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Ray Riendeau Interview by Bass Player Online

By Ed Friedland

"For the longest time I never knew how Victor Wooten was doing his double-thumbing technique," says Ray Riendeau. "I just tried to mimic the sound, and it came out my way."

Ray calls his unusual slap style "double plucking": using his index and middle fingers in conjunction with the thumb to create unusual rhythmic groupings. "I also listen to a lot of drummers for ideas," he notes. "I even pick up ideas from drum rudiment books." Riendeau unleashes the technique to create mind-boggling slap-tap unison runs with guitarist Scott Mishoe on their CD Omnidirectional [Legato], a mega-chops fest with musical content that puts it way beyond typical shredder fare.

"The idea behind this record was to make it a fun thing," Ray reports. "But as crazy as we got, [producer] Mark Varney kept pushing us even further." On the twisted lines of "Mal-Funk-Shen" and "Nacho Mama," the unique texture of the duo's unison plucking and popping sounds like one mammoth string instrument. For his composition "Theresa Ann," Ray overdubbed several tracks and used his bass to trigger the percussion samples that make up the rhythmic bed.

When Ray was featured in the Jan/Feb '94 Scouting Report, he was just starting to break into the big leagues. His demos with Mishoe had attracted the attention of Shrapnel Records godfather Mike (not Mark) Varney, who gave them a slot in Guitar on the Edge [Legato]. Currently Ray is touring with TWO, the new band of former Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, and he also works with Machines Of Loving Grace, whose appearance on the soundtrack for The Crow [Atlantic] put them in the million-seller category. He's featured on their '96 Mammoth/ Atlantic release Gilt and is working on tracks for the band's fourth CD. "The whole idea with Machines is to integrate the visceral sound of live instrumentation with mechanical electronic stuff," Ray says. "We're always experimenting with sounds. We've put amps into trash cans and miked them, and [co-producer] Jim Waters is into cranking preamps to produce crazy tones. Sometimes it sounds like the speakers are going to explode."

Along with his massive technique Ray maintains a love for simple, groove-oriented playing. On guitarist Gary Hoey's Live Hocus Pocus [Surfdog], Ray stays low and in the pocket, pumping out solid support under Hoey's pyrotechnics. Ray does get to step out: A short solo on "Low Rider" leads to some inspired trading with Hoey, and "Bert's Lounge" offers a glimpse of Riendeau's flaming slap technique. Ray is also featured with Hoey on three songs from the Meet the Deedles soundtrack on Mercury.

For his work with Hoey, Ray favors his new Fender Deluxe 5-strings. Elsewhere he plays Modulus Graphite Quantum 5's and 6's, and he runs his basses through an SWR Basic 350 head and two Genz Benz GB 410T-XB cabs.

"To get this under your fingers, isolate the five-note pattern (T * T P1 P2) and make it smooth," says Ray of this lick from his book Slap Grooves. P1 = index-finger pop; P2 = middle-finger pop; * = left-hand slap.

A longtime Phoenix resident, Ray maintains a busy teaching schedule at the Bass Place in Tempe, Arizona. While many of his students come to cop his slap technique, Ray espouses the basics. "I really believe in theory," he says. "No matter what you're doing stylistically, it's important to understand how music works. You need to know enough to be able to improvise bass lines over chord progressions." Nonetheless Ray admits that when it's time to play, he leans on his instincts. "More and more I'm forgetting about technical stuff. I'm into creating a line that feels right no matter what the situation. I try to step back and look at how the bass line works in the song and how it makes me feel. I hope that carries over to the listener."

Ray's two books, Slap Grooves and Sight Reading Studies, can be ordered by writing to him at 610 East Bell Rd., Suite 2-415, Phoenix, AZ 85022, or at Phatgroovz@aol.com.

Article Provided By Bass Player Online