IK Multimedia Interview with Stefan "Fonzy" Lessard
by Starr Ackerman, IK’s Public/Artist Relations Manager
For the past eight years now, millions of fans clamber to buy tickets to a nearly sold out Dave Matthews Band show, usually only fifteen minutes after tickets are announced. In every major city across the United States, DMB's mellow rock is still in high demand after years of touring. The Dave Matthews Band are a hit with college students, hippies and 30-somethings alike, with back to back sold out venues, sometimes even selling out two shows in the same city within 30 minutes.
Stefan "Fonzy" Lessard, Dave Matthews Band's bassist trusts his reliable stage rig to carry the tones of Ampeg SVX to concert-goers across the globe, and in the process, had veteran bass tech (Jane's Addiction, Primus, DMB) - Erik Porter buy four StompIO floor stage controllers in less than a month's time to make sure he was equipped for the multitude of demanding DMB tour dates: 4 StompIOs: (2) for A and B Stage Rig setups and (2) back-ups
For a month and a half now, Fonzy has been touring with StompIO to control the tones of Ampeg SVX in a virtual rig on stage, using IK's bass amp and FX plug-in to access the legendary bass tones of Ampeg. Stefan told IK in an interview on July 11th, 2008 that sometimes DMB does cover songs like Peter Gabriel's "SledgeHammer", or a Pink Floyd tune, and he needs to switch up his styles quickly from rock to reggae, or to another genre, but wasn't able to do that before due to the limitations of a predestined hardware, rock-only setup. Fonzy remarked that he can happily switch up his styles on bass now, no longer restricted as before, by using StompIO to navigate through Ampeg SVX or pull up any one of the "Powered by AmpliTube" gear models via X-GEAR to accommodate the variety of songs in play.
IK: Ampeg SVX, how did you hear about it?
"I worked on the Grand Canyon Adventure IMAX film, and the guy I worked with, Steve Wood, had tons of plug-ins. I was just starting to get involved with computer recording, and I went online to Digidesign's website where I was looking to see everything that was compatible with Pro Tools, and I found the AmpliTube plug-ins. When I saw everything that was offered from IK Multimedia, I went crazy. I got them all, [AmpliTube] Jimi Hendrix, Metal, Ampeg SVX all for recording purposes, demos and stuff like that. When I got Ampeg SVX…I tried it out and I loved it. It was the easiest thing for me to feel like I had a head inside my computer when I was recording; to pick different styles and amps, vintage amps… all that was really amazing! It was amazing to have the resources available to get any sound I wanted."
"Then I started seeing the StompIO…and when I realized it was for LIVE, live gear… I started thinking because I was struggling with effects for my bass. I had a pedalboard and I was using different effects processors that were more for guitar and vocals, and I would try to get all these crazy sounds, but the bass guitar has something about it that the processors really don't like. [StompIO] looked easy and simple. We tried it out, and literally everyone loved it! The sound guys loved it, the front of house guys loved it, the monitor guys loved it…. and then we ended up turning off all the amps and using it as a power amp, so I'm getting everything straight off the software."
"So, it's great! It's like a virtual world. I can decide what cabinet I want, what condenser mic I want. To the sound guys it's been helpful, because they're getting a real clean sound from the amp every night. Variables aren't changing for them."
"I'm very stoked, extremely happy with StompIO. It works great. The pad itself is clean looking. And it made me start playing Wah, which I've never done before, because I've never had a wah pedal."
IK: So you became more creative with your effects because it was easy to use?
"Yes. I bring up some guitar effects too, with X-GEAR. I also play guitar sometimes, so I love working with AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix™, just loving the sounds. It's amazing how easy it is to get really good sounds and make it sound like I had an amp in a room, with a certain type of mic, pedal…different effects, everything! As a musician nowadays, being on the road with how much we travel, it's great to have that to use and it pays off. Then I use it on stage. I'm extremely happy."
IK: How many months have you been touring with StompIO so far?
"I've been touring for a month a half now with StompIO, with no hiccups. We use a MAC Mini and it's great, nothing has gone wrong at all. Real excited about that."
IK: So you have four StompIO's on the DMB Tour?
"Yes, back-ups. We have a B rig, so if we are doing a show in Michigan right after a show in Atlanta, it's not enough time for the crew to get all the gear up there. So we have a full separate rig to go, plus we have two back-ups just in case something happens. (In case someone rolls over StompIO with a truck or something)."
IK: Would you recommend using StompIO with Ampeg SVX to other musicians?
"I definitely would suggest using it. It depends on what you want. See, I like to change my sounds to the song, so if we play an old Rolling Stones song, I want to pull up an old head to get that flat-wound vintage feel, and I can get that with [Ampeg SVX/StompIO]. Before, I was all rock-based all the time, so I had to adjust my bass and my playing to change the sound. But now I can actually go get a warm tube sound if that's what I want. Or, if I want a more heavy-distorted rock sound, I can get that too. We're doing a Peter Gabriel cover, where I need to use a pop-driven sounding rig, and now I can get it. So, if you are a bass player who likes to be real versatile and play all different styles of music, reggae, etc, then I would highly suggest it. The vintage reggae sounds are great, so I love being able to dial in a reggae sounding bassline instead of having to manipulate my playing to get that sound."
"Also- the professional engineers out on the road- they all love it. They like the consistency, they think it's amazing, and they all use a lot of virtual decks in their world for mixing. So to have their 'thumbs up' on it makes me feel really good about it."
Check out more info about Stefan "Fonzy" Lessard from his page on the Dave Matthews Band website.
To learn more about using StompIO on stage to control Ampeg SVX, and other "Powered by AmpliTube" software, visit: http://www.stompio.com
Artist BIO (from DMB website):
Bassist Stefan Lessard (aka Fonzy) is the youngest member of Dave Matthews Band, by a good seven years. He was just 16 when approached by the then bartender Dave Matthews who asked Stefan to join him, Carter Beauford and LeRoi Moore in their attempt to form a band. He was the perfect fit. Being so young, he saw the band as a continuation of his musical education and took the group very seriously. Still fresh in high school, he weaved simple yet strong bass lines proving to be an integral part of the new sound being created by the group.
Stefan was accepted a year early to VCU where he was enrolled almost a month before he was faced with making the decision between being a student and playing with the band. The choice was not easy but his instincts told him to stick with the band. Matthews used to love telling people that Stefan was the only person he knew who both dropped out of high school and college. Stefan's tastes range from Hip Hop to Soul to Alternative to Heavy Rock to Metal to Jazz to World Beat to R&B to Reggae and so on. Stefan describes how music must appeal to him, "The music I listen to needs to stimulate my mind, nod my head, move my feet, or shake my hips, if it doesn't we don't get along." Stefan plays outside of conformity, always reaching out for the new style while paying respects to the old.
Stefan likes to spend his off time playing with his 6-year-old son Diggy and his new daughter Hazel who he just had with his fiancée Jaclyn. His other activities include snowboarding, skateboarding, graphic design, painting, raising dogs, playing video games, driving fast, skim boarding and ATVs, just to name a few. He's also in the process of launching a new web site project as well as a musical side project. So keep your eyes and ears directed toward Stefan Lessard. He truly is a modern day extreme musician.