When asked to replace founding member and bassist Peter Hook in the iconic English rock band New Order, Tom Chapman called upon years of session and live work to gird his loins. Having worked with such artists as Starless and Bibleblack, Xander Smith, New Order offshoot band Bad Lieutenant, and his active side project, Rubberbear, Chapman attacked his new role with relish. Though Chapman plays the band’s original bass parts live, on New Order’s Music Complete he’s his own man, start to finish.
Were you nervous replacing Peter Hook, or are you an optimist at heart?
When the reunited New Order played our first concert in 2011 in Belgium, there was a certain amount of trepidation on my part. But it was a great show and we toured for three years. Generally, you have to be confident in your ability and not listen much to the critics, good or bad. You have to believe in yourself.
Hook’s bass played a big part in New Order. How did you find your own way?
Being the bass player in New Order is the best job in the world, ’cause you get to do all the rhythmic parts but you can also express yourself almost as a lead instrument. I do play rhythmically in New Order, but sometimes the bass rhythm will be created by a synth, so that allows me to play a lead part.
How did you approach Music Complete’s more electronic tracks?
On some tracks it’s both my bass and synth bass, such as on “Tutti Frutti,” where you can hear the synth bass plus my bass line adding extra rhythms and little intricate fills. On “Plastic” we’re using the bass guitar as a lead instrument; I’m actually doing a bass guitar solo. On “People on the High Line,” which is kind of a Chic bass line, I went for a rhythmic part with the drums.
Were there particular technical challenges?
One of the problems playing live shows with New Order was finding the correct pickups for my P-Bass to play lines in a low register as well as lead parts. Most traditional pickups are only designed for you to play the instrument in the lower register. Creamery Pickups designed a brilliant pickup that provided great clarity and string definition with a sharp, rich attack and tighter bottom-end to really cut through without overpowering the rest of the band. It uses taller, stronger, custom-made Alnico 5 rod magnets with specific offset, over-wound coils—the design is geometrically different from a standard P-Bass pickup.
How do you respond to Hook’s claims that you are miming his bass parts live?
I still laugh at that! He called me the Milli Vanilli of bass players. He seems to be a very angry man. He’s obviously channeling his anger toward me. I don’t really mime his bass lines. If I do, I am doing very well out of it. I thought it was amusing, really.
New Order, Music Complete [2015, Mute]
Basses Fender Precision Bass, Fender Bass VI, Music Man StingRay; Creamery Pickups Custom P-Bass pickups
Strings Bass Centre Elites Stadium .045–.105
Rig Fender Bassman 100T, Fender Bassman Neo 4x10, Rupert Neve Portico II DI
Effects Boss GE-7 Equalizer, Boss ODB-3 Overdrive, Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, Electro Harmonix The Clone Theory, Audiokitchen’s The Big Trees preamp
Picks Fender medium