Bergantino is proud to welcome Johnny Lee Middleton to our family of artists

Originally hailing from St. Petersburg, FL, Johnny Lee Middleton comes to us by way of world-renowned bassist and entrepreneur, Beaver Felton, CEO of Florida’s Bass Central.  Beaver, being an ultra-talented, professional player, knew that Johnny would be a great fit for Team Bergantino.  We had a chance to sit down with Johnny to chat about all things bass and his journey through the bass universe.

– Johnny, you’ve known Beaver Felton for over 40 years. How did you two come to meet?

When I first started playing, I would sneak into clubs to see bands play, and Beaver was in one of the best bands in the Tampa Bay area at the time. He was the best bass player around, so I was a fan of his band called Hoochie. When I started gigging out, we would run into each other and he was always nice to me, which was cool because he was the baddest guy in town. We have stayed in touch over the years, and he is my go-to guy if I have any questions about gear.

– Tell us how you started on your bass journey?

I started on trumpet, and in the ninth grade, I joined the jazz band and they set the bass rig behind me. After the first class, I asked the teacher if I could try the bass, and he said yes. He gave me a printout of the notes on the neck of the bass guitar and let me take the jazz bass home. The bass player was a trumpet player as well, so we would switch during the performances. I formed a band called Mariah with the drummer and guitar player from the jazz band and have been in a band in some shape or form since 1978.

– Who are your biggest musical influences?

When I was starting to play, my sister’s boyfriend left some Black Sabbath records at my house, and when I played them, it was life-changing as I had grown up on country music and pop radio. Geezer was my first as well as Phil Lynott and Geddy Lee. I grew up on 70’s music, so all the music of that era influenced my life as a musician.

– Tell us about your band, Savatage, and how it came to be?

I joined Savatage in 1985 when I was 22 years old. They were already signed to Atlantic, so I replaced the original bassist. I rehearsed with the guys for four weeks, and we were off to London to record my first record with the band. It was quite an experience as we were in Trident Studios in the heart of London hanging with the guys from Iron Maiden, Lemmy, and the crew at the St. Moritz, which was a hangout across from the studio.

– How did Trans-Siberian Orchestra emerge?

In 1995, Savatage released an album entitled Dead Winter Dead, which is a rock opera about the war in Bosnia. On that record, we recorded a song called “12/24 Sarajevo,” which is an instrumental track consisting of our version of “Carol Of The Bells,” which our producer Paul O’Neill wanted on the recording but the band did not. After some heated debate, Paul won and a DJ in Tampa Bay picked it up and started playing the song, and it just exploded from there. We really couldn’t do a holiday recording under the name Savatage so Paul started TSO and the rest is history.

– How does the music writing process work in TSO, and will you tour this year?

I am not involved in the writing process when it comes to TSO. Paul O’neill and Jon Oliva, Bob Kinkle, and Al Pitrelli are the guys that are behind the writing process with TSO. We have two TSO touring groups, so when it comes to recording, everybody pitches in so there is not a bass player or a guitar player; it is a combination of players with Al Pitrelli being the MD when it comes to guitar/bass parts.

– Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

As far as basses go, my all-time favorite, and the bass that has recorded every Savatage and TSO note, is my Brooklyn Spector Serial # 511. It is on its third set of frets, third bridge, and second set of machine heads. The pickups have grooves in them from wear and tear, and the mojo is off the chain. Paul O’neill loved it so much he actually located the guy who made the bass and had a replica made. It took some time, but Paul actually had the guitar replicated. Since it is a studio-only bass, I tour with a few Fender Jazz and P Basses and a new Spector X bass I recently received from Spector. It looks like I may be bringing a Spector or two out this year with TSO, so I am excited about that. I also have a Lakland, which was owned by Duck Dunn as it was the prototype for his Lakland model. It had super dead Labella flats on it and smelled like a pipe when I opened the case for the first time. It plays and records like a dream. That would be at the top of the list as well.

– What tone do you strive for in live performances, and how does it fit in the mix?

