Bassist Gabe Rosales

Gabe Rosales is a guitarist, singer, bassist rapper, and producer from San Juan Capistrano, California. Rosales has worked in many genres of music, such as Latin music (most notably flamenco and Cuban music), rock, jazz, drum and bass, fusion, funk, hip hop, jazz rap, and death metal. His album, Vital Nonsense, was released on February 10, 2009. Rosales has played with a variety of artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Fat Joe, Christina Milian, and George Lynch.

Bassist Gabe Rosales Interview

Scott - Hi Gabe, Hey man.... Thank you so much for taking the time out to do an interview w/ me and my Guitarz site. Give our readers a short but descriptive label of your style of bass playing and the types of music you like playing.

Gabe - Scott ! It is my honor to be included on your site. You do great work, brother. I have many influences ranging from Cliff Burton to Rocco and Jaco. Because I grew up playing death metal, stuff like Obituary, Deicide, Sepultura, etc. I have always been into high energy music, without too much easy listening. However you could call some Bela Fleck and the Flecktones songs chill music. I take a lot of my thumb technique from Wooten and Bill Dickens but note wise I love Oteil Burbidge and Gary Willis but someone told me I have a string attack like Stanley Clark. I‘ll take all of it. Those guys are heroes. I enjoy playing everything man, except super super poppy stuff. I get to jump around and head bang playing heavy stuff and I get create sick grooves playing funk and hip hop. I get to let loose and play weird out there stuff in fusion, I get down with some of my roots playing Latin grooves and I get to vent when I grab an acoustic and sing. It’s all therapy! 

Scott - Give us a list of musicians you have collaborated with over the years.

Gabe - Man I have been so lucky to have worked with some of my personal heroes. Most notably I would say George Lynch, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Milian, Sheena Easton, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill, Fat Joe, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls,
Andy Summers of The Police, Prashant Aswani, Jose Pasillas II of Incubus... And recently, I got to work with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine on the documentary with George Lynch.

Born in 1978 in Southern California to Mexican parents, Rosales studied began studying music at age 10, originally playing the piano, and later on switching to guitar and bass in his early teens, and was influenced early by groups such as Faith No More, N.W.A, and DJ Jazzy Jeff, as well as Mexican folk music his parents played and listened to. Rosales also began drawing, which started his interest with art. Rosales' parents divorced in 1986 when he was 12 and this split his family. He moved to northern California with his mother after she got accepted into a college, leaving his father in Southern California. At age 13, Rosales developed a fascination with the occult, and bought books by Aleister Crowley and Anton La Vey. Rosales' predominant musical interest was death metal as he began performing with a band just 3 months after he picked up bass as a vocalist and instrumentalist. He utilized his dark Poe influenced poetry as the catalyst for his lyrics.

Scott - Give me the scoop on you and legendary guitarist George Lynch's collaborations.

Gabe - I started off with George! I was so lucky to land a voice on a Lynch Mob album when I was 19 around 1998. It was the one Lynch Mob album everyone hated but it was fun to make regardless. The songs were and still are great, and the tour was my first ever and was epic. We were just playing to the wrong
audience. Many Lynch fans wanted one thing from him and got very upset when he expanded to other musical places. I played on some other random one off songs after that album and we lost touch for about a decade! It was actually great because we grew a lot and we when we reconnected we were on the same page as far as what we wanted to do with music. In 2011 he had asked me to fill in to just film a trailer for a documentary on Native Americans because the bass player he was going to use was busy. When we caught up on everything that had happened in the past 10 years it was clear that I was the one to do the project which would eventually become “Shadowtrain.” The double album just got picked up by Rat Pack records and the documentary will be released soon too. I am ecstatic; we put a lot of work into it. 

Scott -How did you land the gig with Jennifer Lopez?

Gabe - The J Lo gig came from my “older brother,” a dude by the name of Paul Pesco who is probably the most underrated musician in the LA, and NY music scene. Anyone who has done big gigs knows about him but the general public does not know too much about him. He has played on hundreds of hit albums over the past 35 years of all styles and eventually he became the musical director for Jennifer Lopez when she was first starting. I, being 21 and having Jennifer and Salma Hayek all over my walls was more than obliged to play bass in her band when he asked me. They wanted young looking people behind her of course as with most pop acts. Our culture is obsessed with youth. I played one gig with her and then her management decided to keep us for a European promo tour as well as SNL. It was a great learning experience and I made life-long friends. That kind of success was also sort of nerve wrecking being as I had just turned 22 and was doing such a high profile gig. The drummer Sergio Gonzalez said to me on our private plane “It is all down-hill from here kid.” 

