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SBL Student Spotlight – Kristaps Baumanis

In our new weekly feature we’re going to be shining a light on a select few SBL students regarded by many as ‘ones to watch.’

Throughout the year, we’ll be catching up with a diverse set of breaking and established talent to air their thoughts and experiences about bass playing, tunes and music in general from their own vantage point (the only thing that anyone can do, really). Want to join them? If you're studying with SBL and would like to share your experiences, then please don't hesitate to Contact Us as we'd love to share your story and promote your music to the SBL audience!

Kristaps Baumanis - Jack Rabbit Slams / Second Ways

Another week, another member of ScottsBassLessons has been making some serious waves out there in the real world.

Building a career as a musician is more often than not a balancing act. For many of us, taking that step into the seemingly cut-throat world of today’s music industry often incurs both job insecurity and financial risk. In the case of Kristaps Baumanis, his focus is a simple one. “By day I am actually a PhD student in aerospace engineering,” he laughs. “But by night I’m a bass guitar vigilante!” It’s a familiar situation for many of us, and like so many players coming up these days, Kristaps started out as a guitarist before making the switch to bass. “I played guitar for a few years and during that time I was always living with musicians, but we never had a bass in the flat. So on a whim I bought myself a bass guitar. A month later I had sold my other guitar and I was fully converted.”

Kristaps soon found himself playing along to the likes of Swedish heavy metal band Opeth. “I’ve always been a fan of Martin Mendez with Opeth. That guy plays some really funky bass lines spiced up with some savage death metal fury. Their more recent prog-type stuff is quite cool too.” On the subject of technique, how exactly did Kristaps develop his own playing style? “I should probably have a better practice routine, but I just play loads at home and try to jam with friends as often as possible - being a filthy student instead of having a family has its perks! Lately I've been practising chord tones and jamming along with backing tracks to get more used to playing in certain keys. Learning songs has always been high up on my list of priorities. Hear a cool new tune? Go away and learn it! I’ve been working on some Opeth and Mastodon tunes for a while now and playing that sort of music has also been incredibly beneficial. I don't use tabs, though the temptation is always there.”

‘Practice’ – a word that causes many hearts to sink … Still, it’s always comforting to hear that even established players still put in the time to get their technical skills up to the required level. “I definitely want to play more slap with both of my bands,” Kristaps continues. “I currently play in two bands. One of them is called Jack Rabbit Slams, which is a three-piece rock band. I found these guys on Facebook last year when they were looking for a bassist. I blagged my way through an audition and got it! Here's a video from our first gig. We wrote this song during my audition!”

The other band is a four-piece called Second Ways. “It’s a reincarnation of an old band I was in while studying for my undergraduate degree,” he tells us. “I’ve been a good friend with the vocalist since day one. I remember him showing me some tunes and I thought it was amazing to know someone who was in a band. Now I get to play those tunes live. It's weird how life sometimes takes you in a direction that you didn’t expect! This is one of the first songs they ever played to me.”

For more information take a look at https://www.facebook.com/jackrabbitslams.music/ and https://www.facebook.com/secondways/

Why did you choose SBL?

I saw so many videos of Scott plugging his website on YouTube and his persistence got to me! He’s really good at explaining different concepts and he has often made me think of certain topics from a different point of view, which has made things a lot clearer. I signed up about a month after I’d started playing bass.

What has the value of an SBL education meant to you?

Studying harmonic layering has allowed me to become a lot more versatile, but an even bigger part of it has been the community aspect on campus. Having so many good bass players around seeing how people motivate each other has played a really important part in keeping me going.

Who are your favourite players right now?

Last year someone showed me an Austrian Band called Mother's Cake and their bassist Benedikt Trenkwalder is from another planet. If you watch their live record Off The Beaten Track (2012) you can see his versatility really shining through, which you might not hear so much on their studio records. Everything is there and everything is really tight. The other band members are really good too.

Tell us about your gear… 

I have two Ibanez basses; a SR505 and a SR750. I'm actually selling the 505 because it's gathering dust and it deserves to be played more, but the 750 I'm definitely keeping because it’s a killer bass. At home, I have a Cougar CBX 100 combo. It's really bulky though and I don't have a car, so I don't use it live. When onstage, I just use my MXR M80 to plug straight into the PA or I’ll use another amp if other bands are sharing backline. The M80 is always in the loop though because I really like the distortion sound. I also have a white Cry Baby Wah, which I've been using sparingly, a Big Muff (which I’m selling soon) and a Boss ODB-3 that I used extensively before I got the M80. It’s a pretty simple rig. In fact, on the last few gigs I've only used the M80 and a tuner pedal, of course.

What's your best gigging tip?

The crowd is not out to get you. They're there to hear you play and they're on your side, so just relax and get lost in the music, but not literally! Do learn the songs before the gig!

Any career highlights?

My career so far has been pretty short, but I guess a highlight was playing King Tuts Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow back in January. It was just a showcase with three other bands, but we ended up just a few tickets short of a sell out crowd. The place was packed. Everyone was super friendly though. I made friends with the sound guy and with the other bands. We also had a dressing room with a fridge full of beers, which was quite a rock ‘n’ roll feeling.

How do you unwind?

By playing the bass! I also do some bouldering and am slowly getting into surfing.

What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?

If I didn't play bass I'd probably still be playing the guitar. I'm not a full time bass player, so my studies still come first. Sometimes I go to the office and think about playing the bass when I should be thinking about my research!

What’s been the best thing about 2017 so far?

I am very excited about this year because of the amount of music I'll have to play! Gigs are just piling up for both bands I play in. And then there’s the new Mother's Cake record, which is called No Rhyme No Reason. It came out on 27/01/2017. It’s amazing!

And the worst?

It’s hard to say. This year has been pretty good so far.

Who would be playing on your fantasy jukebox?

Is this where I have to come up with a super band? Assuming I can choose musicians that are dead or alive, I'd go for Benedikt Trenkwalder on bass, John Bonham on drums and maybe Frusciante and Josh Homme on guitar? Yves Krismer or Jack White on vocals.

To join Kirstaps and our other amazing students within the SBL membership click here and grab your 14-day free trial today.