“COMEA LITTLE CLOSER,” THE FIRST SINGLE FROM Cage The Elephant’s third album, Melophobia, is steered by the powerful bass of Daniel Tichenor. His thick, muted picking on the song conveys all of the grittiness that is found on the rest of the album, where Tichenor stands out with a variety of funky, galloping, and driving bass riffs that hone the melody as a way to move the song. It’s a surprising fact that Tichenor had never touched a bass before joining this band, and it’s even more surprising to find that a near death experience is what led him to join.
After moving to Louisville, Kentucky at age 23, Tichenor had set out to make a name for himself as a guitarist, when suddenly life took a vicious turn: A car crashed into him at 45 miles per hour while he was in a crosswalk to get home. With two shattered legs and a long road to recovery, Tichenor returned home to Bowling Green, where Matthew and Brad Shultz asked him to learn bass and join their band. Seven years later, Tichenor is supplying pocket lines on songs such as “Take It or Leave It” and “Halo” with the poise of a seasoned veteran and the gratitude of a man given a second chance.
What was the writing process like this time around?
We had a lot of time to work on this album, compared to the two before. In the previous sessions, I’d have to go in and rush through the songs, so I didn’t have much time to think about them. We spent about a year on this album, so I had time to write bass riffs and go home and sit on them to make sure they’re exactly what I wanted on these songs. This album definitely gave us an opportunity to breathe through it.
How was this studio experience different for you?
I had only been playing bass for three months on our first album, so I was brand new to it. I had to work really hard at studying other bass players and finding my own sound on the instrument. This time I had more experience under my belt, so I was more confident going in. One thing that I like to do with my writing is make sure that my bass lines have their own melody to them. Usually it’s the guitars that carry the hooks, but I like to play hooks on bass, and that’s a big part of our sound.
So you had never played bass prior to this band?
I was just recovering from my accident when their bass player quit, and I told them I’d try to play bass. I showed up to try out; I had never touched a bass before, and I was absolutely horrible. I went home and I practiced all night. I went back to try out again, because they gave me another chance, and I nailed all of the parts and they asked me to join.
What’s the secret to your tone?
I like a nice barky attack. Some bass players like to play on strings that they’ve had on for a while, but I always change my strings regularly. If we’re on the road, I change my strings every other show. There’s just something about the brightness of new strings that I love, and it helps me get a fresh tone. I like my live tone to sound like what I’ve recorded, and new strings really help me get that.
What part of your playing are you still developing?
I still put a lot of time working on my scales and getting as familiar as I can with them, because that’s a big part of my songwriting. If you know your scales, you have the ability to take the song to new places and change the mood. When you have a variation of chords and you know where to go with them, it makes writing so much easier for a bass player.
Cage The Elephant, Melophobia [RCA, 2013]
Bass Fender Precision Bass
Rig Fender Super Bassman, SWR Workingman 4x10
Pedals Fulltone Bass Drive Mosfet, Electro-Harmonix Bass Blogger, Electro- Harmonix Big Muff
Strings Fender Pure Nickel Mediums