Machines of Death -- The Complete Interviews

May 11, 2012
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The following are the raw, unedited transcripts from Bryan Beller's interviews with Derek Boyer, Steve DiGiorgio, and Jeroen Paul Thesseling for the article Machines of Death (May 2012).


DEREK BOYER (Suffocation)
 
What is the official model name of your signature bass?
The name of my bass is "BC Rich Derek Boyer Signature Warlock Bass (5 string)".
 
Is it based on any existing model in the manufacturer's line? If so, what separates it from that existing model?
Yes, my model is basically a B.C. Rich Warlock 5 string. The differences between my bass and other B.C. Rich Warlock 5-string basses are the choice of woods and hardware, high output active electronics, and scale.
 
Please tell us everything you can about the tech specs of your bass.

CONSTRUCTION: Neck Through
BODY WOOD: Swamp Ash
BODY THICKNESS: 44.5mm
TOP STYLE: Beveled
HEADSTOCK STYLE: Widow
HEADSTOCK COLOR: Black
TUNERS: Grover ®
NECK WOOD: Rock Maple, Purple Heart
BACK OF NECK: Painted
NUT WIDTH: 44.5mm
FRETBOARD: Ebony
INLAY: None
FRETS: 24 jumbo
SCALE: 35.5"
BRIDGE TYPE: Kahler ®
PICKUPS: Seymour Duncan 18-volt
HARDWARE: Black
FINISH: Onyx
TUNING: G#, C#, F#, B, E
STRING GAUGES: 0.130, 0.100, 0.080, 0.065, 0.045

How did your signature model come about?
The guys and gals at HHI/B.C Rich are just great! They've been building wonderful instruments for Suffocation for years. Recently they proposed the idea of releasing production instruments modeled to our specs. So we ran with the idea!
 
What was most important to you about the instrument you're putting your name on?
The most important facets of my signature model are the choice of woods (tonal quality and resonance), high voltage electronics, and the extreme appearance. I really wanted my bass to be super heavy and aggressive (tonally and visually).
 
Why is it fucking brutal?
This bass is an absolute monster!!!!! It’s so fucking heavy!!! LITERALLY - EXTREMELY HEAVY BASS!!!!!! It’s almost funny how much this thing weighs. This bad boy has an extremely deep, grindy bottom end while maintaining a punchy, sharp, mid and top end response. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS! The 18-Volt Seymour Duncan system is so versatile you can truly achieve any extreme tone your heart desires!

Why should other bassists play this instrument?
 
I can easily say if you're after a sick looking bass with great playability, tonality and flexibility look no further!!!! This bass BANGS!!!!!!!

Say anything you want to about your signature model, even (and especially) if we haven't asked about it.
The only real twist is that the Kahler bridge has a tremolo bar!

Find out more at bcrich.com.



STEVE DIGIORGIO (Sadus, Death)

What is the official model name of your bass?
Company: Thor Bass. Model: Mjolnir. Classification: fully custom. Status: kicking ass. They are made by American luthier Karl Thorkildsen in New Hampshire. I have a 5-string and a 6-string. Both are fretless.
 
Is it based on any existing model in the manufacturer's line? If so, what separates it from that existing model?
Yes, Thor Bass has been making the Mjolnir model among others such as the Freya model. The Mjolnir model design exists as it appears, but each bass is custom made to fit the requests and requirements of the bass player. Everything from color, wood type, and electronics, as well as the specific technical details, are discussed before anything is cut. It is not a large company with a huge roster of unknown and sometimes undeserving "artists" that they might throw your picture in a catalog and pull an instrument from their assembly line as a free gift for having the best tattoos or the longest hair or even something weird like playing on a well-selling album. This is more like a micro-brewery compared to big generic businesses, in that he specializes in what exactly you need to feel comfortable and sound good on a quality bass.
 
