“I LIKE DOING THINGS BASSISTS DON’T normally do,” says Rhydian Dafydd. The multi-instrumentalist and vocalist grew up in Mold, North Wales, where he first heard Hendrix and Zeppelin and decided to play guitar. He switched to playing bass full time when he and guitarist/singer Ritzy Bryan formed the Joy Formidable in 2007. After relocating to London and recruiting drummer Matt Thomas, they became an explosive, atmospheric rock trio with an epic sound that often turns on huge dynamic shifts.
How does your guitar background inform your bass playing?
Some are quick to judge guitarists that go to bass, but I believe that led me to an interesting, non-traditional approach based on song construction. I’m excited to play whatever works. We’re always changing up how we write and record to keep things fresh. A song might start from a jam, or completely on the computer in Cubase. For example, we built “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade” around a melodic sample I played on bass in a high register.
How did you achieve the mechanical, keyboard-like bass part in that song?
I plucked 16th-notes militantly with a pick, making sure the attack was exactly the same on each stroke, for an almost electronic feel. I plugged directly into the computer because I wanted a flat sound with no space in it whatsoever.
If Ritzy plays single notes, you’re liable to pluck chords or power chords for a thickening effect. The result is something like a single instrument, rather than individual bass and guitar.
Laying down the low end like an anchor is great sometimes, but I also like to swap in other ideas. I use delay on top of octaves generated by an Electro-Harmonix POG manipulated with a volume pedal to sound like a string section on the intro of “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie.” The POG helps me fill up space in our trio. When Ritzy goes high on guitar, I might add a low octave effect on bass. You get an open, organ-like sound when you’ve got a bunch of octaves going.
In performance, you tend to bounce from the root to the 5th on a single string rather than from one string to the next.
I like to play support chords in the low end because I love the thickness, but I find playing the interval of a 5th in the lower register can sound like complete mush, so I tend jump from the root to the 5th on a single string to keep it sounding melodic.
Note placement is important to me. If I need thickness, I’ll use the bottom string because an E on its 12th fret sounds thicker than the one at the A string’s 7th fret— particularly on my bass. Voicing is exciting to me—especially how guitar and bass notes fit together.
HEAR HIM ON
The Joy Formidable, The Big Roar [Canvasback, 2011]
Bass Fender Jaguar Bass
Rig Fender Rumble 350
Effects Electro-Harmonix Bass Big Muff Pi, Fulltone Bass-Drive Mosfet, MXR M-80 Bass D.I.+, Boss PS-5 Super Shifter, Boss DD-7 Digital Delay, Electro- Harmonix POG2 Polyphonic Octave Generator
Strings D’Addario EXL Nickel Wound (.045–.105)
Picks Dunlop Tortex Standard 1.0mm