Zach Cooper: From Classical to Cambria

March 19, 2013
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COHEED AND CAMBRIA

ZACH COOPER HAD BEEN STUDYING CLASSICAL UPRIGHT BASS FOR over a year when he got a call from his producer friend asking him if he’d be interested in trying out for a progressive-rock band. When Cooper learned the band was Coheed and Cambria, he dropped everything and scheduled an audition. While it seemed like an unlikely leap to go from bowing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 to shredding post-hardcore riffs, it was the audition process itself that Cooper found more unlikely than anything.

“I had just heard two short clips of songs played acoustically beforehand. When I got to the studio for the audition, I thought I’d be playing with the band, but instead they put on newer versions of the songs and I had to play to them with everyone standing around staring at me. It was very intense.”

Cooper nailed the tryout, and a mere two days later he was already in the studio recording songs for the band’s double album, The Aftermath: Ascension & Descension. The result is a diverse array of bass that varies from fast and heavy to moody and spacey. His upright even makes an appearance on two tracks, though his playing on it is far from classical.

Was it difficult walking into a band that’s been together for nearly 18 years?

It was, but it wasn’t. It was because these guys have so much history and have done so much together, and original drummer Josh Eppard came back, so it was a lot at once. They’ve been incredible about making me feel like a member of their family, and more than anything, an important part of the team.

Did you have free rein to write on this material?

I had a ton of freedom. They encouraged me to play things as I heard them, and they wanted my individual voice on the record. At some points, I toned down things in a way I might not have if I were more comfortable. On a couple songs, I didn’t know what they were looking for conceptually, so I’d go to them and they would dish out some ideas.

Did you feel any pressure to replicate Mic Todd, whose position you’ve replaced?

I was a fan of the band before all of this happened, so part of me wanted to emulate Mic’s playing. I was definitely conscious of it, but I seemed to stick with my own style. Some of the ways he plays isn’t my strong suit, so I probably wouldn’t have played like that regardless.

How did you achieve your tone?

They took three signals from me for this record. I used an Ampeg SVT head in the studio into an old Ampeg 8x10 and miked it. They took the DI out of the head, and then split it to one clean signal and one distorted one.

What techniques did you use?

I’ve always been strictly a finger player, but “Goodnight Fair Lady” was the first time in my life I tracked with a pick. I’ve always liked pickstyle players, but I was really out of my comfort zone. When I grab a pick it feels foreign, and my shoulders and arms tense up. But it definitely enhanced the song and made me play a lot simpler than I usually do, in an eighth-note sort of way.

INFO

LISTEN

Coheed and Cambria, Aftermath: Ascension & Descension [Hundred Handed/Everything Evil, 2012]

EQUIP

Basses Fender American Standard Jazz Bass, Fender Highway One Precision Bass, Fender Standard Jazz Bass V, Christopher Upright Bass
Rig Fender TB-1200 head, Fender Pro Series 810 cab
Strings DR Strings Hi-Beam, .045–.105

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