Playing upright, electric, fretless and midi bass, Alana Rocklin is known for her relentless groove. Alana will be touring with My Morning Jacket frontman, Jim James, for his solo album “Regions of Light and Sound of God”. She is also the official bassist for producers the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, appearing on Rick Ross’ Grammy nominated 2012 release “God Forgives I Don’t”, alongside Rick Ross, Neyo and Andre 3000.
BPU: When did you get your first bass?
AR:8 years old
BPU:Did you have any formal lessons?
AR:Yes, I started with electric bass lessons then began taking upright bass lessons when I was 10. I studied privately throughout high school, then I majored in music at the University of Michigan. I studied classical bass with Stuart Sankey and jazz with Rodney Whitaker. I received a B.F.A. in Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation.
BPU:You play both upright & electric. Do you use a different approach for each instrument?
AR:Yes. They are such completely different instruments. I do take techniques of one and apply them to the other so they are complimentary, but I use very different techniques for each. At times, I have focused on each instrument individually to be able to have equal skill on both.
BPU:Who are/were your biggest influences?
AR:John Paul Jones, Paul Chambers, Miles Davis, Mingus, Marcus Miller. My teachers, Stuart Sankey, Rodney Whitaker, and Reggie Workman. My family, my husband Brad, son Max, and my parents.
BPU:In the recent years I’ve seen more female bass players coming up, probably because of artists like Tal Wilkenfeld, Esperanza Spalding and YouTube sensations such as Alysha Moore (musiclisha) and Laura Andy (CrankUpTheAmps) What kind of advice would you give to a woman who would like to start playing bass?
AR:My advice would be the same for any person that wanted to play the bass. Focus on your rhythm and feel. Learn and listen to a lot of music in all genres. Pay attention to all the bass greats and transcribe your favorites. Learn to read music and be versatile. I don’t believe there’s anything special or different that a woman needs to learn to play the bass vs. a man. Like anything in life being a female can sometimes be an asset and sometimes not. I’ve never thought about being a “female bass player” and have only focused on what I need to do to improve as a musician.
BPU:Are you more active in studio sessions or live performances? Which one do you enjoy the most?
AR:At this point in my career it’s pretty even with both. I go through periods when I’m playing more live and vice versa. The sessions have really picked up over the last couple years and I’m extremely thankful for that. At the beginning, live playing was definitely more abundant than sessions, and I spent a lot of time on the road. I really enjoy the challenges of both as each require different focus and skills.
BPU:Can you tell us about your gear?
AR:I’ve been playing Lakland Basses since 1999 and I absolutely love them. My primary Lakland is a special edition 55-94. The other primary electric bass I play is a fender custom shop P Bass that is modeled after a ’68. It’s a Frankenstein bass with some old parts and some new. I’m also really into electronic music and have my own group called sub-ID, in which I play a midi bass. I took a Lakland DJ 5 and added a midi pickup that I use to trigger a Access Virus TI synth so I can get bass synth tones, lead sounds, pads etc. I have an old King upright bass, which is my primary upright. I use Aguilar Amplification, D’Addario Strings on both my electric and upright, and MONOcases.
BPU:On which projects are you working right now and what else is there for you in the future?
AR:I’ve got lots of exciting projects in 2013! I’m the official bassist for Grammy winning producers The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and am tracking for them in my studio in Nashville on a regular basis. The Rick Ross record “God Forgives I Don’t” that I played on was just nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album. I’m also gearing up to go on tour with My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James for his upcoming solo album “Regions of Light and Sound of God”. My husband Brad Bowden and I have a production company, newpolyphony productions, and are involved with projects from Def Jam to Native Instruments, from performance and sound design to project management. Hopefully finish a new sub-ID record this year and I’ll continue to work around Nashville playing live and doing sessions.
BPU: What would you recommend to bass players at any level?
AR:My best advice is to be honest with yourself about what your goals are with music and in turn what you need to work on to accomplish those goals. We are all students of music at any level and its a lifelong process to improve your musicianship slowly, over time. Always search for your own musical voice and be open to what others have to teach you.