Veteran rock bassist Randy Coven, who toured and recorded with such virtuosos as Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai, died on May 20. He was 54 years old. The cause of death has not yet been revealed.
In an interview with Bass Inside magazine, Randy stated about how he started playing the instrument: “Bass started for me when I opened my ears up to really listening to music as a musician wannabee. I know this might sound stupid, but I was listening to a BEATLES song a million years ago and I heard the bass in the mix. I then realized Paul McCartney was the bass player of THE BEATLES, and he was playing the bass with a lot of movement using a style similar to the left hand of a piano player. I started by listening to [Jimi] Hendrix, CREAM, LED ZEPPELIN, THE WHO and MOUNTAIN. So my first real influences moving in the direction I was heading were bassists who could improvise. Jack Bruce, Felix Papalardi, John Paul Jones, Billy Cox and the man, John Entwistle. All these guys were playing with amazing guitar players and I couldn’t help noticing how they would express themselves, especially Hendrix.
“Anyway, one day one of my friends came over and said, ‘You’ve got to hear this.’ He put on ‘Return To Forever’ and I heard Stanley Clarke for the first time. I knew then that what I wanted to do on bass was possible. I knew that I would be able to lay down some solid playing that included expressing my bass as a solo instrument.
“The next big influence that came along was Jeff Berlin. Jeff was actually a neighbor of mine, his younger brother Ross used to beat me up.
“One day I was sitting in my room desperately trying to learn ‘Vulcan Worlds’ by Stanley Clarke. My room had a door that opened into the backyard. Jeff was walking by and must have heard me trying to play this thing. He probably felt sorry for me, so he came in and took the time to really show me how this riff was played as well as writing it out on music paper. I couldn’t believe it! He also said he knew and had played with Stanley Clarke. I was blown away. This incident changed my life forever. I decided to go to Berklee to really learn music, especially because I couldn’t read music, and it took me the rest of the summer to learn the damn thing.”
According to his biography on the PHIL BRODIE BAND web site, Randy had just finished a busy schedule with Lesley West when he received a phone call from Yngwie Malmsteen asking him if he could he could learn his show in two weeks to do a world tour. He also asked Randy other very important questions like: “Do you drink beer?” “Do you play with a pick?” “And do you play a Fender bass?” To which Randy answered, “Yes,” “Yes” and “Yes.”
Randy has always maintained, “If you have five fingers, why play with one pick?” He couldn’t understand why a bass player would want to play with one pick. “If you play with your fingers, you have five picks,” he would say.
Yngwie‘s material is complicated and Randy was ripping through the fast riffs with his fingers with no problem, but it was a totally different thing with the pick. However over the next two weeks, he had learned all 40 tracks from the set lists — with a pick. When Randy flew to Florida to join Yngwie, Yngwie sat him down with a beer and said, “You’re a finger player, right?” Randy had been busted. Then he said, “Let’s hear you play this riff with your fingers.” The riff was some awesome 32nd note passage. Yngwie said: “I thought only Billy Sheehan could do that! Right. You play with your fingers.” So Randy did.