Hey everybody I’m super excited to welcome this month’s Bass Lab PLUS Legend Wendell Goff who is over in America.
Now I’ve discovered Wendell’s been a member of our community for quite a while now and I’ll give some context why I’ve given him this month’s Bass Lab PLUS Legend Award.I was watching last month’s song competition and Wendell gave us a great rendition of a Blondie song from, I believe, the 70s must have been. I watched it and he played fantastic on it. The next day I discovered Wendell is very special because he, to the best of my knowledge is our only deaf bass player who is a member of the Bass Lab PLUS which makes the performance all the more special and I literally had no idea when I watched it.
So we’ll talk a little bit about how that influences his playing.
J - Wendell I’d love to know what first inspired you to become a bass player?
W - Well I played guitar, I played lead, listening mostly to country and I had my own music on the side when I was growing up, the pop music of the time like Michael Jackson, Duran-Duran that type of thing. I sang, believe it or not, and I was a really good singer actually.
So I had a musical background, I taught myself how to play guitar, my dad showed me a few chords at age 13, and I’m going to be 51 so I’ve been playing a long time.
What happened was I was having difficulty hearing after age 2 and a half I had scarlet fever. I had some sounds but a lot of my high frequencies were missing but I was able to make that work. So I played bass, I wrote songs with my dad, recorded them in a demo studio and that sort of thing. I could play bass but I didn’t really study it. By the time I was 23 I was totally deaf. I had surgery, but my hearing was limited at best, but it helps.
The reason I became a bass player was because, first of all, I always wanted to learn it properly even if it’s later in life ( I’ve only been playing six years ). I can hear it better and I can feel it better and I learned to love it as the background of the song. There were some songs that would fall apart without the bass like Another One Bites the Dust, you hear just how important it is. My wife, she loves bass. She’ll listen to a song without bass then you put bass and there are differences. Even if you don’t really hear the bass, it’s there.
The idea of being that important yet being in the background; that’s important to me because I’m kinda like, in my job I’m a grunt, I like to be in the background. I don’t need a lot of fanfare but I know how to do my job and I know it’s important. A bass player is a job and it’s really important.
J - Fantastic! So can you give us a sense of how much you can hear? You said you had an implant put in. What is your perception, your sense of music?
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W- That’s a really good question. I’m trying to figure that out but I’ve tried to explain to people who say “ How do you do that? Not only are you able to do something but do it well “I’ll give you the best explanation I can. I’ve got a lot of things like when I do a video for a song or play with a band or in church.First of all there are a lot of different things going on. You have to listen for the drum beat. The melody I don’t bother with that, only theoretically. For my basslines, first chord tones you get them in there because a lot of times people get kinda sloppy with the notes and if you do, you could hear that and you can say “ Oh that’s the worst! “ I don’t have that luxury so I have to put the music theoretically with timing. I also have to feel the song too. What I had to do when I went deaf and I got the implants; the implants really if you would Google how an implant is as opposed to hearing; it sounds terrible, it sounds electronic.
Over time your brain learns to accept that it is music in conjunction with my memory of what the music sounds like when I could hear it. It’s easier for me to do covers and play bass on songs that I remember hearing. Oldies like classic rock and things like that because I could remember how the song went.If I have to learn a new song, I kind of have to make up a tune in my head of what it might sound based on what I could hear.
J - So as I understand it, you have a limited amount of hearing which is being influenced by the implant that you’ve got which sounds very electronic, and then you combined that with the memory of music you have, and you also process that and imagine it as well.So my question is how is it always older songs that you play from you were younger or do you play any modern music as well?
W - I do play modern music. Actually I’m working on a cover of a song by the Raconteurs, Steady As She Goes, which is newer. That’s why I like a lot of the indie stuff. I don’t do too much of the pop stuff like my wife she does some of that stuff. It’s fine but it sounds over-produced to me because there’s a lot going on. I like guitar driven music because I understand that; it makes sense to me. If there’s a lot of music going on it sounds like traffic noises.
J - So this has just reminded me there’s a very well-known percussionist in the UK Evelyn Glennie who is deaf. Have you come across her? She’s very well known and I remember seeing her when I was 13 or 14, and it stands in my mind she’s being interviewed and she’s got so much of her perception of music from the feel and vibration which is going to be prominent if you’re a percussionist hitting things. Do you have that same thing going in with the bass? The amplifier, the vibration; does the feel of the instrument, that visceral vibration. Is that the same to you?
