Published Mar 27, 2011Surrey, BC bassist and producer Chin Injeti speaks like he plays: concisely and efficiently, with just a little bit of flair. His sanguine and insistent funk language has been in increasing demand by the likes of Dr. Dre, Drake, Jay-Z, the Clipse and Eminem for a string of best-selling albums. It's taken the former leader of '90s MuchMusic staples Bass is Base more than 20 years to refine his personal blend of musical chops with the minimal sonics of hip-hop, but these days he's going from strength to strength, following his Grammy win for his work on Eminem's Recovery.
The two sides of his musical personality intertwined early. "I started to play when I was in high school," Injeti recalls. "I grew up listening to a lot of prog rock; Rush and Yes. My brother got into DJing and he introduced me to reggae, which introduced me to everything else. It all changed. Rock was still a jumping point, but rap was the thing that really defined me. My biggest influences were DJs, not musicians."
Before Bass is Base, Injeti was well known around Toronto as an after-hours party promoter, soaking up the sounds of some of the most influential DJs in the city's history. "[Toronto hip-hop radio host/scene builder] Johnbronski and [soul/funk/reggae/house DJ] Paul E Lopes are my biggest influences to this day," he enthuses. "They literally taught me everything I know. Those guys taught me how to listen more than play. A lot of people work on technique and speed and dexterity but you don't get more musical that way. Almost without knowing it these guys were priming me to listen to music as a producer rather than a player."
This outlook resulted in an understated playing style and gear setup. His sense of feel and appropriateness to any given musical situation has only become sharper over the years "My bass playing has become more intuitive and simpler. You play what's right for the song rather than trying to play all the time. I still play a Fender 71 Jazz bass, I have a Les Paul 69 bass and a five string Furlanetto. I use a Demeter head and Bag End cabinets."
Injeti keeps his playing as clean as possible. "I don't use any effects. My thumb is my effect. The bass is the foundation element, and I don't want to complicate matters. I'll complicate matters with other things."
The "other things" are the accoutrements found in his Vancouver workspace, reclaimed from a bank vault. "It's got a big heavy door. It's like my little secret hub," he muses. "I feel the studio is like a planet, everything is living and pulsing and breathing." As with any home base, "I collect a lot of toys. I have a Wurlitzer organ, I have lots of keyboards, harmoniums, tablas. My secret weapon is an omnichord... I have a small collection of them."
In general, Injeti is the more conventionally musical half of his partnership with DJ Khalil. Khalil was responsible for introducing him to Dr. Dre, and both partners' careers exploded soon thereafter. Injeti describes their working relationship as fluid, carefree and ultra-productive.
"Sometimes I'll program, sometimes Khalil will. Sometimes I'll play and though he's not a player, he can play enough that he get something really special out of it. He knows how to make the drums hot and I know how to make the music breathe with the drums. For instance, for the Clipse's 'Kinda Like A Big Deal,' we were trying to get a vibe like something from Apocalypse Now meets the Meters. So I played all the parts, chopped it up and there it was. It is literally that easy every single time. We never, ever struggle in the studio. If we struggle, then we move on."
It sounds so simple, and in a way, it is. However, he stresses that he's only reached this point in his career after years of playing coupled with trusting his ears and instincts. Injeti's music sounds much different than Bass Is Base, though it still retains those funky elements. It's only in the last few years that he feels truly able to fully express himself. "It's changed. I've finally learned to enjoy what I'm doing, that's when the best music comes out."