Meet Jake Bass, the “one man band” who worked with hip-hop royalty.
After receiving drums for Chanukah at the age of 8, Jake Bass became addicted to music. “From that moment on, I knew music was my thing,” he says.
Now 32, Bass is an established music producer, songwriter, and self-proclaimed “one-man band” who has worked with artists like Ludacris, LL Cool J, and local artists like Sean Forbes. Yet his musical roots were established long before the drums 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 remembers tinkering in his family’s recording studio, learning to write and put songs together.
In addition to learning drums, Bass also learned piano, keyboards, guitar, bass, and percussion. The only instruments he doesn’t play, he explains, are wind instruments.
“I’ve been making music all my life,” he says. “I don’t know any other.”
Build a foundation
With a recording studio in Ferndale, Bass now works with local and national musicians to produce 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 learned the skills he hadn’t acquired on his own throughout his teenage years, such as reading and writing sheet music.
After graduating in 2012, Bass, who now lives in Berkley, went on to a successful music career around much of the same music he grew up with. Naturally drawn to hip-hop, rock and jazz, he continues to work closely with these genres today.
“Hip-hop was my base,” he says, recalling he was around 10 when Eminem first rose to fame and made a personal connection to his music. (Years later, Bass would get the chance to produce music for Eminem as an adult.) “My dad did a great job of exposing me to as much music as possible, regardless of genre.
“If it was good music,” Bass continues, “we were still listening.”
He calls his style one that is unique to his process. “When I write and record, I play all the instruments you hear,” Bass explains. “My style is whatever feels good to me. If things are slightly out of tune or distorted, that’s okay. 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 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 in Hebrew school at Temple Emanu-El at a young age), and his 4-year-old daughter, Layla. “When she was born, I put out a cover of Eric Claption’s ‘Layla’,” Bass says. “I started the song with her heartbeat which I recorded when I first heard her at a doctor’s appointment.”
He also finds inspiration in the Michigan rock band Greta Van Fleet, which he says perpetuates the sound of the 60s and 70s, and the funk band Vulfpeck, whose member Jack Stratton is originally from Michigan. Bass is also a big fan of rapper Kendrick Lamar.
Whether he finds inspiration in his family or in music, Bass has a pretty consistent process when it comes to songwriting. “Normally I sit at the piano or guitar and start there,” he explains. “I’ll find a really cool melody or chords on the piano.”
After assembling these sounds, Bass turns to its Pro Tools audio software to develop loops, add rhythm tracks and bass. Finally, he will add “funky guitars and a few sprinkles of other cool instruments”.
“It’s like a puzzle,” Bass says of developing the perfect track. “I start with one thing, then put it all together and eventually they all fit into their respective tracks, sonically.”
It can be a difficult and sometimes tedious process, but Bass tries to let the creativity come naturally.
If you’re constantly looking for something, you don’t know why you’re writing songs,” he explains. “When you overthink it and take it too seriously, that’s when it gets really difficult and frustrating.”
Bass recently completed a project where he released new music every Friday in August. “The Dorkestral Collection, Vol. 2,” is available on all major music streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.
He is also remodeling his family recording studio, FBT Studios, and preparing to release a new compilation that will pay homage to Detroit culture and hip-hop culture.
“The most rewarding part [of making music] it’s when the music is out there,” Bass says. “It’s amazing to let him out into the world. It’s the icing on the cake.”