When Rob Higgins was 16 years old, he decided that he wanted to pick up bass and start playing in local bands in his hometown, Toronto. His uncle happened to be a bass player, so Rob gave him a call, and the generous uncle bestowed unto Rob two gifts: a white Carvin 4-string and a directive to learn the fingerboard, starting with the major scale. Like any beginner, Rob felt lucky to receive an instrument and some guidance—but what makes Higgins’ situation unique is that his uncle happens to be Geddy Lee.
Inspired by the countless Rush rehearsals, studio sessions, and concerts Rob grew up around, he knew early that he wanted to create his own style. Now that Higgins has his own prog-rock, post-hardcore outfit, Dearly Beloved, he’s well on his way. On his band’s latest LP, Enduro, odd-meter and uptempo songs like “Living Proof” and “Olympics of No Regard” display the complex, distorted lines that embody his take-no-prisoners ethos. Although Rob’s bass lines are a million miles away from those of his uncle, it’s clear that raw talent and creativity run deep in his DNA.
What did you set out to accomplish on Enduro?
I wanted to write bass parts that were super-challenging and fun to play live. We had just come off a long tour before we went to the studio, so I wanted to shake things up, to write in a way that I hadn’t before and really push myself. Once we laid down the songs, we’d listen to our takes while driving through the desert at very high speeds. If the song didn’t fit the seal of a bumpy, fast ride through the desert, then it probably wasn’t right for the album.
You have a very aggressive playing technique.
Yeah, the nails on my right hand don’t really grow anymore [laughs]. I strum down with my nails for a pick-type sound, and I use the tip of my index finger. I love that four-on-the-floor pick feel, but I don’t actually use a pick. I play a lot of chords, too, and I strum them aggressively, so my hands are often pretty bloody after our shows.
What are your early musical memories of your uncle?
Geddy would babysit me when I was little, so I got to hang out with him and the band as they recorded Grace Under Pressure in 1983. I lived with them at Le Studio in Quebec during the sessions, so I got to sit in the control room while Geddy was tracking and just be a fly on the wall. I was a sponge. Watching their rehearsal and recording process was invaluable; you learn so much from watching a band of that caliber at close range.
What inspires you most about his playing?
His sense of melody and the range of his phrases have always blown me away. Instead of playing only below the 5th fret on the two fattest strings, he explores and writes melodies that are the highlights of his parts. They can be busy lines, but they’re melodic. It’s not the easiest gig—when I think of Geddy’s playing, I think of how much territory he covers. Watching him has inspired me not only to hold it down, but to find new ways to hold it down.
Dearly Beloved, Enduro [eOne]
Bass 1980s prototype Geddy Lee Signature Fender Jazz Bass
Amp Traynor Mono Block II, vintage Ampeg SVT-810 8x10
PedalsSovtek Civil War Big Muff
Strings Rotosound RB45 Rotobass Nickel