Juan Alderete : Shining In The Relative : Simplicity Of Octahedron

NO ONE CAN REASONABLY SAY THAT JUAN Alderete’s body of work with renowed experimental rock act the Mars Volta is insufficiently challenging. Their previous record was infamously marred by personnel changes, equipment failures, mental breakdowns, and even a studio flood, and yet the chaotic density and unapologetic freneticism of The Bedlam In Goliath smashed enough musical boundaries to earn the band a Grammy. Their latest, Octahedron, is a deliberate step towards a relatively simpler sonic and musical landscape, and while the famously speed-endowed Alderete can power it out with anyone, it’s in this clearer, cleaner context that his myriad tones (check out that list of effects!), grooves and ideas shine more brightly than ever.
Author:
Publish date:

NO ONE CAN REASONABLY SAY THAT JUAN Alderete’s body of work with renowed experimental rock act the Mars Volta is insufficiently challenging. Their previous record was infamously marred by personnel changes, equipment failures, mental breakdowns, and even a studio flood, and yet the chaotic density and unapologetic freneticism of The Bedlam In Goliath smashed enough musical boundaries to earn the band a Grammy. Their latest, Octahedron, is a deliberate step towards a relatively simpler sonic and musical landscape, and while the famously speed-endowed Alderete can power it out with anyone, it’s in this clearer, cleaner context that his myriad tones (check out that list of effects!), grooves and ideas shine more brightly than ever.

Between the Mars Volta, Big Sir, Alderete’s own ultra-experimental outfit Vato-Negro, and the many side projects of TMV’s guitarist and main songwriter Omar Rodriguez- López, Juan doesn’t always know which of his ideas are going to end up where. And that’s fine with him. “Every time I record, I never know if it’s gonna end up on a Mars Volta record, or one of Omar’s solo records”, says Alderete. “I approach it the same way, with all of my intensity and musicality.”

What was tracking Octahedron like by comparison compared to The Bedlam in Goliath?
It was totally different. On Bedlam, we all tracked together for a lot of the basic tracks, but then Omar would have me recut to the arrangements. On Octahedron, I flew into New York for a few days and tracked to stuff I never heard before.

How much direction did Omar give you in creating the parts?
The arrangements were complete when I got to NYC. He had everything mapped out. Some stuff I got to put my twist on, but really he just knew what he wanted. There are improvised parts, like on “Cotopaxi,” bridges where I kind of just rip, or “Teflon,” where I tried to ape James Jamerson, but other then that he was very particular.

Any thoughts or opinions on the “simpler” sonic environment of this record, especially in terms of how it impacts the bass?
For bass, I think the fretless was more important than on other records. There is fretless bass on every Mars Volta record I have recorded, but I think in the “simpler” environment, it sounds more profound and integral to the music.

Were there any other bands you were listening to that affected what you laid down on this record?
I probably listen to the Jesus Lizard more than any other band I can think of, and their bassist David Sims always has an impact on my playing. He is my favorite living bass player and the Jesus Lizard’s music is timeless. His bass lines are the best. He affects me the way Jaco or Jamerson does. I just want to be as musical as him.

What’s your favorite bass moment on the record?
The chorus on “Teflon.” I love Jamerson and I always try to have him appear through me on records. And on “Cotopaxi” I do my best David Sims impression. I like to give homage to my main influences.

What keeps you interested in playing bass nowadays?
Musicians who are trying to stretch out. Take music somewhere else. A band can be playing the simplest music, but if the sounds they’re using are out there and musical, I’ll be into it.

What do you want to be doing musically in ten years?
Helping musicians I believe in. There is a great indie metal scene going on right now. Metal bands that are not stuck listening only to Slayer or Iron Maiden, but also to Neurosis, the Fucking Champs, Shellac or the Jesus Lizard. These bands put out mainly vinyl and are surviving. Indie rock is so polluted with major labels. This metal scene is more punk rock than indie rock could ever be at this point. I want to help this scene. Maybe start a label.

