I first heard about Corney Mims through the release of his sample pack, Corney Mims Bass Pack Vol 1. I then became curious about his career and discovered that he’d done session work and live shows for the likes of Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg and 2pac. So I reached out to him about doing an interview, and we ended up talking about his life as a bass player, his work with Quincy Jones and his current partnership of producing samples packs with MSXII Audio.
Hi Corney. I’ve heard that you got your start in the industry by working alongside Freddie Perren, who was a famous producer in the 70s. Can you tell me about that?
Sure. My bass career began in 1980, right after graduating from high school. I’d been in college for less than a year when I got my first call to do professional session work. To be presented with an opportunity like that at age nineteen was too good to pass on, so I took it. The call was from a producer named Sam Brown III, who had credits on some big disco records at the time, and he was also one of Freddie Perren’s staff writers. We had run into each other earlier, and he later called to offer a position on his staff because he liked my bass playing. So I got my start by working with Sam on demo material for Freddie’s production company, after which we’d re-record the final versions if the demos were accepted. I later went to work for Freddie directly for about three years, playing bass for artists like The Spinners, Tavares and Peaches & Herb.
Was Freddie still writing for Motown Records when you started working with him?
No, he wasn’t. His work writing records for artists likes The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson and other Motown artists was done in the 60s. But he had another run of success in the 70s leading up to my job at his company, MVP Productions. By the time we met, he’d already become famous for other things, like his work on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and for writing Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive “, which was a huge record. He had a studio complex in LA and went on to have success with some other artists before his run ended. So I got involved at the tail end of that and was a part of some of his final successes in the 80s.
Was working with someone like Freddie Perren a lucrative job?
Absolutely. I made quite a bit of money working for Freddie. The music industry in the early 80s operated by the book, and many things were regulated by the unions. So I had a fixed rate for my work, and got to a point where I was making two or three times that rate for a lot of sessions, due to my workload. It was a good time to be a young bass player in the industry.
It’s widely known that the 80s was a time of change in terms of recording gear. A new wave of SSL consoles, Lexicon reverbs and Roland synths became popular, and the warm sound of the 70s disappeared. Can you talk about the gear changes that you saw happening in studios at that time?
I remember that MCI and Harrison were quite popular in the late 70s, before Trident and SSL had established themselves. Freddie’s studio was called Mom + Pops Company Store, and was equipped with Harrison consoles and Studer 24-track tape machines in 1981. But with the advent of the large-format SSL desks in the mid-80s, things started to change. Even Studer came out with a digital recorder in 1989, the D820, and Sony had already released their own version in 1981, the PCM-3342, as well as their digital tape format, DASH. When I met Ray Parker Jr in 1982, he owned a major studio in LA and was primarily using MCI gear, but he switched over to SSL by the late 80s. This was when when digital recording technology was just starting to make a serious push. I noticed how much brighter and brittle the sound of the music became, as opposed to the size and warmth we had in the 70s, and I think it was because the industry had become obsessed with obtaining a cleaner signal path. One of the reasons for the width and warmth of 70s records was that the signal path wasn’t clean, but once the recording studios starting using gear that was optimized to sound pristine, the 70s sound started to disappear.
Can you talk about other technology changes in the 80s, with regards to the rising popularity of drum machines and synths?
Synthesizers were already being used in the 70s by certain studios and artists, thanks to companies like ARP, Korg and Moog, but their popularity exploded in the early 80s, to the point where new models were being manufactured every few months by the same companies. I knew people who bought brand new synths that became obsolete less than a year later because of technological advances. Personally, I got my first drum machine and synthesizer in 1982. I had already been using the Linn LM-1 with Freddie Perren, and many studios were using it as a metronome during their recording sessions; Freddie did that all the time when James Gadson or Ed Green were recording drums with him, and I started seeing the LM-1 in a lot of different studios purely as a metronome, not a drum machine.
You worked with Quincy Jones in the 80s. Can you tell me how the two of you met and how that relationship evolved?
