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I’m Chester Hansen and This is How I Play

chester hansen badbadnotgood live 2016 croatia
Photo Credit: Brent Goldsmith

Chester Hansen is the bass player of the Ontario jazz quartet, BADBADNOTGOOD, although jazz in this context is used liberally.

BADBADNOTGOOD, composed of Hansen on bass, Matthew Tavares on keyboards, Alexander Sowinski on drums and, as of late, saxophonist Leland Whitty,  is among a crop of up-and-coming acts that are reinventing jazz and adapting it to a new generation of listeners. Classic jazz standards like ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Giant Steps’ and collaborations with contemporary peers of the jazz scene, are set aside for inventive rearrangements of Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’ and Gucci Mane’s ‘Lemonade’ and collaborations with Ghostface Killah and Tyler the Creator.

Through it all, Chester Hansen is there to hold down the trio-turned-quartet’s low end. If ever there was a better recreation of the 1960’s and 70’s stocky, warm bass tone that powered so many Motown records and psychedelic rock albums, it hasn’t been found yet. Hansen has married the sounds and dexterous, melodic playing style of yesteryear with a modern band and music scene.

Hansen and BBNG has been mentioned on Smart Bass before as one the must-hear modern acts with fantastic bass playing. Having just released their fourth album, lV, Hansen and company continue to push musical boundaries and offer a unique listening experience sitting somewhere between seasoned jazz salts, 60s psychedelic and modern beatmakers.

lV doesn’t conjure up as many images of hip hop beats as BBNG or BBNG 2 did. Rather, it sounds like a more mature BBNG. A group that sounds more interested in experimenting more with marrying structured songwriting with winding bouts of mind-bending improvisation. The result is an album that packs a dizzying array of sounds and songs that take the listener on a journey through the music of the 1960s and 1970s. Sounds of psychedelic rock with songs like ‘Speaking Gently’ and ‘Time Moves Slowly’ come through as do jazzier sounds like on ‘Chompy’s Revenge’, ‘And That, Too’ and ‘Confessions Pt. 2’ that sound like nods to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Pharoah Sanders, and Eric Dolphy.

Get to know BBNG’s Chester Hansen in this edition of How I Play.

Where Are You Currently Located?

Toronto, Ontario.

What is Your Current Gig or Project?

Playing and recording with our band BADBADNOTGOOD! Other stuff too like sample-writing, producing other artists with the band and jamming with friends.

What is One Word That Describes Your Playing?

Tough question. Sounds super cliche but my favourite bass players play parts that support the song perfectly while still adding a bit of their own flavour, so that’s what I strive for. I’ve got a loooong way to go though!

Describe Your Current Setup and What is Favorite Piece of Gear at the Moment?

chester hansen badbadnotgood gibson grabber bassLive I usually use a Gallien-Krueger 800/700 RB with an 8×10 GK cab. For rehearsing and local gigs I have a GK Fusion 500 with a CX 4×10 cab. I almost always play my Gibson Grabber, the frets and fretboard are totally worn out and it’s all dinged up and I love it! I use the thickest flatwound strings I could find as far off the neck as possible. I also have a Gibson SB-300 that I play on some recordings. My new fun pieces of gear are these sweet little Malekko pedals, I use the phaser and vibrato ones live a lot.

What is One Thing You Could Not Live Without?

Definitely good coffee.

What is Your Practice Space Like? 

I’ll practice at home usually just at a small desk with a little practice amp. When I’m at the studio I’ll turn up pretty loud and jam out to albums with my full amp setup.

What Album Are You Currently Listening To?

I’ve been listening a lot to this Esther Philips album, From A Whisper To A Scream. I didn’t know about her until very recently, she has that haunting Billie Holiday type voice that just gets to you. The album has a really beautiful cover of Gil-Scott Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” among some other amazing songs. The players on it are killer too.

What Book Are You Currently Reading?

I just finished Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography and it was amazing!

I’d Love to See _____ Answer These Questions.

Nick Movshon.

What’s the Best Piece of Advice You’ve Ever Received?

A number of great musicians and people have told me in one way or another “if you’re not having fun or it doesn’t feel honest don’t do it.” It’s a good rule of thumb when approaching life in general, and especially music. Obviously everything you do can’t be your #1 best time ever, but it’s important to remember that music at its best should be a fun and rewarding way to express yourself. Reconnecting with that often is key to staying inspired and fulfilled.

Listen to BADBADNOTGOOD’s cover of Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’:

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