“To be sincere, I’m not truly a bass gamer. I’ve scammed individuals all this time …” The world of Jean-Jacques Burnel

“To be sincere, I’m not truly a bass gamer. I’ve scammed individuals all this time …” The world of Jean-Jacques Burnel

Jean-Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers performs on stage, Philadelphia, 16th March 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

( Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Jet Black and Dave Greenfield may be gone however The Stranglers– the band and their impact– are unstoppable. Now in their 50 th year, their effect on the world of music and bass playing has actually been big. Here was a British punk band who might take the Burt Bacharach-Dionne Warwick struck Walk On By and turn it into a 6-minute freakout motivated by The Doors, who had actually a struck all over the world with a sweet tune about heroin composed in waltz time (Golden Brown), who stood different from the punk pack– happily European, musically diverse, boldly ingenious– however were however as difficult as titanium.

And in Jean-Jacques Burnel they had among the most initial and prominent bassists of the age: a classical guitar player who turned his abilities to developing basslines so ruthless they ‘d provide you a shiner, with a bruising, distorted noise that still resonates to this day. In this archive interview he recalls over some picked profession highlights.

The Beginning

Jean-Jacques Burnel: “It all began with me offering a lift to a hitch-hiker who consequently led me to Hugh [Cornwell, singer/guitarist] and Jet Black [drummer], and Hugh occurring to my little bedsit one day and stating, ‘Let’s form a band’. It so occurred that I played a great deal of classical guitar at the time– that’s my primary instrument– and he had a drummer and required a bass gamer. He had a bass, a Fender, which he offered me for ₤35 which was my very first bass.

” I understood about tune however I didn’t understand much about bass playing, so I simply made the guidelines up as I went along. Did that establish my design? Absolutely, ‘cos I had not listened to lots of bass gamers prior to that, although I understood Jack Bruce.”

Peaches (single, 1977)

” Bass gamers in those days remained in the background– they didn’t control the musical or the picturesque landscape. It’s altered a lot: the bass parts are bloody crucial now. Those 3 notes in Peaches: you do those 3 notes and it’s immediately recognizable.

” Hugh and I utilized to have a 500- watt PA. We utilized to lease it out and as soon as we were asked to enhance a stereo in Acton. We were the only white men there. They had all these people toasting over simply bass, and I came out of that and my mind was scorched. I ‘d never ever heard bass so dominant, and I believed, ‘I’m going to compose a tune like that’ and the next day I composed Peaches. It didn’t turn out as a reggae piece and I could not work out why– we didn’t put the snare in the best location for a start. A few of our things was kinda reggae guitar on the unique – however we never ever had the snare on the 3rd beat which a great deal of reggae does.”

Developing His Style

” There was a great deal of friendly competition in between me and Hugh– well initially it got along– however Dave [Greenfield, keyboards] Had a solo instrument and Hugh had a solo instrument and I desired to be a solo instrument. Often all 4 of us would be doing solos and we ‘d simply sorta satisfy someplace.

” On some tunes, Jet’s doing totally off-the-wall things, therefore is Dave, we’re all out of time, I’m doing great deals of high notes, however all of it gels at some time. Stroll On By got longer and longer even if we were jamming over it. We contributed to it over 2 years. It was simply an excellent way of establishing– and it was a little a rip-off of The Doors’ Light My Fire.”


” There were 2 methods of doing it: if I composed on guitar it would be totally various from when I composed on bass. If I was doing the bass to a Hugh tune, then I might do much fancier things than if I was singing. In some cases I ‘d do bass root note things or eighths when I was singing rather than when I wasn’t.

” To be truthful, I’m not actually a bass gamer. I’ve scammed individuals all this time. If you rake your own furrow, then you’re the master because location and you can’t actually be compared to other individuals.”

That Early Bass Sound

” I didn’t like the bass sound individuals were utilizing in those days, however I liked that distortion– in some cases you could not even inform if it was a bass guitar. It was so loud on phase. Optimum sound. The noise on those very first 2 albums was the outcome of not fucking about with any of the equalization, simply full-on treble on the guitar, flat on the amp and, er, a bust speaker. We didn’t understand: it ‘d been torn for ages and was flapping about materializing distortion. The very first 2 albums – which were taped at practically the exact same time – had the very same fucked, farty speaker.