Ray Parker Jr’s best friend was a renowned drummer who had played with artists like The Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder. His name was Ollie Brown, and he took me under his wing when I was getting started in the industry. I was fortunate to have a few other mentors that did the same thing for me at a young age, like Wah Wah Watson. It was through Ollie that I came to work with Quincy. He was doing a live show in 1985, and Ollie was playing drums on it. They needed a new bass player at the last minute and Ollie threw my name into the discussion, giving me a strong recommendation. When I got the call, it came as a big surprise. This was Quincy Jones in late 1985 – he was a megastar at the height of his popularity. Everyone involved in the gig were stars as well, like Patti Austin and Brenda Russel, so I was the only musician with no reputation. But the show turned out awesome and that was my first time working with Quincy. A year and a half later, he was producing Michael Jackson’s “Bad“, and Ollie had been called in to do drum work again. Drum machines had taken over by 1987, and I was a fan of the Linndrum. Bruce Forat and his brother, Ben, purchased all of Linn Electronics’ remaining assets and released a remake of the Linn 9000, which they called the Forat F9000. It became a standard unit for most commercial studios, and I’d learnt how to use it pretty well. So when Quincy needed a programmer for it, Ollie Brown threw my name in the ring again, and I ended up at Westlake Studios to do drum programming.
What was it like to work with Michael Jackson in the late 80s?
It was a great experience because of all the people involved. Michael may have been the biggest artist in the world at the time, but frankly, the session musicians and engineers on “Bad” were the real stars in my eyes. People like Humberto Gatica, Greg Phillinganes and Bruce Swedien were fantastic at their jobs. To be completely honest with you, the only element that I found strange about those sessions was Michael Jackson himself. I thought he’d be more involved in the making of his own album, especially when someone like Quincy Jones was producing it. But Michael hardly ever left his loft above the control room. I think he had a video monitoring system there so he could see what was going on downstairs, but he never came down himself. So we’d work on his music for hours until Michael would yell from his loft, “Quincy! “, and Quincy would say, “Give me a second guys. Let me go talk to Michael “. Then he’d come back a few minutes later and say, “Alright, let’s get back to it “. That went on for two days straight, and I kept thinking to myself, “Is this guy ever going to come down from his loft and work with us? “. But no-one seemed to think it was odd except me, perhaps because I was the only new guy there. So thought I’d never get to see him – until day three came. I had programmed a drum loop, and was listening back to it on the main speakers when I inadvertently turned around and saw Michael peeking at us from around a wall at the back of the control room. But when he caught me looking at him, he jerked himself back around the wall like he didn’t want me to see him – I didn’t understand that at all; it was just weird. But my last day at Westlake was completely different from the rest. On day four, a crew from HBO came over to film documentary footage of our session, and we had two studios filled with not only cameramen, but also children and pets. Quincy’s grand-kids were there, as well as Greg Phillinganes kids, Bruce Swedien’s dog, and Bubbles the chimpanzee. So there were things going on which made the environment different, and Michael decided to involve himself with the studio work that day, and we worked on “Speed Demon“, which I programmed the drums for.
What do you think was the reason for Michael’s odd behavior?
Well, entertainers don’t become successful just because of their own abilities or efforts. There are other elements that have to be aligned in order for someone to become a star. The work required for Michael Jackson to become an icon was a full-time job for the other people around him. So the conclusion I’ve come to after many years in this business is that being a star is overrated. I’d rather be the guy who helps to make the star. And nowadays, it’s rare to find a star who has undeniable talent like what we saw before, which makes their role even less appealing. When I grew up in the 70s, we were taught music at the most intimate level of detail; we wouldn’t have been able to work as session musicians otherwise. So it’s the knowledge of music that represents “talent” in my eyes, and not just knowing how to sing and dance, or operate recording software.
Y’know, I haven’t really looked into what Mark Ronson actually does. I don’t know if he’s a singer, a guitarist or a producer. It seems like he’s someone who brings different elements together to create a successful project, and I can respect that, because he’s made big records that sound good and are commercially successful. But I’ve got to give it to Bruno Mars – I like him. He’s got talent, and has already said that he’s influenced by old-school music. In my opinion, if a person only wants to take inspiration from music made after 1990, they’re probably going to sound unimpressive. I think it’s a big mistake to neglect the music of the 70s if you’re trying to make something great.
Your relationship with Michael Jacson continued after the “Bad” album, when you later signed to his publishing company, ATV Music. How did that happen?
