Subsonic Pinoy: Hi Tony. I’m Rodney Vidanes, contributor for the Filipino bass site called Subsonic Pinoy. Would you be willing to spend a few minutes with me for the interview?
Tony Grey: Hi Rodney, yes let’s do it!
SP: Cool! Thanks. It’s quite stormy here in the Philippines right now. I hope my internet connection holds up. By the way, are you all right with this kind of interview? I mean right here on Facebook where we have to type our statements?
Tony Grey: Yes, no problem.
SP: Ok. Here it goes… Good day to you. How have you been after the show you did here in Manila with Hiromi a few years ago?
Tony Grey: I spent 7 years touring with Hiromi and it was an amazing experience for me. We traveled all over the world and made some crazy music.
I have been really busy working on my own music a lot this last couple of years. My latest CD Unknown Angels was voted Jazz Album of the year in the Independent Music Awards which was a nice surprise for me. And I have a book/DVD coming out and an online Bass Academy which I’m very very excited about.
I have been to the Philippines many times and I remember playing there with Hiromi. The people in the Philippines are beautiful and really passionate about music. I have never been with my own Project and I would love the opportunity to make that happen.
SP: It’s awesome that Unknown Angels was voted Jazz Album of The Year. Cheers to you, Tony! And we’d love to see you perform here with your own project too! By the way since you mentioned the online Bass Academy, can you tell us more about it and what the fans and enthusiasts can expect from this project of yours?
Tony Grey: The project is huge it’s something I have been working on for the last year. It is a series of subjects and lesson/courses
SP: When is the official launch of the Bass Academy? I’m sure many bass players are excited about this!
Tony Grey: Some of the subjects are Harmony, Technique, Ear Training, Soloing, Groove Building, Intervals, Triads, Fingerboard Study. There is a Video, Full detailed document and playalong track for each lesson. Every month I will be doing a question and answer Clinic online about any of the lesson content plus a forum so we can all communicate and learn from each other.
I’m just finishing filming my 7 Steps learning course now then we are good to launch.
It should be a few weeks now. But I will be posting individual lesson in the meantime while we are finishing the set up. There is about 100 lessons to start with then 4 or 5 extra each month.
If anyone is interested in the latest news please sign up to the list.
SP: This is a huge project indeed! And I’m sure bassists from all over the world will learn so much from you! May I ask what motivated you to put up something like this?
Tony Grey: Well I started when I was 19 and always thought it was too late for me to be any good as a bass player. So I decided to be super organized and focused. There is only so many hours in the day you can practice and It’s important to not practice too much as you can burn out. So I decided to figure out the best possible way to use time and practice really efficiently and creatively as possible. I started writing out things as I practiced them and gave myself goals and targets.
I was just looking back through these stuff and thought mmm I should teach and share this method.
It’s very systematic but gets you learning very creatively. The goal is to have your own voice as a musician.
SP: That’s so generous of you. So is this Bass Academy a “free” online forum for bass players?
Tony Grey: Well there will be lot’s of free content but the Academy will be a monthly option
SP: Modern technology is really such an efficient tool to use nowadays to create something like this. It will definitely benefit a wider audience. I believe a lot of bass players have signed up already. We here at Subsonic Pinoy will definitely help you in promoting the Tony Grey Bass Academy.
Tony Grey: Thank you so much. I have put a lot of love into this project and really hope people find their own special path as a musician.
SP: You’re welcome.
You’ve mentioned that you started learning to play the bass when you were 19. And while most people would think that’s kind of late, you still managed to become one of the most creative, versatile, and technically gifted bassists in the music industry today. How did you do that?
Tony Grey: Oh thank you so much. I just got really organized and worked out what I wanted to be good at and created a really solid schedule. I listened to a lot of music and asked a lot of questions.
I was so driven to learn as much as possible and to play with as many people as possible.
I had 3 great mentors who guided me a lot: The great John McLaughlin, Drummer Kenwood Denard and a great vocalist teacher Larry Watson at Berklee.
SP: What was it like having the great masters as mentors?
Tony Grey: It is a complete honor for me. They inspire me so much with their passion for music and understanding of life. Some of the biggest lessons I learned from these amazing people has sometimes got nothing directly to music. It’s all about life.
SP: When you were starting out on the bass, you said you were really focused. In any given day, what do you usually practice and for how many hours?
Tony Grey: I used to practice 12 hours everyday I was so obsessed with it. If I had to go out I would pause my timer and continue when I returned home. Sometimes I’d have to stay awake until 5am to finish my study then start again at 10am. It was crazy and I don’t recommend it.
I wasn’t really organized at the time and was losing inspiration for music. Then my mother told me. “Music is about expressing life and if you don’t live, your music will suffer and be boring.” These words had a big impact on me so I started organizing a proper routine of 30 min lessons. I would practice 4-6 hours a day and spread out my schedule and things I work on. Things like Ear Training, Transcribing, Harmony, Fingerboard Study, Reading, Technique, Improvising, etc.
SP: Wow. That’s really awesome, Tony! Let’s talk about your signature Fodera bass
Tony Grey: My signature Fodera 4 string was a real dream come true and a huge honor for me. They are my favorite basses and they are such amazing and sweet guys. They really care about the artist, it’s much more than a business for them.
