Bassists, meet Evan Marien. He quickly became one of my favorite bass players the moment I first heard him play. His musicality is off the charts and I’m heavily influenced by his compositional style. If you haven’t heard or seen him play, stop what you’re doing right now and head to his YouTube channel.
TB – You and I have a mutual friend, Damian Erskine, who introduced me to you several NAMM’s ago. He told me to keep an eye on you and I absolutely did! One part of your signature sound that I adore, after transcribing clips of your licks on Instagram, is the way that you’ll play the same note on two different strings with extended fingerings in really fast passages. This one here is one of my favorites:
Where did this idea come from?
EM- Jaco was the first bassist I heard using extended doubles like that, and I’ve been really inspired by guitarists like Tim Miller and Allan Holdsworth on how they double up the notes from the scales. It’s now something that I’ve incorporated into my approach to scales, especially when I’m using a 3 note-per-string system. For example, as a basic way to approach practicing this, if I’m in D Major, I’ll play D – E – F# all on the same string (E string), and then I can stretch from my 4th finger – 1st finger to find the double on the string above. So it ends up being D – E – F# (on E string) – F# (on A string). I started off practicing doubling up the 3rds and 7ths, but it’s more fun to try to target any note of the scale. If I spread this approach over a 2 octave major pentatonic/hexatonic scale it gets pretty wild sounding.
TB – Many of your videos involve just two or three physical instruments on screen, meaning that the music is pretty production – and track – heavy. For many “purists” this can be seen as a cop-out, or at least something to be avoided. Do you ever get complaints for combining such virtuosic music with modern production techniques and backing tracks?
EM- I’m sure everyone would love to see more musicians in my videos but it seems my true fans love hearing what just Dana Hawkins and I add to my music. But it doesn’t seem odd to me to keep things as a duo or even just to myself. I grew up as a huge Squarepusher fan, and he would play bass along to his tracks, sometimes just by himself or with a live drummer. Same with Matthew Garrison, who was my teacher at Berklee and a huge influence on my playing and production. To me, having real bass and drums brings enough organic life and energy that enhances my compositions and productions.
TB – I adore the way that you blend genres like EDM with jazz fusion and old-skool NES nostalgia. How did that come about?
EM- I love video games, ever since I was a little kid I’d spend hours (days and weeks!) playing all sorts of games. I’m especially into epic RPG type games like the Final Fantasy series and adventure games like the Legend of Zeldas but I love racing and first person shooters too. Most recently I’ve been playing Skyrim and Battlefront. The music for these games is mostly orchestral, so with a good set of headphones you can totally be immersed and lost in another world. Speaking of another world, I got into jazz and fusion when I was a student at Berklee and studied different advanced harmonic writing concepts, like the use of a technique called ‘Constant Structure’. An example of this technique is the EvanxDana song ‘Sweatn’, which uses a constant structure for the A section and a different one for the B section. Basically I structured the tune with all major chords for the A section, and all Minor chords for the B section. Sometimes I lean a little bit more on my ‘jazz’ knowledge for writing but for production, I create a sonic palette that reminds me of NES, SNES, Genesis (etc) sounds.
TB – A lot of your music is done as a duo alongside drummer Dana Hawkins. Did you intentionally set out to keep it as a two-piece ensemble, or did that develop out of necessity somehow?
EM- It all began out of an experiment. I was working on a lot of drumless electronic compositions back in 2009, 2010, mainly because I didn’t have a good drum sample library built up so I just focused on creating vibes with different sections at all sorts of bpms. When I first moved to NYC in 2010 Dana lived 2 blocks away and he had a drum set and a PA system in his basement, and he wanted to jam. I thought it could be cool, instead of just jamming duo, that I could bring over some tracks and we could play around with them. Dana is such an incredible drummer that I thought the music didn’t need much else, so I booked a studio session later that week and started working on what would become the EP ‘Here We Are’, which was released in early 2011.
TB – Thanks to social media, most of us see only snippets of each others’ lives and assume that that’s what we do all the time. I’ve really only seen you shred, which isn’t an insult 🙂 Do you do any “regular” gigs as well, like play in cover bands or weddings, or are you primarily a solo artist?
