Richard Waller III should be even more comfortable with bass players than most drummers: his father plays bass. Good thing, for as resident drummer of Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp, Waller comes into contact with scores of bass players. The seemingly tireless drummer, recording engineer, composer and producer teaches one of the boot camp’s most popular workshops, a “groove” class in which bassists demonstrate how well they hold the groove by jamming one-on-one with him. He also gives a workshop on recording techniques, another popular class.
At night his drumming is the glue that holds together the camp’s pinnacle event, a Saturday night jam open to any and all students.
The Philadelphia native brings a wide range of experience to the Boot Camp. A formally-trained drummer, he played with Veasley for three years. His work as a recording engineer and producer has included projects with Veasley, John Legend, The Roots, Grover Washington, Jr. and Philip Bailey, among others.
He founded RCP Records, which specializes in rhythm and blues and hip-hop, and currently runs Walcom Music Group, LLC, which offers music production, publishing and music business consultation services. He has also composed music for film and television, including “The Cosby Show.”
After one of his classes, he offered his insights on the relationship between bassists and drummers:
BBP: What is your strategy for dealing with all of these bass players?
Waller: My strategy for dealing with all of the bass players is to basically maintain the relationship between the bass player and the drummer. It’s an important relationship that can’t be neglected because at the end of the day if a vocalist or keyboard player or instrumentalist who’s up front, at the end of the day if the band is not happening, the bass player and the drummer get blamed first. Period. Because they feel as though, people playing messed up one time, it’s fine. Think about when you’re on stage and the drummer messes up. You can even go to another song, they’ll still be talking about how “three songs ago, the drummer, man he totally missed the downbeat. It wasn’t happenin’ at all.” They never forget it. Same thing with bass players. Bass players, because you got all that low end, and you’re the only person there…so when the bass player makes a mistake, it’s amplified. When the drummer makes a mistake it’s amplified. But if the keyboard player makes a mistake they call it hip…because he resolved his mistake. We can’t resolve the beat, ‘cause it takes us a while to find out where we were, you know. What happened was, when Gerald first started and at the time—I don’t think I was touring with Gerald yet, but I did tour with Gerald for three years—at the time when we started, it was a thing where, you know, I was already doing clinics and I would have various bass players and that was the relationship. So it was, you know, “how are you going to have like 80 bass players there and their main job is to work with the drummer, you have no drummer in the place. You know so, he gave me a shot at doing the workshop and then actually, through the questionnaires, it became the most popular workshop. So that’s how I ended up constantly doing it. Plus my father was a bass player, so I really understood the relationship, you know, because if I didn’t play right he beat me (laughs). Just kidding.