The Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the Bass Guitar: An Interview with Billy Sheehan (December 2004) by Melanie Sass Falina
Amongst all the greats in rock and roll, certain performers stand alone. Eddie Van Halen on guitar, Paul
Stanley as front man extraordinaire, and when thinking of bassists that truly have risen above the best of the
best's standards - one of the first that any rocker would think of is Billy Sheehan. I caught up with the Bass
God himself for a "quickie" interview.not an easy task considering each email I receive from the man comes from a
different continent! Please read (and rock) on.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: You've been participating in a lot of bass clinics all over the
world, and obviously offer great knowledge to those who come to see you, but what do YOU get out of, or learn,
from doing these clinics?
Billy Sheehan: I don't get too much time to do more than a dozen or so a year, it's a
microscopic part of the big picture actually, but I do enjoy helping my fellow players in any way possible. When
you have to explain something, especially to a beginner, you gain a greater understanding of it yourself. Very
Melanie "Sass" Falina: How was working with Eric Martin different than David Lee Roth?
Billy Sheehan: From Dave I got respect, guidance, help and friendship that stands to this
day. We may have had our differences at one point, but Dave never disrespected, mocked or humiliated me in public
or private. He also respected my playing and would say so. He's never sat around and thought up names to call me
or given me the finger behind my back on stage. He was not a coward, and if he had a beef with me, he'd deal with
it like a man. That's the difference.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: Who has been the most challenging person to work with as an artist?
Billy Sheehan: Steve Vai has some VERY demanding music - amazing really. Some of the
toughest stuff I've ever played. Niacin also with drummer Dennis Chambers, who to me is the best player I've ever
known on any instrument.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: When you toured with Roth you and Steve Vai performed dueling guitars
on stage. He would have his guitar appear to ask yours something and it would go back and forth. How long did
that take to develop - and what else did you learn from Steve?
Billy Sheehan: I think it was Steve's idea from Yankee Rose, but the "call & return"
soloing dates back about a hundred years I think. We had a blast on that tour!
Melanie "Sass" Falina: You do a lot of shows with Happenin' Harry & the Haptones, how did
you come to hook up with Harry and what is it that you enjoy about these jam sessions?
Billy Sheehan: He's just a friend hanging out in LA. He used to come see Talas years ago. I
just love to play! Play live! It's most of all I've done my whole life. Its fun in LA to have a few beers, get up
& play a bunch of songs. I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to work with a lot of great folks.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: Three double octave split fingered tapping, absolutely amazing to
watch, what led to its creation?
Billy Sheehan: I used to play (in Talas) seven nights a week, three or four sets a night.
Once we did 21 nights in a row, moving our own gear & setting up each night. You learn to improvise, and
since there's no time to learn new songs, you start adding whatever you can to make it interesting. Also, playing
in a three-piece band, you had to make up for the lack of keyboards or a second guitar & EVERYBODY had to
sing. It was the best experience ever in retrospect. It's where I learned most everything.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: As a fellow cat lover/owner who misses my babies terribly when I'm
away from home, do you ever wish you could bring Spooky with you with all the traveling you do?
Billy Sheehan: I have a house sitter who watches her for me. She'd FREAK outside her little
world though. She's acclimated to my home & doesn't even like to venture outside. She's the queen there!
Melanie "Sass" Falina: Is there anything else that you'd like to accomplish as an artist
that you haven't yet? If so, what?
Billy Sheehan: I just want to get better, reach more people, make more & better
records-keep doing what I'm doing. I love to play. I do little else.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: Same question as above, but non-music related.is there anything else
in your life besides music that you'd still like to accomplish?
Billy Sheehan: I'm a student of life, philosophy, language & other things. I'm an
insatiable student of it all! I thought about getting into politics, but I'm sure some of my shenanigans on the
road would come back to haunt me! Ha!
Melanie "Sass" Falina: Whom would you be interested in either recording and/or jamming with
that you have not yet? And why?
Billy Sheehan: Paco DeLucia, Snoop Dog, Slipknot, Tony Bennet. They are all masters of their
Melanie "Sass" Falina: Has there been any talk at all about a Mr. Big reunion? (Hey, I can
Billy Sheehan: Nope. I'll never allow myself to be treated like that again. I loved the band
though. Everyone was a supreme talent. Undeniably so.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: What's next on your agenda?
Billy Sheehan: I'm on tour now in South America with Steve & get home Dec 14th. My new
solo CD is done & coming soon, as well as Steve's new CD I played on, and we just got nominated for a Grammy
for a live song we played together.
Melanie "Sass" Falina: If you were to put together a time capsule today, what would be in
Billy Sheehan: A rotary phone, Air Hockey, Pong, Richard Prior Here & Now live comedy
Melanie "Sass" Falina: People who are accountants, mechanics, music-journalists, etc,
fantasize about being rock stars.what does Billy Sheehan fantasize about being when day dreaming?
Billy Sheehan: Being His Majesty, the Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of the Universe. Just
Melanie "Sass" Falina: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in your life?
Billy Sheehan: Getting about 40 or 50 people permanently off drugs & stopping several
© December 2004