 years ago". Something else I love doing is giving the client a choice between a really creative, unexpected part and a more traditional part. I'll send them 2 tracks and let them pick what they like best. It's fun when they choose the more creative part.
What are you working on at the moment?
A track for my debut "solo" album. I'm playing all the instruments and singing. On Monday I start a new track for one of my first and longest-running clients.
What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
Take the time to audition your session player by listening to their demo reel. You should hear their passion in their playing. If it sounds like they phoned-in their tracks, move on. Also, since these days anyone with an iPad can claim to be a remote session player, make sure their gear is the "real gear" that's on the records you own. The minute someone makes an excuse like "My mic pre is good enough for now. I'll get something better in a few years...", move on.
If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
Assuming that we're not counting cables, headphones and power supplies...Alembic Elan 6; Fender Bass VI; MacBook Pro; Apogee Duet; Novation 61SL MkII controller...and I'd sneak in an SM57!
What type of music do you usually work on?
As my demo reel will attest, I've played on a pretty diverse selection of records. Over the last 8 years or so, it seems that most of my clients are prog/fusion instrumental guitarist-composers. And then there's the stuff that I call "modern-day classic rock" - 70's-tinged hard rock with an emphasis on the rhythm section. Playing on pop tunes is great fun too so I'm always happy when those jobs fall into my lap!
Tell us about your studio setup.
I run ProTools 10 on a Mac and have a killer front end. The bass goes into an A-Designs REDDI...an amazingly musical sounding tube DI which will spoil you for life! From there, if I'm going for a modern or aggressive tone, the DI will go into an API 3124+ mic pre. Again, I was spoiled the first time I used one of these about 15 years ago and because of how useful it is on EVERY instrument. It's probably my favorite piece of studio gear. If I'm going for a more retro tone then I'll go into a vintage Universal Audio 1108 from the mid-60s. I've got a stereo pair of these and they make everything they touch sound so smooth.
Next piece in the chain is usually a BAE 10DC compressor. Brent Averill's gear is second to none and this compressor seems to have been made for bassists! From here it's into the interface - a MOTU 828 MkIII.
When I need an unorthodox bass tone, my go-to piece is an Altec 1567A tube summing amp. This is a 5-channel amp that outputs to a single channel and mine is a pristine piece from 1967 that I bought from the original owner! These are all over every Black Keys record and are on many producers' "secret weapon" list.
When I need to mic an amp, I typically use an EV RE20 and a Sennheiser 421. Sometimes I'll also grab a vintage Altec "coke bottle" mic and put that 10-15' back for a little more room sound.
I've got an ever-growing fleet of new and vintage tube and solid-state amps that I'll use when a client wants a mic'd amp in addition to the DI track.
Monitors are Genelecs.
What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
Composer/multi-instrumentalist/producers like Trevor Rabin, Steven Wilson, Trevor Horn, Kevin Gilbert, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Josh Homme, Pat Mastellotto, Mike Kenneally and Dave Grohl. True creators!
Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
Most of my clients are bands or singer/songwriters who need me to write and record bass tracks for their song(s). Sometimes I'm the only remote session player and other times everyone is remote. My clients come from all over the globe: a producer in the UK; a former opera singer-turned pop singer from Croatia; a metal band from NY; a singer-songwriter from Australia; a composer from Montreal...and many bands from right here in my home state of MD.