On the tune “Walk About” from the One Hot Minute CD, what I play is basically old, slinky, ’70s funk. The bass line on that tune just reeks of that laid-back feel. There’s really not much to it (see example below), so just try to make it feel good. To get the right feeling on that tune I don’t play really hard – it’s not about power. A lot of times if you’re hitting real hard you can’t achieve that kind of laid-back feel. So I made a conscious effort to pull back and make it slinky.
Also keep in mind that the whole feel of the music is more than just the drums. You have to figure out what fits in with what the other guys are playing. It’s a listening thing, which is really important. A lot of drummers put their heads down and just go for it. When they come up for air, the other guys are usually looking at them like, “Are you playing the same song we are?”
Most players have their own opinion about where the pocket is, so as the drummer you have to be sort of a cattle wrangler and wrangle everybody in. Each song has a certain pocket where it feels good, and it’s the drummer’s job to find where that is and get everybody in it. That’s true with any kind of music, but funk is like party music, and if it doesn’t feel good, you’re not partyin’.
Having technique in your hands and feet is really important so that you can do what you want to do. But your ears are really just as important when playing and interacting with other human beings.