GROWING UP IN PERTH, AUSTRALIA had some unique advantages for Jon Stockman and his bandmates in Karnivool. “We weren’t driven to conform to a sound that would guarantee success,” he says. Still, on the band’s most recent release, Sound Awake, Karnivool achieved international acclaim. The melodically dense and rhythmically complex prog-rock soundscapes on the album—on “Goliath” and “Set Fire To The Hive” in particular— are dominated by Stockman’s monolithic bass line, which utilizing a 6-string bass in BF#BEGC tuning.
On Sound Awake, you have a wicked combination of groove and growl.
[Producer] Forrester Savell and I spent a lot of time giving each track a signature bass sound. We really tried to get the right elements that suited what was going on with the drums and guitars— we were able to hear where the bass could sit and function the best.
How does that translate to live performance?
I’ve got two basses I use live, and that’s enough for me to get the basics of what I used in the studio. Studio magic is better left for the studio; some- thing that sounds cool in the studio might be too hard to get out of a PA speaker in a club.
How did your sound develop?
When I started playing with Karnivool, I had no idea how to get a good bass tone. Forrester was at my first gig, and he introduced himself and said, “I need to talk to you about your bass tone … it’s terrible.” Ever since then, I’ve been developing my understanding of my bass sound. In terms of EQ, I’ve found it’s more about getting rid of things you don’t want in the mix.
What’s up with your tuning?
When I went from 4- to 6-string, I felt it was a huge jump to go from the B to G. I needed an accessible F# so I could just play the 5th above the B. Most of our songs are in the key of B, so my tuning now is BF#BEGC. We’ve developed other tunings, but I try to stick with that because I don’t want to take a bunch of different basses on the road with me.
Was there a learning curve adapting to that tuning?
Definitely. And there wasn’t anyone to teach me. There are some really interesting patterns you can do, especially in the high registers—a lot of minor stuff is really easy to play on the top three strings. It’s not logical where things are laid out, but once you get used to it, it’s got a really beau- tiful, open sound and feel.
Karnivool, Sound Awake [Sony, 2009]
Bass 6-string Warwick Thumb NT, 6-string custom Warwick Corvette
Rig Ashdown BTA 400, ABM 500RC EVO III, and 427 Small Block heads; Ashdown USA 8x10 and Neo 810 cabinets
Strings Elixir Nanoweb (.032– .130)
Picks Dunlop Tortex Triangle 1.0mm
Effects Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer, Boss ODB-3 Bass OverDrive, Boss OC-3 Super Octave, Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor, Boss DD-20 Digital Delay, Boss ME-20 Guitar Multiple Effects, Eventide ModFactor, Eventide TimeFactor, Tech 21 XXL Bass Edition Overdrive, Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI, Tech 21 VT Bass, Tech 21 Red Ripper, Ashdown James LoMenzo HyperDrive, MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe, MXR M-80 Bass DI, Radial JDI direct box, Bigshot i/o true bypass instrument selector, Bigshot ABY true bypass amp selector, Aguilar Tone Hammer DI/Preamp, Gig- Rig Midi 14, GigRig Generator, GigRig EvenFlo Adapters, Lehle Little Lehle Looper, Lehle P-Split, DBX160A Compressor/Limiter