With TSO, I use the D’Addario flat wound chromes on all my Jazz and P basses as the tone sits better in the mix and flats seem to almost act as a compressor in arenas by tightening up the low end boom I was getting with round wounds, not to mention the fret wear I was getting on my vintage guitars. When you have two keyboard players, you need to stay out of the way or it turns into a mudfest, so flats work great for that gig. When it comes to Savatage, it is a completely opposite set up with round wounds and active pickups for more of a punchy tone with the majority of the songs recorded with a pick on the Spector. I learned how to play as a finger player and never played guitar before playing the bass, so I hate playing with a pick. I had two acrylic finger nails put on my picking hand to get the attack of the pick with the punch of the finger to avoid playing with a pick, and it worked really well on the last two Savatage recordings.

– What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working with Whiskey Stills and Mash out of Hiawasse, Georgia, when I am not touring with TSO. We are a power trio that is a regional band playing originals and covers in the North Atlanta /North Georgia area. We released a CD last year that did well, and we are working on another one now. I really love this band because it is back to where you started and everything is raw. With TSO, everything is perfect, and when you dig it out in the clubs and opening slots for national acts, nothing is perfect. The guys in the band are great players, and we really have a great time. Our new CD will be out around Nov. 1st.

– Tell us about your experience with Bergantino.

I was looking for a rig that I could use in my studio as well as to gig with that is easy to transport and loud enough to use in a live setting. I called my guys at  Bass Central, and Bergantino was first on the list so I started my research. After hours of browsing the internet, I chose Bergantino, and I’m glad I did as this rig has everything I need. It works great as a studio rig and can handle volumes needed for live gigs.

– What settings do you use with the Bergantino Forté HP, and how do they benefit your tone?

My settings on my Forte’ HP vary depending on the guitar and the tone needed to fit the song/project I am playing. I am a big fan of the VRC compression and hi and low pass filters as  well as the overdrive.  I love the Bluetooth pedal option, and the stock firmware works great for me for what I am doing at this time. It sounds great in a live situation at a louder volumeas there is clarity and thump with no break up at volume, which is what I was looking for. I like the grit of the overdrive and the ease of using a Bluetooth connection from the pedal board to amp.

– You are also using the NXT112 and NXT 210, which we commonly refer to as the “322.” How does that setup compliment what you’re trying to project on stage?

I think the 322 is a very versatile rig as it gives you the option of running a small rig to a full-on rock and roll rig that is easy to transport. I have the option of running a 12″ speaker or two 10″ speakers or both! What more could a working bass player want? It works really well in a live rock band setting as every note seems to be audible and nothing is lost in the mix. I have had quite a few house engineers ask me about the rig as they were impressed with the tone out of the DI but not familiar with Bergantino. I have just scratched the surface with this gear and can’t wait to add different firmware and see where it goes.

Please share with us what you do with your off time.

As far as my time off the road goes, I am a fulltime beekeeper and own an apiary in the Smoky Mountains. I raise honey bees from my locally bred stock, and I catch wild honeybee swarms as well as sell honey, queen bees, etc., online and locally. I run about thirty hives, so it keeps me busy when I am not on tour, and I really love working honeybees as it is complicated and physically demanding, which is a lot like being a pro musician. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful, and that is what life is all about.

Follow Johnny Lee Middleton:

https://www.facebook.com/johnnylee.middleton

https://www.facebook.com/TSO

https://www.facebook.com/savatage

Bass Central: https://basscentral.com/

 

 

Bergantino welcomes the talented George Baldwin to our family of artists!

Bergantino Audio Systems is excited to welcome the extremely talented George Baldwin. Composer, multi-instrumentalist and all-around great person, George hails from Brighton, England and we couldn’t be happier with his addition to our artist roster.

 First, please tell us what you have been up to currently, musically or otherwise?

 I am in the middle of finishing some recordings that will go towards a solo album. When the release date is confirmed, it will be available on all major streaming platforms. I am also currently busy creating loops for various sample libraries as well as starting to gig live again finally. My website will be updated with gig slots soon, so keep an eye out.

