Red Dragon Cartel (Jake E. Lee), Beggars & Thieves
“A few years ago producer Kevin Churko built his studio next to mine, and we tied them together,” explains Ronnie Mancuso, who is currently producing Ron Keel and mixing some tracks for Loudness. The bassist and guitar player always dug the work of Jake E. Lee [Ozzy Osbourne, Badlands], and in 2013 Mancuso lured the monster guitarist out of hibernation into a partnership dubbed Red Dragon Cartel. Mancuso collaborated on songwriting and production and played bass on the high-impact melodic rock outfit’s debut. Notable bass cameos include Pantera and Down’s Rex Brown on “Slave,” and Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson, who brought his 12-string ruckus to the single, “Feeder.” Mancuso plays bass on tour.
What is your primary bass, and what makes it the best bass for you?
I still love playing a classic Fender Precision, but if I’m going for a more modern sound I’ll use a bass with active pickups, because they seem to cut through better. I’ve been using the new Fender Jaguar Bass recently because it’s sort of a cross between a P-Bass and a Music Man. Its passive pickups have a slightly more modern top end that complements its otherwise meaty, P-style sound.
What do you always consider when you drop a bass track?
I am always concerned that my notes are the same volume regardless of whether I decide to play with my fingers or a pick. When you play straight eighth-notes, you want them tight, even, and just the right length.
How did you capture the heavy-hitting tones on Red Dragon Cartel?
I always combine the tightness and impact of a direct signal with the meatiness of an amp. On this record I mainly played a Jaguar Bass through a Waves/PRS Studio Guitar Interface into a Neve 1066 preamp and a Summit tube compressor running three to six decibels of compression.
I utilized three channels in Pro Tools for bass. One was clean. I used Avid’s SansAmp PSA-1 plug-in on another that I’d mix in to add dirt and punch. The Waves/PRS unit was designed for guitar and has a gain control, so it goes way beyond a regular direct box for driving plug-ins. I also re-amped the bass through an old Ampeg B-15 and mixed it in just enough to add warmth and depth.
Do you have any words of wisdom for players who are preparing for a recording project?
Always play to a click or a drum machine—always. That’s the only way to get true studio chops. When session time comes, forget your ego and play for the song. I try to go over things like transitions and arrangements with no emotion or attitude at all. Just program the computer that is your brain. Once you’re ready, take a couple of minutes and a deep breath, and then hit record. Try to play from your subconscious with tons of attitude and confidence, and then lay back in the pocket.
Red Dragon Cartel, Red Dragon Cartel [Frontiers, 2014]
On Red Dragon Cartel:
Basses Fender Deluxe Jaguar Bass, Tom Petersson’s custom aluminum 12- string, Schecter Blasko Signature Bass
Strings Various brands (.060, .080, .095, .125)
Rig Vintage Ampeg B-15 Portaflex amp with Gauss speaker