We Dive Deep with Twiddle Bassist, Zdenek Gubb, About His Bass, PLUMP Chapter 2, Touring & More


11 April 2017
Joshua Huver

The four-piece jam band from Vermont known as Twiddle will be making their way next Friday, April 14th to The Concord Music Hall in Chicago, IL. Taking a page out of their hometown heroes and genre contemporaries Phish’s HFB, lately, they have been gaining major traction across the nation due to their relentless touring and word of mouth discussion as well as the improvisational nature of their live show. Twiddle’s upcoming album PLUMP Chapter 2 features mostly brand new material from guitarist Mihali Savoulidis, keyboardist Ryan Dempsey, drummer Brook Jordan and bassist Zdenek Gubb. 

Last week we had a chance to speak at length with Gubb about the upcoming show at The Concord Music Hall, the new album, his instrument and the fans. Enjoy the conversation below.

Two and a half years y'all have evaded me, beginning in 2014 when you were on tour with Papadosio. It was a last minute thing that came through and enabled me to go, but I missed the opener, I didn’t know anything about Twiddle at the time. Then I was really looking forward to seeing you guys at High Sierra Music Festival this past summer in Quincy, California.

High Sierra? Oh man, that was a fiasco. What happened with High Sierra goes back to one of the main reasons we don’t use American Airlines anymore. It was just delay, after delay, after delay. First, it looks like we’re going to make it, we’re just going to be later than we like. Then, we won’t be able to make it until the next day, which is the day we’re supposed to play. We try to arrive a day early whenever we can, but it’s like ‘OK, we can do this, we’re going to wake up early and get on the plane.’ We’re boarded, not moving, and we get an announcement: “We’ll be on the runway shortly, folk, we apologize for the delay.” We wait some more, then we make it to the runway – just to continue sitting. We’re sitting on the runway for a half an hour and finally, the captain comes back over the speaker and tells us we have to bring the plane back in and everyone has to get off the plane. So it was mostly things like that. But the biggest bummer, never having been to HSMF, I have a brother who’s 10 years older than me and I’ve always wondered from his perspective of being a part of the jam band scene for so many years and what the best festival is for him and he’s always said High Sierra. But the thing about hating flying American Airlines is that they’ve screwed us over so many other times that we get free flights from them and we have to use them.

You’re trapped!

Yea! It’s like a trap, you know? They mess up our flights and brush it off “Oh, we’ll getcha next time!” *wink*

Wow haha, that is a bummer, but hey, free flights aren’t the worst things you could be getting either. Luckily though, the fates were in my favor and I was able to catch you guys for the first time at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael a couple weeks ago.

Oh, you did!?

I have got to say, I think it was worth the wait!

Awesome, thanks, man!

Yea, I had a blast, you guys definitely need to come back out West more often.

Dude, out of all of the shows that we’ve done, my latest and absolute favorite venue that I’ve played is Terrapin Crossroads. It’s perfect in every way, from the sounds, to how nice and cool everybody that works there is.

Understandably! But I’ve got you on the phone not to talk about Terrapin or my misadventures in trying to catch a show, but I’m talking about the show coming up on 4/14 at The Concord Music Hall in Chicago. Have you guys ever played at The Concord before?

Yea, I think just one time before. I remember it being so hot in there. Oh man, I remember it getting really hot. I really enjoyed that show, there’s some sort of, I don’t know how to put this, some sort of fanciness to it, like a glamourous date that’s not afraid to get down and get dirty. Everyone that was working there I remember being really cool; it was a very easy gig in that sense.

I understand you guys are getting ready to release Chapter 2 of PLUMP.

Woo!

Woo! Can you tell me about some of the similarities and differences between the two chapters? Was it a double album from the beginning or was it just to shut off the flow from Chapter 1?

It was always supposed to be a double disc album. It was just super tough. Once we started doing the first half of the album, we never realized how tough it really was going to be to do a double disc album. Initially, I think we had maybe close to enough material but just to get the one-half finished and sounding the way we wanted it to and everything, it was just so much work. It’s crazy, the more you care about something you realize that you have to put that much more time into it. It’s not like we didn’t care as much about the albums that came previous to it, but they just kind of went through a little quicker and now we are getting older we’re kind of figuring ourselves out more. You gotta really want to put out something that you appreciate, you know, and hope that someone else appreciates it. It’s tough because we want to give the fans new music but part of what we’re really excited about and really makes PLUMP 2 completely different from the first one is that there’s all new material. There are only two songs on the album that people have heard before, and it was really hard not to play those two songs. We’re going into rehearsal this week to start going through those songs again and getting comfortable with them enough to start playing them live because you know, we wrote a lot of these songs for PLUMP 2 last year and as the time has gone by, tweaking them in the studio and listening to them, we’ve kind of forgotten how to play them. But the biggest difference between 1 and 2 is the new material and that that material is split between instrumental and vocal and there is a big vibe change. Part of what is going to help make it awesome is that different side to it – it’s not just a collection of songs that we continued writing, it’s the other side of the same coin.

WATCH TWIDDLE PERFORM "LOST IN THE COLD" AND "BEEHOP" AT THE MIRAMAR THEATRE

Very cool. What kind of gear do you use on stage? Do you have a favorite bass that you play – or don’t play anymore?

