An Interview With Bassist John Ferrara of Consider The Source
Zachary Franck (ZF) interviewing John Ferrara (JF)
Where are you from and how long have you been playing music?
I was born in Queens NY and have been playing music since I was about 5.
What made you pick up the bass guitar?
My father is a musician and really wanted his kids to play music. He brought up the idea of me playing bass several times before I decided to give it a try. He finally roped me in by offering to teach me how to play “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix. I was really excited to find that I could do it. After that I kept learning new things and was into it but fell head over heals in love when I was introduced to slap bass players like Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Jonas Hellborg and Les Claypool. The idea of taking an instrument and learning it in a completely new and innovative way resonated with me in a huge way, so I was drawn to and further inspired by players like that.
Growing up, what were your favorite music genres and who were some of your biggest inspirations?
When I was a kid I was into a lot of stuff, metal, hip hop, rock, classic rock, jazz, grunge and lots of other things.... My taste matured as a got into my mid to late teens and got more into jazz and classical music, but still stayed listening to a lot of the other stuff that I was into too.
Where did you learn to play the way that you do?
I didn’t really go anywhere, I never studied music academically. I’m mostly self taught. I just follow my inspiration. My whole outlook was and to a large extend still is “instead of learning a new instrument, learn how to play your bass like other instruments”. So I think having that mentality has yielded some unorthodox ways of approaching the bass.
Also, For the past 10 years I have almost exclusively done this band as my musical outlet so pretty much my entire practice routine is based around developing the techniques and sensibilities that work within this context. When you have that level of autonomy I think it’s a lot easier to develop your own sound. I think a lot of people get frustrated cause they might have a lot of cool techniques at their disposal that they have developed on their own or have learned, but they don’t have an outlet to develop it. When you have a band that will write entire songs based on techniques you’ve developed you’re really able to allow your voice to grow into something truly unique to you.
What kind of bass guitar do you play?
I play a custom 5 string Fodera Monarch with a high C string and a Khaler Bridge (a whammy bar). I also have a 4 string Fodera Monarch which I use a lot too. I also have a Kala ubass (ukelele bass) and a goldtone Banjo bass, both of which I use in our acoustic sets.
What made you guys name the band Consider The Source?
Gabriels father came up with it. We were struggling to settle on a name and then he just came out and said it. It was the first name that all of us were stoked about immediately, we liked the ring it had and how open to interpretation it is, so we kept it.
I know that Consider The Source also has acoustic shows, what other instruments do you play during these shows?
I play a Kala U-bass, which is short for “Ukelele” bass. It gives me a African sort of sound, but also works really well with the different Middle Eastern Instruments that Gabriel uses. I also play a Goldtone Banjo bass which sounds to me like what a Turkish bass guitar would sound like if they had them! Playing slap bass on that thing is just one of the coolest sounds! Lastly I play a Slapstick which is a 5 foot, thin, rectangular piece of metal which has a paper thin slab of metal running down it which functions the same way a string would. It’s kind of a hybrid bass and drum instrument and I love the hell out of it.
How long have you been in Consider The Source?
CTS formed in 2004 with myself, Gabriel and our original drummer Justin.
How did Consider The Source come to fruition?
Our original drummer and I were friends since childhood and played music together all through out our teens. Justin was a at party that Gabe was at and they met and jammed. Justin immediately called me and said “dude you have to jam with this guy”. So the three of us got together in a studio in NYC and jammed. We had an instant connection and after the very first session we all felt that there was something powerful there.
How much improvisation is included in the average show?
I would say it’s about 50/50. We have improvisational sections in our songs, just like most bands do, though we really like to blur the lines when it comes to these sections. We will improvise over compositional parts, re-interpret rhythmic feels, scales, dynamics and so forth to the point where the listener can’t identify what our musical cue’s are to go in and out of solo sections. The improvised sections are very important to us as players, but just as much are the compositions, so we try to keep a good portion of the song structure in tact and let the improvised sections be more open for interpretation. We strive to write our songs from as deep and authentic a place as possible so when we play them live, we want to convey the place the three of us were in when we wrote it. Not to say that we don’t improvise in the “compositional” sections of the song too, but we try to do so in a way that still serves the general mood of the song.
Do you write any music for Consider The Source alone or is it mostly done as a band?