My songwriting and production career kicked off in the mid-80s, and I ended up working on a project in 1986 with Bernadette Cooper, the front-woman of a band called Klymaxx. She got a deal on Atlantic Records for another group she had called Madame X, and we partnered up to work on that. I co-produced a number of tracks on the album and co-wrote the lead single, “Just That Type of Girl“, which was sort of a goofy record, but it made noise on the RnB charts. Back then, publishing deals were being given out to anyone with a high-charting song, and the success of Madame X’s single allowed me to shop around for my own deal. I took meetings with all the major publishers and they made me some offers that I was seriously considering, but then Michael Jackson reached out to me from nowhere, even though I hadn’t solicited him. Michael had just bought ATV Music, who owned the catalogs of major artists like The Beatles and Sly and The Family Stone. As a result, he decided to start signing songwriters to produce new music for ATV, and he contacted me personally because of “Just That Type Of Girl”. My wife at the time called me when I was on tour to say, “Corney, I think Michael Jackson just called, so I gave him your hotel number “. Minutes later, MJ called my room, but I thought it was a friend of mine playing a joke, so I hung up. But he called back laughing, telling me it was actually him. He said, “I like your song, so we did some investigation and noticed that you don’t have a publishing deal “. He asked me to come by his house for a talk when I was back in LA, but I was worried because I didn’t want to sign all my publishing rights away, and I was afraid Michael would ask for that because of how aggressive of a businessman he was. But it was actually the opposite: when we met at his house and I told him about my other potential deals, he tripled the highest offer and only asked for 50% of my publishing over a period of four years. That deal was so unbelievable that it completely smashed what Warner, EMI and Sony were offering. So I took the ATV deal.
Were you able to write any lucrative music for ATV during those four years? Do you think Michael got his money’s worth for your deal?
I think he did. ATV believed in me and I absolutely did my best to produce good music for them. Michael may not have broken even, but I still had a lot of songs that did well, even though none of them were smash hits. My songs got quite a lot of placements in other media, and some of them still provide me with residual income to this day.
What was it like writing music for ATV and being an employee of Michael Jackson?
One of the greatest benefits of being signed to ATV was that I got to use Michael’s studio at the Hayvenhurst house for my work. He had a nice room that was compact and comfortable, and all the ATV staff writers got to make their demos there. There was only three of us. I forget the first guy’s real name, but we called him “Skylark”, and I remember that he wrote a big song for Earth, Wind and Fire. I was the second writer to sign with ATV, and Michael asked me if I could recommend another one, so I brought in Keith Crouch. He went on to do great records for artists like Brandy, and I played bass on a lot of his stuff. So I spent a lot of time at that house from 1987 to 1991, and became good friends with the rest of the Jackson family since Michael was never there himself. He had already moved to the Neverland Ranch by then.
Did you have any more interactions with the Jacksons after your time at ATV was over?
Once the 90s came around, I became immersed in the hip-hop world because of my relationship with DJ QUIK. He brought me a lot opportunities, like working with Death Row Records and 2pac. So I didn’t communicate much with the Jacksons during that time. But I did reconnect with them in 1997. Tito Jackson’s sons had a group called 3T, and they were massive in Europe; it was like Beatlesmania for them all over the continent. Tito was their manager, so I ended up touring with them as a bass player because of my relationship with him. Tito also had a solo project which I toured with as well.
During my time at the Hayvenhurst house, I also became friends with Randy Jackson. In my opinion, he’s the most musically talented of all his brothers, even more than Michael. He had a band called Randy and the Gypsys, and they released an album in 1989 that I was a part of recording. But the project never really took off because his label, A&M Records, also had Janet Jackson on their roster, and they gave her all their attention. So Randy got lost behind his sister, even though his band had released a few singles and music videos. That was the extent of my association with the Jacksons after my ATV years.
As someone who was a significant session musician in the 90s, can you tell me about some of your contemporaries? Who were the other in-demand session players of that time?
Well, things started to change in the 90s. In the 70s and 80s, certain musicians were being used to play on almost all the important records, and they were constantly in-demand. By the 90s, people had started sequencing with computers and samplers, so sessions work was drying up and it became hard to know who actually played on big records anymore. But if we look at the 70s and 80s, a name that comes to mind is Paul Jackson Jr. We’ve known each other since we were kids, and later went to high school together. He’s still a top-notch guitarist to this day. Ray Parker Jr was an impactful session player in the 70s, and Ricky Lawson was a great drummer from Detroit who recently passed away. I mentioned Greg Phillinganes earlier, who’s a keyboard player from Detroit. He’s Quincy Jones’ right-hand man on most of his music projects, and played on a lot of Michael Jackson’s records. Micheal Boddicker is a synth and drum programmer who became the guy of choice for everyone in the 80s. Another one that comes to mind is Wah Wah Watson, who I met through Freddie Perren. He passed away last year, but played on all kinds of big records from the 60s onwards, like The Temptations‘, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On“. He even played on “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite“ in the 90s.
