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Nathan East Interview

It's been a huge year for Nathan East: touring the world as the bassist for Toto and Fourplay, playing bass on Daft Punk's Grammy winning album Random Access Memories, new bass lessons for his online students, recording his first solo album... and that only begins to cover it!

UPDATE: Daft Punk's Random Access Memories took home 5 awards at the 2014 Grammys: Record of the Year (for the hit single "Get Lucky"), Album of the Year, Electronic Album of the year, Best Engineered Album, and Best Pop Group Performace ("Get Lucky"). 

We had a chance to interview Nathan while he was here recording some new bass lessons recently. It was a lot of fun asking him all kinds of questions, here's just a few of the highlights:

On playing fast:

"The best way to learn to play fast is to learn how to play slow, that's one of the things people don't really realize. If you can articulate the notes and get through them slowly, then you can speed that up and pretty soon your speed becomes much more valuable than just learning everything by going straight to the speed."

On his online bass lessons:


Watch Nathan's Free Bass Lessons

"This course covers a lot, there's a lot of curriculum. If you sit down and go through it all, you'll definitely notice an improvement in your playing. And that's what we're all here to do, is get better. This is an online interactive course where we encourage the dialog, so we don't know what you want unless you tell us. That's the beauty of this course, we really have that personal relationship and I'm here to address a lot of the questions and try to be as involved with the one-on-one communication with my students as possible.

I used to teach privately, but when I started traveling around the world I didn't have the time to do it any more. That's why this program came in handy, it really gives me a chance to communicate with students who I've met from around the world."

On his first time playing bass:

"I picked up my first bass on the alter at Christ The King Church in Southeast San Diego. It was one of those things where I said to myself, 'there's something happening now that life will never be the same again.

I was tagging along with my older brothers who were playing [guitar] for some of the Folk Masses around San Diego. [One day] there just happened to be a bass sitting on the stage. My fingers weren't really getting the guitar, so when I saw the bass I just picked this thing up and next thing you know I'm making music on it. It immediately spoke to me and I felt like, 'Yeah, this is something I can do something with.'"

On the first bass lessons he learned:

"My first bass lessons were listening to the radio and buying records. A lot of the Motown records were out so I heard all this James Jamerson and all his great bass playing there. And then the Beatles were out so I was listening to [Paul] McCartney, and then I started picking up on a lot of bands back then - Cream [for example], I started learning all those songs by ear…I tried to join as many bands as I could and just dove into music headfirst."

On his first professional gig:

"It didn't take but a couple years, by the time I was 16 I was on tour with Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra… That was a blast. Can you imagine: 16 years old, in a tuxedo, playing Madison Square Garden with Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra, it was like 'really?' [laughs]. "

What inspired your solo album now, versus 15 or 20 years ago?

"That's a great question! There are two things: one is that I literally have not stopped working since 1980, there's always a project going on. One of the things I thought to myself is, 'Well if I make a record, I'm not gonna be able to properly support it if I'm still going out touring with everybody else, you know? Maybe it was not the right philosophy but I just thought, 'When I make a record, I want to be able to devote some time to that and see if I can get my career off the ground. In the meantime, how do you do that when you're having the most fun you've ever had in your life, with all the people that you love playing with? So that's been a little of the dilemma, just being very busy.

Number two is actually trying to figure out, 'What statement do I make?' Because the bass is a unique instrument. It's very supportive, and I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to say. There are a lot of bass players that make records, but my record is not as much of a shredding type of record. It will be more song based, and just try to keep some good bass lines in there. I wasn't one of these kind of bass player that wanted to make a real shred record, for whatever reason. Because those guys are out there, and I respect them immensely, but I feel like that's what they do and I kind of bring another thing to the table.

On recording bass with Daft Punk for Random Access Memories:

"I walked out of the studio thinking it was great, I was telling all my buddies I played with Daft Punk on this new album... but I never in a million years could have predicted such a world wide explosion of this record. Literally, when everybody goes into the studio that's what they're trying to do - make a record that the whole world falls in love with. I love the album. To me that's what an album should be. I think the entire record industry could learn from it - don't just put two good songs on an album, make the whole thing great. I think that's what those guys did, I don't know a single person who does not like that album. People that like everything, jazz - I just got an email from Pat Metheny and he said, "Listened to you all summer, Daft Punk is our summer favorite around the house." And he said his kids love it, across the board it just turned into a great record. 

Everybody was starting to get used to the idea of synths and machines making records… so this kind of [made people think] 'Hey wait a second.' All they're doing is going back 30, 40 years to the retro sound. It was fun to go into the studio with those guys and see all these old Roland Synthesizers and all this old retro gear... I think the take-away [from success of Random Access Memories] is what we got into music for: we love real music, we love live players making it. Many years ago when the Beatles came on Ed Sullivan and people were going crazy and losing their minds, it wasn't because somebody brought a machine up there and hit Go. It wasn't a computer, it was four guys… and you can say that about just about everybody we've ever loved…. across the board it's been somebody that's been making music from their heart and I'm so happy that now it's okay to play music [again] because for a while you started to think, 'Wait a sec, where is the real music?'

Watch full the interview above and fill out the form to get free bass lessons from Nathan East. Find out more information about his online bass school at

nathan east daft punk interview

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