It's been a busy stretch of life for bassist Matt McJunkins in the past seven years. Between joining the rock mega group A Perfect Circle, providing the low end for Puscifer and ASHES dIVIDE, touring with 30 Seconds to Mars and lending his talents to a slew of other bands, McJunkins has hardly had a chance to pause and take it all in. And now that he finally has a small window of downtime, it's no surprise that rather than lounging, he has been hard at work writing and performing with his own band, The Beta Machine.
Formed with his rhythm section partner-in-crime, drummer Jeff Friedl (APC, Puscifer, ASHES dIVIDE), The Beta Machine has already released two singles and have embarked on short legs of touring and perform regularly in Hollywood. Their melodically dark electronic-alternative sound encapsulates a style similar to the collective of bands that McJunkins is a part of, but the music of The Beta Machine is much different sonically than anything you’ve heard from the duo before.
The Beta Machine Performing in Los Angeles (Photo by Priscilla C. Scott)
McJunkins sat down with Bass Player to discuss his new band and how he made the jump from sideman to frontman.
How is playing and writing in The Beta Machine different from your experiences in other outfits?
It’s very different in this band because Jeff and I write the music and we can do whatever we want. We steer things in any direction we see as being interesting to us. With the other bands that we play and write with we’re part of a bigger group that’s already established, so naturally there is a much different approach to the material and live shows. Jeff and I can come up with a lot of different ideas in those groups, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the leaders of those bands to decide what works and what doesn’t. In this project anything goes.
Describe the role of your bass in the music of The Beta Machine.
The bass is and always will be my first true love as far as instruments go. I started off on drums, but I’ve spent more than half of my life playing bass at this point and I’ll be doing that until I die or my hands fall off. In The Beta Machine, Jeff and I have the mindset that we always want whatever’s best for the song. So sometimes something that gets written as a bass line initially might end up as a synth line or a guitar part, or maybe even a vocal melody and vice versa. We like to experiment with using different sounds and looking at multiple possibilities for each instrument.
How does it feel taking on the role of frontman and handling the lead vocal duties?
Scary at first, truly! I remember the first time I took a crack at vocals for our band. I had to make sure there was absolutely no one around who might hear the off-key shrieks coming from the room. I also made sure I had enough liquid courage to get myself to that point of not caring. Let’s just say that those ideas didn’t make the final cut. But after doing it a few times, I had some ideas that I really liked and started showing them to Jeff and eventually some of our close friends whose opinions I could trust. Now I love doing it. I’ve had a lot of encouragement and have learned so much by singing with Billy (Howerdel), Maynard (James Kennan), Carina (Round), Claire Acey and Juliette Commagere. The more we play and record, the better it feels.
What is coming up in the future for The Beta Machine?
We’ll be releasing an EP this year that will include our first two singles “Pictures” and “The End” along with some new songs. This will serve as a sort of proper introduction to the band. At the moment we’re back in the studio with our producer Mat Mitchell (Puscifer) working on a full length, which is a lot of fun since we’ve already started playing some of those songs live and tweaking things as we go. Testing out things in front of an audience is a luxury we didn’t have the last time we went into the studio, so the process is quite a bit different this time around.
Bass: Fender American Precision Bass Deluxe
Amp: Mesa Boogie 400+, Mesa Boogie Standard Powerhouse 8x10
Effects: Malekko B:ASSMASTER Harmonic Octave Analog Distortion Pedal, Malekko Ekko 616 MKII Analog Delay, Fulltone OCD Overdrive
Strings: Ernie Ball Super Slinky Mediums
Picks: Custom Dunlop Tortex .88
Follow Matt McJunkins: HERE