In terms of contemporary session players, I can mention Rahsaan Patterson as a guy who makes great music, particularly within the neo-soul genre. There’s also a guy named Frank McComb, who’s like a combination of Herbie Hancock on keyboards and Donny Hathaway on vocals.
Let’s talk about your work for Death Row Records. How did you become involved with them?
Death Row was initially built around Dr Dre, who’s my younger cousin, believe it or not. He’s a generation younger than me in the family. Since I was already established in the music industry by the mid-80s, he came to me for help during the N.W.A years. Even though I played bass on the first Easy-E album, “Eazy-Duz-It “, I was apprehensive to really help Dre’s career because I didn’t think rap music would last. Obviously, I was wrong about that, but Dre and I still have a good relationship today. Anyway, after Dre and Suge Knight parted ways, I was connected with Death Row through DJ QUIK, who was doing some work there as producer. He brought me in to play bass on his records, alongside Robert Bacon on guitars and Warryn Campbell on additional production, and we became his go-to music crew. So once Dre left, DJ QUIK was offered his spot and brought his crew with him. That was how I became a part of the label in 1995 as a session bassist.
My first project was the soundtrack for “Murder Was The Case” – I played all the bass guitar on that. From there, we did the Tha Dogg Pound album with Daz Dillinger and Kurupt. But then 2pac joined the label roster unexpectedly. Suge had bailed him out from jail and signed him to Death Row, and we were told to put all other projects on the back-burner and focus on his next album, “All Eyez On Me“. That album took a lot of work to finish, and we were in the studio day in and day out. A lot of producers were involved, and a large part of the music we made was never even released.
(Below: “21 Jumpstreet” from “Murder Was The Case” soundtrack)
What kind of relationship did you develop with 2pac during that time?
2pac wasn’t a guy I liked. Out of all the people I’ve worked with, I had the most unpleasant experiences with him. He had a negative energy around him that I could never relate to; we’d all be laughing and having fun in the studio until 2pac came around with a reckless attitude that never helped what we were doing. I enjoyed making music with him when he chose to be serious about that, but once he got out of jail and had immediate success with “California Love”, I think he got caught up in the gangster persona that Death Row was about, and he wanted everything around him to reflect that. But I didn’t have patience for it because I knew it was contrived; I’d already seen him turn off his rap persona when he wanted to, so it annoyed me when he choose to portray that side of himself in the studio; it didn’t help the creative process for the rest of us. But I did respect his abilities as a rapper. I watched him come up with a whole song in just five minutes, with nothing prepared beforehand. He’d walk into the studio and as soon as the beat started playing, he’d write his lyrics on the spot and be ready to record the whole song a few minutes later. So I felt like his talent was wasted because of how dedicated he was to his Death Row character, which ended up outweighing his talent and it made me not want to deal with him.
Can you tell me which recording engineers and producers worked at Death Row?
We had a few different engineers. Tommy D was one of them, who I still work with to this day. He worked on most of the records on “All Eyez On Me”. John Payne was another engineer, and I also brought in some guys who worked with me at ATV, like Conley Abrams and Rick Clifford. Death Row also had in-house mix engineers like Dave Aron, who worked full-time at Can-Am Recorders, a studio that Suge had leased. We were there for a year and a half, doing different Death Row projects.
Johnny J handled most of the production of 2pac’s music. DJ QUIK had only made one album on Death Row before then things fell apart due to problems with Suge. QUIK cared about making music and wasn’t into gangbanging and violence like Suge was. So he decided to leave Death Row, but his crew of musicians stayed on because we’d become friends with Johhny J, who became the new head producer. 2pac had brought Johnny in when he got signed since they’d already worked together in the past. Johnny had been using samplers to sequence all of his past music and had never worked with live musicians before, so once he got a taste of that process, he became very prolific. That’s why we made so many tracks for “All Eyez On Me”. Also, he’d been given a virtually unlimited budget by Suge, and we recorded music like an assembly line, doing five or six tracks a day.