” It was terrific on radio, ‘cos it was compressed to fuck. Nowadays I like a great deal of bottom end, which that old noise never ever had.”

The Gospel According To The Meninblack (album, 1981)

” I believed it [an idea album in which The Bible is re-written by aliens– or something] was a work of genius, however no-one else did. Not even our fan base. It made the leading 10 however it was slagged off generally. It’s still modern-sounding. We destroyed ourselves doing it. We invested every last cent we had taping it in various locations: Munich to get that Georgio Moroder disco noise for Two Sunspots and Thrown Away. We were doing tape loops and whatever. I was doing the bass throughout 6 tracks then. I was utilizing 10’s, 15’s and DI throughout 3 tracks, and after that playing the parts once again and putting both parts together.

” It’s rather a chunky bass noise. I simply wished to be larger and much better. We were exploring a lot. And it likewise accompanied a dreadful great deal of drug taking. I imply, drugs as heavy as you can get. The heaviest. The entire thing was a kind of dark duration.”

Golden Brown (single, 1982)

” The record business believed we were ended up after the Meninblack album. All the records had actually gone gold up till then, which was simply generally slated so the record business was beginning to believe short-term. We demanded doing Golden Brown as a single and they could not see it. They stated, ‘It does not seem like a punk record, you can’t dance to it, and it does not seem like the Stranglers’.

” So they launched it prior to Christmas, believing it would be buried and it simply ran and ran and ran. All over the world. And simply after that they desired us to renegotiate our agreement. We stated: ‘Fuck off’.”

Feline (album, 1983)

” With Feline we attempted to wed loads of various impacts. European impacts north and south. The south: represented by Spanish guitars, semi-tone modifications, small secrets. Arabic, Moorish, Spanish impacts. Catholic, y understand? The north was represented by synthesizers, electronica: sorta Protestant, commercial. Bass-wise, I stopped utilizing the Fender. I was tired of individuals discussing the bass noise of the Stranglers, I simply wished to mix in. I utilized a dodgy Yamaha and it didn’t last long. I punch my guitars a lot simply to get them to resonate– you do a chord and after that struck the body. This specific one, I struck it and it simply broke down.”

The Paul Simonon ‘combat’

” We did this gig at Dingwalls, for the American Bi-Centenary, with the Ramones and the Flamin’ Groovies. I never ever consumed in those days however somebody had actually provided me a bottle of white wine. At that time, Paul Simonon had this kinda anxious tick where he ‘d kinda spit through his teeth and as he strolled past I believed he was spitting at me … So I simply thumped him.

” He fell back onto Steve and Paul from the Pistols who spilled their beverages, so they all overdid top of me and the rest of the Stranglers lagged me and prior to we understood it we were tossed out in the yard. There was the Stranglers and a couple of mates on one side and the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones and Chrissie Hynde on the other side, and Paul and me nose to nose. Absolutely nothing took place– it was simply kids combating, actually, pressing each other going, ‘Say you’re sorry’, ‘No, you’.”

The bass gamers of punk

” Well, none were as excellent as me, that’s for sure! Some of them did terrific things. Peter Hook did some excellent things– I imply, how can a person have fun with his bass on the flooring? That surprises me. Captain Sensible was a respectable bass gamer. Jah Wobble was alright – great design, I’ll provide him that– and Bruce Foxton was great other than he constantly made me wan na go, ‘Look at the audience, you c t!’

” Some individuals conceal behind their instrument, taking a look at the fretboard all the time. Some simply take a look at their shoes or conceal behind their hair … There was loads of great bass gamers, however none might approach me in speed– listen to Mr Modesty!– or had the range, lyricism and tune. [He chuckles] There.”

First released in Bassist publication, November1999 The Stranglers are exploring. For dates, check out their site

"To be sincere, I'm not truly a bass gamer. I've scammed individuals all this time ..." The world of Jean-Jacques Burnel

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Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, accountable for the editorial technique of online and print brand names like Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar, Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist and more. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock for 10 years and, prior to that, the Editor of Total Guitar and Bassist publications. Scott frequently appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club, and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie

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