Groundbreaking musician Suzi Quatro is the subject of the upcoming documentary Suzi Q, and she recently took some time to join us via Zoom for this latest edition of Loudwire’s Gear Factor.
Quatro revealed during the chat that she started her music education at a very young age, growing up in a musical family where her father was also a performer. “I began on bongos at the age of 7 and I was pretty damn good. My dad actually let me come to his gigs and play in front of him. Then I went to classical piano, so I took that for about eight or nine years, so I had to learn to read, write and play and I still play now. Then I went to percussion in school and I ended up learning to read, write and play percussion and I ended up first chair.”
Like many of her age, the Beatles‘ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was a turning point, with all the kids in the family deciding to start a band. “Everybody quickly chose an instrument,” she recalls “I didn’t speak up, so I was like, ‘Hey, what am I gonna play?’ and my older sister said, ‘You’re playing bass.’ So I went, ‘Okay.’ I didn’t care. So I got this [bass guitar] from my father – 1957 Fender Precision – as my first bass guitar.” And thus Suzi’s bass legacy was cemented.
She tells us, “I think one of the first [riffs], if I go back very early, was ‘Stagger Lee’ by Lloyd Price. It’s very basic bass. That’s what I learned when I learned.” Suzi also cites Motown legend James Jamerson and Canned Heat as an early influence on her playing, displaying a bit of “On the Road Again.”
As for the first song she learned to play, that goes back to The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.” “I do remember the first song I tried to learn and because I didn’t try to go from guitar to bass, I never used a pick in my life. Never used one. I can’t get along with them. There was no one to teach me the bass. I taught myself. So I figured you had to put your hands here and then play with your thumb. So I learned to play ‘Louie Louie,'” said Quatro. “But I had a big blister, so then I learned to play like this.”
When asked for her favorite riff, she boasts, “I consider this to be my best bass riff I’ve ever written and I have seen some seriously good bass players do this riff. It’s called ‘Walking Through the Changes.’ Not easy, not easy to play, it’s that deadened string.”
Quatro reveals that she didn’t always make it easy on herself with her bass lines. To demonstrate, she pulls out “She’s in Love With You,” explaining, “I illustrate this when I do my tutorials because the riff is like a machine. You can’t alter it. It’s like a machine. And the vocal, do you hear that? It’s backward.” You can also catch Suzi demonstrating a bit of “Truck Stop” and the super funky “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” as well.
Speaking about her love for the bass, Suzi offers, “I think what you’ve probably noticed by now, my style, for a bass player, it’s very expressive for a bass player. I’m not just playing the notes. I’m getting the light and shade in the notes. I don’t know what that is, but I guess because I’m a bass player in my heart. I actually love the bass. I love the bass notes, I love the runs. It’s really in my heart and soul. I could never be a guitar player, it’s far too delicate.”
Quatro finishes her Gear Factor episode, speaking about the Suzi Q documentary that is being released virtually tomorrow (July 1) and then hitting on demand viewing July 3.
Suzi Q Documentary Trailer
“The documentary has been on my bucket list for a long long time because I always just wanted the record set straight. Everybody that’s in this one wants to be in it. They’re speaking from their heart and you feel it and you start to cry, you know. Alice [Cooper] was wonderful. Debby Harry, bless her heart. Oh she couldn’t have been nicer. Henry Winkler brings me to tears every time. Joan Jett was very sweet. Cherie Curie is good friend of mine. Talking Heads, L7’s Donita Sparks, [The Go-Go’s] Kathy Valentine. I hope I’m not forgetting anybody. They all were just so wonderful,” says the bass legend. “You have to see the film. It’s a terrific documentary, warts and all, and it does put the record straight and it has had rave reviews around the world.”
Watch Suzi Quatro’s Gear Factor below and make sure to get your order in for the July 1 Suzi Q documentary premiere at this location.
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