I also want to point out that Daz Dillinger was another producer for Death Row, which is something many people never gave him credit for.
What’s your opinion on Suge Knight? The lore around him is that he was a strongman with aggressive tendencies, whilst others have said that those stories were exaggerated.
I saw two different sides to Suge. Similarly to Johnny J, he came from a background where producers worked with samplers and drum machines. So when he got to see how live musicians played together, he was impressed by that and thought it was cool. So I saw a side of him that respected what we could do, and I appreciated that. But he had another side to him that was ruthless, just like 2pac, and there was a lot of violence at Can-Am as a result of that. I remember a bunch of times when we’d be in the middle of a recording session, and suddenly a guy would come running through the studio with eight other guys chasing him to beat him up. That happened regularly. Every time I looked up from my music work, I’d see someone getting beat up. Stuff like that was because of Suge and his street alignments. His gang affiliates would always have meetings at Can-Am, and if a member needed to be disciplined, they’d do it at the studio. I just thought it was unnecessary, but I stayed working at Death Row because we were all making so much money and the music was good.
Is it true that Death Row refused to pay you for your last round of session work, and that Snoop Dogg had to intervene on your behalf?
Yes, that’s true. I’m surprised you know about that. After 2pac died, things went downhill for Death Row, starting in 1997. Snoop owed the label one more album, which became “Tha Doggfather“, but he didn’t really care much about that record; he just wanted to fulfill his contract and be done with Suge so he could join Dr Dre at Interscope. But he had to do a promo run for the album, and since I’d become the Musical Director at the label, he called me to help put together a band for his Saturday Night Live performance. He knew that I’d done the same for 2pac’s SNL show the year before, and the band sounded great. In my opinion, 2pac himself was the only one that didn’t deliver on his performance. He was screaming and jumping around for the first two songs, “California Love” and “So Many Tears“, and it sounded terrible.
Why do you think 2pac’s performance was off? Hadn’t he rehearsed his parts?
No, he hadn’t. Death Row called to request that I put together a band for 2pac’s upcoming SNL performance in 1996. So I did that, and expected that we’d all get together to practice for a few weeks before the show. But 2pac never showed up to any of our rehearsals – not a single one, over a period of three weeks. I kept asking myself, “Where is this guy? We’re rehearsing for his show, yet he can’t bother to show up even once? “. The problems only became more embarrassing when the band showed up in New York at the SNL set. Saturday Night Live uses Thursday as an important preparation day for the final rehearsals on Friday, so any performing artist has to be present. But once again, 2pac didn’t bother showing up, and the SNL producers were looking at me like, “Where the heck is 2pac? “, but I had no clue and could only shrug my shoulders and look stupid. They were like, “We’ve never had an artist just no-show for his camera block. So what do we do? Do we re-book him? Or find another artist? Is he even going to show up on Saturday? “. I don’t like being put in positions like that, and it’s the kind of thing I saw Death Row do repeatedly. But thankfully, Pac and Suge showed up on Saturday morning, although they had a twenty-man entourage with them and started smoking weed in the studio. The SNL cast were looking at us like we were crazy.
Fast-forward to January 1997, and it was Snoop’s turn to perform on SNL to promote his album, and I got another call from Death Row to help out again as the Musical Director. But they owed me $25,000 for my past session work, so I refused to help them. Even when Snoop called me about it, I was like, “Look man, you’re my brother, but the label owes me a lot of session money and they don’t answer my calls about it. You know that paying their staff has become issue for them “. So Snoop said he would get my money and I received a call from the label shortly thereafter to pick up a cheque for $25,000. Our SNL show turned out great too. Snoop wasn’t like 2pac at all; he was about doing good business, making music and having fun, which made working with him a completely different experience.
What if Death Row hadn’t paid you? Would you have sued them?
Absolutely. They had a year of outstanding debt owed to me and no-one was returning my phone calls, so I had already started setting up legal action when Snoop intervened. It was a shame, because Death Row hadn’t always behaved like that. Their stinginess with money only started once “All Eyez On Me” went multi-platinum. I saw how Suge started blowing money recklessly by the millions, and I think it came back hurt the label. Interscope was like, “We’re not giving you any more money. We already paid you. If you owe someone money, that’s your problem now “.