You can read more about it here. It is the most compact bass they have ever built.
I’m also using it quite a lot in my Tony Grey Bass Academy and on my new DVD.
SP: How did you come up with your unique voice on the instrument? Was it always the sound that you wanted to have when you were starting?
Tony Grey: My sound is something I have always been conscious of. I was really exposed the first time I was in a recording session. The engineer was complaining that I had a lot of open strings ringing out. It made me slow everything down in my practice routine. Especially in my Technique workouts. I love melodies so much and just wanted my bass to sing. It actually helps if you envision your sound whilst you are playing. If you are connected to your instrument spiritually you can make it sound like you.
SP: Awesome. Would you like to talk more about the gear you use?
SP: Do you have the same setup in studio sessions and live performances?
Tony Grey: Generally I have the same setup in the studio as live. I always try to keep my sound consistent. The only thing I really change is the bass I use, for example, my 4 String, 5 String, 6 Sting or Fretless.
I generally keep my amp EQ flat on my amp and bass. I use the front pickup for a dirtier sound and the back pickup for my solos and melodies. I’m a big believer in trying to get the tone and sound you want out of your hands and touch.
SP: What tips can you give bass players who are trying to find their voice — their unique sound on the instrument?
Tony Grey: My advise is to be as open as possible with what style and music you listen to. You can learn a lot of subtleties in other styles, and in music you never know where your opportunity will happen. It’s easy to overplay in pop music so always pay respect for the music and not your ego.
SP: Who are your influences?
Tony Grey: My influences in music are, John McLaughlin, he is an amazing musician who pushes himself to always grow and change.
Marcus Miller has the most solid groove ever, I watched him rehearse his band once and was blown away by him.
I love Burt Bacharach’s songs and melodies, so simple and beautiful. I’m also a huge Michael Jackson fan, he has every part of music running throughout his body. A total genius.
SP: Have you ever experienced down times in your career? How did you handle it?
Tony Grey: I have experienced many highs and lows in the music business, it’s very hard to get your music out there. It’s a challenge and a big test of your dedication to your music. I just dust myself off and keep going. I live and breathe music and have dedicated my life 100% to it. It’s not even a choice anymore. I just hope people can connect with my voice as a musician.
SP: On behalf of Subsonic Pinoy I’d like to thank you for your kindness and for sharing your thoughts with us. It’s been a great privilege. I’m sure your insights about life and music have greatly inspired our readers.
Tony Grey: It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thanks so much for your great questions.
SP: Thank you, Tony!
Tony Grey (born March 23, 1975) is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, master bassist and record producer, born in Newcastle England based in New York. He is known for his 6 string electric bass technique and his blend of jazz world fusion compositions.
Tony was raised in a family where music was just another family member. His path toward becoming a musician was born out of an accident that nearly took his life. At the age of 18 when Tony laid with a broken back he first picked up a bass guitar. During his recovery he started playing under the watchful eye of legendary guitarist John McLaughlin.
Tony successfully auditioned for a scholarship to the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston.
During his years at Berklee, Tony join the newly formed pop band ‘Bliss’ the group had signed a major record deal with the legendary record producer Terry Ellis who in the past discovered Billy Idol, Jethro Tull, Blondie, Huey Lewis and the News and Pat Benitar to name a few. Tony spent 18 months touring with the group throughout Asia, appearing on several TV shows, recording three hit singles, filming music videos, which were featured on MTV and achieving a top ten CD. Tony left the group in order to return to the USA to complete his studies at Berklee. During his last years at Berklee, Tony studied with some of the greatest teachers – Kenwood Dennard, Larry Watson, Bruce Gertz and Rich Appleman.
Tony graduated from Berklee in 2001 with the prestigious “Outstanding Performer” Award.
Since graduating, Tony has led many clinics and master classes at Berklee and has appeared in many of the college’s showcase events including a tribute concert to US pop legends Steely Dan hosted by the president of Berklee and attended by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan.
Tony has gone on to collaborate and perform with some of the world’s greatest musicians, such as: John Mclaughlin, Hiromi, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Gavin DeGraw, Hotei Tomoyasu, Dennis Chambers, Zakier Hussain, Gregorie Maret, Gary Husband, Mino Cinelu, Brian Blade, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, Steve Lukather (Toto) Branford Marsalis, Toby Lightman, Simon Philips (Toto), Dave Holland, Kenwood Dennard (Sting, Miles Davis), Russell Ferante (The Yellow Jackets), David Fiuczynski (Screaming Headless Torsos, Meshell Ndegeocello), Larry Watson, Fabrizio Sotti, Ada Rovatti, Jetro Da Silva (Whitney Houston, Patti Austin), David Garfield, Frank Mccomb, David Nichtern, Gene Lake (David Sanborn), Dave Dicenso, Chris Dave, Oliver Rockberger, Falguni, Deantoni Parks, Lionel Loueke (Wayne Shorter, Charlie Haden), Christian Scott.
In 2004, Tony had the great honor of performing at New York’s Lincoln Centre with David Nichtern’s band ‘Drala’ for his holiness the Dali Lama. (from tonygrey.com)