Hello Norm! Thanks for sharing some time with us. I know a lot of folks are currently
familiar with you as Lincoln Brewster’s bass player, however you are a man of many
hats: solo artist,
composer, sideman, recording sessionist, educator, clinician, producer, and
consumer of mass amounts of sushi!
Musically, how do you describe
Thank you for your interest!
Musically, I do wear a bunch of different hats, but I honestly
wouldn’t want it any other way.
The variety keeps things interesting, fun and challenging for me. When asked about it, I usually refer to
myself as “bassist/clinician/solo artist”. I probably should start including the “mass quantities of
sushi” thing, though. :^)
Take us to the beginning. Where did your musical world start, and
where did the bass come in?
I started playing
bass when I was about 15. Aside
from some “compulsory” piano lessons I endured as a kid, I was never
musically-inclined beyond enjoying listening to records. At 15, I was really into the Beatles
and ended up removing a few strings from an old acoustic guitar gathering dust
in the corner of our house. Within
a few weeks, I went out and bought my first bass. I was completely committed from then on.
I know you have family back in Japan and we
wanted to let you know that our thoughts and prayers are with the people of
Japan following the tragedies brought on by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear
reactor issues. How is your family
asking; yes, it’s been a really heartbreaking situation. Being ½ Japanese and having been born
& raised there for 13 years, it hit very close to home. Thankfully, all of my family are ok. There is one aunt from whom we haven’t
heard yet, but we hadn’t really been in touch with her for years prior to that…so
we’re optimistic that she’s alright.
Your prayers for the people of Japan are certainly appreciated though,
as the situation there is still far from restored. Thousands of folks are still homeless and experiencing great
Whom do you consider to be your musical
influences and inspirations?
I have so many,
and a lot of them aren’t bass players.
A partial list would be Paul McCartney, Marcus Miller, Sting, Coldplay,
Jonatha Brooke, Miles Davis, Victor Wooten, Sarah MacLachlan, Imogen Heap, John
Patitucci, Michael Manring, Etienne Mbappe, Nickel Creek, Bela Fleck…and many
more! I’m influence & inspired
on a certain level by every good music I hear.
So if you weren’t playing the bass… what would
you be doing?
Since we’re just
imagining, I will say financially independent and retired, spending all of my
time sailing, hanging with my family, and throwing large sums of money at good
causes around the world!
Yeah…something like that.
You’re main axe is your MTD 535 and you’re
currently using a MTD J5 live; not to mention you also use a MTD 735 on your
CD’s. Why MTD? What can you tell us about these basses
that gravitates you to them?
my first MTD back in 1997, I have been a huge fan of these basses. In addition to building some of the
finest instruments I’ve ever encountered, Michael Tobias is also a great guy
and has been supportive of me since the very beginning. As for the basses themselves, they are
really well-built, play amazingly, have tone for days, and are functional works
of art. People who play them are
usually fiercely loyal for all of those reasons.
What is your current rig? Why did you choose it?
I use a
Gallien-Krueger 1001RB head with any combination of Neo cabs (112, 212 and/or
115). I’ve been an enthusiastic
fan of GK for the past 7 years.
Fantastic gear, amazing tone, tons of headroom, great value…they do an
incredible job. They’ve also been
One last gear question… pedals. I see you are now endorsing Aguilar
effects pedals. How often do you
use effects? Which ones do you
I used to use
effect pedals a lot, but had gradually phased them out (no pun intended!). When I started working with Lincoln, we
found that a SansAmp worked well for that style of music. About a year ago, my friend Adam Nitti
was telling me about his Aguilar pedals and I decided to give them a try. I’ve been using their TLC Compressor
& Tone Hammer for the past year and really love them. I do still occasionally use the SansAmp
as well, depending upon the specific needs.
A lot of folks think of you as a church bassist
or Christian musician. Yet your Grooving
for Heaven series of instructional DVD’s have attracted bassists of all
walks and genres as well as accolades from some industry giants. What is it about these DVD’s that
transcends the stereotype?
The first two Grooving volumes were definitely
intended to be a resource for church bassists, but most of the musical factors
& considerations are common to ensemble bass playing in any context. The interesting thing is that I really
try not to make as much of a distinction between the two when I’m playing. Guys like John Patitucci and Abe
Laboriel serve as great examples to me of this: regardless of the gig context, they’re bringing all they are
to that place…recognizing where their gifting came from and sharing their
talents to the glory of God.
Do you have a set practice routine? What’s it like?
want to have a set practice routine, but am embarrassed to admit that I don’t
at the moment. The ironic thing
about being a vocational musician is that I have less time than ever to
woodshed: the ancillary aspects of
music (emails, phone calls, booking flights/hotels/car rentals, Facebook,
Twitter, etc.) can take so much time.
Plus I really want to be present for my family when I’m not on the
That said, as was
the case with many of my musical colleagues, there was a season of intense
& concentrated woodshedding earlier in my playing experience. For several years, I was practicing 3-6
hours a day.
Nowadays, when I
do get time to shed, I divide my time between reading, transcribing/harmonic
analysis, technique and working on my timekeeping.
