About The Torch: A monthly series, The Torch aims to help musicians of all ages and talent levels learn more about their respective instruments. Each issue features band members from around the world discussing their craft. They provide our readers with advice and insight towards their person experiences, as well as talking about the tool of their livelihood. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, beginner, fan, or expert, there’s something here for everyone. I truly believe it takes one generation to inspire another. With each issue, I hope we can motivate more and more readers to become the forces they admire.
Written & Produced by Meryl DeWitt | Edited by Lauren Watkin | Photos by Kaos Photography, Phil Hovey Photo, Ali Richards Photography, Askew View Photo, 850 ME Nikki Hedrick
Bassists; the guys who catch all the shit. As brutally honest as it is, there hasn’t been one award show that’s passed without someone saying the Best Bassist award was unnecessary. The truth? Bass is actually a skill-requiring instrument and a band would sound like a deaf hound dog without them. The bass and the drums are the two major components to keeping a band’s rhythm. Drums we can hear; a bass you feel. So, what team of axe-slingers have come to grace our pages today? The wicked Ed ManDevil of Revelry Gang, the charismatic Rob Gnarly of Echo Black, and good ol’ southern boy Anthony Mattox of Artifas.
Meryl DeWitt: How old were you when you got your first bass? What was your first bass?
Rob Gnarly: I think I was 13 or 14 when I got my first bass. It was an Ibanez X Series- super metal looking. Unfortunately for me, I had no knowledge of the instrument or what a guitar set-up was. The action was so high that it just destroyed my fingers. There were also several dead notes on it, but I didn't know any better. I was just happy to finally have an instrument of my own that wasn't one of those stupid plastic recorders they give you in elementary school to weed out your tone-deaf classmates.
Anthony Mattox: I don't remember my exact age. I know I didn't really want to play music until I went to my first concert in '04. My first bass was a cheap $200 Peavey.
Ed ManDevil: I was 16/17 when I got my first bass- a gift from my folks for Christmas. I was really trying to find what I truly loved and singing and guitar just didn't cut it. It was a black BC Rich Warlock.
Meryl: For anyone wanting to learn, what would you suggest as a starter bass?
Anthony: It’s just preference. If you're a beginner, don't go out and buy the most expensive instrument ‘cause chances are you won’t stick with that it. I started on bass for a year, and then moved to playing guitar until I joined Artifas over a year ago. Went back to my roots.
Rob: I think that most basses that don't come with a pre-packaged kit are fairly decent for beginners. LTD has a few nice lower-end options that are worth looking into. Also, the Squire Classic Vibe basses feel pretty nice for their price. I've played Mexican Fenders that felt worse than some of those Squires.
Ed: To be honest anything that's not just garbage. Don't think just cause your starting you should get the cheapest thing possible but also don't buy something so expensive that you'll never get your money back on if you don't fall in love with playing bass.
Meryl: Through trial and error in your career, are there any of your mistakes you'd warn young bassists to be cautious of?
Ed: Always pre-show and post-show, check all your gear in. Forgetting something from straps to cables sucks massively because then you need to find the closest Sam Ash/Guitar Center and then spend more money on something you already have. Also, never get stuck playing one style. Try everything, be diverse!
Anthony: If you want it, don't be lazy. Practice, practice, practice. Get out there and meet people.
Rob: Love triangles, honestly. Nothin' breaks up a band harder or faster than those. General troubleshooting should happen to everyone at some point, especially on the local level. It helps you out more in the long run to know how to deal with individual technical problems yourself.
Meryl: What’s the biggest stage nightmare you've ever had?
Ed: Like I said in the last question, forgetting stuff sucks massively. I use DiMarzio clip lock straps on most of my live basses, and those you cannot use any type of strap once you install it. And I just skipped pre-show check and of course it wasn't there. Bit of a pain in the ass to get a new one but we worked it out. Had plenty of incidents of falling over from just running around or miss jumping when jumping on or off boxes but that's never really a nightmare. I feel it adds to the show.
Rob: A few years ago, I used to run a show house in North Jersey. These shows were usually more like parties with bands, but lots of people attended and it was almost always a good time. My old band, Drowning Swans, was playing one of these house parties. Beforehand, we were mixing things with energy drinks and smoking. I was on the couch at one point and I looked up to the front window of the house and saw what I thought was a police officer. House shows are not necessarily legal and are incredibly frowned upon. Usually when the cops show up, that means a busted party and a hefty ticket. I started freaking out on the inside until I realized that what I saw was actually some frat-boy type in a police blue track jacket. Even though everything was cool, I was unable to relax for the rest of the evening and had to play all wound up. It was the worst thing ever. My heart rate refused to subside and each breath I took felt painfully forced. I would rather deal with almost anything else as long as I don't have to go through that again. It sucked.
Meryl: What is your current equipment setup for playing live?
