This is a question I have been asked many times. After all, bass is not an instrument that lends itself all that well to solo performance, unless you happen to be Victor Wooten. (I am not Victor Wooten.) The role of the bass in a band is to help the drummer with the rhythmic foundation, whilst also lending some bottom end support to the rest of the music... sometimes, some melodic stuff, but generally, the role is a supporting role. Bass players are usually the people in the band whose name everyone forgets (with a few exceptions), standing in the back by the drummer (I see you Colin Greenwood), holding it down without recognition. That's ok, I dig that role. Why do I dig that role?
Well, think about when you used to drive around in your car listening to music. What did you turn up to really get your head nodding? (I'm going to guess it wasn't the treble.)
I think back to some of my favorite songs on the albums I used to listen to back in the early nineties. On Nevermind, it was "Lounge Act", especially the first ten seconds. On Foo Fighters, it was "For All the Cows", with those fantastic slides. How about Superunknown? "The Day I Tried To Live". Dirt? "Would". Notice something in common? SO VERY MUCH GROOVE. The bass makes those songs what they are.
Here's what really made up my mind though. This video, right here:
Be still my heart. I was in high school, and still remember thinking this was one of the coolest musical performances I had ever seen. Listen to how much the bass moves around, but never gets in the way. Hear those awesome bass slides in the turnaround? They're so much more groovy than the guitar slide sound. In the second chorus, wow, look at the bass gentleman's fingers, looking like a person briskly walking. Ooooh, then the break down. Not only could this gentleman play, but he also sang harmonies! Check it out:
This gentleman's name is Rob DeLeo. He plays bass. He sings. He also wrote most of the best riff-tastic parts from this band's catalog. A bass player that writes songs, how about that? He also made playing bass look cool, even though nobody ever looks at the bassist. I mean, look at his outfit here, in what is admittedly, a delightfully cheesy music video:
In summary, Rob DeLeo was the factor that made teenage me decide to learn bass. Now, I'm old, and have lost all concern about looking cool, because whatever, just listen to my music. I still like singing harmonies though, even though I'm not good at it. I still like playing bass, finding that groove. I still like writing songs. I also still consider Rob DeLeo to be one of my favorite musicians.