Let’s talk about “All Eyez On Me”. I’ll mention some tracks, and you can tell me if you played bass on them, and what the recording process was like:
How Do U Want It: I played on that one. That track was interesting because when I came into the studio, Johnny J had already looped a sample that I recognized from Quincy Jones’ “Body Heat“, and I thought it was cleverly done. I remember telling Johnny, “You need to stop whatever else you’re doing and let me play a bass-line to that “.
All About U: I played the bass on that one, with Johnny J on production. Obviously, we just recreated Cameo’s “Candy“. The comical part of the song is how Snoop, 2pac and Nate Dogg came up with the hook. There were twenty people in the studio and everybody was passing joints around non-stop as the Million Man March was being shown on TV. Then all of a sudden, Snoop caught sight of an interview that CNN was doing with a girl he recognized from one of his music videos. Back then, she had played the role of a raunchy video chick, but now she was in the streets talking like a social activist and Snoop thought it was funny. That’s what inspired all of them to write “All About U”. It was also one of the few good experiences I had with 2pac. I think because Snoop and Nate was there, it created a positive atmosphere that made him want to have fun and make music.
Skandalouz: I was on that, and Daz Dillinger handled the production. He set up the track and I played bass, with Warryn Campbell on the Fender Rhodes. Daz did so many records that people don’t know about, and he’s a really solid producer in his own right.
2 of Americas Most Wanted: That’s a synth bass, so I wasn’t on that. But it’s another one of Daz Dillinger’s productions.
I Ain’t Mad At Cha: There are two versions of that song. I wasn’t on the original, which Daz produced. But I’m on the version that was used for the music video, which is a live recreation. I think we just started playing it the studio and spontaneously recorded it for fun, and it later got used by the label for the music video.
Let me mention a few names in the industry and you can tell what interaction you had with them in your career.
Janet Jackson: Despite all the interaction I had with the Jackson family, I never had a personal relationship with Janet, even though the opportunities were presented. I was actually a part of the original band for her Rhythm Nation tour, but I got cut off by my band members before the tour started. Janet had reached out to our keyboard player, Chuckii Booker, to offer us the opening slot on the tour, as well as to offer Chuckii the position of Band Director. Since I was the bass player in Chuckii’s band on the opening slot, I assumed I’d also play bass for the main band with Janet. But the other members decided to bring in another bassist without any real explanation. These were guys that I went to high school with, like Thomas Organ, Kipper Jones and Derrick Organ. But getting cut from the band was a blessing in disguise because I ended up working as the Musical Director and Supervisor on a successful TV show called “Big Break” whilst the band was on tour. “Big Break” is where R Kelly got his start by winning the first season.
Dave Grusin: There’s a club in the San Fernando Valley called The Baked Potato, and a lot jazz and fusion music that came through there in the 70s. Back when we were in high school, Paul Jackson Jr and I used to sneak in there with help from Lee Ritenour, who took a liking to Paul and later became his teacher. Lee would play regularly at The Baked Potato and Dave Grusin would play keys with him. So Lee would sneak us in and let us sit in the back of the club, and we got a chance to know Dave during that time as well.
Prince: I used to be in a band called Tease with the guys I talked about from the Rhythm Nation tour. We were discovered by Ollie Brown, and he got us our first record deal in 1982. We ended up with the same management firm as Prince’s, and were later connected with him by our accountant, Fred Moultrie. So when he was in LA, we’d hang out backstage or at after-parties with him and his band, The Revolution.
I first came across your name through your sample packs with MSXII Audio. Can you tell me how that relationship came about?
That came about due to my time in rehab. I had relapsed into an old cocaine habit after many years of being clean, and decided to leave LA in the end of 2008. I had found a rehab center in Abilene, where my sister lives, which I relocated to for treatment. Whilst there, I met a guy named Michael Simpson. He was a beatmaker who worked a lot with music software, and when he heard that I was in town, he reached out to me about meeting up. It turns out he was the founder of MSXII Audio, and I’ve been able to watch him build his company into something quite impressive over the past ten years. He would call me from time to time to play bass on the sample packs he was putting out, like the Soulful Stems series, and he would keep me involved in new MSXII projects, which I’ve always appreciated. He’d call me and say, “Hey man, we’re about to do another batch of samples. Here’s the theme and the stems we want you to play to “. Alternatively, he’d give me parameters like the key and tempo, and I’d make bass loops. So things just came to a point where he suggested we release a bass library and I thought it was a good idea. It’s been cool for me because sample libraries is a new revenue stream in the music business that I was unaware of, and many young people are into it.
