Q&A: Lady Gaga Bassist Lanar 'Kern' Brantley
By: Bryan Wawzenek
Bass player and keyboardist Lana 'Kern' Brantley has played with some of the biggest names in music, including Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and Destiny's Child. But there's no bigger tour in pop music right now than Lady Gaga's Monster's Ball tour, which features Gaga's chart-topping music and eye-popping visual effects. In the midst of music and mayhem, Kern holds down the tunes' low end, via his Steinberger Synapse bass.
The bassist recently took advantage of some rare downtime to discuss how he got hired by Gaga, navigating the stage show's effects and why his Steinberger is the perfect instrument for this tour.
Musically, what made you want to be part of Lady Gaga's tour?
Gaga plays piano and keyboards in the show, so this tour gives me an opportunity to play pop and rock music with such a great musician.
How did you get the job? Did you have to audition?
I first auditioned in New York for musical director Joe Wilson and then auditioned for Gaga a few days later in Weehawken, New Jersey.
You've worked with some of the biggest stars in the world - Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo, among others. How is working with Lady Gaga different from the tours you've been on in the past?
On this tour, the band is a featured part of the show. We are all on wireless units and move about on stage. With most tours, the band is in the background dressed in all black with low lighting.
This is a pretty spectacle-laden show. What kind of challenges do you face, playing amidst all the "special effects"? Do you have to make sure that you're not standing too close to pyro or moving set pieces?
On this show there are a lot of moving props and set changes, elevators, pyro, etc. You must stay focused and alert when on the stage and be aware of your movement and staging at all times.
Is this the most elaborate show you've ever been part of?
This is a very elaborate production. Also, when I worked as music director with the Destiny's Child tour, they had a waterfall on stage and motorized riser. It was pretty cool.
You're playing a Steinberger Synapse XS-15FPA on this tour. What do you like about that instrument? What do you like about the sound?
What I like most about this instrument is that it looks very cool on stage and the sound is solid and punchy. I like the tone for the round, rock and roll feel, with a very big and even, low-end sound.
Why do you think it's a good fit for Lady Gaga's music?
I think it fits this tour because the body design is cool and it sounds good. It's a fun bass to play. When I'm playing keyboard bass, the Steinberger doesn't get in the way.
Have you played Steinbergers before? What first attracted you to them?
This is my first time playing Steinberger basses but I always was attracted to the body design and the weight of the bass. I saw some reggae artist using it.
Do you have a "dream artist" that you'd love to work with?
My dream artist was to work with the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, but I also would love to work with Sting or as a late night TV show musical director.
You're certainly busy (Lady Gaga's Monster's Ball tour continues through April 30, 2011), but do you have plans to work on any other projects in the coming year?
Yes, I plan to work with hip-hop artist Young Jeezy on dates soon, as well as an instructional DVD on hip-hop bass and bass keyboards.
RETURN TO NEWS