Eventually conflicts and his obsession with the occult wore on his mother and she sent him to move in with his father. During his first summer back in Southern California, he practiced from 12 to 16 hours a day, and became interested in bands such as Weather Report, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Coltrane, Cameo, Zapp, and Art Tatum. During high school, Rosales starred in many theatre productions, played in seven different bands, and displayed his art at a local art school. He stopped his occult practices, but continued to be subtly influenced by it in his drawings. A friendship began with producer and guitarist Paul Pesco, who introduced him to the Zen Guitar Book, sparking Rosales's interest with Quantum Physics and Eastern thought.

Scott - How did you and Andy Summers of The Police make the connection?

Gabe - DJ Ravi Drums, an east Indian drummer DJ friend of mine that I had known from a previous gig with Tilo from Methods of Mayhem connected us. The idea was to go to India and play Police tunes for corporate events. Andy wanted to incorporate Indian band members and me. HAHA! We rehearsed and put together a set. Eventually this resulted in recording some of Andy’s original tunes too which was such a blast and an educational experience. Nothing but fun with that guy. He is such a legend and getting to play Police tunes with him was like a dream. 

Scott - How did you and instrumental guitarist Prashant Aswani hook up as well as drummer José Pasillas II of Incubus?

Gabe - I have known Prashant for ages. He is like a brother to me. Him and I have been through many many life events together and have helped each other through some rough times. I first met Prashant in 1999 on a pop gig that the president of ESP guitars hooked up. Since we were both ESP dudes we hit it off and I became the bass player for his original project for the next 5-6 years. We went through different drummers and he went through a bunch of other bass players too but we ended up together again in 2012. Prashant being a producer for many amazing players in LA met Jose through connections and Jose expressed how he wanted to do a fusion thing so they started writing and I came later to track bass on the Visions album. Doing the live thing with those dudes is an entire other world man. Jose is so tasty and full of energy and Prashant is unparalleled. I cannot wait to do more. I grew up on Incubus so becoming friends with Jose while also getting to work with my boy is monumental. 

In 1999 at the age of 19, Gabe played on George Lynch's album Smoke This, and consumed excessive amounts of alcohol while on tour. Because of this, Rosales went on a spiritual search, and attended a 10 day Buddhist Vipassana meditation course. After his return, he began playing again and landed gigs with Christina Milian, Jennifer Lopez, and Prashant Aswani. Not until after few jail stints, small time drug dealing, and health problems did Gabe finally reach his lowest point which forced him to make a crucial decision in his life. He took a vow to soberness in 07, resisting both drugs and alcohol and began a new journey as an activist, dedicated teacher, student and revolutionary. His life experiences inspired him to release his 1st solo album where he called upon many high profile influential musicians and artists he has worked with over time to contribute. In 09 Gabe became a member of Afrika Bambaataa's Universal Zulu Nation, the US West Coast general of the Anti Injustice Movement, a Guerrilla Republik soldier and a political enthusiast. His music was included on the Anti Injustice Movements Lyrical Warfare mixtape in 2010. In early 2010 Gabe met up with another guitar hero, multi-grammy award winning Andy Summers, the guitarist of the legendary band The Police. He recorded with Summers for an album and continues playing with him on various projects. Rosales is also working on the next original album with the solidified incarnation of the band that was based from his 1st solo album.

Scott - So where is your stomp'n ground?

Gabe - I grew up in So Cal in San Juan Capistrano but moved around Cali my whole life. I was up in Santa Cruz for a few years but So Cal and Orange County is my home. I know this place like the back of my hand and it is the most beautiful place on earth. I am totally spoiled. Thanks mom and RIP dad. In my recent studies I have been researching Cali history as well and it is nothing short of amazing in terms of how many precedents were set here.

Scott - Are there a lot of places to play your style of music in and around your area? If so, could you name some venues?

Gabe - The music scene has evolved so much over the years and it seems like there are less and less places to play every year. Most places to play heavier music are in industrial areas where the neighbors cannot bitch but as far as covers and club scene, Laguna Beach still has many places with live music. I do
my charity events with my original band at The Sandpiper, but there are bigger spots in Costa Mesa like the Wayfarer and the bigger shows are at The Observatory. A lot of the bigger venues are all a racket with selling tickets as I am sure you know. I have been brainstorming with friends about setting up a franchise / co-op for musicians to tour around the US and use a facility without giving a club owner 99% of ticket sales when the band is the one that provides the entertainment and has the draw.

Scott - What was it about the bass guitar that inspired you to play it?