Please tell us everything you can about the tech specs of your bass
Forged from a dying star. 34 inch scale fretless, Alder body with Ash front and back, bookmatched (the Alder and Ash were chosen to increase the odds that we get the crisp highs I need), a solid mid-range that cuts through the mix and a smooth and solid, but not boomy bottom. Neck-through with maple and ebony stringers (the term stringers is used for the laminates in the neck). Macassar Ebony fingerboard with extra-wide spacing. Hipshot tuner keys with D-Tuner on the low string for each bass. We used a Bartolini onboard preamp with Nordstrand pickups also custom for extra-wide spacing, again these were chosen to get the sound I was looking for. The Bartolini preamp has the standard controls, treble, mid, bass, volume, blend, pull the mid control for different mid frequency, pull the volume to switch to go to passive mode.
 
How did your custom bass come about?
I was looking for something less common to make my own. The companies I have worked with before have really nice people working there that I was involved with. So nothing negative about the personnel, but nothing is better than the attention of an independent luthier. The list for choosing a bass goes like this: 1) If it feels right, that can't be changed once it's built, it will always be that bass. 2) If it sounds right, that can be slightly changed with tone settings, eq on the amp and in extreme cases changing the pickups. 3) If it looks cool, that can only be a change of instrument totally. So against better judgment I went in reverse order. I was recommended, by someone on my forum, to check out the Thor Bass website, and immediately loved the look. Started corresponding with Karl and things just took off from there. Of course I knew the appearance, but when it arrived it sounded thick and rich, punchy, a lot of attack sensitivity, thunderous lows from Valhalla, and a clarity of a solidly made quality instrument. I had no more stage humming from the lights or studio computer monitor crap. The feel was like a dream. They are huge basses but feel light and extremely smooth like ivory.
 
What was most important to you about the instrument you're putting your name on?
That it fit all three aspects: feel, sound and appearance. If those can be all obtained the cost is not an issue. So many musicians buy something they think is a good deal for a low price and after a short while turn it around and sell it back on eBay. Now if moving product is your objective I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but we're assuming acquiring a quality instrument is the goal. Cut to the chase and go big. Not in the amount of money, but in aspirations. I wanted a bass that was me. If it was to have my name, or initials as it is, I wanted to believe in it. The bass is the extension of my ideas, it represents and translates my contributions of musical conceptualization come to life, and I wanted it to be part of me and not some arbitrary tool lost in the sea of obscure unoriginality and unimportance.
 
Why is it fucking brutal?
If brutality is the objective...I mean look at it! It resembles some kind of surreal weapon. It slashes sonically through the avalanche of square waves from saturated metal guitar heroes. It can out-percuss beat-detected and trigger reliant blast-happy drummers. It is a sweet destroyer and an obnoxious creator of beautiful lowend mayhem. It's brutal if you want it to be, when you want it to be, and even when they don't want it to be!
 
Why should other bassists play this instrument?
I have never previously found an instrument that has had such impact and changed my life to such a better place than before. It's made by an excellent bass player who can talk the lingo and understand what you want. I think comparatively speaking, it should cost double what the price is, because it's probably half of the price of what the trendy big company has to offer of its best. Plus...I mean look at it!
 
Wildcard - say anything you want to about your signature model, even (and especially) if we haven't asked about it.
I had a chance to ask Karl about working with me, and this is what he had to say: "So, I work closely with all my customers. I'd say that Steve had very specific desires about the sound of the bass. We worked together to choose the woods and the pickups and electronics to create a bass that fit his needs as closely as possible. It is based on the existing Mjolnir series, but tailored to his specific style and needs."

 

Find out more at stevedigiorgio.com or thorbass.com.
 


JEROEN PAUL THESSELING (Obscura, Pestilence, Nufutic)

What is the official model name of your bass?

Actually, it’s a custom made model, named “Warwick Thumb NT 7 Fretless”. Warwick and I have discussed the possibility for a signature model in the past, however – from a commercial point of view – the retail price of this instrument makes it quite difficult to release it officially as a signature bass.
 
Is it based on any existing model in the manufacturer's line?
The instrument is based on the classic 6-string Thumb neck-through model, which I played exclusively [for] 17 years. By using this specific bass for such a long period of time, in all kinds of circumstances, I was able to collect several ideas of which a few were used to launch this custom version. It’s a new 7-string release within the famous Thumb NT series. It has a smaller body, a broader neck, a newly designed electronic circuit with semi-parametric mid frequency controls, a pair of 3-way coil selection toggle switches, a bubinga pommelé matched headstock, and weighs 1.1 lbs more. The instrument sounds more refined in the high-mid frequencies, which makes my fretless articulation come out better.

