All About That U•BASS®: Q&A with Magnus Sjöquist

All About That U•BASS®: Q&A with Magnus Sjöquist

Magnus Sjöquist is an accomplished and prolific musician and educator. He is based in Sweden, but his talents have taken him around the world. His playing is as in-the-pocket groovy as it is melodic and lyrical. He is most known as a bassist, and for his focus and expertise on the Kala U•BASS. Since he acquired his first U•BASS in 2010, Magnus has become not only an enthusiast of the instrument, but an outspoken advocate of its versatility and capability in the bass realm. He founded the blog, and followed that up with a dedicated YouTube channel and other forms of U•BASS-dedicated social media.

Magnus has gone beyond sharing his aptitude and enjoyment of U•BASS, he has also been a U•BASS pioneer. He has helped Kala explore and expand the possibilities of the instrument by testing and providing feedback on string options, tone and other U•BASS features. We’ve been grateful to call him an official Kala U•BASS Artist for more than 10 years, and in that time - from testing, to sound samples, to work in live and studio settings, informational blogs and videos, workshops, and international tradeshow demos - we’ve been impressed and appreciative of the various ways Magnus makes U•BASS the best it can be. 

This is the second interview we’ve done with Magnus, and we’re excited to share more about him. We encourage you to check out our previous blog post to learn more about his beginnings and other aspects of his relationship with U•BASS and music.


What led you to Kala and the U•BASS

After picking up my first U•BASS back in 2010 and playing for a couple of years, I wanted to know more about the U•BASS and its origin. I decided to attend the Frankfurt Musikmesse in 2013 and was able to meet Mike Upton (The President of Kala) for the first time. After another year of blogging and gigging with my first U•BASS, I took another trip to the Musikmesse in 2014. Soon after, I got offered to become a Kala U•BASS Artist alongside a lot of amazing bass players, including some of my childhood bass heroes, like Abe Laboriel and Bakithi Kumalo. I have been fortunate to meet both Mr. Laboriel and Mr. Kumalo for amazing conversations and music making! 


Magnus first met Kala President Mike Upton and former Kala Artist Rep Rick Carlson at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in 2013 

What are your favorite things about U•BASS?

It’s an instrument evolved from the ukulele world and with a heritage from both the upright bass and the electric bass. It can take on a lot of shapes and roles in all types of music where you want to use it!

It has come a long way since it first was “released” back in 2009. I’m happy to have been a little part of the U•BASS evolution for 14 of the 15 years it has been around in the world of music making.


What advice do you have for those interested in playing bass and/or trying out U•BASS?

Pick one up and try it! I bought one without testing it and got hooked. Hopefully you can find one to try first, but I do believe most people interested in playing bass will enjoy it. Now, in 2024, there are so many Kala options to choose from so I believe you can find a model and string combination that will fit your needs. It can be a complement to your regular size bass for traveling or something you will use exclusively or in combination with other bass instruments.


Who are your biggest musical influences?

Hm, that’s a really difficult question to answer… I consider myself pretty open when it comes to different musical genres and styles, and most of what I listen to and have listened to has influenced me in one way or the other.

When I was in my teens, I listened to a lot of rock and hard rock and later on blues. Besides that, Latin American music has been very important, especially music from Brazil. I’m also in love with soul and funk - and last but not least - Swedish folk music.

I would say most music with a groove and compelling melody will get my attention!


Tell us more about what musical endeavors you're currently involved with.

I’m always working on my own music, but this is a pretty slow process for me, and songs usually take quite a bit of time to be finished. At the moment, I’m very psyched about the new updated Kala California Solid Body U•BASS. I got my first California Solid Body back in 2013 and have since then tried to incorporate those instruments into my own music. I have released a couple of songs (Tranquility and Reflections) where the Solid Body is in focus.

With the updated Solid Body, I know more music will be composed. One of the reasons is that with the updated bridge comes the possibility to play chords and melodies up high. It has been possible before but it has been hard to play in tune. The new bridge has individual saddles and this means that intonation can be tweaked for so the full range of the fingerboard can be explored and played with very satisfying results regarding tone and pitch.

You can hear me play these songs and more in this Spotify playlist: Magnus plays U•BASS on Spotify



What are your favorite U•BASS models and why?

My 2017 Kala California acoustic/electric fretless and the new updated Kala California Solid Body. These two U•BASS models compliment each other and can help me realize lots of different bass sounds that will suit lots of diverse musical styles.

(…and if I sneak in the Solid Body U•BASS with a magnetic pickup, I can cover even more ground staying below 23.5 scale length if I want).


How do strings make a difference to you on U•BASS?
What recommendations do you have for tonal/style considerations when it comes to strings?

There are so many options available now! After all my experimentation, I have found what I like the most:

On a fretless acoustic/electric I enjoy some kind of the “rubber’ or the flatwound strings. On a fretted acoustic/electric, I prefer round or flatwound strings. On the Solid Body U•BASS, I use round or flatwound strings.



What made you choose bass as your primary instrument? What do you love most about it?

Parallel to my music school lessons (recorder and then trumpet), and playing trumpet in a couple of symphonic bands, I started jamming rock music with my friends. For a couple of years, both of these musical paths were pursued in tandem.

After my graduation from high school, I could no longer continue to take trumpet lessons and [began] playing more and more drums and electric bass. One of the things that made me want to play more bass was the creative process of writing music with my friends. I figured out, many years later, that my trumpet progress developed by learning primarily from etude books and sadly not from any guidance in the art of playing music by ear. This made me gravitate towards the bass (and other band instruments) where I learned mainly by ear from the get go. The creativity of coming up with my own parts was so gratifying, and made me focus mainly on developing my bass playing skill from then on.

The thing I love the most with playing bass is being a bridge between rhythm and harmony; I really enjoy being able to steer the music from the ground up! My love for melodies is also nice to explore on the bass. It can be so much more than just a low end foundation instrument!


You're based in Sweden, but you've traveled all over for musical endeavors - what have been some of your favorite places to perform or play?

This is hard to boil down to a short answer, but I do believe the tour I did with a Swedish gospel choir back in 2003, and a trip I made to Brazil back in 2015 are two of the highlights so far.

The gospel tour was really special. I subbed for the regular bass player and was able to bring my family to the US for the first time. We played in many different churches in New York for around three weeks. It was amazing, and I learned a lot from this experience. Besides all the lovely gospel music, I also managed to play a jazz jam session at legendary jazz club Smoke in Manhattan.

I went to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil with a colleague from the school where I teach music. We visited schools and played with some amazing musicians there. On this trip, I brought my fretless spruce U•BASS and a small combo bass amp. This made it possible to play both at an outdoor restaurant and other places with ease. These are lifetime memories for sure!


You're a composer, a live performer, teacher, and you record studio sessions. What is currently your favorite element between these and why?

Music = Life = Music! For me, music is such a central part of my existence. I can’t imagine a life without music. I’m super happy to be able to work with it in many different ways. I love all of the above; composing, playing live, teaching, recording and producing music for others. My goal is to find some kind of balance between it all. For the most part I manage to do so, although it’s sometimes a big juggling act!


May 24, 2024 by Ash Reyes
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