Gabe - I was the lead vocalist of a death metal band first but we had no bass player so my drummer and close friend to this day Matt Loftus let me borrow his bass he had sitting around. I took it home and messed around with it and fell in love. As my music tastes expanded I discovered all the things that were possible on the instrument and I was blown away. I spent an entire summer shedding in 1992, literally playing 16 hours a day for months. I really progressed fast that summer. There is just so much to do on a bass and it can range from something as simple as playing one note that will completely alter the chord tonality of anything on top to blistering walking bass lines bouncing through different keys.

Scott - Are you a schooled guitar player or a self-taught guitar player?

Gabe - No schooling... However, I did read a lot of music books and actually studied a music school text book, did the tests and checked my answers in the back of the book when I was in high school. Playing with such older players on the J Lo gig helped too. There is something to be said for just going out and doing it
and adjusting as you go. In the circumstances I was in I was able to immediately apply the knowledge and see what worked and what did not in a REAL situation. That kind of learning and experience is invaluable. It is what is,  actually applicable. During high school I played with 10 different bands and rehearsed almost every night of the week. That kind of time on your instrument made playing pop and rock stuff a cake walk. You did not even really have to know theory to pull any of that stuff off, you just used your ears. 

Rosales's Vital Nonsense features songs from nearly every one of the genres that he has played in. The album featured musicians such as Dave Weckl, Divine Styler, Paul Pesco, and Prashant Aswani. The album was produced by Pesco, Rosales, and Riz Story, and was recorded in various studios in the Orange County area. The album discusses political ideology, race, religion, jail life and redemption, and various aspects of Rosales's life.

Scott - So, what type of guitars do you play and why?

Gabe- I am endorsed with ESP and they have been so good to me. They are amazing and the entire ESP family has made it possible for me to do what I do in terms of not only playing quality instruments but donating instruments to my various causes to raise money. Last year my original band VNON and ESP helped raise 10K for Children of War Foundation, an organization of surgeons who operate on children from war torn countries. These kinds of deeds are what set ESP apart from
any other guitar company in my eyes. They are my family, they have heart and it shows in their amazing instruments.  

Scott - What type of amps do you use? Do you use different amps for the studio vs live shows? If so, why?

Gabe - I use combinations of things depending on the gig. I used a Hughes and Kettner set up for years because they sound immaculate and they LAST but they stopped making bass gear a while ago. I moved on to Tone Tubby speakers, a boutique cab company whose cones are dipped in hemp oil. They sound AMAZING and one 15 handles the low B like a 4 x 10 without flubbing out. I also use Aguilar which sounds amazing, so warm and versatile. I use a Tone Hammer 500 head with GS 4x10  cab. I mix up those conglomerations a lot and use the Tone Hammer head to track with. It has everything I need for all styles. 

Scott - Do you have any endorsement with instrument and gear companies?

Gabe - Yes sir, I have been a Dean Markley string endorsee since 1998. I have endorsements with Aguilar, Digitech, Seymour Duncan pickups, and Providence America cables and I got hooked up on Ultimate Ear ear monitors. Everyone has been so cool and I swear man, they allow me to focus on my art and I cannot be any more grateful for such an opportunity. For real.

Scott - How did you first get into the music business?

Gabe - I played in bands all throughout high school, literally rehearsing every night. My grades suffered sometimes but we made SO MUCH music. When I was a senior in High School is when I met Paul Pesco. He was going to produce one of the bands I was playing with and he eventually took me under his wing. It was literally being in the right place at the right time. Of course I had some years of playing under my belt, I wasn’t just a hack but I was very green. He gave me opportunities to shine and when he hooked me up with the J Lo gig I kind of made my way around through word of mouth after that. I was originally going to go to art school because I was getting college credit for the work I was doing as a senior but once I started playing with Lynch and tracked the Smoke This album that Paul was producing, music became the answer. I haven’t looked back and I have had the opportunity to travel and play with great friends.

Scott - Where do you see the music business today?

Gabe - Man, that’s rough. I see lots of innovation that hasn’t been tapped into yet. The corporate labels really have no idea what the hell is going to hit because the American culture evolves so fast and what was hip before is gone faster than ever now because of the internet. It really is all up to the artist
to be honest. It is up to what kind of artist and what compromises if any; the musician is willing to take. There are novelties that capture the public’s attention briefly and if someone can capitalize on that wave, they can possibly be set to do whatever they want artistically. For example, here we are
spending a lifetime of practice and song writing, honing skills, proficiency in executing licks, whatever. Then some dude with a Casio keyboard will use a cheesy dance beat pre-set and track himself saying one word that happens to be popular at the time and it will sell 200,000 copies. Sure it’s not huge money but that’s why the artist needs to ask themselves what they want and what they are willing to do to make a career in music.