Your song "The Race"
off your debut CD Pondering The Sushi was chosen as a track [#9] for the
compilation CD Bass-Talk 7, Lords Of The
Bass. You appear on this CD
along with such notables as Jeff Berlin, Marcus Miller, Tom Kennedy and Ray
Riendeau to name a few. How did
that come about?
It was an honor
to be included in that roster – though I’m not sure I consider myself a “lord
of the bass” (ha) – I am a big fan of a lot of guys on that
project. I actually don’t recall
the specifics of how that came together!
Somehow the owner of that label in Germany (Bert Gerecht) and I got in
touch and that tune was selected for the CD.
latest CD, Tea In The Typhoon, features the talents of Gregg Bissonette, John Patitucci, Sachi Patitucci, Lincoln Brewster, Michael Manring, Etienne Mbappe and others. What was it like having these talented
individuals on your CD?
Amazing, humbling and inspiring. What was particularly great was how
committed to the music each of those players were: there was zero weirdness or “diva” vibe, and 100% dedication
to making the tunes what they needed to be.
From the perspective of being the composer on this
project, it’s difficult to describe how gratifying & fulfilling it was to
hear those tunes come to life in the hands of all of the phenomenal musicians
With Lincoln Brewster you get to play more rock
style music; however on your CD’s you run the gamut stylistically with contemporary jazz, funk, Latin,
classical, fusion, West African, etc.
Is there a style that you find particularly challenging or just plain
out fun to play?
I love it all; the variety is
one of my favorite things about being a musician! Honestly, I feel like the more I explore music, the more I
realize I don’t know. I will be a
student of music for the rest of my life.
That said, my comfort zone is definitely in the funk/r&b world.
There are a slew of portable digital recorders
available today. These little
marvels make recording thoughts, ideas, rehearsals, etc. really easy and
convenient. Do you utilize
any? And if so, which ones and
writing and preproduction stage, I always keep a small portable recorder handy
to use as a musical notepad. Early
in this process for the Typhoon
project, I got a Boss Micro BR, and it was fantastic. It is a handheld 4-track digital recorder with a
great-sounding built-in stereo mic, onboard drum machine, ¼” input to plug my
bass into, and a slew of other features.
I used it both for cataloging tune ideas as well as experimenting with
parts & arrangements. Super
Being on the road as much as you are, you get to
indulge in a lot of different foods. What is Norm's favorite road food/cuisine?
Awesome. :^) I must admit that I love this aspect of travel! Both my wife and I are quite passionate
about food and watch Food Network all the time. It’s also great that Lincoln is similarly a fan of amazing
cuisine, so we always eat well on the road! I’m a big fan of Japanese food, as well as Italian, Mexican,
or anything done well. I love
going to the place all the locals go and eating the local favorite.
You have a definite presence on Twitter and
Facebook. Has this had an impact
with 'connecting' with your audience? Staying connected with family while on
Candidly, I got
pulled into Facebook & Twitter kicking & screaming! I felt that I already had too many
things on my plate and this would just add to the task list. But I must say that it’s been
great. It has allowed me to
(virtually!) bring folks along when I’m on the road, involve them in the
process when I’m working on various projects, and basically help fans (don’t
like using that word but you know what I mean!) feel connected. I occasionally use it for family, but
that tends to involve more texting and phone calls.
What’s the last hour like before you go
onstage? How do you prepare? Any routines, habits, quirky nuances?
Heavy drug use,
mostly. Just kidding. :^) Once I’m all set up, tuned up, line checked and
everything’s technically dialed in, I like to warm up, do some stretches, talk
through any particulars for the evening, pray and hydrate. The latter is something I used to not
give much thought to, but after a recent episode where my forearm knotted up
during a gig, it has become a primary consideration. I’ll usually grab a Gatorade and banana from the green room.
So, on and off the road, what does Norm Stockton
do when he just chills? Who do you
chill with or hang with when you do?
I have an
incredible family, and spending time with them is at the top of the list. I’ve also been into sailing since I was
a kid, so will try to get some time on the water.
What's currently on your iPod? Any guilty pleasures?
embarrassed to mention! :^) I do have a playlist called “Norm’s
Chill” that is entirely made up of melancholy pieces from a wide spectrum of
artists. I love it. I definitely enjoy lots of bombastic
music, but there’s something about a mellow, well-written, sparsely-arranged,
emotively-conveyed tune that does it for me. You can probably hear that side of me coming out on my CDs
with tunes like “Roxanne” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.
Thank you for your time Norm. You’re an inspiration to us all. As a departing thought, what’s the
strongest piece of advice you would offer someone (child or adult) just
starting out on bass today?
Thank YOU for
your kind words & interest!
say this: develop a passion for the groove.
Once you develop
a passion for the groove, there’s no longer any such thing as a “boring” bass
line: it’s all about beat
placement, time feel, note duration, phrasing, etc. It will be the most fun you can have as a bassist, plus
other musicians will love playing with you.
In this day and
age of YouTube, it’s easy to get a distorted view of things: almost every clip of me is of the
solo-oriented stuff because that’s what folks focus on. They don’t realize that I only play
that way a few minutes a night!
The VAST majority of the time, I’m playing foundational,
ensemble-oriented grooves and serving the song. And I LOVE it.
yes…GROOVE! :^) Hope to see you on the road…
A Bad Ass thank you to member Gil Escalera and Norm Stockton
Please visit Norm's sites here...