Meet Jake Bass, the “one-man band” who’s worked with hip-hop royalty.
After getting a drum set for Chanukah when he was 8 years old, Jake Bass was hooked on music. “From that moment on, I knew music was my thing,” he says.
Now 32, Bass is an established music producer, composer and self-proclaimed “one-man band” who as worked with the likes of Ludacris, LL Cool J and local artists like Sean Forbes. Still, his musical roots were established long before the drum set entered his life.
Jake’s father, Jeff Bass, is one half of the Bass Brothers record production duo who discovered rapper Eminem in his early days. As a teenager, Jake Bass recalls tinkering in his family’s recording studio, learning how to write and piece together songs.
In addition to learning drums, Bass also picked up piano, keyboards, guitar, bass and percussion. The only instruments he doesn’t play, he explains, are wind instruments.
“I’ve been doing music my whole life,” he says. “I don’t know any different.”
Building A Foundation
With a recording studio in Ferndale, Bass now works with local and national musicians alike on producing songs. He also performs live with many of the artists he works with.
While Bass is mostly self-taught, he attended Columbia College in Chicago, where he studied music composition. There, he picked up the skills he hadn’t learned on his own throughout his teenage years, like reading and writing sheet music.
After graduating in 2012, Bass, who now lives in Berkley, went on to build a successful music career around much of the same music he grew up with. Naturally gravitating toward hip-hop, rock and jazz, he continues to work closely with these genres today.
“Hip-hop was my foundation,” he says, remembering being about 10 years old when Eminem first hit stardom and making a personal connection with his music. (Years later, Bass would have a chance to produce music for Eminem as an adult.) “My dad did a great job and exposed me to as much music as possible, no matter the genre.
“If it was good music,” Bass continues, “we were always listening.”
He calls his style one that’s unique to his process. “When I’m writing and recording, I play all of the instruments that you hear,” Bass explains. “My style is whatever feels good. If things are slightly out of tune or distorted, that’s OK. As long as it feels good.”
Yet when it comes to good music, Bass has very simple criteria: “It’s connecting people,” he says. “If it makes them feel really happy or really sad, I’ve done my job.”
For inspiration, Bass doesn’t look far.
Every day, he finds inspiration in his wife, Danielle (whom he met at Hebrew school at Temple Emanu-El at a young age), and 4-year-old daughter, Layla. “When she was born, I put out a cover of ‘Layla’ by Eric Claption,” Bass says. “I started the song with her heartbeat that I recorded when I heard it for the first time at a doctor’s appointment.”
He also finds inspiration in Michigan rock band Greta Van Fleet, which he says is keeping the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s alive, and funk group Vulfpeck, whose member Jack Stratton hails from Michigan. Bass is also a big fan of rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Whether he’s finding inspiration in his family or music, Bass has a fairly consistent process when it comes to writing. “Normally, I sit down at the piano or guitar and start there,” he explains. “I’ll come up with a melody or some really cool chords on the piano.”
After putting those sounds together, Bass turns to his Pro Tools audio software to develop loops, add rhythm tracks and bass. Finally, he’ll throw in “funky guitars and some sprinkles of other cool instruments.”
“It’s like a puzzle,” Bass explains of developing the perfect track. “I start with one thing, then I put it all together and eventually they all fit in their respective pieces, sonically.”
It can be a difficult and sometimes tedious process, but Bass tries to let the creativity come naturally.
If you’re constantly chasing after something, you get lost as to why you write songs in the first place,” he explains. “When you’re thinking too hard and you’re taking it too seriously, that’s when it gets really difficult and frustrating.”
Bass recently completed a project where he put out new music every Friday throughout the month of August. “The Dorkestral Collection, Vol. 2,” is available on all major music streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.
He’s also remodeling his family recording studio, FBT Studios, and gearing up to put out a new compilation record that will pay homage to Detroit culture and hip-hop culture.
“The most rewarding part [of making music] is when the music is out there,” Bass says. “It’s amazing to let it go out into the world. That’s the icing on the cake.”