The John Taylor Experience

Bass Player Live! 2012

8:19 PM 10/28/2012

It was one week ago today that a long time dream was finally realized. I MET JOHN TAYLOR!!! My childhood hero, my reason for playing bass, my reason for becoming a musician – he has been all of those things for me. As I write those words, I realize that some of that is not entirely true. Not in a strict sense anyway.

I didn’t really meet him but by the end of it all he did know my name and that’s gotta count for something. This wasn’t a meet’n’greet. It was a book signing, really. I was lucky to get the pictures that I did. I heard “John isn’t taking pictures today!” more than once that day. Also, I like to call myself a musician, but in a professional sense I am anything but. I suppose I define myself as a musician in a spiritual sense. It’s how I want to be remembered. It’s who I am. Before hearing those brilliant notes of Is There Something I Should Know in a bedroom I shared with my brother, I wanted to become a jet fighter pilot. I had just barely started John’s book prior to attending the Bass Player Live event, but already I saw that there was much about my childhood that oddly paralleled his own. Is it a bass player thing or mere coincidence?

John details his catholic upbringing, building scale models, his love for cars, his shyness as well as discovering music beyond a listener. He even mentions his Catholic Guilt, a condition I diagnosed myself with long ago. Those were all things that were on my mind as I sat there in my chair waiting for him to arrive.

This was an event for bass players, but I knew two things going in. First, John wouldn’t be playing bass as most of the other players would be doing. Second, the majority of the crowd would not be musicians. I secretly hoped that he would play bass but I knew I wouldn’t be wrong about the crowd.

I showed up about an hour before the “clinic.” There was already a line. Dammit! Then, I realized that the non-musician fans were probably already in Clinic Room B, saving their seat as they patiently sat through the previous act. In this case, that previous act would be Bobby Vega. I wonder if Bobby Vega looked out at the crowd and thought, “What the fuck are all these middle-aged women doing here?” I hope he had a good time with it. He’s a pretty funky dude. I hope he wasn’t annoyed.

Eventually, my brother, (ex-) girlfriend and I snagged some pretty good seats in the third row. We’re talking about a room that would probably burst at 100 persons. I was probably no more than 10 feet from the stage. It would be a good 30 minutes until John came out. There was a semi-annoying woman in front of me with her small boy. She had named him John, as she was obsessed with John Taylor. I always manage to sit next to noisemaking kids but that’s another story for another day. I would say those first three rows were mostly the housewife crowd. Make no mistake though, there were definitely musicians in the crowd who were as excited as I was to be there.

The stage began to take form. It looked like a presidential debate. Two chairs were laid out in front with a podium off to the left.  I had hoped that someone would wheel out some Peavey amplifiers and a Cirrus bass or two but that time came and went with no gear in sight. We wouldn’t be treated to live bass today. There was also a TV set up on a stand in back of the chairs that would eventually play a really slow moving slide-show of sorts while John spoke. I didn’t look at it much. Why two chairs I wondered…

About 15 minutes before the scheduled start time we were treated to some tasty Beatles tracks. I knew that Duran Duran were Beatles fans. John describes their influence in his book as well so this was fresh in my mind. It all made sense.

In a moment that almost seemed to arrive too soon, there was John strutting in the room from the back entrance. My initial thoughts seemed almost superficial. “Damn, he’s tall! Damn, he’s pretty thin!” We’re not talking Big Thing cocaine thin here, just very slim. The all-black attire and boots accentuated those observations.

Photograph courtesy of Anna Delores Photography

It turns out the other chair was for Tom Sykes who John co-wrote his book with. He made a comment about John basically writing the last half of the book himself while he just hung out at John’s house and ate his food. What a lucky cat that Tom guy was! In the beginning Tom would pose a question to John and that’s how the conversations were started. Later, John would read excerpts from his book at the podium. He seemed reluctant to use the podium but I guess he figured “What the hell. it’s there. May as well use it.” In order to keep the event legit, I suppose, the conversations were kept as musiciancentric as possible, including the excerpts he read from the book. The funniest part for me was when he was describing standing in for the bass player in his son’s band in the very place we were all sitting in now. Apparently, the band said he could fill in permanently if he wouldn’t mind playing behind the stage. “Those fuckers! Last time I played with them!” he said.  He was also much more candid than I thought he would be about his drug use. He said cocaine ended up being a really bad idea for playing, but downers were great for jamming hours at a time. Near the end of the clinic, the floor was opened for questions but there wasn’t much time left.