Please tell us everything you can about the tech specs of your bass.
- Construction: Neck-through
- Scale Length: 34"       
- String conversion: F#, B, E, A, D, G, C
- String gauges: 0.175, 0.135, 0.105, 0.085, 0.065, 0.045, 0.025
- Fingerboard Wood: Fretless Tigerstripe Ebony
- Fingerboard Radius: 47"
- Position Markers: Riboulan lines       
- Neck Wood: Wenge with Bubinga stripes
- Matched headstock: Bubinga Pommelé     
- Body Wood: Bubinga Pommelé        
- Finish: Natural Oil finish         
- Pickups: Bartolini 7-string Soapbar    
- Electronics: 9 volt Active Bartolini 3-Band EQ (NTBT-918) with EZQ parametric filter, 600Hz to 5000Hz
- Control 1: balance + volume (stacked), push/pull for active-passive
- Control 2: bass + treble (stacked)
- Control 3: mid frequency
- Control 4: Q mid, boost at max Q exceeds 20db
- Two 3-Way toggle switches for coil selection: up = serial, middle = single coil, down = parallel
- Nuts: Warwick Just-A-Nut III Brass
- Bridge System: Warwick 2-piece Broad spaced
- Strap Locks: Schaller security locks, positioned as on older Thumb models
- Weight: 5.9 kg / 13 lbs
 
How did your custom model come about?
During my studio sessions for Pestilence’s Doctrine album I discovered that I needed to work with a lower string configuration than the regular B-E-A-D-G-C tuning on my 6-string Thumb. We already recorded two 8-string guitars with a low F# tuning and somehow it came out weak to hear my bass in that same register they played. So I wanted to go lower and used an F# string to complete my tracks. After I finished the recordings I immediately contacted Hans Peter Wilfer, founder and Managing Director of Warwick, to see if they could help me out with an instrument that carried the F# together with the other six strings I was used to playing. We had a nice discussion about our long-term cooperation and my plans for the future. A week later, Warwick requested me to send them my ideas and all specs to find out if they could support me with a Thumb neck-through 7-string fretless model. Together with their R&D department we figured out to the smallest details how this new model should be built. It was amazing to see their first CAD design for a brand new Thumb NT 7 model that still needed to be shaped by a CNC machine! They also found a great solution to modify the specific Bartolini EQ setup.
 
What was most important to you about this instrument?
First of all, the 7-string configuration with a broader neck-through construction while keeping the same narrow string spacing as the 6-string Thumb. Second, the extended Bartolini EQ design was a very important detail for me. I wanted to be able to fine-tune the mid to high-mid frequency range, creating a sharper articulation that also comes out well by the lower strings. Therefore I opted for the combination of the 3-band Bartolini EQ (NTBT-918) and semi-parametric mid frequency control (EZQ parametric filter). And last but not least, the combination of wenge and bubinga wood for the neck, as Warwick used for their earlier Thumb versions.
 
Why is it fucking brutal?
Some people call it the “monster bass”. The instrument reaches lower than 25Hz while it still sounds tight and natural, with a strong attack and a well defined aggressive mid growl.
 
Why should other bassists play this instrument?
During the past years I frequently received e-mails from other bass players who asked about my sound in death metal, the fretless tone, the articulation, etc. That warm punchy bass sound you often hear in jazz/fusion has always inspired me. In the death metal genre it’s quite unusual to work with such a penetrating sound, but that’s exactly what the Thumb bass is famous for – its tremendous punch and mid-range oriented character. However, some of the adjustments which were mentioned earlier made this custom model more refined. The extended Bartolini preamp enables me to have full control of the instrument’s timbre and string characteristics. Regarding the 7-string tuning, it wouldn’t surprise me when more and more bassists show up in the future with lower string configurations. Really, this instrument should be a challenge for more 6-string bass players. All positions on the F# string are audible, and the ultra low tones can add great dynamics to their bass lines, no matter which genre they play.
 

For hi-res pix of Jeroen’s 7-string Warwick, check out the custom bass gallery at warwick.de. For more information, visit jeroenthesseling.com.

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