EM- I play in a wedding band that plays all the top 40 hits, but it’s not your typical wedding band. The band I’m in plays a lot of destination weddings. We travel to California, Colorado, and Florida a lot, but we’ve been all over the world too, playing weddings in Moscow, Istanbul, London to name a few. It’s a crazy band, and we’ve had some crazy gigs. We’ve shared the stage with Earth Wind and Fire, Jennifer Lopez, Sean Paul, Enrique Iglesias, and Robbie Williams. I’ve been in this same wedding band for over 8 years and since the band is mostly old friends from my Berklee days it ends up being a lot of fun and with lots of really awesome musical moments. The wedding gig has freed me up so that I can pay my bills and still invest in building my career as a solo artist. Besides the wedding gigs I play with guitarist Wayne Krantz and Justin Brown’s NYEUSI band, as well as play bass, keybass and sing background vocals for Elliot Moss.
TB – What’s been your biggest successes so far?
EM- I’ve been lucky to make music with my biggest influences including Allan Holdsworth, Wayne Krantz, Tim Miller, and Mike Slott. These guys impacted my life in a big way with their music, and it means the world to me that I’m able to hang in there and create music with them.
TB – How about your biggest failure?
EM- I think my biggest failure has been neglecting my health for so long, and when you’re unhealthy for so long it’s hard to learn how to have a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy and being active are becoming key factors to maintaining a level of high performance. I like to go for runs now in the early mornings and that gets me motivated and feeling good for the rest of the day.
TB – Your social media presence and branding game are on point. How intentional are you about what you post and when?
EM- On Instagram I like to cycle around a bunch of content, whether it be video clips, photos or artwork. The main thing I try to do is push content out daily. It’s important to keep your fans and followers engaged with what you are actively doing because it builds a community and keeps you in their thoughts.
TB – What advice would you have for someone trying to do what you’re doing right now?
EM- The journey is long, and you will definitely have a couple bumps in the road along the way, but things will work out… but maybe not like you thought they would. Never lose your patience and be persistent with your goals!
TB – What’s one non-bass related piece of gear that you couldn’t live without?
EM- My laptop! It feels so exciting to open it up everyday and have the world at your fingertips. I love sitting down and learning something new about a plugin or synth and experimenting with sounds and textures. To some it might look like I’m wasting time but for me I’m always learning something new and figuring out how I can apply it musically.
TB – If there was one bass to rule them all it would be…
EM- Isn’t there a Fodera that has a custom Lord of the Rings/Gandalf theme to it? Let’s say that one haha. Or for the purists, let’s say a 4 string Fender P bass. Personally, my bass to rule them all is my old brown Ken Smith BSRB. I found it on ebay in 2008 and it’s been the bass I’ve learned everything on and consistently come back to.
TB – Any projects on the horizon that we should be aware of?
EM- I am working on my next EMAR album, and loads of special guests already recorded like Cory Wong from Vulfpeck, Steve Hunt who was my fellow bandmate with Allan Holdsworth, Ian Chang from Son Lux’s band, Nate Wood from Kneebody/Four, Louis Cole from Knower, and of course Dana Hawkins. More special guests being confirmed, I’m really pumped for this one!
TB – When’s the next time you’re playing at The Baked Potato?
EM- Nothing is booked at the moment, but I played there back in January with Virgil Donati, Steve Hunt and Alex Machacek playing all Allan Holdsworth songs as a tribute to our former bandleader. One of my regular gigs there is with a great keyboardist Isamu McGregor. He’s originally from Los Angeles. We recorded his live album at the Baked Potato back in 2011, called ‘Live at the Baked Potato’. I really love the vibe of that place, the staff, and the Big Ass baked potatoes they serve!
TB – Where can people best find you online?
TB – I end every episode of my podcast with an instruction to “Watch your step.” It roughly means to look where you’re going and to have a plan for getting there. Do you have any such motto or phrase that you to live by?
EM- Three words: Gratitude, Patience and Persistence. Getting good at these things will help you in all aspects of your life. Gratitude means checking in with yourself daily or weekly and making a list of all the good things, being thankful for where you come from and where you’ve ended up. Patience means being in the present, not thinking you should be somewhere else and accepting where you are. Persistence looks towards the future, setting goals and achieving them. Having a clear vision of what your life could be like.