Rob: I currently play an Active LTD F4-E with a Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass as my backup. My amp is a Tech-21 Landmark 300 bass head running through a custom Aftershock Designs 6x10 with Celestion Speakers. I play the bass with a wireless set-up because I would probably end up costing myself the price of one in ruined cables otherwise. I have a nasty habit of accidentally tearing my cable out of my input from jumping/moving around when I use a traditional set-up.
Ed: Currently I have 4 weapons of choice for live: a white Dean Spire active EMG pickups, an early 2000s black Dean ML passive pickups, an all black Dean Demonator with active pickups signed by Evil D himself, and a black John Entwistle Dean Hybrid with a pair of active EMGs. I use a Gallien Kruger 700RB for an amp and have an odd pair of a Hartke 4x10 and a Behringer 1x15 for cabs. For pedals I use a Tech 21 Sansamp and a Zoom B3 multi effect pedal. And I only use Clayton picks.
Meryl: Is your studio setup any different? If so, what is it?
Rob: I would say the only difference in the studio set-up is the speaker cabinet is not present. I use the direct out from my head. It is essentially the exact same thing as a Sansamp Bass Driver, except in amp form.
Ed: Same basses as I use live but usually I go direct and sometimes use the Zoom B3.
Meryl: What’s the best bass you've ever owned?
Anthony: My current bass. Ernieball Musicman Stingray 4.
Rob: I used to have a really beat-up upright bass. I literally played it to pieces, though it was only being held together by seemingly nothing at that point. In terms of electric basses, however, my Geddy Lee is definitely the best bass I have personally owned.
Ed: I've had one bass see more shows than any other and that's the white Dean Spire. She's just so reliable no matter what. She's my go to girl.
Meryl: What’s the worst bass you ever owned?
Rob: The Washburn XB100. I can go on forever about the things that sucked about it. The neck was incredibly uncomfortable and felt very soft and cheap. The pick-ups had a muddiness of legendary proportions. The tuning machines struggled to maintain standard tuning and eventually the nut snapped in half from regular playing. Literally anything else is an upgrade.
Ed: A Rouge fretless, but what do you expect for a $60 dollar bass?
Anthony: Haha! That $200 Peavey...
Meryl: What’s your dream bass to own one day? (Custom, collectors, etc.)
Ed: My absolute dream bass is the 1999 Washburn Rebel Flag Dimebag bass that Dimebag Darrell gave to Twiggy Ramirez as a gift. Two of most influential people in one fucking bass- just the story and the look; it's way too perfect.
Anthony: All Ernieball, all the time!
Rob: It would be cool to be able to get one of the first few Carl Thompson basses specifically designed for a heavier play style. I'm not even sure if they would create something like that, but the reality is I don't think I could complain about owning any Carl Thompson. A close second would the 1964 Fender American Jazz. I had a chance to play one in high school and nothing has compared since.
Meryl: What’s the most extreme way a bass of yours has met its fate? (Ex: smashing on stage, getting stolen, being set on fire...)
Ed: Well, none of my basses have met an extreme fate yet. I've always been able to get them up and running or buff out whatever dings/cuts/holes/burns from the night before. I'm a bit of a collector so I try to hold on as long as I can. Haha!
Rob: I (fortunately) have never ruined one of my basses beyond repair. I tried to rebuild my Ibanez, but determined it would not be worth it. It's technically still in pieces set aside somewhere, but I don't plan on rebuilding it.
Meryl: Is it true bassists have the most game with the ladies?
Anthony: Contrary to popular belief, it is not all about that bass. Haha!
Ed: Well, when I first met my girl she said that she doesn't date bass players, but now we're engaged so… Yes. Hahaha!
Rob: *Zips the mouth of his Gimp mask shut*
Meryl: Who’s your personal bassist hero?
Rob: I have taken influence from a lot of bassists. While I think that Les Claypool and Victor Wooten may be who I feel are the best bass players in the world, Chris #2 from Anti-Flag was my biggest personal influence. He definitely is not the best bass player to ever grace a stage, but he has an undeniable energy that very few possess. That, and he was a great person to look up to as a kid who never took lessons. His raw style gave me more hope than some of the more polished bass players out there.
Anthony: I like Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, and Ryan Martinie.
Ed: That's tough. I can do a top 6:
1. John Entwistle
2. Billy Sheehan
3. Twiggy Ramirez
4. Nikki Sixx
5. Rex Brown
6. Duff Mckagan
Meryl: Finally, what is your favorite part of being a bassist?
Anthony: I just like playing shows. As long as I'm doing that, no matter what instrument it is, that's what I enjoy.
Ed: Making that gigantic low-end crunch in that perfect groove always sends chills up my spine. It just can't be beat!
Rob: My favorite part about bass is that I was able to climb where I am today with a bottom of the barrel instrument and a ton of passion. I have never taken professional lessons and play entirely by ear. While this kind of makes me think I'm missing out on something, my favorite part about playing bass is that it has been a clear measure of how far you can get driven by nothing other than passion and dedication.
Artifas' video for "Inhuman"
Echo Black's video for "Burn Another DAy"