Bass guitaring

Bass is more important than the guitar in the world of music. In a venue, it’s where most of the vibrations come from. These vibrations draw people like snakes to other kinds of vibrations. In a noisy nightclub, the distortion of the guitars can be muted but the bass stops the music from being ignored. A song can easily be recognized by its bassline from miles away. Jayce Fincher (an overlooked bassist who played in SouthGang and Marvelous 3) shared a similar ethos in the August 1994 issue of Metal Edge…

“The movements, the grooves and the sounds! When I heard a song, the bass just always seemed to get inside me. The bass is an outlet of intense passion that helps my life to have balance and asylum.”

The bass can be a sexy instrument ;) (such as is the case with a Slipknot song titled Killpop). A woman can’t strip and have sex to a guitar solo but she can groove in more ways than one to a funky bassline. Grooving is soothing. Dokken’s Jeff Pilson concurs…

“Feel is everything. Chops are great but bass with no feel is like sex with no orgasm!”

In terms of heaviness and rhythm, the other instruments can’t replace the bass (no matter how hard other kinds of metal musicians may try with all their might). The mixture of bass and drums is like an earthquake. The rhythm guitar is like the thunder, whereas the lead guitar is like rain and lightning.

Skid Row’s Rachel Bolan had this to say about bass…

“The bass is an underrated instrument that many musicians take for granted. Without the bass, music is thin and somewhat lifeless. There’s no end like low end.”

This is what Def Leppard’s Rick Savage had to say about the importance of bass…

“Bass combines rhythm and melody. It’s the extension of the drums but relates to the guitar, so it has more dimensions. Bass is the base of music.”

Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx had a similar thing to say about being a bassist…

“It’s the only way that you can be a drummer and a guitarist at the same time – you weave between the two. Bass is not as flashy but my ego doesn’t want that. I don’t need that pat on the back.”

Fight’s Jack Brown offers a different perspective…

“The bass allowed me to perpetuate my evil philosophies through my performances. I admit I love to sweat and run around the stage creating mayhem with the audience.”

Warrant’s Jerry Dixon pinpoints why many metal bassists tend to be deterring the other bandmates by trying to be like Cliff Burton or Steve Harris

“You don’t have to play at warp speed to be a good bass player. The main concern is feel and melody.”

Firehouse’s Perry Richardson is on the same wavelength as Jerry…

“Don’t concentrate on scales and speed. Groove and feel are also a large part of playing bass. Try to practise with a drummer as often as possible.”

Three is never a crowd when great minds think alike as indicated by Trixter’s P.J. Farley

“Play solid lines that audibly lock into the drums and complement the rest without stepping all over them. Sometimes less is more.”

James LoMenzo (who played bass for MegadethBlack Label SocietyDavid Lee Roth and White Lion) had this to say…

“Bass can be an incredibly diverse instrument. Bassists deal with chord structure, rhythm, counter-rhythm, polyrhythmic counter-melody, popping, slapping, soloing and supporting.”

Blackfish’s Chris Reublin offers a different yet not conflicting point-of-view…

“I like the idea of being at the heart of the rhythm section. You have the freedom to improvise and explore more than a guitar player on stage. The most important thing you can do is learn to be a tight rhythmic player than a soloist. Every bass player needs to be the solid backbone of the band.”

This also extends to why `80s pop music is the best. Many modern heavy bands try to make their albums as heavy as possible but they don’t realize that electric distortion can only take you so far without a decent bass presence. Less buzz, more bass. Of course, no article about metal bass guitaring would be complete without talking about how the opposite had happened in Metallica’s …and Justice for All.

Besides the hazing theory cited by fans, enough reasons have been given by the band to suggest a big cover-up. Lars blamed his usual selfish self, Jason blamed the radio-friendly mixers who didn’t have metal sensibilities, James blamed Jason for copying his rhythm tracks, whereas Kirk was gracious enough to put forth the notion that James and Lars wanted to experiment with how the absence could be compensated with other kinds of bass frequencies.

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The reality behind the so-called no bass is that, before he died, Cliff Burton wanted Metallica to go in a melodic direction. They knew that if they did just that then people would claim that Cliff was the reason behind the thrashiness and complexity, so they made one more progressive thrash album so as to quash the zealots from thinking that Metallica had sold their souls to the prince of darkness. Appeasing the metal masses by writing death songs is fine as long as you don’t sell out with pop songs.

The only problem left was to justify the need for a new producer. The poor excuse was that the post-Cliff album did not have a strong bass/drum meld. The drums sound like a drum machine. Bob Rock had yet to record Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood, so he wasn’t on Lars Ulrich’s mind during the making of …and Justice for All. Also, there was no guarantee that he would agree to work for them. Mike Stone and Bruce Fairbairn were solid candidates. Now you know why Jason said that …and Justice For All was how it was supposed to be, just like how it was destiny for him to join the band because of his surname. This is comparable to Sammy Hagar joining Van Halen, hence Van Hagar.

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