Photograph courtesy of Anna Delores Photography

I don’t believe more than four questions were asked. The first was a question about his Bernard Edwards influence. He seemed to like that question and spent a lot of time talking about it. Of course I had been obsessing over what I could ask him for days now. I was suddenly hit with the reality that I may not be able to ask him anything at all! Astonishingly, the universe was on my side and I asked the last question!

Before I asked him anything I took the opportunity to tell John that I was thankful to him for the turn my life took after hearing Is There Something I Should Know years ago. Then I stumbled out this question – “When you are songwriting away from Duran Duran or just gelling out ideas (jamming, etc.), what is your instrument of choice? I know you’ve played keyboard bass here and there, like on the Arcadia track.” His first response was “I’m glad you asked me THAT question.” “Really?!,” I thought, feeling quite proud. Well, he didn’t really answer my question but proceeded to talk about how, in this event for bassists, he felt it important to say that keyboard bass should be embraced. He spoke of always keeping a Korg loaded with bass patches nearby. Previous to my question, he spoke about not using the bass as a songwriting or accompaniment tool. My guess is that his answer would have been the guitar. The clinic ended and the book signing began.

Photograph courtesy of Anna Delores Photography

The line for the book signing seemed so long. It would go quickly though. I soon realized the allotted one hour time slot for the book signing was way too much time. Maybe they would allow photos after all. I had wrestled with the idea of bringing my Aria Pro II SB1000 or my Kubicki Ex-Factor for him to sign. If not properly prepared though, a signature on an instrument doesn’t live long unless you don’t play it ever again. I play those basses! I ended up bringing two much smaller items – a solo CD of his called Retreat Into Art and my copy of his book. This meant I would wait in line twice. The first signing of the CD was uneventful. I kind of thought seeing his solo CD would spark more of a reaction, but he just signed it and went to the next one. There weren’t many people left when I came around for the second time (to have my book signed).

Photograph courtesy of Anna Delores Photography

This time he looked at the pink sticky you were supposed to write your name on and asked “Zuma?…Were your parents big Neil Young fans?” I responded by saying that it was just part of my full name. As he nodded and went to actually sign my book, I knew this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. No matter how uncool or corny it may be, I just asked him “John, do you remember that Shadows on Your Side video on YouTube?” “What?,” he asked, amidst the rumble of noise that so many bass players were making around us. Louder, I started to repeat, “THE SHADOWS ON YOUR…” then he cut me off and asked excitedly, “That was you?!” “Yeah,” I blurted. He burst into laughter and said something like, “I remember thinking  fuck me when I saw it…AWESOME!” and then gave me a high-five followed by a handshake. I felt like a little kid. Giddy is the best word I can think of. It was definitely a highlight of my life. I can only imagine it will continue to be for quite some time. I’m not the kind of person to be star struck easily, but any members of Duran Duran definitely hold that privilege for me, especially John.

Photograph stolen from the Duran Duran Facebook page

Photograph stolen from the Duran Duran Facebook page

I made a quick run around the event and returned to the Elixir booth where John was. No more than five minutes had passed. Though there was still commotion at the booth, John was long gone. I was quite proud that in my years of attending the Bass Player Live event, not one artist caused the ruckus that John did. He had packed the place and brought some much needed energy to it. Granted, some of that was housewife energy but who’s counting?

Today I won. Great Success. Now if I can only get off my ass and make that next YouTube video…


Thank you to Alex Laise and Luna for helping me edit my post.


My friend Ben Post sent me these photos of his bass that was signed by JT at a recent event. It reads “To Ben…with love…signature…The Aria Pro.” I included his son and the kitty pic because I simply couldn’t resist.