Q&A with Phil Stack – 2008 NJA Finalist

When did you start playing bass and why? For example, was there a ‘moment’ when it came to you as a calling or vocation?

I started playing electric bass in early high school to start my first rock band more out of necessity. There were three guitarists and it was like,” one of us needs to play bass”! Id been thinking about it for a while as my guitar playing was never too finesse-ful. I started playing double bass a few years later more because I got heavily into jazz and that was the sound as far as I was concerned.

Which musicians (jazz or otherwise) have been your greatest influences? What about them stood or stands out for you?

I absorbed myself in the Beatles when I was a kid. I love great songs. As far as playing goes, flamboyant innovators like Jimi Hendrix have had a huge effect on me. Bassists Ray Brown, Dave Holland and pianists Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau have been my greatest jazz influences.

When composing or arranging, where do you get your inspiration? For example, do you ever find that other art forms (painting, writing etc.) feed into your own creative process?

Hearing two bars of a bare melody or the same from a distinct and unique voice can spur me on to write something. It can end up being a totally unrelated composition. I often come up with little ideas on planes and have to go into the bathroom to record them on a little recorder. Often, these ideas frequently end up being scrapped. I think that maybe the altitude and the excessive air conditioning makes me go a little weird!

What’s your favourite place to play or practise?

I’m a pretty slack practiser, but anywhere I can find a space (the double bass rumbling through walls can make people wanna kill you!) I once spent a whole morning practising on a busy London median strip!

What does the Wangaratta festival of jazz represent for you?

It really is out on its own as far as its vastness and the huge array of talent in one place. I haven’t been in many years and I’m honoured to be a part of it. I can’t wait.

What are you listening to now?

Traffic out the front of my house! …I mean heaps you know, when I speak to some of my friends I feel that I’ve only just scraped the tip as far what I have checked out.