Interview: Barend Courbois on touring & recording with MSG

Michael Schenker Group 2022: Steve Mann, Ronnie Romero, Michael Schenker, Barend Courbois & Bodo Schopf

Barend Courbois is a Dutch bass player that’s been on top of his game as bass player for several decades, playing with acclaimed metal bands like Blind Guardian and Vengeance. Will joining the legendary Michael Schenker Group make him even more known to the international bass players’ community?

With a long career, performing with many international top musicians and bands. What does it mean for you to be a part of the Michael Schenker Group now?

Yeah man, for me as a long-time Michael Schenker/ UFO fan, it’s a total dream come true. When I grew up, there were 3 guitar Gods around: Gary Moore, Edward Van Halen, and Michael Schenker. Now I’m playing with one of the 3 (it is sadly too late to play with the first two, of course). So, I can not say more than….WOW, BABY!! Sometimes I have to slap myself in the face to check if I’m not dreaming. My alarm goes off just before his famous ‘Rock Bottom’ solo, haha.

Michael Schenker Group is one of the true classic rock acts still going strong. Will the coming tour revisit a specific era of MSG’s long career, or will it be a completely fresh take leaning more on the most recent releases? 

It’s a perfect overview of his impressive 50-year career. I love every song from the beginning to the end since they are all very special songs to me.

Speaking of new releases, you play on the new MSG album ‘Universe’ as well. Was the recording process with MSG different from playing with the band on stage? 

Yes, I’m sooo proud to provide my famous Dutch Low-End on the new MSG ‘Universe’ album. It was recorded last year and since it was in the middle of the Covid pandemic, I did my parts alone with the MSG producer (my long-time friend) Michael Voss. So it was totally different than working on stage with the band. We still had a lot of fun during the recordings…. sometimes we look at each other and said things like …. “Uh, it needs a little more Geezer, Jimmy Bain, Michael Anthony, Geddy Lee, or Sheehan”….but, luckily, most of the time just more of Courbois. Of course, I loved hearing that, hahaha.

Watch ‘Emergency’ the first single from the new MSG album ‘Universe’.

Many know you as a rock bass player since you’ve been part of that scene for a long time with prominent bands like Vengeance, Blind Guardian, and now Michael Schenker Group. But there are other musical sides to you as well, right? 

Yeah, I grew up with (and studied) Jazz music. I’m a huge Jazz/Bebop/Fusion fan… love and need that swing, chords, and improvisation. But I’m also a big Funk, Soul, Blues, Middle Eastern, North African, Indian Raga, Indonesian Gamelan, Minimal music, and Western Classical music fan! You know in the end there are only two kinds of music: good and bad, and even shitty music can be played fantastic…or the other way around haha….that’s all folks.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of studying and performing jazz and funk music for a rock bass player, and vice versa? 

It’s great to know it, even if you don’t play it, haha. Makes you a way more interesting all-around musician/bass player…melodically and rhythmically!

You know there are 50 ways to leave your lover, they say, but also 50 ways to go from a C to an F.

I understand your father is a famous jazz drummer, and you have also played together a lot. Did you get into music because of him? Do you think you’ve had become a professional musician anyway, even if he had not been in the business? 

Some may already know the story, and if not, I’m gonna tell ya, haha. My dear lovely pops ‘Sir’ Pierre Courbois is one of the last original Jazz drummers growing up right after World War 2. He’s 82 now and still swings like a 30-year-old! It is very special to play together with him and we’re gonna do that ’till the very last day! I got into drums early and played his self-made plexiglass jazz drums (I can’t play a ‘Rock’ or ‘Pop’ kit) between the age of 4 to 15. Learned all the classic Paradiddles and Rudiments. I still use the techniques between my left and right hands for my crazy ‘Helicopter’ slapping on bass. Played the Indian Tablas for years and years, Scottish Bagpipe (love Celtic music). At 8 years I said: “Pops, I wanna play the mighty bass.” He got me a short-scale Fender MusicMaster bass….and the rest is history, haha. Maybe I had become an actor if not introduced to music. My aunt Kitty Courbois was a very famous actress, I got a lot of (good) drama from her… Maybe that’s why I love big and wild theatrical Rock shows so much, haha.


Sir Pierre and Barend Courbois.

When did you first encounter EBS gear, and do you remember how it happened? What does EBS represent to you, as far as sound goes?

I still remember the first time I saw EBS, it was at the Music ‘n Harmony Music Fair here in Holland (The Frankfurt Music Messe of Holland) in the late 90s. In 2007 I became an official pedal endorser…still played other brands of amplifiers until last year, when I became an amp endorser as well. What I like so much about their sound is, that they bring the whole spectrum of frequencies I need. Super tight lows. Incredible punchy mids. Beautiful crispy highs without getting too harsh. The sound is so focused and to the point…unbelievable! And with a LOT of headroom and clean brutal power.

What gear will you use on the MSG tour, and if you got to pick one piece of EBS gear that everyone should own what would it be? 

I proudly use one or two Fafner amps and one or two 810 Proline cabs (depending on the size of the venue). And of course my ‘never ever, I say NEVER EVER leave home without’ famous EBS ValveDrive DI preamp and MultiComp compression pedals! So there are 3 signals going to the front-of-house: A dirty/overdriven signal from the Valvedrive DI, a clean signal from the DI of the Fafner, and a good mic in front of one of the 10″ speakers of the mighty 810 Proline cab.

Finally, since you have a ton of experience, do you have any good advice for aspiring bass players that want to take their bass playing and career to the next level and become professional? 

Besides playing, discover and listen to as many different musical styles as possible. Even if you don’t like it…you can always learn something from it. Keep your ears open! Be a good human being, respect the composer, no morning sickness bullshit on the road, bring good ideas to the table but mostly listen and learn and do what you are told, be helpful, party and have fun on the road but don’t go bananas! While you are busy working with one band, keep your full focus on that! And be grateful you got this beautiful gift …never ever forget that y’all! Also, get yourself some fine EBS gear so you get a great focused bass sound too! Follow my bits of advice and hopefully, the Guitar player/Musical Director/Record Producer/Manager/Concert Promoter, or whom you may work for, might call you again the next time they are in need of a badass bass player!

Thanks, y’all and keep on grooving!

Follow the Low-End from the Lowlands @ Instagram: barendcourboisbass

Interviewed by Ralf Bjurbo at EBS.

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