The New Golden Age Of Metal, The Complete Interviews

Yes, there really is a cartoon character on the cover of the April 2010 issue of Bass Player. But that’s no ordinary animated dude; it’s William Murderface of the quantruple- platinum, über-brutal metal band Dethklok, an act so big that their record sales can affect the economies of major Western countries for good or ill.
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By Bryan Beller

Yes, there really is a cartoon character on the cover of the April 2010 issue of Bass Player. But that’s no ordinary animated dude; it’s William Murderface of the quantruple- platinum, über-brutal metal band Dethklok, an act so big that their record sales can affect the economies of major Western countries for good or ill. What, you’re not happy to see a cartoon act taking over the world? Listen here, friend: When your band moves the merch like Murderface does, we’ll talk.

In all seriousness, why is he on the cover? And stranger yet, why did we interview a “bassist” who originates from a television show (Metalocalypse, on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming)? Because right now metal is simply huge, and bassists in modern metal are stepping up to the plate big-time—bursting through even the most dense mixes, and pushing the perceived boundaries of bass further than ever before.

We’re not just talking about accessible, formulaic tunes with heavy guitars and chugging eighth-note bass lines. Today’s “mainstream,” commercially successful metal is increasingly more crushing, uncompromising, challenging, and esoteric. Songs and arrangements have a depth and breadth that reach far beyond metal. The bassists featured in this story are drawing from jazz, hardcore punk, fusion, ska, rock, blues, classic metal, Latin, Arabic music, and who knows what else. Even the bands keeping it relatively simple feature bass lines—and new standards in aggressive bass tones—that blow preconceived notions of metal bassists as second-class musical citizens to smithereens.

While a story on today’s metal bass community could easily dominate a whole issue, we could only focus on ten bassists—okay, eleven counting Murderface. Ever wonder what the difference is between death metal, black metal, and progressive metal? Jump to the metal subgenre primer to get caught up on the jargon. So, with no remorse, but with one disclaimer—that this writer is the bassist for the live Dethklok shows, and was assigned this article by Bass Player’s editorial staff—let’s talk to ten of the bassists helping to create The New Golden Age Of Metal...

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John Campbell of Lamb Of God

 Honestly, I never saw the bass and was like, “I’m going to play bass.” I had friends [and] the opportunity to play music came up…they had a house with stuff set up, and I was playing my friend’s drums with his roommates and the bass playin’ roommate took off for the summer. My friends whose drums they were was like, “Hey, why don’t you just let me play my drums and you can play Mike’s bass rig.” And that was when I was 18, and that’s how I ended up playing bass.

Steve DiGiorgio, Extreme Metal Session Ace

 I just gradually became this “session player.” I love it. I don't care what it's called, I'm just so happy to just plug in and jam with somebody else. ‘Cause everyone has killer ideas, no matter what level of musician or what age of band they are, there's always something new and killer about playing with someone different, and as long as they keep giving me the chance to keep doing it, I'll keep doing it.

William Murderface Of Dethklok

You can’t put into words what I do. It’s like asking Robert DeNiro how to act, or why George Burns was a comedy genius. I mean, we’ve just got the goods. There’s no secret formula. And I’m sure all the sad struggling bassists out there will read this hoping for the secret to being an amazing bass player like me, and there isn’t one and then they’ll kill themselves.

More Metal Mastery!

 The ten players (and one cartoon character) featured in Bass Player's April 2010 Golden Age of Metal article represent the beginning of the revolution in metal bass. Here’s a list of other bassists and bands to check out, with an admitted bias toward those you may not yet know about. Even this list is incomplete (no murderous threats due to omission, please, unless it’s a song lyric)—but it’s a place to start. Use the interwebs to go forth and listen.

Liam Wilson of The Dillinger Escape Plan

 I’ve always loved to cop the Jaco punk-jazz stuff or like, you know, fusion-metal or something like that. I really abhor the whole sub-categorizing thing, but I definitely feel like my band is a mix of like really fusion-y stuff, really metal stuff, thrashier metal stuff, and a little bit of melodic pop, poppier sensibility, [with a] kind of punk attitude? I don’t know.

Juan Alderete : Shining In The Relative : Simplicity Of Octahedron

NO ONE CAN REASONABLY SAY THAT JUAN Alderete’s body of work with renowed experimental rock act the Mars Volta is insufficiently challenging. Their previous record was infamously marred by personnel changes, equipment failures, mental breakdowns, and even a studio flood, and yet the chaotic density and unapologetic freneticism of The Bedlam In Goliath smashed enough musical boundaries to earn the band a Grammy. Their latest, Octahedron, is a deliberate step towards a relatively simpler sonic and musical landscape, and while the famously speed-endowed Alderete can power it out with anyone, it’s in this clearer, cleaner context that his myriad tones (check out that list of effects!), grooves and ideas shine more brightly than ever.