In Pound For The Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
Aunt B guitarist Shane Baskerville is a man about town these days. The musician and teacher can play just about every rock song ever written note for note. He's a talented songwriter, too, with quite the resume to back it up.
Baskerville came to the Valley in June 2012 from Minnesota, where he established his playing roots. He got his first guitar at 15, and it marked the start of his music career.
Back in his younger days, Baskerville was a serious ska-punk rocker actively involved in his Midwest local scene. For several years, he played in signed and touring bands. Then, he started to pursue teaching.
Now, Baskerville and his wife Megan operate everything that is School of Rock in the Phoenix area. They run three locations in total, and have seen several bands come from the school, including the rockers of Doll Skin. Building a sense of musical community and camaraderie is an important part of Baskerville's life. And he's passionate about it.
Baskerville, and the rest of Aunt B, will rock out on Saturday, March 10, at the fourth annual Mesa Brew Fest. Between teaching and performing, Baskerville talked with New Times about his gear, his life as a teacher, and his upcoming performance.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Shane Baskerville: I’ve always have been a minimalist when it comes to tone. I’ve always liked using an amp's natural sounds. That is, until recently. I’ve been getting into pedals and the vast amount of tones they offer. Aunt B does a variety of different styles, so it’s been nice to tweak the tones for different songs. I still believe in being able to make any amp sound good by playing well and feeling the music, but now I’m adding on to that and hopefully enhancing the sweetness of a great amp.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
I recently just purchased a Fender '68 Deluxe Reverb reissue. That is the most amazing amp I’ve ever plugged in to. It is so clean and crisp. You can hear every note, and it is a rich low end that you feel in your chest. I love the reverb and the vibro on it as well. It works great with all the pedals I’ve been buying. It doesn’t have distortion, so going back to question one, it makes me feel better about buying pedals to get my crunch on.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
I have a red '62 Japanese Fender Strat reissue. I got that 20 years ago! It is still one of my favorite guitars. It was '97 and ska-punk was king. I was in a ska-punk band in Minnesota called Helva. We were doing very well locally and starting to get a name for ourselves. We opened up for Smashmouth ... I gave them all cassettes of our bands, because that's just what I did. I would give out our stuff to any of the bigger bands that came through town in hopes someone would listen to it and help us out. About three months later, I get a phone call at 3 a.m.: “Hi, this is Kevin, I’m the drummer of Smashmouth.” I think I told him to "F" off and it’s not funny to call and joke with me this early, then I hung up thinking it was a prank. He called back and said, “No really.”
So I challenged him and asked who their manager was. Then, I quickly realized he was really the drummer of Smashmouth. He said, “I’m gonna get you signed and I love your music!” I think I cried like a little baby and freaked out a bit. He got some great things going for us and gave us gear and recording money! Four boys out of small-town Wisconsin getting some love from, at that time, a really famous band. So I went out and bought that guitar for $454. I tweaked it with a Seymour Duncan stacked Distortion for the bridge and Fender Texas Special pick-ups for the neck and middle. It still rocks 20 years later, and I have a fun story attached. It’s seen some road battles. I’ve set it on fire multiple times, thrown it against the wall, I’ve surfed across the stage on it and it still works. I used to get pretty crazy in my younger days.
Just listened to “Low” from your performance with So Far Sounds. Great work here. Love the bluesy, soulful feel of the guitar. How did you go about getting that tone for that track?
When Megan and I get home from work, our favorite thing is to put on some vinyl and she will cook while we have a glass of wine, talk, cook, and listen to great music. Sounds pretentious, I know, but it’s really relaxing and gives us a chance to connect after a crazy day. We listen to a lot of blues, soul, and country. Lately we’ve been really getting into Hawaiian music and '60s orchestra lounge type of music. You will hear that in the new album. I really dig the sounds I hear on those records and try my best to emulate with still having my own stamp on the tone. So that song has some mellow vibrato and heavy reverb on a clean setting with the bass at about 7, the mids about 5, and treble about 6. That video was recorded using my Peavey Classic 50. It sounds better now with the new Fender.
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How does being an educator influence you as a musician? And how do you feel about the importance of cultivating the next generation of musicians for the longevity of the music community here in Phoenix?
Being an educator makes it so I’m still constantly learning. I learn a ton from our students. The whole recent pedal thing with me is inspired by our guitar players in our [School of Rock] House Band, the Sugar Skulls. They bring their own gear to the shows they play, and Seth uses the '68 Reverb, and John Bacino is a pedal nut.
Also, it constantly humbles me to be around these “kids” who can play better than most adults, and I get the chance to help mold them into better musicians. When we first moved out to Arizona, we noticed at a lot of bands kind of ate their own. We come from Minnesota where there was competition between bands, but everyone worked together and supported each other to create a scene. We didn’t see a ton of that here. We knew it was there, but not in the capacity it was in Minnesota. So we really wanted to drive that into the kids hard! You want a gig? Then go support the other bands. Stay until the end and network. Ask them if you can open up for them. Just go see music! You will be noticed. Also, if you play a show, don’t just bail after your set. Stay and watch.
I think that is one of my favorite and most important things we are doing. All of these awesome bands like Doll Skin, Paranova, Analog Outlaws, Don’t Tell Mom ... so many more are coming from the school and they are helping each other, recording each other, photographing each other, playing shows, or just supporting shows. And they are going out to see other local bands and putting their phones down to rock out.
Aunt B has a performance coming up this Saturday at the Mesa Brew Fest. Any words you wish to share with fans about your upcoming show?
We are so excited! We get to open for Jason Devore of Authority Zero and we get to play with our friends in the Banter, whose guitarist teaches at our school as well. We will also have one of our students, Aidan Smith from the band 3Nations, subbing for our keyboardist Benjamin, who will be playing a massive show in Minnesota this weekend. So look for a few twists on some of our songs ... We hit the stage at 3:30.