“Being a player in this day and age must be so inspiring for someone just picking up the instrument because there’s such a wide array of knowledge out there for them,” says Jon Kita, the ex-Diecast guitarist turned bassist for progressive death metal band Uncured. “I just saw a great tutorial on Carol Kaye’s playing, where they went through all of the things that set her apart as a player. It was interesting to find out she’s a pick player. You never know what you’re going to pick up from one of those tutorials.”
Bass Player recently caught up with Kita, who was in New York City with Uncured rehearsing for their upcoming tour in support of their independently released debut record, Medusa, to talk about his metamorphosis from guitar to bass and how he’s adapted to the challenges of his new role.
How did you go from guitar to playing bass?
I was working at Conclave Studios in New York City. The engineer and owner of the studio is Mitch Cox. Of all the bands he was cultivating, his son’s [Zak and Rex] band, Uncured, was the first to get a major opportunity to tour the US. They were looking for a fulltime bass player and basically said, “You’ve been with us as an engineer at the studio for four years now. You’re a guitar player, but I’m sure you’ll be able to pick it up.”
You must’ve had a blast learning the material.
I listened to it all the way from the pre-production versions to the final recordings. It made sense. I knew them, they trusted me and I respected them as musicians. I wanted to learn the parts as accurately as I possibly could.
What’s your favorite tune from the record to play?
“Stygian Valley.” It’s not on Medusa. You can check it out on Spotify or on a sampler we’re giving out at shows to people who arrive early [or the video link in this article]. Rex played all the bass on the record. I am not on the record, but I’m playing what they wrote. These guys are insane—it’s mindboggling to think about the career they have a head of them.
What kind of material have you focused on during your transition to bass?
I respect the craft and never claimed to be a bass player per se. A lot of the techniques and exercises that I generally run are adapted from the guitar. They tend to circle around the mechanics—the modes, chromatic stuff, as well as exercises you would expect a guitar player to play when warming up.
You tune down on the 4-string?
It’s tuned to B [BEAD]. It allows for vibrato. I don’t hit that hard. Even as a guitar player I didn’t hit that hard and used very light gauge strings. It’s amenable to the playing style I had on guitar and allowed me to translate that to bass.
What do you dig most about your live rig?
I have two cabs, so it’s a bit modular. I can stack them on top of one another or separate them on stage. If they are stacked, I’ll dial off the horn on the bottom, so it has a little more of a 1X15” feel with the 4X10” poking out on top.
You play exclusively with a pick?
Yes. I dig the Carol Kaye model of bass playing, I don’t feel bad knowing a player like that uses a pick. I use the InTune Tri-Tip, which is much larger than your average guitar pick. It’s like three picks in one—you can turn it around after it gets a bit worn and get a brand new clean edge. It offers a larger spectrum.
What’s your takeaway from learning how to play bass for Uncured?
Every guitarist says they can play bass, but every guitarist is not a bass player. To find your space and find what you can do that best makes everything as a whole sound better. It’s the most unappreciated, but most necessary of component of any band. It’s one of those things that takes a great band and elevates it to another level when the bass player is that much better. It’s the backbone. I respect the craft enough to know that a great band is made excellent by somebody who can hold down the bass and play it. One day, I will hopefully get to that level.
Bass Ernie Ball Music Man StingRay HH (4-string)
Amp Aguilar DB 750 Tube Bass Head
Cabs (2x) Ampeg SVT-410HE
Effects Darkglass Super Symmetry 115 GeV Compressor, Darkglass Microtubes B7K Ultra
Strings Ernie Ball 2833 Hybrid Slinky (.045 - .105)
Picks InTune Celluloid Tri-Tip 1.21 mm