Mark Stoermer: Small Is Beautiful

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.

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.


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


Beautiful Dirty Bass

DURING THE LATE 1950s, IN HIS MUSICAL director-type role for the most popular singer on the planet, Bill Black had to plug in his new Fender Precision, look to ensure guitarist Scotty Moore and drummer D.J. Fontana were at the ready, watch for Elvis Presley’s nodding cue, and lean into one of his regal rockabilly grooves.

Questions for Mark Egan

I FIRST HEARD MARK EGAN IN THE late ’70s, in a college beer hall called the Red Barn in Louisville, Kentucky. He was playing with Pat Metheny—long before the guitarist became the Pat Metheny. Even then, Egan had a unique style on the electric bass, a truly original voice unlike anyone I had heard before. Egan went on to team up with drummer Danny Gottlieb, a fellow Metheny sideman, to form the fusion band Elements, which has recorded eight albums. Egan also spent over a decade with the legendary Gil Evans Orchestra, and has played for everyone from Michael Franks to Marianne Faithful and Sting. He has released several highly acclaimed solo projects, including Mosaic [Windham Hill], Touch of Light [GRP], and Beyond Words [Bluemoon].