Eric Rupert is a globetrotter, an international touring and studio bassist with over three decades experience working with rock, pop, jazz and country artists as well as shows on Broadway and London’s West End. He’s also a musical director, producer, clinician and and has worked on product development with Ibanez. I was able to catch him for a quick interview in between his busy schedule. Eric is a brilliant story teller and lucky for me, his stories kept coming. Here's what he had to say.
What got you into bass in the first place?
When I was young, I started on trumpet, then I moved to tuba, and then also began playing double bass in the orchestra at the request of my orchestra director Mr. Smarelli, in Springfield Ohio.
How did you decide making music was what you wanted to do with your life professionally?
I think I knew from the beginning that I really enjoyed it and it was something that I thought I had somewhat of an aptitude for at a young age. Switching to tuba, I think I found my voice as a musician and then doubling on electric and upright bass just came naturally.
Did you ever have a different career goal/dream?
Every kid wants to be a veterinarian, fireman or a policeman. My mother and father always had music playing around the house, so I fell in love with the music of Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles. I think because of that, it was built into me to love and enjoy music.
Why did you pick up playing the tuba?
Mr. Smarelli really pushed me towards the orchestral side and I really enjoyed that style of music. There was a space open in the orchestra and band for a tuba player, so I thought it would be fun to do.
How was the transition from tuba to double bass?
I added the upright bass, as it’s a natural double in the Low-End range, and you get more work doing that.
You were so young when you started playing professionally. How did you get connected with Dr. John?
I was very lucky a young age to get in with great musicians that were a lot older than I was. This allowed me to meet and play with some great artists at a very young age. I was playing at all of the clubs in town by the time I was fourteen years old. I ran into Dr. John several times over the years, and I knew a lot of the musicians that worked in his band. I got the chance to perform with Dr. John, Dizzy Gillespie and Joel Grey all in the same year.
What bass do you play?
I have several different basses that I use at the moment, mostly Ibanez basses and electric uprights and acoustic upright basses. I collect the 1970’s Ibanez Lawsuit basses. I used to have a $15,000 bass, but I don’t play expensive ones anymore really. When you’re in the pit, all of the instruments get lost in the mix, and people would say they could barely hear it.
I also had someone steal my double bass when I was playing at a café in Central London. I left my double bass propped up, with my tuxedo hanging on a nail right where the case was, and I ran off for a minute. But, when I came back, the bass was gone… Well, so, my mate owned the place, and I accused him of moving it just to mess with me, but he had no idea what I was talking about. By that time, whoever stole it was long gone. The weirdest part, well other than someone successfully stealing that big ass double bass, was that they took the time to hang the tuxedo all nice and neatly on a hook instead of just throwing it on the floor.
What piece of gear do you never leave home without?
My Ibanez of course, but also, I don’t use anything other than my WiC truthfully… I just show up, put the WiC on my amp and plug it into the bass. I HATE cables; I never have cables on stage. I hate being connected. I do a show with some girls called “All About the Bass.” During the show, I come up to front of stage with my double bass, and jam for a little. I’m doing it all wirelessly, and there’s no stupid cables under my feet, so I am able to move around.
A lot of other musicians are jealous when they see it. I was setting up for a show one night and one of the other musicians was like, “I’ve got the Line6; what are you using? Where are the cables?!” and I said well there are no cables. I’m using my PRA Audio WiC. I haven’t carried a cable in three years.
What is your favorite kind of gig to play?
I enjoyed playing every style from jazz, rock, pop, funk, country and even playing classical music plus doing musicals, so my favorite kind of gig probably is just about anything I get called for. I love the being able to wake up in the morning and say I’m a bass player.
How often are you playing shows?
I play every week. I play a lot of jazz gigs over the weekends with the upright. I’m recording an orchestral album right now. It’s a group of singers with strings, piano, and percussion underneath. I have about five recording projects going at the same time; That’s normal. The other album features jazz sax from Italy. I normally play more with the upright, but I’ve been doing more electric recently. When my weird shit comes into play, I use my 6-string.
When you play behind someone on tour, do you get to know them pretty well?
I think any time you work with an artist you get to know them in a lot of different ways whether it’s fun or being out with them or just doing anything that they like to do. You start having a silly jokes in the music and on stage that you know, the audience doesn’t get, but they think it’s great because you’ve got such a connection with the artist.
Did you ever play with someone you just didn’t like?
There’s always bad gigs and there’s people that you don’t wanna play with ever again but you know in our business if you don’t talk about it it never happened.
How does is it differ for a musician getting and playing shows in the UK vs. the US? Do you prefer one over the other?
I think both sides of the pond have advantages and disadvantages. I really enjoyed touring and living in the United States for many years, but when I met my beautiful wife Dodie, who is from the Midlands here in England, we decided it would be better for me to make my claim in the UK. It’s been wonderful. Everyone over here has been very gracious, and the work is not hard to get. I think I prefer working then where I work but I have so many good friends and musician mates on the side of the pond now it will be hard to go back.
What is your pre-gig ritual?
I’m a bit OCD, so I tend to just like to run through everything in my head and make sure everything is in the right place. Oh yeah, and have a cigar.
What cigars do you smoke?
Romeo Juliet Wide Churchhills, or there’s a similar medium Cohibia... I like all Cubans... I’m also a massive Robusto fan. Recently, I’ve fallen love with Partagus #4. If I’m in the states, Liga 95s and 92s or Neanderthals. While in the states and as a cigar aficionado, I was lucky enough to play at several cigar shops throughout Ohio with some amazing blues musicians Wayde Wade, Jeffro Jam and a lovely singer/guitarist Jenny Flory, all wonderful musicians from Columbus. The two main shoppes were La Chaveta Cigar Lounge and Governor’s Cigars.
What projects are you working on and/or finished lately?
Well I’m recording with several people right now. The project I’m really excited about here in London is recording with an Italian Saxophonist Aldevis Tibaldi on his upcoming CD with a great drummer Chris Gale. I also recorded with Ruvane Kurland in the US this year on his new CD “19”. And, I’m doing some fretless stuff on this Indian recording with a lot of eclectic instruments under it. It’s a preexisting piece, and I am building my part around it. I’m also about to take on a massive queen tribute called Monarchy.
What do you do when you aren’t playing bass?
I’m an avid TV and movie junkie. I also enjoy smoking cigars, drinking good scotch, and I really love great wine. Plus, I’m a real foodie.
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