CHECK HIM OUT
The Mars Volta, Octahedron
[Warner Bros.,
2009]; The Mars Volta,
The Bedlam In Goliath [UVMD, 2008];
El Grupo Nuevo De Omar Rodriguez-
López, Cryptomnesia [Rodriguez Lopez
Productions, 2009
CURRENTLY SPINNING
Torche, Meanderthal [Hydra Head, 2008];
Nipsey Hussle, Bullets Ain’t Got No Name
Vol. 3 [Direct Connect, 2009]; Dangerpuss
[check www.myspace.com/dangerpussmusic]
GEAR
Basses Lakland Skyline Darryl Jones,
Lakland U.S. custom P/J fretless, 1962
Fender Precision, 1971 Fender Precision
Fretless, Eastwood Hi-Flyer
Live Rig Direct, Éclair Engineering Evil
Twin Tube D.I.; Amp/cab: Two Ampeg
SVT-VR heads, Ampeg SVT 8x10 cab,
Ampeg SVT18 cab.
Effects Dunlop Bass Wah, MXR Carbon
Copy Analog Delay, MXR M-288 Octave,
MXR MicroAmp, MXR Phase 90, “several”
Boss pedals (including CS-2 compressor
and Tremolo), WMD Geiger Counter,
Pigtronix Disnortion, Pigtronix Mothership,
Pigtronix Echolution, Lastgasp Super
Oscillo Fuzz, Moog Ring Modulator, Moog
Freqbox, Maestro Envelope Filter, Ernie
Ball Volume Pedal, Line 6 DL4 Delay, Death
By Audio Total Sonic Annihilation, Sovtek
Fuzz, Electro-Harmonix Bass Microsynth,
A/DA Flanger, Ampeg SCP-OCT Sub-
Blaster Octave, Behringer Vibrato, all powered
by several MXR Bricks.
Studio “My chosen bass into a bunch
of pedals into the Evil Twin D.I.”
Strings Ernie Ball Super Slinky Nickel
Wound, .045–.105

Related

John Campbell of Lamb Of God

 Honestly, I never saw the bass and was like, “I’m going to play bass.” I had friends [and] the opportunity to play music came up…they had a house with stuff set up, and I was playing my friend’s drums with his roommates and the bass playin’ roommate took off for the summer. My friends whose drums they were was like, “Hey, why don’t you just let me play my drums and you can play Mike’s bass rig.” And that was when I was 18, and that’s how I ended up playing bass.

Secrets Of The Motown Vault

CALL IT A PERFECT STORM OF BASS. The setting is Studio A at Universal Mastering Studios East, in midtown Manhattan. Sitting at opposite ends of the board are Anthony Jackson and James Jamerson Jr., the world’s foremost authorities on the style and substance of Motown master James Jamerson. Harry Weinger, VP of A&R for Universal Music’s catalog division, with a menu of original session tapes at his fingertips, starts the Supremes’ 1968 single, “Reflections.” Instantly, and without noticing the other, Anthony and James Jr. begin intently playing air bass, each precisely matching the notes emanating from the speakers. And what notes they are. With several instruments turned off in our custom mix, and Jamerson’s bass boosted, his part is more than just ghost-in-the-machine groove, it’s a living, breathing entity that can physically move you—as we learn when one of his token drops causes our collective bodies to bend sideways in delighted reaction. Recalling his vault experie

The New Golden Age Of Metal, The Complete Interviews

Yes, there really is a cartoon character on the cover of the April 2010 issue of Bass Player. But that’s no ordinary animated dude; it’s William Murderface of the quantruple- platinum, über-brutal metal band Dethklok, an act so big that their record sales can affect the economies of major Western countries for good or ill.

William Murderface Of Dethklok

You can’t put into words what I do. It’s like asking Robert DeNiro how to act, or why George Burns was a comedy genius. I mean, we’ve just got the goods. There’s no secret formula. And I’m sure all the sad struggling bassists out there will read this hoping for the secret to being an amazing bass player like me, and there isn’t one and then they’ll kill themselves.

The 50th Anniversary Of The Fender Jazz Bass

THINK FENDER JAZZ BASS and what comes to mind? Jaco Pastorius’s fretless canvas? Larry Graham or Marcus Miller’s thumb thunder? John Paul Jones or Geddy Lee’s progressive punch? While Leo Fender’s Precision Bass stands as an iconic symbol of the first mass-produced electric bass guitar, his Jazz Bass, an arguably perfected upgrade introduced nine years later, in 1960, is better defined by the musicians who manned it. In truth, much about the instrument has a sense of irony, including the fact that the P-Bass’s perennially younger, sleeker, sexier sibling has turned 50 this year. Richard Smith, Fender historian, author, and curator of the Leo Fender Gallery at the Fullerton Museum, observes, “What’s interesting is how an instrument named for and targeted toward jazz musicians instead became the choice of rock & rollers, and made its mark very quickly. Timing-wise, the electric bass was making the huge transition from ’50s-style music to ’6