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 Rachel Rosell | Photos by Jeremy Saffer, Faith Drachenberg, Tyler George, Neon Flames Productions, J McKee Photography, Jordan Bruce, Camy Bright
With the summer being hot enough, The Torch took a little break. As fall rolls in, I figured it's about time we feed the flame once again. The autumn winds inspired me to pick up some of the best creepers I could find! These three bassists are not afraid to give you a fright; Hailing from Philly, St Louis, and Boston, respectively, I present Mikey Rude of Suburban Murder, Roman McLea of Arkangela, and Brandon Blackout of Attraction to Tragedy and Shadows of Eyekhana.
Meryl “LJ” DeWitt: How old were you when you got your first bass? What was your first bass?
Mikey Rude: I started playing guitar first when I was around 14, and got a cheap B.C. Rich Warlock. When I was 21, I moved in with an ex and she played guitar, did vocals and knew a drummer, just needed a bassist. She just so happened to have an old bass laying around, which is how me playing bass all began. Don't remember what type of bass it was but it was easily the worst instrument I have ever played in my life.
Roman McLean: I was about 10 when I first got a guitar. It was a knock off Fender and I quickly started playing every beginner's favorites; "Seven Nation Army" "Iron Man" but I wasn't very gravitated towards it. I got a Dean bass as a Christmas gift around 13 years old and I had found my true love.
Brandon Blackout: Well the first good ol' four string I got my hands on and started playing was a Fender Precision bass, which was customized to have a cool Abbey Road plate by the bridge. I was about six or so at the time. However, the first bass that was officially mine was some low end Yamaha bass. Worked as a starter but you can only shape your tone so much with what's designed as a building block. And for this one, I believe I was twelve.
LJ: For anyone wanting to learn, what would you suggest as a starter bass?
Roman: A simple Dean was a good starter bass for me. I wouldn't recommend playing shows with them, but to learn, they're a good starter.
Brandon: Oddly enough, my current bass I've used for most 2016 shows would make a fantastic starter as it's quite affordable and plays great. It's an Indonesian-made SUB Ray 5 which is essentially a Musicman Sterling made out of cheaper material. Still has Ernie Ball's signature kick though!
Mikey: Whatever feels comfortable, unless you wanna start like me and play the heaviest, worst sounding bass with the highest action possible. Anything you play after that will feel and sound amazing.
LJ: Through trial and error in your career, is there any of your mistakes you'd warn young bassists to be cautious of?
Mikey: Start writing your own stuff as soon as you get the hang of your instrument. I wish I started doing so sooner.
Roman: Change your damn strings. They're more expensive than guitar strings, but new strings are a necessity for a good sound.
Brandon: An early dilemma I faced was the direction I wanted to take. If you're a bass player, then your role isn't to play a rhythm guitarist's parts. Accentuate the drums, but don't limit yourself either. Like most things in life, say fuck it and play what you feel sounds cool but find ways to make it work musically. I spent too much effort on being a third guitar player to the point where I missed out on a lot of what I wanted to be playing. Just focus on what you'd like to play.
LJ: What's the biggest stage nightmare you've ever had?
Mikey: Not quite on stage but the first show I ever played. I had my bass in a girl's car and she went to go get coffee and disappeared. Twenty minutes before my set I was already anxious and the bartender says some girl called saying she locked her keys in her car along with my bass. Miraculously she got the cops to unlock it and got it to me in time.
Brandon: I'm fortunate enough, probably jinxing myself, to have not had any major mishaps or nightmares but I've had my fair share of wire or amp scares where suddenly what was making sound now isn't. That's part of the beast but I've also jumped and unplugged myself or pulled DI boxes down by forgetting I was plugged into them. I praise the individual that made me wireless.
Roman: We were headlining a show at a local venue called Fubar, and there wasn't much of a sound check at all. So, when we started I could barely hear my bass at all. I had to be right in front of the bass cab just to barley hear any bass. To turn it up I'd have to climb over behind the cab to reach the cab head, but since we transitioned pretty quickly through our set there was no time. So, we went through that whole show without much bass at all which was a bummer, but at least the crowd was distracted by my leggings with the word "slut" on them.
LJ: What is your current equipment setup for playing live?
Mikey: My Rickenbacker bass, a Hartke 410 cab, and I've been alternating between a vintage Musicman head and my Ashdown ABM 900.
Brandon: Before I was able to gain a stack, I was plugged directly into a DI box which most venues will offer. Nowadays, I'm running my previously mentioned SUB Ray 5 bass into a Hartke 250W head which is run through a Peavey 4x10 cab. For what's considered "smaller" to most, it delivers the power necessary and I generally like a clicky, yet punchy tone which I can dial in well enough.
