Watch John Stirratt Talk Wilco Chemistry, Fave Bassists - Rolling Stone
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Watch Wilco’s John Stirratt Talk Band Chemistry, Fave Bassists in New Video

Co-founding member on Fender bass tradition, crafting personal sound

Wilco bassist John Stirratt reflects on his key influences, the joys of playing in a tight-knit ensemble and his prized American Standard Jazz Bass in a new interview as part of Fender video series “A Handmade Original.” Stirratt took time to chat and demonstrate his technique during the band’s ongoing U.S. tour in support of their recent surprise-release LP, Star Wars.

“There’s absolutely a sort of second nature,” says Stirratt, Wilco’s only remaining original member aside from Jeff Tweedy, of the bond that has developed between him and the other members of the band. “It’s this really profound connection that you have with people.” For Stirratt, that connection extends to the group’s fans as well. “There’s something incredible about that exchange of energy, that subtle exchange between the band and then with the audience — just sort of the mystery about that.”

Stirratt credits legendary session bassists such as Stax mainstay Donald “Duck” Dunn and country fixture Joe Osborn for helping him find his sound. He also discusses his reverence for classic Fender basses. “It really was the reason that rock & roll was created in many way,” Stirratt says of the company’s pioneering Precision Bass, which hit the market in 1951. “You can imagine the sound of an early Precision bass in a bar when all anyone ever heard was a stand-up bass.”

The clip also shows Stirratt demonstrating his technique on his own preferred instrument, the Fender American Standard Jazz Bass. “There’s just enough parameters that you were really able to find your sweet spot,” he says of the four-string. “There’s enough room to really express yourself.”

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