6th May 2018

Yolanda Charles is one of the most in-demand bass players around today. Having worked with Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Paul Weller and Robbie Williams to name but a few, she has just finished playing for film score maestro Hans Zimmer’s live tour and is now in Japan with Squeeze. She very kindly gave her time for a completely off-the-cuff interview between two shows in one day.


Q: Simon (Hanson – drummer) was saying this is a fun band and you all were very relaxed but it’s also very together musically.


YC: Oh yeah – good! I’m glad that comes across because that’s very important to us.


Q: So how does that compare to playing with Hans Zimmer?


YC: Ermm…wow! (laughs). Going from a twenty-piece band with an orchestra and a choir which brought us up to sixty-five people and over seventy at times, to a five-piece – six when Chris is on board – is a nice change because I like the best of both worlds and luckily for me I get that. Hans is something very disciplined, a tour and this gig, although there’s no room for improvisation, there’s definitely room to do things slightly differently every time.


 Q: How does someone like Hans Zimmer work? Are you sitting at home one day and the phone rings and a voice says “Hello. This is Hans Zimmer…”


YC: He did actually! He’s like that, very hands-on with who he has in the band and all of that stuff which is really nice for us.


Q: That’s a hell of a compliment.


YC: Yeah. I met him when I was working with Dave Stewart on another session. I first worked with Dave on the Mick Jagger album and I then did some gigs with Dave Stewart and Hans jammed with us at one of the gigs. I had met him before that actually. Dave had asked me to be involved in pre-production on Madagascar – Madagascar III I think it was – and that was for Hans so I did a week with him in the studio, very much as a session player doing bits and bobs here and there. It was cool but I didn’t really get to know him that well and then when he got up on stage, that was a nice moment but again I don’t think I bonded with him particularly but then he called me out of the blue and says “I want to work with you some more; I like working with you.” So I said “Ok, sounds good!” (laughs) Then he said he wanted to take his music live but very differently to the traditional orchestra/film thing. He wanted a band, guitars, solos and I asked him I he was going to do that as it’s not in his music and he said he was going to make it work. That was 2014, he did two shows in London which was a little test run to see how it would work and be received and it was a very positive thing so two years later they decided to put a tour together. Europe, last year we did North America, Australia and Seoul.


Q: I was hoping it was going to come here.


YC: I’m surprised it didn’t but at some point they may do.


Q: Does Hans chart everything?


YC: Well there wasn’t electric bass on a lot of the tunes so I’ve been doubling up some of the cello parts, some of the lower brass, the tuba and then there were other parts where he wanted the bass to stand out more so there’s some slap-bass on a couple of tunes, some had specific bass lines, others were just chords and then sometimes he’d say ‘What do you want to do?’. So I’d say a bit of this or a bit of that but he would accept things that I thought he really wouldn’t want to. He just loved it all. He loves music and musicians especially if you’ve got a character and some kind of expression. It’s really nice.


Q: You’re a bit of a pioneer…


YC: I am?


Q: Yes. Not many great female bass players around and you are a role model for those that are.


YC: Well there are more and more lately but I would say it’s difficult for session musicians. I’m not known for my own music and it is difficult for session musicians to make a mark and become known in some way regardless of gender but it is nice for me to be able to say I have this CV of really great people I’ve worked with.


Q: Clapton, Roger Daltry, Van Morrison…a long list. Are you nervous when you meet them for the first time?


YC: Not any more I think because what I’ve found is that most people are just people and don’t put on the persona of being a star until they get onstage and then they’ll turn it on. One of the nicest things about what I’m doing and the fact that I’m female is that I hope it will encourage other women to take it on after a certain point. Kids and marriage can put a stop on a lot of women’s careers in a strangely old-fashioned way. I’ve known musicians through the years who I thought would stick with it but they have quit once they had babies and I can understand that. I had support from my ex-husband and my Mum and if you have support you can do it but it is much harder because of the children. There are some good guitarists and musicians coming across.


Q: There certainly are. Your technique, on Innocence In Paradise tonight with your thumb for example…


YC: Yeah because we don’t have Chris Difford with us on this one, he plays an upstroke guitar thing so I’m kind of approximating rhythmically and filling up the space a little bit – I wouldn’t normally play that. I also like to palm-mute a bit because it’s quite a spectrum of tunes and styles in this band. It’s not Rock, not Pop, not Soul…it’s a bit of everything in the set. I don’t mess around with my EQ at all and I don’t have an EQ pedal either. It’s all in the fingers, muting and where I play on the right hand.


Q: Musically, where’s your comfort zone?


YC: Well I did put out and album which I describe as Funk Fusion. There’s only one tune that has slap but it’s mostly fast fingers. My style, in terms of the person who I am close to and listen to (although I’m not really a follower of bass players) would be Barry Johnson who’s on one of my favourite albums, Don Blackman (1982). I love Marcus Miller, Paul Jackson so I’m in that Fusion/Funky…busy style of bass playing. That’s where I like to play when I’m doing my own thing. I get a lot of work in the Rock and Pop world which is interesting because I haven’t aimed my career at that scene but I think the people that hire me to do that kind of music, the like the sensibility and approach of Funk without playing Funky stuff. It’s not busy; it’s about placement and quality of the rhythm.


