Growing up in the city of Viña del Mar, Chile, where the local folklorico music focuses on acoustic guitar and piano, Ra Diaz had to dig through racks of tapes at his local music store to find imports from rock bands that he heard about from other kids. Thanks to a few hot leads, he quickly became obsessed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Infectious Grooves, and his alltime favorite, Suicidal Tendencies. He buried himself in their music, woodshedding their entire thrash-punk catalogue and studying every note of such previous bassists as Robert Trujillo, Josh Paul, and Thundercat.
In 2010 he decided to move to Mexico City to advance his music career, but he delayed his departure when he found out Suicidal was playing in Chile the day he was set to leave. He waited for the band at the airport and hung out with them every moment he could, just to get on their radar. It was only a short time after moving to Los Angeles in 2013 that he found himself crying from joy in the middle of the 405 freeway when he received the call that Suicidal Tendencies wanted him to join the band.
Now Diaz is a full member of the legendary outfit, and he’s already made his mark on 2016’s World Gone Mad and the upcoming Get Your Fight On! EP. The latter features a bass version of the title track, which showcases Diaz’s melodic side and also his ability to play relentlessly fast alongside Suicidal’s current drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Misfits). With a new full-length album wrapped and set for release this year, and with a long tour ahead, Diaz still possesses all of the fandom and passion for the band that he’s always had. Only now he’s one of them.
Tell us about your playing on “Get Your Bass On.”
My goal was to make that song sound totally different, but still sound like Suicidal Tendencies. The beginning part is a weird combination of chords where I change the root notes and use harmonics. Mike [Muir, singer] kept telling me that I had to find the “Ra Land” and to let it all out. I ended up using a lot of tracks of chords and harmonization. For the main phrase, I’m doing some modal stuff, and I just went off on it.
Did you feel pressure following all the great bass players who preceded you in the band?
It’s just such an honor. Robert Trujillo has always been one of my bass heroes, and what Josh Paul did with them was amazing—not only his playing but his sound. Thundercat is unreal; he’s like the most amazing bass player ever. I’m lucky to call them all friends now. The hard part is to remember that I have to be myself: Especially when I go in to record, I think about what Robert or Thundercat would do, and I block myself. This has been big in me finding my voice.
What kind of tone do you go for with ST?
It’s very bright, but at the same time it has a lot of low end. I play a 5-string, and while I don’t use the B string a ton, I get a lot of lows with my bass and amp. I change my strings every two shows so that I get lots of treble from them, and then I don’t mess much with my EQ. We make sure I’m heard alongside the two guitars. I try to keep it simple and just trust my gear. I don’t even use any pedals live. If I need a little more gain or a heavier tone, I get that with my hands.
Which techniques do you use?
For the most part it’s a lot of fingerstyle stuff at really fast tempos, and a lot of double-thumb slapping and double-plucking parts. Sometimes when we play a long set, my hands get tired, so I’ll slap 16th-notes instead of using my fingers. I’ve had tendinitis in both arms, so it’s important for me to warm up a lot before I play to pull all that off.
How has your playing changed since you joined?
Even though I was never the type of player who likes to show off, now that I’m in the band, I don’t play anything that doesn’t need to be played. When I first joined, everyone told me that this is my moment and I have to go up there and make a name for myself. But people are going to the show to see the band and hear the songs, not to see me and hear me playing all over the place. I just want to go out and play shows and make people happy. I don’t need anything else. I’m not trying to be the best bass player on earth; I’m just trying to be the right player for this band.
Suicidal Tendencies, Get Your Fight On! [2018, Suicidal]
Bass Spector Coda RAD Signature Basses, Spector Euro 5LX & Legend 5
Rig Gallien-Krueger 1001RB head, Darkglass Electronics Microtubes 900 head, two Gallien-Krueger NEO410 cabinets
Strings D’Addario PRO Steels XL (.045–.130)
Other D’Addario Chromatic Pedal Tuner