Paul Romanko On Sonic Simplicity

SHADOWS FALL BASSIST PAUL Romanko talks of his desire to craft “simple” bass lines, but even a cursory listen to his band’s brutal sonic assault raises questions about that descriptor. Straightforward and effective, perhaps, but simple … not so much. Romanko’s no-frills approach comes from nearly 15 years of developing his sound with the melodic metalcore outfit, working diligently and scientifically in the studio to hone his tone. The Grammy-nominated band has just embarked on a world tour in support if its new release, Retribution.
By BassPlayer ,

SHADOWS FALL BASSIST PAUL Romanko talks of his desire to craft “simple” bass lines, but even a cursory listen to his band’s brutal sonic assault raises questions about that descriptor. Straightforward and effective, perhaps, but simple … not so much. Romanko’s no-frills approach comes from nearly 15 years of developing his sound with the melodic metalcore outfit, working diligently and scientifically in the studio to hone his tone. The Grammy-nominated band has just embarked on a world tour in support if its new release, Retribution.
What kind of preparation went into this new record, and how would you describe the band’s focus?
We spent months working on arrangements. Once they were finalized, we agreed that we wanted to take a more aggressive approach on this album.
What’s your approach to writing bass lines?
I try not to over-think things. I keep the lines simple, effective, and to-the-point. I let the bass resonate when needed, and lay the low-end foundation for the songs. I always keep the bigger picture in mind.
How do you get the optimal bass sound in the studio?
It was more or less the same one I’ve used since Art of Balance [Century Media, 2002]. I record everything direct, which eliminates excess noise from amplifiers and microphones, and makes the low end easier to manage. I use three DI lines, all run through a Little Labs VOG [analog bass resonance tool]: One DI goes straight to the board, the second carries a clean, punchy bass signal, and the third is a SansAmp Bass Driver DI. The SansAmp gives some bite and overdrive, while the second DI brings note clarity and low end. The first DI allows for re-amping if a third sound is needed. It also allows us the make adjustments on a song-by-song basis. From there, the blend is run through a chain of compression. There may use a minimal amount of EQ adjustments, but the use of multiple tones usually takes care of the need for additional EQ moves. The approach is pretty simple, but it does require a lot of gear and know-how.
How does your studio gear differ from your live rig?
On the road I use an amplifier, though it functions mostly as my stage monitor. My feed to the house is from two DI lines. One comes before the preamp from a Samson DI, and the second from the direct out of my Hartke LH1000 head. Live, I use my PRB signature bass from Ibanez with SRX active pickups. In the studio I tend to use basses with passive pickups, as it seems to translate better in the recording.
In terms of technique, what are your top considerations?
Consistency. I use a pick and keep most lines simple, and I play downstrokes as much as possible. Playing fewer notes can make the bass more audible and clear in the mix. For example, playing steady eighth notes under a 16th-note bass drum pattern allows the bass to resonate. Otherwise, you end up hearing mostly the click of the pick noise. I find that the bass doesn’t have to mimic the guitar note-for-note. —Rob Shimonski

HEAR HIM ON
Shadows Fall, Retribution
[Shadows Fall, 2009]
GEAR
Bass Ibanez PRB Paul Romanko
signature; DR Strings (.045–.105),
tuned DCGF
Rig Hartke LH-1000 head with
HyDrive 8x10 cab; Samson
S-direct DI; Tech 21 SansAmp
Bass Driver DI