Q: I know what you mean. Watching and listening to you tonight, I felt you added something to the songs which I can best describe as comfort.


YC: Oh that’s nice – I like that.


Q: I don’t think Glenn has to worry about the bass at all. None of the backing actually as you’re all really good.


YC: Glenn told me that he pitches to the bass which gives me a lot of responsibility. There’s the occasional wandering which I might want to do but I am very aware that he’s really listening so I can’t throw him. If I play a little fill, he’ll look over and smile at me; he hears everything I play so I try to make sure he’s comfortable like you say. I think the role of bass is what attracts me to the instrument. T’s a supportive role and I like finding richness in that role and I don’t necessarily want the bass to shine out that much. It’s nice when you get that little moment but I don’t want to do lots of fills and show off. When I’m in that sweet spot where the bass is and I can feel its right, the audience can sense it too. Everything gels together and it’s on the same page and it raises up everyone’s attention and bass contributes a lot to that.


Q: You and Simon reminded me of Nathan East and Steve Ferrone  tonight…


YC: Oh how interesting! That’s lovely.


Q: Yeah. You had that same groove going on and it gave a lovely base for everyone to build on.


YC: I think that’s an expression of our friendship as well. We are all really good friends in the band and very sympathetic to each other so we’re not just playing our part, we’re actually connecting as a band which is one of the nicest things about being in it. They are such nice people. We are always looking at each other and focused but also laughing or taking the Mickey and if you have that rue balance, it helps the music sound great. It’s like you’re out in unknown territory and you’re all taking care of each other. If the bass and drums are safe, the rest of the music sounds better.


Q: Who is Yolanda at home?


YC: I’m a Mum of three (laughs): a twenty-two year old, an eighteen year old and a twelve year old. They are getting older now so when I come away they look after each other. My eldest daughter is the eighteen year old one and this is her first trip where she’s been in control of everything and she’s a bit tired. I think she now realizes what Mum does when she’s home. Last year I had a five month tour with Hans and then three months with these guys and I said to Hans that I wasn’t sure if I could be away that long because my youngest daughter was eleven and he said ‘well if it’s about your daughter, bring her too.’ He invited her on a tour around the world and she came:  The whole thing from start to finish. I took her out of school for a term and she had a tutor but working with Hans, he’s so supportive. This environment is really warm for the family too so I don’t feel being female and having a family is a burden for anybody. Everybody here has children.


Q: Well I admire you. I’ve admired your playing for a long time and I admire you as a mother, a woman and for what you have done for women in what is majorly a male business and thank you very much for this drop of a hat interview.


YC: That’s lovely. Thank you.

ヨランダ・チャールズ インタビュー2018














YC:ええ。私はデイヴ・スチュワートのセッションをしている時に彼に会ったの。デイヴとは、ミック・ジャガーのアルバム・セッションで初めて会ったんだけどね。それからデイヴといくつかギグをやった時にハンスがそのうちの一つのコンサートで私たちとジャムったのよ。彼には前にも会ったことがあったんだけど。デイヴからは『Madagascar』から『Madagascar III 』までの製作への参加要請を受けていた。それはハンスのためのものだったから、私はハンスと一週間スタジオで仕事をしたのよ。セッション・プレイヤーとしてね。とてもうまくいったんだけど、彼がどういう人かというところまでは分からなかった。だから彼とステージを共にした時には彼を知る機会に恵まれたかと思ったんだけど、残念ながらそれほど親しくはなれなかった。すると、突然彼が言ったの。「もっと君と仕事がしたいな。」って。私は答えたわ。「オーケー。いいお誘いね!」って(笑)。彼はライブ録音をしたいと言ったんだけど、オーケストラを率いた映画音楽で、凄く難しく思えたの。彼はギターやソロイストを含むバンドでやりたがった。私は本当にその気なのか訊いてみた。彼の音楽らしくないけど、そうやりたいんだと彼は言ったわ。2014年のことだった。ロンドンで2回コンサートをしてみて、うまくいくかどうかをテストしてみたの。それがとてもうまくいったから、2年後にツアーすることを決定した。ヨーロッパ、そして去年は北米、オーストラリア、ソウルでコンサートをしたわ。

















Q:確かにそうですね。今夜の「Innocence In Paradise」でのあなたのプレイと言ったら・・・・




YC:そうね、ファンク・フュージョンというジャンルかしら。スラップ・プレイがはまる唯一の音楽だしね。でも物凄く指を速く動かさないといけないけど。私のスタイルは、これまで聴いて手本にしてきた人と言えば(ベーシストはあまり聴いてこなかったんだけど)、バリー・ジョンソンね。気に入りのアルバムは彼の『Don Blackman』(1982年)なの。マーカス・ミラーもポール・ジャクソンも好きよ。彼らのプレイでファンク・フュージョンというベースのスタイルにはまったの。そういうのが私の好みであり、目指すところなのよ。ロックやポップスのセッションもたくさんやってきたし、楽しかったわ。目指してきたジャンルのものではなかったから新鮮だった。でも私を雇う人の側からすれば、ファンクの曲ではないものにファンクの要素がほしかったんだと思うわ。せわしなくプレイするんじゃないのよ。プレイを入れる位置とリズムの質の問題ね。