Jazz is the least sold genre of music in the US as of right now. This year the record sales from ALL jazz artists in the US *combined* was a little over half of what Taylor Swift sold in one month with one single. Kids are buying records more than adults so keeping up with them is something to focus on if you are
trying to “make it big.” I mean look at how Journey found their latest singer from a youtube vid of a Filipino cover band. Record labels have taken a totally different role because they are not making money on selling records. Now they take a percentage of everything the artist accumulates. Because everything is
so easily accessible and anyone can promote anything they record on a website, we are inundated with all sorts of riff raff. What it also does is up the ante to really stick out. There are so many really talented people out there it truly is inspirational and that is the upside of the evolution. You do not need a label to get your music in everyone’s face. You have to be smart, tech savvy, have something memorable and of course, do something with heart. Everything gets torn apart online, everything. Because everyone is a critic, the best thing you can do is be honest in your music. People will talk shit regardless, just put out something real that is fulfilling to you. You may not be a millionaire but if that is your end goal you should do something else like finance.  

Scott - Do you do social networking? If so, what are your Facebook and twitter web addresses?

Gabe - Yes, I am the social crackhead. I am the networking social junkie. I do not have any of the kid stuff like Kik or Vine but I have just about everything else. Here is my facebook and twitter but you can find me on linked in, instagroin, etc. twitter is just @gaberosales and Instagram is @demanifestor

Scott - Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

Gabe - I am inspired by lots of musicians and lots of non-musicians but we’ll get into that later. I am influenced mainly by Wooten, Pastorius, Gary Willis who is every bit as good as Jaco was in my humble opinion, Bill the Buddha Dickens. Of course I am influenced by other instruments a lot as well. I am a huge fan of Trilok Gurtu, Tomas Haake, Michel Camilo, John Scofield, Mike Patton, Tom Araya, Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Art Tatum, and Joe Zawinul.  

Scott - How has your bass guitar playing evolved over the years?

Gabe - Well originally starting off as the lead vocalist for a death metal band, I was just following the guitar parts like most metal bassists. I still listened to different styles but I did not really try to play different styles until I was about a year into practicing. When I got older and started applying the funk stuff, I really started expanding. In my later teenage years I started really cracking down on the jazz theory. I got a 4 track and started recording the chords, the walking basslines and the heads from the Real Book. Then I would leave space in the recording to improvise over. This really taught me a lot because I was playing all parts. Then I applied that to the piano just to have another interpretation under my belt. It is still always an evolution. I am always trying to approach my playing differently every time I pick up my bass or guitar. I hear things in my head and try to make them happen regardless of the theory behind it. I usually write parts, then figure out what I am doing later to be able to explain it, that is the teacher in me. After playing professionally for almost 20 years I know my role as the bass player but I still try to push boundaries and create feelings as opposed to just parts.

Scott - What’s the best thing about playing your instrument in front of a live audience?

Gabe - It all really depends on the audience I guess! Playing metal to a hip hop crowd sometimes does not go over well but I do that sometimes anyway because when I do a live VNON show we play everything. To me that is what it is all about, getting out of the comfort zone and learning to come together and appreciate DIVERSITY. Diversity is what makes this country great and is what makes evolution possible. I enjoy playing all styles of music live to show people that it is possible to encompass many emotions and to appreciate some aspect of something you may never listen to. Even when playing pop music where I may be playing only a few notes repetitively, I have the opportunity to mess with sounds. Switching to an octave pedal after playing lightly on the higher registers of the bass pushes so much air it creates that “bass drop” in popular dance music. The sub frequency is like a warm tidal wave that just consumes every inch of a venue. That is such a rush. It is similar to a breakdown in hardcore or a huge open chord in some power metal riffs. When I get to really let loose with a drummer is also the business. When I am free to over play hahaha and throw in whatever percussive rhythms I am hearing by slapping and the drummer feeds off that, it can really get out. I also scat along with solos sometimes which is so liberating. I close my eyes and play whatever I sing, I become one with the instrument and I can create whatever tension and odd phrase I want. Being able to play all the wrong notes then come back in with the key is one of my favorite things to do because of the tension it causes. Flat seconds and whole tone scales over 7 chords make everyone feel uncomfortable but they do not know why. It is like telling a twisted joke when you are with anal, high strung people. Good times.

Scott - Who are you listening to these days?

Gabe - Man I am listening to such random stuff. I stick to a lot of things I have always listened to but I get a lot of new names from my students actually.

