Wormbass: Putting a voice to the bass

Whenever bassist Wormbass (real name Delroy Nevin) wants to relax, he listens to classic reggae. Or rock steady, to be exact. John Holt’s Stick By Me, Boris Gardiner’s I Want to Wake up With You and Alton Ellis’ Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, are some of the songs that soothe him.

The lanky bassist tries to emulate those grooves when he sings, as can be heard on Sunshine and Illusion, his latest songs as a vocalist. He co-wrote Sunshine with Geddys Ferguson and shares co-production credits with Michael Jacas. 

Having been weaned on the lovers rock songs his parents loved, Wormbass is attempting to give the dancehall generation a taste of less aggressive music.

“The more smooth side of reggae has been lacking from the music, because I think the younger generation is more aggressive but I have a lot of confidence in them that they will catch on soon.  Everything is just for a matter of time,” he said.

Illusion is one of the songs on the SomeHow riddim for K-Jah Sound, an independent label out of Poland.

Reggae has produced a number of outstanding bass players who double as singers. Best known of them are Gardiner, who played on hit songs at Studio One and for Lee “Scratch” Perry, Leroy Sibbles, a Studio One stalwart and Lloyd Parks, Dennis Brown’s right-hand man.

For Wormbass, who cut his teeth as a musician playing Jamaica’s hotel scene in bands like Blaze, juggling bass and singing has become easier over the years.

“The bass plays a very important role in my career, so I feel my vocals and the bass are like a marriage. It’s really no comparison with both, however, because so much is going on in the world today I give thanks that I can sing songs of redemption,” he reasoned.

Pointing to Sting, American jazz musician John Patitucci, Derrek Barnett, Robbie Shakespeare and Aston “Familyman” Barrett as his favourite bass players, Wormbass first came to prominence with Blaze, arguably the most popular dancehall show band of the 1990s. 

Photo: Inna De Yard in Amsterdam 2019 © Danny Creatah

With Blaze, he backed A-listers like Beenie Man and Sanchez. In recent years, he has broadened his sound by touring and recording with Winston McAnuff and Inna de Yard, a roots aggregation that comprises veteran acts like McAnuff, Cedric Myton of The Congos and Kiddus-I of Rockers fame.

In addition to a number of singles, Wormbass has released one album to date. That set, Reggaeman, came out in 2016.