Michael Shuman: King of Queens

WHEN QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE ENTERED the studio for their sixth studio album, Michael Shuman put expectations aside to go with the flow of his more seasoned bandmates.
Author:
Publish date:

WHEN QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE ENTERED the studio for their sixth studio album, Michael Shuman put expectations aside to go with the flow of his more seasoned bandmates. Shuman’s aggressive and thoughtful playing supplies the backbone to the manic desert-rock record, … Like Clockwork. What he didn’t expect was that the process would mark the end of drummer Joey Castillo’s 11-year tenure with the band, or that the ensuing sessions would bring forth collaborations with Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, and Sir Elton John.

“It was definitely a learning experience for me on how they work together, but it was a difficult record to make for everyone. We gave it a first try, and because of different circumstances, we took a break and reconvened. Then it all seemed to click.” And click it did. Shuman’s powerful lines on “My God Is the Sun” and “I Sat by the Ocean” solidify his role in the lineup, while demonstrating his melodic interplay with Josh Homme’s and Troy Van Leeuwen’s guitars.

What was the writing process like for this album?

It’s great because there isn’t an ego problem; the best idea always wins. For “If I Had a Tail,” for example, Josh brought the idea in the morning, we worked out an arrangement in the afternoon, recorded it all in the evening, and then he put vocals on late that night and we were done. But some ideas took a long time for us to figure out their identity.

That’s a tight bass groove on “I Appear Missing.”

We worked out that song in the early stages, but I wasn’t thrilled with my part. Then Dave Grohl came in to take over the sessions after Joey departed, and it all changed. The groove throughout the song just came together when we started playing. It has somewhat of a goth-dub feel that I love, because I’m a big Bauhaus fan.

How was it working with Grohl and your new drummer, Jon Theodore from the Mars Volta?

I grew up listening to those guys, and I’m a huge fan of their drumming. Playing with Joey for so long really locked us in together, and it’s hard to walk away from that situation. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s refreshing to play with new drummers. It makes you explore and approach things in a new way. I catch myself playing totally differently with Jon.

How do you create your tone?

It changes from song to song. On “The Vampyre of Time and Memory,” I used more of a Paul McCartney feel; I plucked the line and used flatwounds strings on a hollow-body bass. My dream rig is an Ampeg SVT, 8x10 cabinet, and an Acoustic 360, but when you go into the studio it’s not logical to use a rig like that. So we use a lot of vintage combo amps to get better frequencies.

You play many different instruments. What’s your attraction to bass?

I started on guitar when I was seven, and at 14 I started a band. I felt like bass players got a bad rap, so I wanted to become a bass player who was creative and the best at what I did—I didn’t want to be just another bass player. Being part of the group is so important, and being part of the backbone makes it more exciting for me.

INFO

LISTEN

Queens of the Stone Age, … Like Clockwork [Matador, 2013]

EQUIP

Basses Fender American Vintage 1963 Jazz Bass, Fender American Vintage 1952 Precision Bass, 1967 Gibson EB2
Rig Fender Bassman 300 Pro, Fender 810 Pro V2 8x10 Fender 115 Pro 1x15
Effects Way Huge Angry Troll boost, Way Huge Swollen Pickle fuzz
Synth Moog Little Phatty

Related

Image placeholder title

Paz Lenchantin Powers the Pixies

In the summer of 1997, Argentina-born, Los Angeles-raised Paz Lenchantin was just beginning to put herself out into the music scene at age 24 when she received a call from guitarist Joey Santiago of the Pixies.

Men in the Mirror: The Bassists of Michael Jackson How Alex Al And His Predecessors Pumped Up The King Of Pop

THERE’S A REVEALING EXCHANGE ABOUT FIVE MINUTES into This Is It, the documentary about the late Michael Jackson’s planned world tour, in which the Gloved One is encouraging his keyboardist to play the answer riff to the penetrating bass line of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” funkier. “It’s not there yet,” he says gently, before singing the entire two-measure groove flawlessly in the pocket, while playing air bass. Real bass seems to have always been at the forefront of Jackson’s music, whether it came from studio savants in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York, or his landmark use of synth bass that remains in vogue to this day. Alex Al, Jackson’s bassist since 2001 and a member of the seven-piece band featured in the film, concurs. “Bass was the most important instrument to him. He’d make references to Paul McCartney’s melodic playing with the Beatles, James Jamerson being upfront and center with Motown, or Stevie Wonder’s left hand.”

Michael Janisch : Scene Splitter

WISCONSIN-BRED MICHAEL JANISCH obsessed over Flea’s lines, played electric in rock bands, and earned a history degree on a football scholarship before studying jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. There, he refocused on the upright, deepened his love for the playing of Paul Chambers and Ray Brown, and prepped for a period in New York. In 2007, he permanently relocated to London. Janisch’s debut solo CD, Purpose Built, recorded in Brooklyn, is a transatlantic effort that highlights Janisch’s fleet-fingered fretboard work, and features superb performances by the likes of pianist Aaron Goldberg and drummer Johnathan Blake. The group takes on an eclectic set of challenging, inventive original compositions, and bracing arrangements of standards.