My students have turned me on to Periphery, Animals As Leaders, and Willy Bobo. I listen to everything from Django Reinhardt to Meshuggah. I regularly listen to Slayer, Pantera, Greydon Square, Immortal Tech, Django, Micel Camilo, Carcass, Suffocation, Curtis Mayfield, Roots, Typical Cats, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Stevie Ray Vaughn you name it. 

Scott - Please give us three top musical goals you would like to achieve this year.

Gabe - Currently I am trying to finish a second VNON album which is my original project. It has been a long time coming but I have been tied up with so many other music projects the original stuff gets put on the back burner. I have so many people involved in the project it is also hard to organize collaborators.

My first album I had a producer where I would go to his house and record the parts, leave and he would mix it. Now I am not only the writer and lyricist, but I am doing most all the tracking, engineering, mixing, etc. Way more work.

Though I do not have a lot of time with a busy school schedule about to start, I would love to do some one off shows with Shadowtrain after the movie and double album comes out. Hopefully the album will be received decently and we can organize some shows with RatPak records. I am also trying to get through another album with Prashant and Jose asap. The new stuff is monumental! I cannot wait for you to hear it.   

Other than that, it is a constant learning process bro. Really. Every new musician I come in contact with teaches me something and I try to absorb their experience, knowledge, and feel so that I can grow. It may sound cheesy but it is real. I am still growing as a musician and I am so hyped on all the amazing talent I am surrounded by who contribute to my musical expansion. It just gets better as I get “freer.”  

Scott - Is there anything else you’d like to achieve in your life personally and as a musician?

Gabe - I want to do everything brother. I still have a list of musicians I want to play with from Dave Grohl, to write a song with Josh Homme of Queens. I want to inspire young talent and I want to teach people with my lyrics. I want to encourage people to look up what I am talking about as I did with lyricists like Monte Smith, Divine Styler and Raptivist Capital X. I want people to do research after they listen to one of my songs. I want a kid to skip getting hammered one night because one of my songs about drug addiction helped them find a more productive way to spend their time. I want to bring tears to people’s eyes the way The Beatles track “In My Life” does. I know I am not the best bassist/musician in the world and that is not my goal. I would just like someone to listen and say “That was some cool shit.” I want someone’s life to be better with my music. Either that or make them so irritated they want to prove me wrong on topics I speak about. Either way it is making people feel alive. 

Scott - I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to your heart?

Gabe - My family. Sobriety. Social Justice. Personal Improvement. Evolution. Each one teach one. We made it this far as a species by relying on each other to survive. No matter how you slice it in our individualist society, no one truly did anything without help from other humans. No man is an island and with this truth I take service very seriously. I have been told that my relentless work to leave this world better than how I found it is in vain. People do not believe that everything affects everything until some neglected element of society comes and bites them in the ass. Then it is an issue. We are all in this together and we solidify our well-being by working on the well-being of others and this is truth, especially if you have kids. I try to help addicts find a sober path and I try to get involved in as many charitable causes as my schedule allows and that is why I am a member of the oldest hip hop organization on the planet the Universal Zulu Nation, as well as Guerrilla Republik, and Anti Injustice Movement. I take science and evidence based practices seriously so I back and am a founding member of the science education collective Grand Unified. I am plugging away at a degree in Criminology from the University of California Irvine in September so that I can address causes of dysfunction in society and attack the racist drug war in the US. I meditate and I encourage self-awareness. People react to buzz words and programming. I am not saying this is all bad but it keeps us in a perpetual echo chamber and it is the farthest thing from freedom. If you do not know how you process information or why you think certain things, you are just going through the actions, an automaton. This is why vipassana meditation is so crucial to me. It reminds me of the impermanence of all things that is in our conscious. Being able to let it go and not avert or cling to passing sensations is liberation. I can relate to many sides of these paths because I was an addict and a reactionary. I
spent time in jail running with a gang. I was pepper sprayed in a cell. I sat in silence in the mountains of California meditating 16 hours a day. I sat on a private plane sipping expensive champagne touring Europe. I raised kids. I have received formal education degrees and I have been cornered on the streets of
LA protesting corrupt banking practices by riot police on my birthday. All these things have made my life that much more meaningful to me and in that I can funnel that into my music to give to the world. There is so much to do. It is all music.  

Scott - I would like to thank you for your time and candor with our loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some awesome music.

Gabe - Of course Scott. Thank you so much for giving me a voice and spending some time building with me. I appreciate everything you do and on a personal note I want to thank you for being so driven, kind, and supportive of all of us in the music community. Having your support is truly a gift and your patience and diligence is rare in this world. Bravo. ...


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