“I like to bend strings a lot, so that’s an advantage,” says MonoNeon of his upside-down, left-handed bass approach. He prefers 5-string Lakland basses. Photo by Fred SanFilipo
In your videos, you often play along to people speaking. Describe the process of transcribing and learning to play what people are saying.
I just repeat and repeat and repeat until I get it. I sit around and learn it. I don’t write anything out. It takes a lot of time to retain it, remember it, and get it under my fingers. It’s stuff that I just like to do: It’s cathartic for me to do it.
How do you put together your arrangements?
During the process. I don’t think about it before, but when I’m doing it, I think about it.
Do you find that people have a natural cadence when they speak that lends itself musically?
Yeah. Especially, for some reason, Cardi B really works for me.
What is it about her speech that works for you?
I don’t know, I just hear a lot of melodicism in it. I don’t know what it is. It just works.
Does that hold true for Angry Grandpa and Donald Trump as well?
Somewhat. I like Will Smith. I do some of his videos, too.
What gear are you using to create those videos?
I plug into an interface. I have a one-channel interface, the Apogee Jam. I plug my guitar into it, unplug it, and then plug my bass into it. I also use the Apollo Twin Solo if I’m home recording stuff.
Besides Prince, have other people been in touch with you because of your videos?
A few people. I can’t remember who else found me, but I get emails and messages a lot from people because of my videos.
Are you right-handed or left-handed?
I am right-handed.
What made you decide to start playing left-handed?
I’ve been playing that way since I was 4 years old and I never changed.
Do you find there are advantages to playing that way?
I like to bend strings a lot, so that’s an advantage. It’s easier to bend because the higher strings are on top.
What’s your approach to slap?
It’s really the same way everybody else does it. I slap with my thumb and I pop with my fingers. It’s just upside down.
Playing upside down doesn’t make it more challenging?
I just pluck. I really don’t think deep about this. I just do it.
Any other techniques?
I palm-mute a lot. I don’t work on my tapping a lot. I’m really standard when it comes to technique.
Do any of these things transfer to guitar playing?
Rhythm guitar playing. I’m not much of a lead soloist, I’m more of a rhythm guitar player.
Do you use a pick for guitar?
How did you develop your sense of groove? Did you spend time with a metronome?
I really just play to records, that’s all.
Do you use a click when recording your albums?
I really don’t. I don’t really record to a BPM [beats per minute]. If I do, I have to remind myself to do it, but I usually don’t.
Are there things you recommend others do to develop a sense of time?
Play to records, that’s the best way for me. Playing to a metronome is cool, but playing to records is more fun, I guess.
Did you do things to develop your speed as well?
I’m not really fast. I just repeat and repeat stuff until I get it.
How did you develop your harmonic sense? Have you transcribed jazz solos?
When I was young, I tried to do that stuff, but I never really stuck with it. I never sat around and transcribed Bird or Jaco. I just took fragments from what they did and played around with it. I never transcribed a whole solo.
Did you study harmony? Did you take theory classes at Berklee and learn about substitutions and chord scales and things like that?
Yeah, but I really don’t use it. Everything is intuitive. Like, everything I do is intuitive.
Meaning you hear something and play what’s in your head.
Yep. Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes I fall on my face doing it, but it is what it is.
You studied microtones with Fiuczynski. Do you still work with those?
I haven’t recently, but sometimes I mess around with quarter-tones. It’s still there, but I haven’t composed with it much.
You go for a lo-fi sound on your solo releases. Do you use that same aesthetic when working with other people?
I’m sure it comes out somewhere unintentionally. My love for lo-fi came from not knowing what the hell I am doing. So, I just fell in love with it. It’s nostalgic. I just like it.
Do you go direct when recording with others as well?