Me playing my Wal Custom 5-string bass at Angel Studios in London, October 2009.

I grew up in Harlow, Essex, England and was interested in music from a very early age, playing the trombone in the school band, etc. which is where I learned to read music, play in an ensemble and follow a conductor. These are essential skills for the job of freelance musician and I am very thankful that my school had a great music department. I played the bass guitar in bands as a teenager, annoying the neighbours by playing "progressive rock" and gradually moved toward jazz and funk as I entered my twenties.

In the summer after I left school I had the special pleasure of being asked to play in a musical that the Orange Tree fringe theatre in Richmond, London. It was a huge success and, after a second run of shows over the Christmas period, it transferred to the Fortune theatre in London. I was on a West End stage at the age of 19:


The show only lasted five weeks and it took me a few more years to work my way into full-time musical work. 

I turned professional in December 1978 and since then I've been lucky enough to play for many great musicians and singers and I've seen a lot of the World; from the Arctic Circle to the South Atlantic and from Los Angeles to Wellington, New Zealand plus many places in between. I still enjoy playing and I'm looking forward to more years of music and travel. I would say that my two favourite places that my bass has taken me to are: Japan, where I've toured on five occasions with the Michael Nyman Band, and Belize, a beautiful tropical paradise in Central America.

Over the past 25 years or so some of the jobs I've had include playing for: Michael Nyman, Gary Numan, Michael Ball, Shirley Bassey, Bucks Fizz, Petula Clark, The Nolans, Alice (Italy), London Saxophonic, Franco Battiato (Italy), The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Soweto String Quartet, Sacha Distel, Ute Lemper, Matt Munro, John Barrowman, Will Martin, Julian Ovenden and many others, plus I've played in West End theatres for: "Grease", "Cats", "Les Miserables", "Chess", "Whistle Down The Wind", "The Beautiful Game" and I've played many TV, radio, album and film recording dates. A couple of TV jobs that I'm most pleased to have done are: playing on the theme tune of "Blue Peter" and playing my fretless semi-acoustic Hohner on the show "Bottom" as part of the "Bum Notes". During the late '80s I played in the orchestra for "New Faces", plus I regularly played in the house band for "Wogan". I have also been involved as a co-producer with the Michael Nyman Band, for the piece "After Extra Time" and London Saxophonic, for the CD "An Eye for a Difference".

In 1997 I had the unusual and privileged opportunity to perform a modern opera - "Dirty Tricks", with music by Paul Barker - that was accompanied by solo bass guitar. In 2014 I recorded versions of two of the songs from the opera with the amazing Simon Haram playing soprano and alto sax. I have also recorded a "concerto" for bass guitar written for me by the Spanish composer Chema Rivas.

In Summer 2000 I was asked to teach bass guitar at Canterbury Christ Church University and I taught there until May 2014. I found that I really enjoyed teaching and each year I looked forward to meeting new students and passing on the experience and knowledge that I have gained since I "gave up my day job".

I've got a few basses that I've collected over the years. I use my Overwater Jazz Bass, which is in the photograph at the bottom of the page, on most gigs but I use my Steinberger XL2 with the Michael Nyman Band as it is so convenient for travelling - plus, it's a great bass! - and, for gigs that need a 5 string, I use my Wal. I have a Washburn semi-acoustic bass guitar, which has a unique sound for "unplugged" sessions. I have two Fender Jazz basses: An ash bodied Fender Jazz(from the early 70's, fitted with EMGs and a Badass bridge) and 1969 Candy Apple Red with original pickups and Thomastik Jazz Flat flatwound strings. I also have a pair of Spectorocore 5-strings, fretted and fretless. I have an East German double bass that was made in the 1960s. If I want P-Bass sound I have a Squier P-Bass with EMG pickups and Thomastik Jazz Flats that sounds very deep indeed. The effect pedals I use are EBS octave and compressor pedals, plus an EBS Micro Bass II pre-amp and a Zoom multi-effects unit. For amplification I use a Gallien-Kruger MB150 or a MarkBass 400 watt head with two Epifani 12-inch cabs, a MarkBass 1x15, or an SWR 2x10.


(This is me playing my lovely Overwater Jazz Bass) 

I now live in Whitstable, Kent, in the south-east corner of England - I've been here since March 1991. It's a quiet town on the coast, about 60 miles from London and is famous for its Oysters. I play with a lot of local musicians in this area, some of whom include: Ben Mills (X-Factor semi-finalist), Jim Leverton (Steve Marriott, Caravan, etc.) and Geoffrey Richardson (Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Caravan, Bob Geldof, etc.) and Noel McCalla (Manfred Mann, and a solo artist himself). I enjoy photography and have exhibited in a couple of local exhibitions- Whitstable is very has a working harbour and still retains a lot of the atmosphere of the early 1900's, plus the sunsets are beautiful here all year round. 

© Martin Elliott 2013