Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 24

it was a blazing, typical right-handed thing.
I ended up using the four-finger technique.
People always ask me about my three fingers,
and I went to four for this because it's a
grouping of notes to pluck that I could have
done with three, but to really make it sound
right, I had to do with four. That was a real
challenge; I had to strap myself in and hit it
hard. And there are a couple of ballads that are
really nice. One is called "Damn I'm in Love
Again," which is basically straight-up-clean
bass, playing the root fifth octave and a very
simple super-deep low. It's a beautiful, simple
thing. I get accused of, "All he ever does is solo
all the time." No. That's not true. The most
successful song I ever played on was "To Be
With You," and there's no bass solo on that.
Was the David Lee Roth Eat 'Em and Smile
album and tour a high point of your career?

In a way, yes. But I actually had more personal success with Mr. Big. But I came from
almost zero to something with Dave. If it wasn't
for Dave calling and bringing me out to L.A.
to start a band, we may not be talking together
right now. It was such a pivotal moment in my
life and a huge change of every aspect in my
life - leaving Buffalo, starting a band was a
whole new world, a whole new life. So yeah, I
guess it probably is one of the most important
things that ever happened. However, with Mr.
Big we had a #1 single, and that was my band,
so it was a bit more satisfying in that respect.
But I still never doubt that none of that could
have happened if I wouldn't have been involved
with Dave and the Eat 'Em and Smile record.

Back to Big

T

hough there's no denying Billy Sheehan's
exceptional technical talents on the bass,
he has always kept sight on the importance of
the song - as evidenced by his work with David
Lee Roth, Mr. Big, and the Winery Dogs. He
recently returned to the fold with Mr. Big, the
rock band that also features Paul Gilbert, to
record Defying Gravity.
Which basses, effects, and amps did you
use on Defying Gravity?

Pretty much the same I use live - a Yamaha
prototype bass that I've beat it up pretty badly
touring the last few years on hot, sweaty nights.
So this was probably the last album I'll use it
on. I'm replacing it with a production model,

which is way better than the prototype! The
prototype was made by hand, but the production models are perfect. That through my
Hartke LH1000 amps. My pedalboard has an
EBS [Billy Sheehan Signature Drive], which
has great harmonic content, super-smooth
distortion that can dial in as much or as little
as you want without effecting the normal tone.
From a bass-playing perspective, do you
have some favorite new songs?

There's one called "Be Kind," which is the
last song on the album. It's a beautiful, bluesy
piece, and we played it straight. Nothing fancy,
but just lock with the drums and do your
thing. There's one called "Mean to Me" which
required me to adjust some technique because

VINTAGE GUITAR

24

October 2017

I have - on a hard drive - a full, professionally
shot version of the Eat 'Em and Smile show; I
believe it may have been shot in Baltimore. But
it doesn't belong to me, so I can't distribute it.
In the end, Dave or Warner Brothers would
own it. Hopefully someday, Dave will say, "Let's
play again, and let's take out all the archives,
and let the public have them."
Is your old Fender Precision Bass, "The
Wife," retired?

It's packed away, but I take it out every once
in a while. Recently, I was working on a project
and I had all these old spare parts leftover from
the days putting that bass together - Gibson
pickups and bridges and all kinds of stuff. So
I went out and bought bodies and necks from
Warmoth - who blew me away with the quality of work they do - and I used them to make
two versions of the original Wife, just because I
didn't want to get rid of the old parts, and wanted
to use them on something. So I'll do a little
photo essay of my adventure of making those
basses soon and post it online. - Greg Prato

Billy Sheehan: William Hames.

BILLY SHEEHAN

Was there any professionally filmed footage of an Eat 'Em and Smile show?


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Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - IFC
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