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Charlie Hunter

A Conversation with Charlie Hunter  (continued)

Puremusic: So I'd like to take it back to the time and place of what must have been some initial brainstorm that led you to want to play both of these things on one instrument and create an instrument to do it with. How did that all come about?

Charlie Hunter: Well, there was no brainstorm, I assure you of that. It just slowly kind of came out of listening to a lot of Joe Pass and a lot of Tuck Andress. And I also played bass for a while as a street musician. I played a lot of bass on the street.

PM: Now, when you were playing bass on the street, was somebody else also playing something else?

CH: The first time I did it, I was in Europe. We had a band with three guitar players in it. And, you know, who the hell wanted to hear that? [laughs] We were playing on the street, we had to make some money. So what we did was, one guitar player played drums, and I played bass, and the other guy, a third guy, played guitar.

PM: Who were the other two guys? Were they Euro guys or West Coast guys?

CH: No, they were guys who were there. One guy was from New York, and another guy was a great, great player, a Rumanian gypsy guitar player.

PM: Wow.

CH: And it was just a real ball. So I kind of had to play bass because I was the low man on the totem pole.

PM: Really? That's hard to imagine. [laughs] So after that you came home, and where did it go from there?

CH: Oh, you know, I was just trying to really delve deeply into learning more about music in general. And I went to the community college in Oakland, Laney College.

PM: Laney, sure.

CH: You know, where you can work a day job and go to school on the weekends and nights kind of thing. And so I did that for a while. After that, I was playing little gigs in the area. And I just slowly developed the technique. And I'm still developing it. I'm still figuring it out.

PM: Well, I mean, what you're doing, had that ever been done? If so, I'm not aware of it.

CH: I don't think so, not the way that I did it. Because my thing, the whole idea about it is independence, the two sides of it. It's kind of like the drum set...with the bass and guitar voice, that's kind of the idea behind it.

PM: Well, the drum set is, on certain levels, simpler than what you're doing. When I think of splitting my brain down the middle to walk a bass line and solo with an organ sound on the top, it's just like, "Oh, come on! How do you possibly get there?"

CH: Well, yeah, I don't know about that, man. I don't know about that.

PM: At some point, though, you decided, "What I'd like to do is to do both."

CH: Yes. I think it just kind of came about because, really, I'm just a sucker for challenges, you know?

PM: Yeah.

CH: And it's really almost too much of a challenge. But people like Tuck Andress and Joe Pass kind of showed me the way and really got me started, as far as the technical things that you can do just on a six-string. And I thought, "Well, if I expand the range and really have the bass, and then really know how to play bass, learn how to think like a bass player and develop that skill, I could do something decent with this."

And it is kind of difficult. I mean, anybody could just take some instrument, some new instrument, and play a few tricky little things on it. But it's another thing to try to be musical with it, to create a voice for yourself, and make it not just be a novelty act. To really try to use it to make music, and to create a different statement than the guitar or the bass would create separately within a band. And so that's what I'm dealing with now, working to get past the technique and create a musical voice on the instrument. It changes the dynamic of the music, and it changes the dynamic of the people in the rhythm section in the band. It's an interesting thing. I'm still working it out.  continue

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