THE KILLERS DIDN’T GET TO BE ONE OF the world’s biggest rock bands by keeping things small; everything about the band is arena-ready and designed to impress. But if you expect Mark Stoermer to bring that kind of outsize attitude to his solo debut, you’ve got another thing coming. Another Life is a ten-song collection that showcases Stoermer’s ’70s singer/songwriter flavors, his soulful singing and multi-instrumentalist chops, and his soft spot for uncomplicated, lo-fi recording techniques.
How did you approach your bass lines for Another Life?
I wasn’t trying to step out with the bass. I wrote all the parts for the songs, which forced me look at the role of the bass in my arrangements; I always try to put the song first and do what’s best for it. Sometimes it’s all about creating the foundation, and if it takes a simple eight-note bass line to drive it, then that’s what’s right. But I’m not stuck on one particular formula.
Which amps did you use when recording bass?
I wasn’t able to get the Fender Bassman I wanted, so I tried a Fender Hot Rod DeVille 2x12 guitar amp, and it worked out well. But what really made my tone different on this album is that I played with my thumb on a lot of it. I also used my fingers on some parts, which is different for me, as I’m mainly a pick player. I would plug into the DeVille, set the level so that it wouldn’t distort, and then play very softly. I got a really nice, warm sound that way.
It sounds as if you often palm-mute when you play with a pick.
I got that from listening to Paul McCartney. I go back and forth between subtle and heavy muting, and I mute lines even when I’m not thinking about it. Sometimes I have to consciously tell myself to lay off it.
How have you grown as a bassist with the Killers?
Listening to playback during recording sessions has made me aware of the nuances of my playing. When I was just banging away and not paying attention, my tone sounded more youthful and energetic, but as I’ve gotten older, I can’t help thinking about the subtleties. Sometimes you can get to a point where you know too much; luckily, I’m not there yet. But I do know a lot more than when I started.
HEAR HIM ON
Mark Stoermer, Another Life [St. August Records, 2011]
Basses Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass, 1968 Guild Starfire, 1960s Höfner 500/1, ’66 & ’70 Fender Mustang Basses
Rig Ampeg SVT head, Hiwatt SE- 1510 4x10 & 1x15 cabinets, Fender Hot Rod DeVille
Strings GHS Boomers (.045–.105)
Picks Dunlop Nylon Max Grip
Effects Boss Blues Driver