What is your family background? Where you were born and raised?

 I was born and raised in London and East Sussex. Everyone in my family is either artistic or musical in some form. My mum is a talented artist, pianist and drama teacher and actor who has performed in the West End, and my dad has had a career as a session guitar player who has played with many artists including Tina Turner, Phil Collins and Marvin Gaye. My brother is also a music producer currently living and working in Berlin. It was never a quiet household, to say the least!

What makes the bass so special to you particularly and how did you gravitate to it?

I originally gravitated towards the bass guitar because all the cool kids at school were in bands, and everyone seemed to be gravitating towards singing, drumming or playing guitar as the school had equipment readily available for those activities. However, this proved to be a bit of an opportunity to be in loads of bands at school, as by choosing the bass, I got to play more! My wonderful parents bought me a Fender jazz bass when I was 10 years old. I played trumpet and piano before that (and still play piano when composing).

How did you learn to play?

My dad is a professional musician, so mostly through him and having great teachers in college and throughout the years. I always make sure I’m learning and have someone teaching me new things.

Are there any other instruments you play?

Chapman Stick and a bit of guitar and piano. I also sing when I have to!

George playing his Dingwall and Chapman stick in this fantastic video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nar4gn8N6gA

How has your playing evolved over the years, and have you made changes from your start until now? Can you describe the changes?

I used to be very much into prog rock at the beginning and started off learning a lot of Rush and TOTO bass lines. I progressively got more into jazz fusion, learning lines from my heroes Jimmy Johnson and Anthony Jackson to expand my knowledge of the fretboard and how to support a tune in the most tasteful way possible. I look up to them as players in so many ways.

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I tend use the Matt Garrison technique a lot due to comfort and economy reasons (mixture of thumb and three fingers). I’m progressively getting better at the double-thumbing technique when I get the time to practice it.

Who would you say out of four players that would make the cut as your influencer and why?

Probably Jimmy Johnson. His playing style works in any style of music he applies his playing to, and his sound cuts through without leaving the song behind. He can say so much with what he is playing without overplaying. I cannot get enough of listening to him.

How’d you find Bergantino, and can you share your thoughts on our bass gear?

I was recommended to try a B amp out and was floored by its transparency and flexibility. The built-in compression is a big part of my sound now, in and out of the studio. I cannot wait to gig it more!

How have you been setting the controls on the B|Amp so far, and what changes to those setting might you make as you plug in some of your other individual instruments? Maybe some examples if any?

Mostly flat EQ with the bright switch enabled, and parallel comp set to around 8 or 9. It is so versatile, and the highs are so clean for chords and plucking without being harsh. It’s fantastic with the Chapman Stick too, with the comp set a little higher to around 10. Not much tweaking is needed for a fantastic sound.

Tell us about your favorite bass or basses.

I love Dingwall, Status Graphite and S. Martyn. As luthiers, they are bringing something unique to the bass world and have a distinctive sound. They are all also super nice people and very talented!

What else do you like to do when not doing music?

I love building software and websites, walking my dogs in nature and listening to other artists.

What have you had more time to work on or explore since COVID?

I have been working a lot in software engineering, as well as recording more original material which will be out this year on most popular streaming platforms.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Thank you to Holly and Jim at Bergantino for believing in me and creating some of the best bass gear I’ve ever used. What a pleasure it’s been so far! Long may it continue…

 Follow George: 

Website: https://hilltidemusic.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hilltidemusic
Instagram: @@hilltidemusic

George’s latest release: https://artists.landr.com/692531478733

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bergantino Artist George Baldwin with a snappy and punchy groove for us this morning. George is recording through the B|Amp and is afforded a multitude of features to give just about any tone imaginable. Thanks George!

Bergantino Artist Ricky Bonazza and his blistering P bass fury brought out wonderfully by the huge sounding forté HP. Enjoy!

Bergantino Artist Kevin Freeby with his fat and funky bass tone! Kevin is using the forte and the NXV210 with his FBass.