Red Dragon Cartel (Jake E. Lee), Beggars & Thieves
“A few years ago producer Kevin Churko built his
studio next to mine, and we tied them together,” explains Ronnie Mancuso, who
is currently producing Ron Keel and mixing some tracks for Loudness. The bassist
and guitar player always dug the work of Jake E. Lee [Ozzy Osbourne, Badlands],
and in 2013 Mancuso lured the monster guitarist out of hibernation into a
partnership dubbed Red Dragon Cartel. Mancuso collaborated on songwriting
and production and played bass on the high-impact melodic rock outfit’s debut.
Notable bass cameos include Pantera and Down’s Rex Brown on “Slave,” and
Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, who brought his 12-string ruckus to the single,
“Feeder.” Mancuso plays bass on tour.
What is your primary bass, and what makes it the best bass for you?
I still love playing a classic Fender Precision, but if I’m going for a more
modern sound I’ll use a bass with active pickups, because they seem to cut
through better. I’ve been using the new Fender Jaguar Bass recently because
it’s sort of a cross between a P-Bass and a Music Man. Its passive pickups have a
slightly more modern top end that complements
its otherwise meaty, P-style sound.
What do you always consider when
you drop a bass track?
I am always concerned that my notes
are the same volume regardless of whether
I decide to play with my fingers or a pick.
When you play straight eighth-notes,
you want them tight, even, and just the
How did you capture the
heavy-hitting tones on Red
I always combine the tightness
and impact of a direct signal with
the meatiness of an amp. On this
record I mainly played a Jaguar
Bass through a Waves/PRS Studio
Guitar Interface into a Neve 1066
preamp and a Summit tube compressor
running three to six decibels
I utilized three channels in Pro
Tools for bass. One was clean. I used
Avid’s SansAmp PSA-1 plug-in on
another that I’d mix in to add dirt
and punch. The Waves/PRS unit was
designed for guitar and has a gain
control, so it goes way beyond a regular
direct box for driving plug-ins.
I also re-amped the bass through an
old Ampeg B-15 and mixed it in just
enough to add warmth and depth.
Do you have any words of
wisdom for players who are preparing
for a recording project?
Always play to a click or a drum
machine—always. That’s the only
way to get true studio chops. When
session time comes, forget your
ego and play for the song. I try to
go over things like transitions and
arrangements with no emotion or
attitude at all. Just program the
computer that is your brain. Once
you’re ready, take a couple of minutes
and a deep breath, and then
hit record. Try to play from your
subconscious with tons of attitude
and confidence, and then lay back
in the pocket.
Red Dragon Cartel,
Red Dragon Cartel
On Red Dragon Cartel:
Basses Fender Deluxe
Jaguar Bass, Tom
aluminum 12- string,
Schecter Blasko Signature
brands (.060, .080,
Rig Vintage Ampeg
B-15 Portaflex amp
with Gauss speaker