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1. Tell me about your current bass rig: Best parts? Worst parts? Any funny/strange stories about how you came to use any of this stuff? Best part of my rig: That bass. It’s THE bass. I’ve had many, and this one will be buried with me. A $285 Craigslist find, ’80s-era Yamaha BB-2000 rescued from San Francisco that is the roundest, fattest, punchiest, ballsiest thunderstick out there. It’s got Beyonce ass. J-Lo ass. Mo’Phat ass. It weighs more than a building, shoots through schools, screams with restraint, and whispers with authority. I’ve never played an instrument that sounds so good with so many different groups. In Neighbors to the North, as a trio, the bass must take up a lot of room, and this bass does. The reverse P-pickup configuration is genius at regulating the volume and presence over all the strings. It doesn’t sound like a Fender, which can be a very good thing.
As for amps – I’m using a Gallien Krueger MB Fusion 800. It weighs 5.5 lbs and pushes 800 watts. That’s enough to blow a skirt up. The DI is accurate and is very front-of-house friendly. The noise comes through either an easy-on-the-aging-back Genz Benz Neo 2×12 or my ‘This Old House with Bob Vila’ homemade 2×15 cabinet. That thing is a butcher’s block of menace. The design is based on the ElectroVoice TL-606 enclosure plans, which I glanced at, and made my own.
Effects? On Bass?! Yes, sir. Blame Cliff. Blame Flea. Blame Les. Blame Bootsy. Blame Ox. I use fuzz, OD, wah, filters, octave, and whatever else. My color palette is diverse. Factoid 1 – the envelope filter on the Source Audio Manta is a Mutron killer. Not sorry, Mutron fans. Factoid 2 – the Smallsound/Bigsound Team Awesome! Fuzz Machine is the most musical and perfect bass distortion I’ve ever played. Both are featured below…at the same time. Prepare yourselves.
Worst part of my rig/funny story: That damned MicroKorg. So, Sutton [Paponikolas, singer/guitarist in Neighbors to the North], Danny [Katz, the band’s drummer] and I are in the studio in late 2012 recording our debut EP Starfisher, and working on the eponymous track. The second verse was ‘same as the first’, and needed something. Brad Lee – Producer, SDRL – had this MicroKorg sitting there. I turn it on, plug in the headphones while Sutton is working on guitars, and the first sound that comes up is what I go with. I noodle a small part and…just like that…it’s added to the song and now I’m a synth player in the band. Of course, we use it all the time now.
We have a song off All Southern View called “Shake ‘Til You Die,” where I’m tapping the bass part with my left hand and playing the synth at the same time. Why is it the worst? Because the keys are skinny and I can’t play piano. I really have no idea what I’m doing…which, I guess, makes it fun?
2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear and why do you feel that way? “Captain Trips” off of All Southern View – I pulled out any stops I may have had and let loose. It might not be the most ‘musicianship-y’ tune, but I used all my toys and tricks. It’s the little things – the 3-4-5 fret harmonics during the choruses, the switch to a 16th note arpeggio during the key change of the 2nd verse, the octave-dropped TA!FM fuzz leading into the filtered fuzz swamp monster part…and I was able to play my wah pedal at the end, in an actual song, on record, which is really cool. I also can’t say enough about Brad Lee’s production and placement of my bass in the mix. He ‘got’ me, and I really appreciate it.
3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object and why? I don’t want another Yamaha BB-2000, unless this one bursts into flames, which is possible with all the lacquer on it.
There are three custom luthiers whom I’ve admired for years – Jens Ritter, Jerzy Drozd, and Vinny Fodera. I’d probably opt for a Jens Ritter R8 singlecut 4-string, simply because he’s the only one I’ve ever met. Day One of NAMM 2002, I walk by this unknown bass builder booth in the depths of the Anaheim convention center. Where Fender and Ampeg were in Hall A, Ritter Basses was in Hall xz. Down by the boiler room and leper colony, if the convention center had either. Jens was all alone with five or six of the most exquisite basses I’d ever seen. I ogle. I gasp. I….get interrupted by Jens asking if I could watch his booth so he could take a quick piss. I accept. He thanked me, and I’ve yearned for one of his basses ever since: www.ritter-instruments.com
4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? I’m about to reveal how ‘not hip’ I am – both for the players and that I can’t pick just one. Some players have moments that capture the ‘it’ according to my ears: Rush – Geddy Lee on the Counterparts album. No Doubt – Tony Kanal on Tragic Kingdom. Mudvayne – Ryan Martinie on L.D. 50. The Killers – Matt Stoermer on Hot Fuss. The Used – Jeph Howard on In Love and Death. Rage Against the Machine – Tim Commerford on Evil Empire. Living Colour – Doug Wimbish on Stain. Michael Jackson – Louis Johnson on Off The Wall. Peter Gabriel – Tony Levin on So. There may be better albums by these artists, but these albums represent their best tone, according to me. Notice no Beatles, no Parliament, no Zeppelin. While I love and admire the playing that made those artists great, the question you posed was about sound.
See? Not hip…not one bit.
5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? Neighbors to the North is playing Thursday, May 12 in Downtown Long Beach for the ‘Live After 5’ series. Saturday, May 14 at The Merrow with Brothers Weiss, The Paragraphs and Paper Days. We are road-tripping to Flagstaff for two days in July, playing The Music Box on Friday, August 19, and we are playing the Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach in September. Kaaboo is in the mix again this year as well.
Both our EP Starfisher and most recent LP All Southern View are available for free at http://nttn.bandcamp.com.
I’ve also been playing with The Martin Coughlin Band over the past few months, and we will be at RB Alive and June 5 and at Company Pub and Kitchen in Poway on June 11. We’ll also be a the Del Mar Fair this summer. Martin is a stellar songwriter, so check him out at www.reverbnation.com/martincoughlin.