Well! So, for gear on stage, I can’t even go through all of my pedals cause I don’t have them here in front of me to tell you what I have, but I would love to talk about my actual basses for a minute. A little background story: I had been going through a bunch of different basses and when I joined the band I was using a Cort Action Z 5 string bass and, it’s a little dinky thing, and I experimented with a bunch of different things but the thing that really stuck out was that I returned to my bass. As a 5 string, it normally goes BEADG, the B being the lowest, but I moved all my strings up a different way so that I could have it EADGC, with a high C at the bottom instead of the low B. I’ve stuck with that for a long time, but as I’ve gone through the years I’ve met this super incredible person named Grubby Bean, he’s a bass player himself and has always lent me basses to try and figure things out and we’d pick each other’s brains, but for one of my birthdays he got me this custom bass. This guy just basically picked apart and tooled together his own custom piece and it was stolen out of his dorm room when he was in college and he never saw it again and he never got to put a label on the top of the head. Whoever stole this thing pawned it, got nothing for it, and my buddy Grubby Bean, found it online somehow, super cheap cause nobody could really tell what it was, but he figured out what it was tracked the guy down, and got it for me and it’s my favorite bass I’ve ever owned.

That’s wild!

Yea, it’s exactly the same one and the guy loves it. We were so worried we were going to have to get it back to him, you know it was his baby, but when he saw us he was like no it’s in the right hands, and he was happy. 

What a crazy tale.

Yea so that’s the bass that I use most of the time but I just got a new bass from Magic Wand instruments, led by Ryan Martin and he’s building a bunch of cool instruments for everybody and I think this is one of the first basses that he’s done in a long time, for Magic Wand. This thing is beautiful, you’ve got to see it. It's got a whammy bar on it and it changed my game up completely.

What!? A bass with a whammy bar?

Yea it’s a bitch to tune, that’s the price you pay for a whammy bar, but it’s set up basically the same as my other bass, the pickups, and everything. It feels a little different but the biggest things are the whammy bar and a killswitch.

Are you going to be breaking that out anytime soon or is there still a bit of a learning curve to working the new effect in seamlessly?

Um, well you know I retrieved it last week and I played it so much this weekend – I don’t get blisters anymore but my fingers will definitely get sore after playing the shit out of my bass – sorry for my French there – but I plan on breaking it out as soon as possible; it’s just the tuning challenge. Once it’s in tune it’s good, but as soon as it’s out of tune it’s so tough because of that floating bridge. Tightening one string will loosen all the others and vice versa. It’s a tedious effort so we’re trying to think of ways to make it easier. Hopefully, by the time we get to Chicago, we’ll have thought of something.

Even though you guys have had the current lineup for nearly ten years now, you’ve really started to break out into the open it seems like. A lot of times that can mean that the core group of fans you do have is super tight, and playing smaller shows or to smaller capacities allows you and the rest of the band more opportunities to interact with the fans on a personal level. Can you share one of your favorite fan interactions, versus one of your least favorite?

Haha, I can’t honestly say I’ve had a least favorite fan interaction. I’d have to think really hard about that.

That’s awesome.

I’d have to say it was my least favorite interaction because I don’t think that person was a fan, haha. I remember one show, it’s small, but it’s just rude, you know, we were playing in Maine, and it was weird I just had this feeling that something was going to happen And lo and behold what happened was Mahali turned to me and said “We’re going to play this song” and I was like “I really don’t want to play that song,” and he looks at me like, “Well, suck it up man we’ve got to play the song” and I was like “Alright! I’m gonna play the shit outta that song!” and I got myself all amped and jazzed up to play the song and the next thing I know a beer comes flying out of the crowd and hits my hand, and my hand is on my bass so it just covers my bass in beer. Next thing I know, just to finish the story, the owner of the bar had come out and the fire escape had fallen down because too many people went out there even though they weren’t supposed to, to smoke cigarettes; it collapsed and they fell like two stories and a bunch of people were hurt and we had to stop the show. Just a bunch of crazy bunch of things that all occurred at once. But to answer your question, my least favorite interaction was triggered by that first guy that threw the beer at me. Come on man. It was hot in there but I didn’t need to be cooled off by a beer.

But my favorite fan interaction? That’s really tough to think about because every time I go out there there’s something great to take away from our fans. It’s so hard to just pick one. The thing that’s so blessed about what we do and where we’re at is our fans are so nice. Most of them just want a hug or a picture. The thing I always tell them when they ask for a picture, I say no pictures, only questions or I say yes to pictures and no questions to mess with them and everybody is cool with it! Nobody has taken it seriously. They know it’s just for fun and it’s a very relaxed environment. It’s funny- growing up shy and whatnot, our whole fan base as a whole has made me comfortable in being myself enough to not know anybody and just talk to them. You don’t get every type of egg in every situation though either. We sometimes hear about some nights where somebody gets kicked out for acting like a fool, but there’s a constant thing that we’ve been seeing even playing these bigger rooms and the owners and promoters will come back to us after the show and say “We can't believe how nice and supportive your fan base is.” The fans will come up to me and say “This venue is so cool, they’ll let us clean up afterwords!” Instead of just pushing everyone out.

Which of the four of you guys would you say has the strongest pre-show ritual, and if you can, I’d love you to elaborate?

Strangest … oh man, I wish I knew this question was coming because I would have made something embarrassing up about somebody, haha. There isn’t really a strange ritual that anyone has before a show. Brook and I have a handshake that we do… I can’t really be super specific about it over the phone but it ends in an explosion haha. There’s nothing out of the normal that we do, really. We’ll do a hands-on chant sometimes, someone will just pick a random word and we’ll say it on three. I feel like anybody else would say something like, oh I like to exercise or do yoga or cardio or lift weights haha.

For my last question, I had an opportunity to engage with some long-term fans before talking to you, and surprisingly, to me, the most common question that they had for me to ask you was: What do you keep in your cargo pockets?

Ah-hahaha! They’ll never know! They’ll never know. I have to say that I’ll stick by that and maintain the mystery. 

Don't miss Twiddle at Concord Music Hall on April 14th and Pre-Order PLUMP Chapter 2 HERE



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