Yes I write stuff alone but then will show it to my band mates, who then add their amazingness to it. Typically myself or Gabe will develop ideas wether they be riffs, whole sections or entire songs on our own first, and then have a show and tell session. At the end of the day, even when I write something and bring it in , it becomes our song. One of the foundational aspects of us as a band is that we want things to be egalitarian, to have all three of our voices heard equally so we try to relinquish control over the writing and let each of us do what we do best and say what we have to say.
What do you hope to accomplish with Consider The Source?
I really like that we’ve become a band who has had some success doing something so weird. We feel extremely fortunate that this project of ours that started just as three people having fun and experimenting became something that people enjoy as well. I’ve found that our fans appreciate that we’ve stuck to our guns and haven’t been strategic with our sound. One of the main messages that i’d like to send with CTS is to encourage people to make sure that whatever they do, wether it be music or arts or something completely different, that it is done from a place of purity, that it makes sense to them as people and not from a place of trying to do something from a place of trying to fit in. It might be harder to pave your own way, but it’s only way worth doing it.
Many people consider you guys to be the definition of a power trio, is there something special about being in a trio?
I think my favorite thing about doing the power trio things is the level of autonomy each person has. The three of us think big a lot of the time when we write our individual parts and coordinating parts with only two other people gives us each a lot of room to be ourselves and go for some outlandish stuff. I can write a bass riff that’s meant to fill the role of a piano or a percussion instrument and not have to worry about it stepping on anyones toes, cause there aren’t many toes to step on.
As a band, who are some of your biggest influences?
The Bad Plus, Opeth, King Crimson, Paradox Trio, Screaming Headless Torsos, Tool, Radiohead, U. Srinivas, Chick Corea, Mahavishnu Orchestra, tons more!!!
What are some of your dreams and hopes for the future? Are there any specific venues or festivals that you’d love to perform at that you haven’t already?
We would like to expand into different scenes. Right now we have a strong fanbase in the Jam scene which we love and are developing a following in the progressive rock and metal scenes, which style wise I personally always thought we’d fit well in. We’d also like to be recognized in the jazz and general rock scenes.
As for venues The Beacon Theater and Red Rocks!
I know that you guys have fans in countries all over the world; do you think that you’ll ever do an international tour?
We actually have done a number of over seas tours in Israel, Germany and Turkey. We actually find that our music is extremely well received over in these places and in Europe in general. We would love to do a lot more touring overseas and intend on making our way over there in the next year or two.
What festivals will you guys be playing at this summer?
SummerCamp, Werk Out, The Mad Tea Party, Disc Jam, Family Roots Festival, Strangecreek, Some Kind of Jam, Rock N Roll Resort, WildWoods, Hidden in the Hollow, The Gathering at Chaffee’s, Farm on Fire, Cosmic Alignment Festival, Peace of Mind Fest and more to come.
I understand that you guys have been working on a triple album, when will it fully be released? Can you tell us a little about that?
Part one was already released this past Halloween. Part 2+3 will be released together in the form of a double album this summer. The first part was a 23 minute progressive rock piece broken up into 6 sections. The 5th section was written by musical mastermind Jan Zehrfeld from the german jazz/metal band Panzerballet, who we toured with in Germany and here in the U.S. This piece was our first try at a composition of this length. We kept coming up with these awesome song ideas that were different, yet flowed together really nicely. We pulled inspiration from classical music, math metal, and minimalism and tweaked each section until they flowed as one coherent piece.
Parts 2+3, will be more familiar to what our fan base is used to. It will have our Eastern and aggressive improvisational sides, plus acoustic songs, ballads and yes of course, more prog rock epics...
We are really excited to release this, as Part 1 was very well received, even though it was a departure from our normal sound. I think that our fan base is going to really enjoy the rest.
Where do you see Consider The Source in five years?
I see us expanding into new terrain both musically and geographically. We have a lot of ideas for albums in the works that I can’t divulge here but all I can say is that it will take years and years to put out but we are motivated and excited to tackle all of them. I also see us doing more acoustic sets in the future as they have been a ton of fun and our fans really enjoy them. Lastly, I see us doing more master classes worldwide, as that is another thing that we’ve done in the past but haven’t had the time to really do lately. Just keeping up the momentum and playing more and more music!