W - That’s similar yeah. That’s why when they came out with backbeat that was awesome because it was a very tactile experience with backbeat because I could feel it and felt I was more involved with my own playing in accordance with what was going on.I played in church and I was used playing outdoor gigs and it was surely helpful. I don’t use it to practice so much because I couldn’t hear it through headphones. It’s similar to that. There’s a lot going on for me to be able to play. If I’m tired on certain days it’s harder for me because I have to concentrate really hard to listen for the kick, to hear the snare.
J - So what are the biggest challenges you find learning a new song being deaf?
W - The biggest challenge is to tune out mentally the other noise I suppose of instrument and really focus on the bass. When I learn new songs, you’re going to find the bass of every single song 500 different ways, but I like to listen to isolated bass tracks if possible, especially with James Jamerson Stuff. I go on the internet to look for isolated bass tracks. I just listen and get the feel of it.
J - I love it! Obviously it will come as no surprise to people there must be darker days, there must be challenges along the way playing and learning music in this way. What motivates you to continue playing the bass guitar?
W - Recently I had some people who know me and some people in the Bass Lab PLUS and I’m thinking myself “ What I am doing this for? “ because there are so many things to do. I consider myself an above average player, competent. I want to be critiqued or assessed as though I have hearing like everybody else. I don’t want accolades, it’s not that. It’s the work it takes for me to do that, and if I can see miniscule improvement that’s great. But what motivates me is I gotta play; I just get into it. It’s that driving bass.
J - So bass playing is a part of who you are as a person.
W - It’s my identity.
J - .. and you keep that identity throughout all the challenges which I just think is extraordinary; I’m full of admiration for you, particularly you said you don’t want to have it as a limitation, be singled out. You want to be right there with everybody else, and that you are! 100% because I promise you I had no idea you had these challenges until I read that post the next day and that is a 100% true.
W - I didn’t want a pity party. It got me out of my army crawl and got me on my feet again.
J - And that is the beauty of it. Let me ask you how have you found being a member of the Bass Lab PLUS Community?
W - It’s been great. That’s the thing; to hear other people play and enjoy the music and enjoy the bass tones because I have to listen to the different bass tones that other people have. I love to watch other people play because there are some really focused and some get into it. It’s a joy to see other people appreciate bass as much as I do. There are some outstanding players, I mean all of them are great and I appreciate the way they approach the bass, how they play, the techniques they use. It’s good to see that.
J - What would you say to anybody who’s thinking of joining hte Bass Lab PLUS and how would you say the Bass Lab PLUS has helped you become a better bass player?
W - I think the biggest thing for me: Not only do you offer course for people to really set them in the right direction because there is a slew of information. The internet is full of paths, do this do that. What I appreciate first and foremost is community; to have other people to talk to and also at the same time have courses that will put you in the right direction because I know when I first started I was overwhelmed. I don’t know how to play, how to practice. I appreciate that you have that idea to pick it up 10 minutes a day, but then it’s never just 10 minutes a day. I pick it up then it’s 30 minutes, 60 minutes. I’d say it’s the community and the courses that you offer knowing what the path is and what to focus on. You have courses that focus on one area at a time; you can’t do it all at the same time.
J - So what would you say to anybody thinking of joining? W - If you want support and you want to learn the right things, the price is right. Join!
J - Last question; what’s next for your bass playing?
W - I want to try to work on slap but slap is not generally something that you can use in a whole variety of genres. It is, it can be, but I can’t do it properly. I’m kind of rambling here, but what’s next for my bass playing is I would like to study the motown stuff and I would like to just make several covers of Jamerson basslines. Focused on MOtown for now.
J - Fantastic. We’ll wrap up there. Wendell it’s been an absolut privilege taking to you. I commend you for playing such fantastic bass and persevering through the challenges you face. I find it truly inspirational! I never thought I would be teaching a deaf student. Blind student last month, deaf student this month in the Bass Lab PLUS! It’s an immensely rewarding thing; I’m full of admiration for what you do. Please keep doing what you are doing, keep making videos, keep posting them in the groups, entering our song competitions. You’re an absolute inspiration. Well done again for being this month’s Bass Lab PLUS Legend.
W - Thank you I appreciate it. It’s been an honor!
Wendell, you inspire me to do better!