CM Catches Up With... Bassist Richard Bona

Bona Goetz BuehlerOur good friend and regular Canadian Musician contributor Jason Raso recently had the chance to chat with internationally-acclaimed, Grammy-winning bassist Richard Bona. Over the course of his 35-plus year playing career, Bona has performed with the likes of Mike Stern, George Benson, Chaka Khan, Harry Belafonte, and Pat Metheny Group. The two spoke a few days ahead of Bona’s headlining show at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, ON. Details on the show are here, and you can check out Jason’s music here. Photo by Goetz Buehler.

JR: I read on the press release that this will be your first headlining show in Ontario.

RB: I have been there with Pat Matheny and Harry Belafonte, but I’ve never been there with my own band. I’ve been to Montreal many times but never in Ontario with my own project.

JR: So what can we expect?

RB: We expect some good music! For the first time I always try to keep it low key and kind of loose. I will be bringing a quartet, some young musicians from New York that I’ve played with for many years.

JR: One thing that strikes me about your overall musicianship is just how much joy you play with. It’s music for people!

RB: Growing up, my grandparents taught me that music was supposed to be a celebration. I want to keep that essence during my shows. It could be technical but still must always be fun.

JR: That’s a great thought. I think some musicians forget that. Your playing is full of joy and it’s beautiful to watch.

RB: That’s what music is all about, man. I don’t want to play music and cry. Even when I’m alone, there’s always an essence of joy, a celebration of life.

JR: In my opinion, no one sounds like you. When did you know you were creating something that was unique?

RB: I don’t know, man. I just love all kinds of music. Quincy (Jones) always asks me, “What’s next?” and I’m like, “I don’t know, man.” I don’t want to find a style. I can’t do the same thing all the time. That’s why I’m not a good band member either. I played with Joe Zawinul, Pat Metheny, and David Sanborn. I can’t stay in a band for more than a year. I want to play my own music. I was given an ability to understand and play all kinds of music and I have fun. I don’t want to create the same thing over and over.

JR: You can do everything – sing, write, play bass, guitar – how you do you divide up your time? Do you still practice?

RB: I don’t like that word practice. I play all the time. Excellence is repetition. You want to be good at doing something, do it all the time. I wake up in the morning, go to my studio, and just play. Record. Play. Record. Play. I don’t go to a movie. I have no TV. I play all the time. Some people might call it practice. I don’t call it practice; I’m feeding my spirit with what I love, with my passion. I can’t spend a day without playing music. I play music night and day. I don’t sleep that much. I can’t sleep more than four hours. I play music and I sleep some. And I drink some water from time to time (laughs). I’ve been doing this since I was a baby. My grandfather was a musician and my mother was a musician. Music came to me. I didn’t go looking for music out there. I was just surrounded by musicians, and born in a tiny village and there were not many other things to do.

JR: Maybe as musicians we would be better off always thinking of it as play instead of practice.

RB: Yes! This is my passion. This is my spiritual food. Practice sounds like a job. Oh my god, I can’t wait to play. Even when I’m tired I’m already thinking about tomorrow morning. I can’t wait.

JR: That’s funny because I know that feeling. Sleeping is such a waste of time.

RB: I know. (Laughs) I don’t want to waste my time sleeping!

Author image
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief at Canadian Musician and Canadian Music Trade magazines. He also hosts the Canadian Musician Podcast.
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