LJ: Is your studio setup any different? If so, what is it?
Mikey: It's pretty much the same, I might experiment with more stuff though.
Brandon: In all past recordings I've used my Schecter Diamond Series Stiletto Extreme 5 either plugged directly into an interface or run through an old Fender Rumble combo amp into a mic.
Most of the tone was dialed in through a digital EQ and of course, the bass itself. I intend to incorporate the new gear next time around.
LJ: What's the best bass you've ever owned?
Roman: Definitely my Epiphone Blackbird. I was stoked when I got it cause it's the Nikki Sixx version (before he switched to Schecter). It sounds killer, looks sexy, only downside is that it didn't have a volume nob, just a kill switch. That was an easy fix though. It's also really top heavy, but other than that I love it. I am looking forward to getting a Schecter stiletto bass here soon though.
Brandon: This question is tough because it's subjective and I love all of my babes, but I'd say it's a tossup between my Schecter and the Musicman.
Mikey: My Rickenbacker - haven't found anything that can surpass it yet.
LJ: What's the worst bass you ever owned?
Brandon: The first Yamaha in terms of make, but it definitely served it's purpose!
Mikey: The one I started on even though I didn't own it. I've never bought one that I wasn't happy with.
LJ: Do you name your basses? If so, what are their names?
Mikey: Not yet. Now I feel like I should.
Roman: Not naming your instruments is hella bad luck. My Dean's name is Ashely, and my Epiphone's name is Nikki. For obvious reasons.
Brandon: Though I know most folks don't, I named a few. The Yamaha being Quicksilver, the Schecter being Medusa and my acoustic being Forest. Keep it classy.
LJ: What's your dream bass to own one day? (Custom, collectors, ect)
Roman: I'd love a 5 string Schecter Sixx. Or even better, my own custom bass with Schecter. Better start my designing.
Brandon: One that I've had my eyes on for a while is the Devilwing Bass, originally designed by Doyle and later picked up by October Guitars. I know a few musicians that own it and I'll forever be jealous.
Mikey: I would love a custom Rickenbacker; something like Lemmy had would be amazing.
LJ: What's the most extreme way a bass of yours has met her fate? (Ex: smashing on stage, getting stolen, being set on fire...)
Brandon: I've been quite lucky as far as that stuff, though I've dropped almost all of them at some point and my heart always sinks. Not very rock and roll of me, damn it!
Mikey: I haven't lost any yet. An ex did threaten to throw my Thunderbird out the window back in the day.
Roman: I have a long history with Sarah Conner. So, there I was in front of 4500 people and that's when I saw them. Side stage. Two Terminators scanning me. It was obvious they saw me as a threat. I quickly threw a sock at one, destroying it on impact. The other one came at me. Full speed. I reached for my pocket, only to realize I was all out of socks. My only weapon was my bass. And that's how my bass met it's fate.
LJ: Is it true bassists have the most game with the ladies?
Mikey: My band seems to think so but I don't know, it depends.
Brandon: I would love to believe we have a way with the ferocious female beings but I think it takes a lot of soloing, image and even backup vocals before they start turning their gaze. We don't all live under rocks.
Roman: Basses are heavier than guitars. Bigger instrument means bigger biceps. Bigger biceps means more money to spend on roids. More roids means more mood swings. And more mood swings heighten my chances of developing a part of me that's good with ladies. So in a sense.
LJ: Who's your personal bassist hero?
Roman: Nikki Sixx for sure. Mötley Crüe has been a big influence on me and I love how Sixx really drove that band. He really stands out from most bassists you see.
Mikey: Lemmy Kilmister, rest in peace, and thanks for inspiring me to get a Ric and putting me in debt for a while.
Brandon: There's obviously hundreds to name and I'll be kicking myself in the ass once more come to mind but Cliff Burton of Metallica's early days was probably one of the biggest inspirations to my playing and even attitude. The dude brought his bass into the spotlight and owned it every single time. Another underrated bass player/songwriter I really enjoy is Masaki. Lots of creativity. Overall, I think the goal is to become everything you want to see in a bassist. Take every hero you may have and carry the torch.
LJ: Finally, what is your favorite part of being a bassist?
Mikey: Like everything else in life there are tons of ups and downs, but being on stage for however long the set may be makes it all worth it every single time.
Roman: I love the sexiness of basses. I love feeling the rumble shake my heart. I've always loved the way it feels and I feel great playing it. Also, fuck coming up with lead parts, am I right?