Band leader and guitar virtuoso (and Berklee grad) Al Joseph may have played bass on Hyvmine’s latest release, Earthquake, but when it comes to playing live, he’s enlisted the help of his younger brother Chris, a recent kidney transplant recipient whose love for music transcended his need for recuperation. “I originally wasn’t going to join Hyvmine,” explains Chris. “I was going to move back home because I needed the kidney transplant and needed time to recover. But things improved a bit, so, right before making a final decision [on moving], I talked to my brother and decided to tough it out. Plus, I love music way too much to give that up now.”
On Earthquake, Hyvmine tips the Richter scale with an intriguing mix of post-grunge/modern rock and progressive metal. From the unison guitar/bass riffage in “Great Divide” and “Cliffhanger” to the soulfulness of “Elysium,” to Al’s slap bass in “Fire Escape,” Hyvmine manages to simultaneously bring down the house musically while uplifting the soul lyrically. Chris describes their sound on the songs “Shogun,” “All of Creation” and “Earthquake” as “Creed with a little Rippingtons sprinkled on top.”
The Los Angeles-born Hyvmine recently made their live debut in Anaheim, CA at the 2018 NAMM show opening for Intervals at the Slidebar in Fullerton, CA. Al also performed solo all weekend during the annual convention of music merchants and the whole band is slated to open for Sons of Apollo this spring. Bass Player caught up with Chris and Al at NAMM, where they were happy to discuss everything from recording practices and influences, to Chris’s health issues and how he deals with medication that can sometimes affect his motor skills.
Chris, how did you first get into playing bass?
Chris: I got into playing the bass guitar when I was 13 years old. My brothers and I always wanted to start a band when we were kids. We used to pretend we were in a band before we even got our instruments. Originally, I wanted to play the electric guitar, but after picking up a bass and feeling the vibrations from the low-end I just knew, “This is it.”
Who are your main influences?
Chris: P.O.D., Creed, Pillar, Falling Up, Thousand Foot Krutch, Black Dahlia Murder, Periphery, Animals As Leaders, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Wayman Tisdale, Sleeping With Sirens, Wide Eyes, Reso and Oh, Sleeper to name a few. I love films scores too.
Do you practice often? If so, what do you work on?
Chris: I practice about three hours a day. When I first start practicing, I don’t work on any technique or any patterns. I just focus on becoming familiar with the strings. The reason I do this is because I am on blood pressure and kidney medication and some of these meds really mess with coordination and muscle memory.
After 30 minutes of warming up and becoming familiar with my bass, I’ll jump into chromatic exercises all over the neck. After I’m done with that I jump into arpeggio exercises for left and right-hand coordination to make sure I’m comfortable and playing with ease.
Can you illuminate a bit about your right-hand playing technique?
Chris: I prefer to use my fingers and I keep it as basic as possible—I lead with the index finger and follow with the middle finger. When it comes to the left-hand, I make sure that all four fingers on the fretboard have even control to move in any direction. I like to make sure that while I’m playing a riff or even a scale that my pinky and ring finger aren’t dancing like an inch worm on a branch [laughs].
Al, how did you track your bass on Earthquake? DI? Miked amp?
Al: This whole project started out as a solo project for me. And so, I generally like to track everything myself. For the bass, I use a mixture—DI and digital software, like Positive Grid’s BIAS FX or IK Multmedia AmpliTube 4, to start laying it down. No miked amps for bass guitars.
How did you prepare for recording as bassist and is that different from songwriting?
Al: When I write records, I’m always recording, so it’s pretty much one in the same as far as I’m concerned. Modern technology has made this process easy and the work flow is greatly improved—I don’t ever have to worry about forgetting parts.
Chris, were there any of Al’s parts from Earthquake that were particularly challenging to learn?
Chris: While learning “Mirror Master” I had to remember to take my time and listen extra to the kick [drum] because of the syncopation. It’s not a difficult song to learn but rushing the kick can cause you to trip up.
Chris, any take-aways from your medical issue?
Chris: Keep pressing on! Life is not always going to be easy and clear. As soon as you see an opportunity, take it. It’s okay to be afraid, but you must take action and go with it—even if your life is on the line. Give in to your purpose because you already know what it is. Life can pull you in any direction. Remain humble and always have one ear open while you’re chasing your dreams.
Basses ESP LTD B-206 6-String
Amps Ampeg PF-800 head
Effects Keeley C4 4-Knob Compressor