Has working with MSXII helped your career in any way?
I’m happy about the fact that it puts my face on a good product that’s been well-received. One of my goals has become to find new ways to market myself as a bass player, which is why I’ve created a brand called “Bomb Bass“, through which I’ll be doing my session work. So the bass pack is a great way to put my name out there for things like that.
If you’re trying to raise your profile in the industry, why don’t you just reach out to someone like Dr Dre, since he’s your cousin? Couldn’t Aftermath use a good bassist?
I could do that. It wouldn’t be hard to call someone close to Dre and ask to speak with him, but I guess there’s a pride element involved because of our history. Dre’s career really kicked off in the 90s thanks to “The Chronic“. I don’t know if he reached out to me for help during that time, but I was so far gone on drugs that I missed the boat if he did. So understandably, he had to keep moving forward without me, even though I was family. He’s only had success after success since then, from Aftermath to “2001” and Beats By Dre. So to call him up today would be tough. I’d have to apologize for not believing in rap music in the 80s, and for not being around in the 90s when he might have reached out to work with me. But to be honest, I’m happy with the path I’m on right now, and I’m also very happy for Dre’s success. I’m sure we’ll speak about everything that happened back then in the near future, since we still have a good relationship.
What have been some of your favorite basses through-out your careeer?
The Fender Jazz Bass will always be a constant for me. I’ve had countless Jazz basses through-out my career, and still have two at home. I lost a bunch of them in the 90s, but managed to built up my collection again in the 2010s. Other than that, I have some basses from Music Man, Kiesel and D’Angelico.
I currently have an endorsement with Kiesel. They offered me a deal back in the late 80s when I was on tour with Kenny Loggins, but I didn’t use their basses that much because the ones from Fender were so much better back then. But Kiesel really improved their bass products in the last 30 years,, and I was reintroduced to them in 2007. I was so impressed that I resigned with them, and I now play their Jazz Bass model.
What about amps and cabinets?
I recently discovered a company called Aguilar, who make nice bass amps that I sometimes use on the road. I’m using TC Electronic gear for my home setup. They have a new modular cabinet that’s lightweight, but it handles a lot of power. I also use TC’s BH800 with a stack of RS212s on the bottom and RS210s on top. The only thing I don’t like is how clean it sounds, so I’m trying to inject some dirt into my signal path so things don’t sound so pristine.
Thanks for this interview Corney. I’d like to wrap up by asking one more question: would you say that you’ve done well in your post-Death Row era? Do you feel like your career might have taken a dip since then, since you’re no longer a part of production crews that make multi-platinum albums?
Great things have happened to me since working at Death Row, and I’ve never been without activity. My name is pretty solidified in LA and certain places around the world, and people still reach out to me for music work. So my career never really dipped, other than when I was sidetracked by my drug use. But ever since I got clean in the late 2000s, I’ve never had any problems in my career. I’ve always had friends who understood that I was a good musician, and they always said that I could call them for work when I’d fixed my personal issues. So I never burned my bridges even at my low points, and I’ve been able to stay involved in relevant music projects to this day. For example, I’m part of a band called Fantastic Negrito, and we won two Grammys for “Best Contemporary Blues Album” in 2016 and 2019. That’s been my highest accolade in the industry, and it’s funny how things change when you win a Grammy (laughs). People suddenly look at you a little differently. I’m also on tour with the a group called the Dennis Jones Band, which is amazing. We’re doing well in the US, and just got back from a tour in Canada last week. So at almost 60 year old, I don’t feel like I’ve declined as a bassist. I don’t see myself waking up one day and thinking, “Wow, I’m not funky anymore. How did that happen? “. The work of a bass player will always be relevant in this industry. As long as I don’t start playing my bass like a lead guitar, which I see a lot of young people doing nowadays, I’ll be fine. A bass guitar has always been used to provide a song with it’s harmonic foundation, and there will always be good job security in that.