Bass? Meh. Is that your reaction when your friend is all riled up talking about his newfound religi…. I mean band and you ask what instrument he plays? It’s true though, bass is a pretty boring instrument for the unintelligent, surface musicians who only follow the mainstream. Let me introduce you to some quality bassists you’ve never heard of that aren’t afraid to stand in front of their lazy guitarists onstage:
Victor Wooten – Bela Fleck Les Claypool – Primus
Flea – Red Hot Chills
Paul McCartney – The Beatles.
Never heard of ‘em? Look ‘em up. Now let me propose to you uninitiated, dumb dumbs another contender among the bestest bassist list.
Ming Nichols. Not only is the South Carolinian a prolific, dirrrty south kinda songwriter but he’s been a part of some of the most renowned projects in East Asia for the past decade. One of which is his Jared Leto loving, bass and drum, dath-rock (math + death) duo Death to Giants. As openers of the Japandroids Shanghai show, not only was the crowd lapping up every drop of sweat from Master Ming’s chin but the headliners themselves bowed down and worshipped at the feet of this magical mathemusician too.
Ming, now residing in turbulent Hong Kong, sets aside a few #instaminutes to chat with us about his newest projects and releases.
So Nichols, what was it like growing up in the drrrtay south and why the multiples moves to Asia?
Most of my childhood I was surrounded by music, fattening food and humidity. I was a goofy, overachieving, overweight band nerd. So, yeah not much has changed. Moved to Shanghai to teach 12 years ago, had a great time, but wanted a change so my wife and I moved to Guatemala. After 3 years, we missed Asia, so we moved to Hong Kong. Teaching is my passport to employment and international moves, but music has always been my passport to making new friends in new places.
How’d you get into bass as opposed to becoming the Asian white rapper we so clearly see as your calling?
I played low brass – baritone, tube, and trombone – in school band but I also played guitar because my dad always had them laying around. The greatest thing my father ever did was instill in me a love of Frank Zappa and just let me screw around on the guitar in front of the TV. As a guitarist, I was into metal, punk, and ska. While in college, I met one of my best friends who was also a drummer who really got me into progressive rock bands like Rush, Yes, Tool, and King Crimson. Together we started jamming as a drum and guitar duo, but soon I felt more
of a calling towards bass as I have always preferred the low end, so my first “rock” band was a prog-rock bass and drum duo. That basically is the foundation of everything else I’ve ever done.
The projects you’ve been a part of are quite eclectic, from the fantasy-progressive rock band Rainbow Danger Club to the heavy hitting double bass group John Travoltron to a collab with Mongolian throat singing traditional band Guren and errythang in between. Give us some of the highlights of your many projects.
Creatively, my biggest highlights are producing the RDC albums Where Maps End and Souvenirs. When it comes to performing, my biggest highlights are in the many shows and collaborations I did with Death to Giants. Ivan and I had that connection, a very unique energy and rhythm section ESP that isn’t easy to find. My bassists and drummers out there would understand. But overall, the best highlights are the memories and friendships that have been forged through music. Touring with your friends and playing your music to strangers who dig it is the best.
How are you staying connected with the downtrodden people of Hong Kong whilst fulfilling that crave to continue music-making in this troubling time?
It’s a tough time for everyone in HK and while its inconvenient for me, it’s an existential crisis for venues, promoters, and professional musicians. Tons of shows have been cancelled since October due to political protests and covid19. But this hasn’t stopped the local scene to try new things like streaming shows. All my current projects have released and will continue to release music and videos online despite having tons of shows cancelled. John Travoltron has released two “zoom-style” music videos, M.E.A.T.S. is about to release a new EP, and Streets of Rage who still hasn’t had a debut gig – we’ve had SEVEN cancel! – has released two in-studio performances, a lyric video, and a debut EP.
A few friends of mine including Adam from John Travoltron and Art and Gabe from Bastardon are doing stuff under a new collective name called PigRat (representing the year of the pig and the year of the rat – two very difficult years for HKers). We just released a compilation highlighting HK artists and want to release many more! The point of it all is to highlight the local scene. Even post-Covid (if that ever happens) It will be a long time before international acts will be able to come to HK, heck it might be a while before any of us can easily leave HK. So it’s a good time to look inward at the talent that exists here and, even better, to encourage growth in talent. This is just our way of putting our little pocket of musicians “out there” and hopefully inspire others to as well. Arts and Entertainment is essential during times of crisis and challenge.
What does Ming de los Nichols foresee in the future regarding your work?
Honestly, I want to improve as a bass player. I am working on a set of Primus covers to perform at the annual Halloween tribute show. It is a personal challenge, wish me luck! Also, my friend
Adam and I (same guy from Pig Rat/johntravoltron) make homemade instruments. We are working together on making a few and performing with them soon.
Other than that, I am going with the flow and always trying my best. I know that I won’t stop creating and will do my very best to perform and encourage others to do the same!