20 Questions With: Felipe Gomez
Imagine traveling across the Canadian Arctic by bicycle. Just you, your thoughts, two wheels and the most basic of survival gear. You sleep in a tiny one-person tent and eat dry food out of a backpack. You melt snow when you need water. You encounter bears and blizzards and go days without seeing another human being.
For some, it’s a dream come true. For others, a nightmare.
Combining his passions for music, travel and adventure, Gomez has committed himself to crossing not just Canada – but the entire world – on a bicycle. Oh, and he’s taking his instrument with him.
To date, Gomez’s aptly -named Bike and Bass Tour has covered almost 13,000 kilometres in Western, Eastern and Northern Canada. On his most recent stint across the Arctic, he traveled between 100 and 150 kilometres per day for 13 months. In addition to raising money for United Way (about $4,000 to date), Gomez offers his “Bass Ninja” workshops to remote communities and plays one-man shows at house parties, high schools and other venues.
What makes Gomez’s mission more impressive, however, is that he’s not your run-of-the-mill musician. With a style that is fast, furious, heavy, hard and technically sound, the “Eddie Van Halen of the bottom notes” gives new meaning to slappin’ da bass – big time.
After leaving his home town of Santiago, Chile, he toured extensively throughout South America and Japan, picking up endorsement deals from companies like Dingwall Guitars and Blade Guitars along the way. While in Tokyo, he was the only South American invited to join the exclusive professional association of bass players known as the Bassment Party. Gomez’s side project, Bass Invaders, also picked up the 2015 Indigenous Music Award for Best International Indigenous Release.
We recently caught up with Gomez, who is currently working on a documentary about his Arctic adventures and preparing for the next leg of his tour. Here’s what he had to say about finding your passion, connecting with youth and more.
How did you get in to music?
My brother came home with a Metallica VHS, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
When did you start playing the bass, and why did you choose bass over guitar or other instruments?
As many bass players, I had to play bass because everyone else played guitar already. If I wanted to play in a band, there was only room for a bass player. I was 16 by then.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I listen to rock, classical, aboriginal music, anything that is made with full passion.
Tell us a bit about the Bike and Bass Tour. When and why did it start?
The Bike and Bass Tour is an attempt to cross the whole world on a bicycle with my bass, playing music in remote communities. I started three years ago in Tofino (British Columbia) and I finished on the other side of Canada. Talking to kids is my way to share the experience with those who can’t travel yet, don’t have the resources, or are a little bit afraid of doing so.
Now I have people that support what I do, and want me to do more of this. Definitely the best thing is the connections and inspiring people that I meet on the road.
I currently use the FUJI TOURING 28. It was given to me by Espresso Cycles in Toronto, after my other bike broke. The owner, Victor Oliveira, was just like, “Why don’t you take this one and ride the world.”
As for gear, it’s really basic. I often say to my self, “This gear was probably the best gear 30 years ago.” When I have money I try to buy more modern and light-weight stuff, but I don’t want gear to be a reason to not do something. I travel with shelter – a tent, a sleeping bag, etc. – and food, mostly dry. I don’t cook, I just use a stove if I need to melt snow. My music gear is the the six-string Dingwall bass, the B7K bass distortion by Darkglass Electronics and the Roland Cube amp.
Do you ever get lonely or homesick on the road? If so, how do you deal with it?
I haven’t had that feeling yet. There’s always something to do, something to repair or to build.
Where do you consider home?
Why is traveling so important to you?
I want to see the world with my own eyes, I want to experience the weather and learn new skills. That’s hard to do when you stay in one place all the time.
Why is raising money for United Way important to you?
I’m a former kindergarten teacher, and I want all kids have equal access to opportunities. We live in a rich country, but not all the kids have the same access to resources, arts and positive role models.
What’s craziest thing that’s happened to you on the Bike and Bass Tour?
From bears to friends, it all sounds kind of crazy. I often lose stuff and I get distracted. One day during a blizzard, I stopped to take some pics. After five minutes, I couldn’t find the bike and I panicked for a little bit. Who can lose a bike on the tundra?!
If you could collaborate with one group or artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Chilean songwriter Violeta Parra.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
Being able to do what I do is my highlight so far. Being an adventurer, a public speaker and a musician is like living a dream for me.
What role do your indigenous roots play in your music?
It all started with my first album, Suite Patagonia. I wanted to use the sounds of the earth. Since then, I’ve been learning new music from First Nations communities all over Canada.
Describe a typical day in the life of Felipe Gomez.
For now it’s recovering from my shoulder injury, working on my next movie, and planning the north Saskatchewan tour that I’m starting this September.
There’s a ton of musicians out there. What makes Felipe Gomez different?
I’m a bass artist traveling the world on a bicycle. That’s pretty much it.
Describe yourself in three words.
Adventure. Music. Community.
What are some of the “day jobs” you’ve had outside of music?
I do whatever I can to raise money to go on my bicycle and play music for people. From painting boats to teaching music to public speaking to playing shows to substitute teaching at schools.
You’ve done some public speaking in schools and elsewhere. What’s the main point you try to get across?
I speak about searching for information, asking for help, finding your passion in life and taking action on it. I truly believe that anyone can live to their full potential if given the right tools and skills.
What do you hope to accomplish through your music? What do you hope people take from it?
Music is one of my tools that I use to connect with people. I want people to go home and say, “Well, bass guitar is actually pretty cool.”
What’s coming up for you in the next year?
At this moment, I’m working with Myron Glova, a filmmaker from Saskatoon, finishing up a movie about my tour of the Arctic. I really want to show that anyone can do this. And I’m starting a new tour on September 15. I will be visiting all the communities in North Saskatchewan, starting in Saskatoon and finishing on the ice road in Uranium city.