Juan Alderete de la Peña is an electric bassist with three decades of experience playing in the bands Racer X, Mars Volta, Deltron 3030, B’z, Big Sir and Vato Negro. We caught up with Juan to talk about touring essentials, saying yes to the right gig and the story behind his signature stickers.
You’ve played in a wide variety of bands, from the heavy and progressive rock of bands like Racer X and The Mars Volta to the experimental hip-hop of Dr. Octagon and now Deltron 3030. Do you find you approach the music differently with different bands in different styles or does it all come from the same place?
I would have to say both. Playing bass in a hip hop situation was always a dream when I was in Racer X. When I met Paul Gilbert, I owned a lowrider and listened to Nucleus and Afrika Bambaataa. I loved rap music. When I met The Automator in the early 90’s, he was on the first version of ProTools (SoundTools?) and I would put bass on beats he was working on. But really, it all has my sound but in the genre’s style.
You have expert knowledge and a documented obsession with pedals and effects; how do you choose which pedals go on your pedal board for a particular gig?
Definitely depends on the gig. I have played so many styles of music over the years I would say the only pedals that make it to every situation are my Boss CS-2 compressor and Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird. Other than that, it all depends on the music style and what the situation will allow me to stretch out with!
When did you start putting Mexican flags on your pedals? Is there a story there?
Yes! I found some guy on eBay who was selling these cool little stickers that were meant for license plate frames but I put them on every effect that I consider indispensable. If a pedal gets the sticker, it has toured with me and will always be in my top choices.
As a travelling musician in the modern world, what do you bring along with you? What are your tour essentials?
I always have my laptop and Apogee Duet to record with. Working on flights is something I look forward too. Working in hotel rooms is cool too. Saves you money on going out and the results are pretty different for every hotel.
Have touring conditions and considerations changed over the course of your career? What’s your take on the state of things today?
When Mars Volta was at our peak touring, we used to travel with everything, using no backline but as time changed, we started to use backline and fly with our essential gear. It lessens the onslaught of what we brought but not to the point that it was not as exciting…it just wasn’t as comfortable. There is less money to go around so you have to be more resourceful and work more hours. When I am on tour with Deltron 3030, I try to book clinics on the day of a show. My day starts early and ends late but it affords me the life/career of a working musician.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians looking to create a career as varied and exciting as yours?
Listen to everything and say yes to anything you hear and that you think you could sound good in. I have done so many sessions that I have never received money for but that is ok. Just create great music and it will all come back to you in some form.
What’s been inspiring you lately?
My Moog Minitaur with my Keith McMillen 12 Step. I am going to be a one man band at some point! Just a drum machine, my synths and my bass/guitar rigs!
Any plans for the future? What’s next for Juan Alderete?
I have a few records I have been working on. I played bass on the new Deltron 3030 record, I am in the process of completing a new Big Sir record, I have a new band called Halo Orbit with suGar from Buffalo Daughter and the incredible Mark Guiliana on drums and I continue to contribute to my website www.pedalsandeffects.com! Some shows with Deltron this year as well. Hope to get some more touring for later this year, so fingers crossed.
Watch Juan hold it down with Deltron 3030 in their KEXP performance: