Nathan talks bass, amps and effects
Nathan plays bass, some synth and ‘a little bit of everything’ in The Whip!
I started playing bass because my dad’s brother was a musician and when I was two years old I used to really favour this one guitar, it turned out to be an old K bass like a Les Paul shape, really cheeky.
My uncle gave it to me so I carried this bass around with me for years and years and years not really knowing what it was but just whacking it. I think the first time I ever had it round my neck was Live Aid, I just got a belt and I was miming to Queen and all that. That’s kind of how it all started.
Having a bass meant his choices were made for him!
All my friends started bands when we were all 11 or 12 and I was the guy who had a bass at the time so it was like, you’re going to have to learn bass, so I did that, and my best friend’s dad was a bass player so he put some strings on this old bass that I had and taught me Roadhouse Blues by the Doors. Which is completely impossible to play!
So I had about a year’s worth of lessons on bass and I did about six months on guitar. With the bass I was getting it quite quickly, you know, it wasn’t that difficult or it didn’t feel that difficult to me at the time. I was kind of playing in a band before I knew how to play really.
From the guitar I went on to figuring out how to learn the chords and I basically sat around a piano. Then messing around with keyboards and taught myself the chords on keyboards and basically playing guitar and coming back, scales on a bass, I kind of figured it all out that way really.
So what is the key to his bass lines in The Whip?
The sound we need in The Whip is quite a harsh sound really. I could say it’s punky, very punky, just a lot of clank from it.
I kind of play really hard, I’ve really dug in with my fingers. Just a clank, I like to hear the strings slapping off the fingerboard really.
Yamaha BB 2024X Bass
Nathan has a new custom bass that’s really impressed him.
At the minute I’ve just changed the bass I play, because a friend of mine works for Yamaha and he phoned me up and said would you be interested in trying this bass we’ve got, which is a Japanese custom bass, it’s a DB2024X. And I’ve been playing vintage Fenders for years so it was kind of like when you’ve got your sound, you’ve got an old guitar, you’ve got your thing, and I didn’t want to change it. But I plugged in this Yamaha and it sounded amazing. So I’ve been using that on the road. It’s very evenly balanced, it sounds just like my old Fender to be honest and plus it means that I don’t have the paranoia about flying round the world with it, because some things become too precious; they stay at home.
But the Yamaha is just incredible, at the moment they’re talking about maybe endorsing me, that would be fab because I’d be able to get a few of them.
The model of the Yamaha they gave me to try out was the BB2024X which is the top-end Japanese custom, they are actually handmade, the one I’ve got is actually the prototype, they’re incredible, they really are. It took a lot for me to change from a 1968 Fender, which is what I was using, to something more modern, so well done Yamaha.
When it comes to pedals, there’s just a select few that make it onto his board.
I have a secret pedal that I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it’s a guitar distortion pedal. It’s basically because the synths do a lot of the sound in our band it’s almost like the bass stays above all that, almost like a guitar really in some ways.
I find that bass distortion pedals there’s too much fizz on them, which is not what I’m after. I don’t personally like Big Muffs, a lot of bass players like Big Muffs but not me.
I want a top end as the thing is, with the pedal I use I can control the amount of distortion by how hard I’m hitting it. I can get a lot of bite or I can tone it down by how hard and by where I’m playing it.
As I use a guitar distortion pedal, you lose a lot of bottom end on a bass so on my pedal board you go into the tuner and out into a DI that’s just clean then out into effects. We have another DI after effects so the bass sound is two channels so you’ve constantly got just the sound of the guitar and then the effects which we use.
Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler
Versatile delay modeler. Everything from subtle echo to reverse soundscape.
I use a Line 6 DL4 and a long delay for some songs and then Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth, don’t use it so much any more.
Electro-Harmonix Bass Micro Synth
Add synth tones to your bass playing.
Ampwise he uses different amps for live and for recording.
For live I use an Ampeg Classic just a basic valve head. I’m not too keen on the SVT Pro 2 with all the graphics (EQ) I just like bass, mid, treble, volume and gain. Let the valves do all the work, and I have always been like that. I don’t really like transistor amps any more and I haven’t really used them for about 10 years. I use that for live with an 8X10 cab.
Ampeg SVT Classic
Powerful all-tube bass amp delivering a thunderous 300 watts
For recording I like the old flip-top Ampegs (B-15 Portaflex, a flip-top 25-watt bass amplifier with a single 15” speaker.) To record with a big Ampeg you have to turn them right up and then they just shake the whole building. These little Ampegs are great, the little flip-top jobbies, because you get a real natural nice valve drive out of them without blowing the roof off. So valve Ampegs really are my kind of thing. I doubt I’ll be persuaded from that any time soon.
Nathan was influenced by classic bass players from soul through to rock.
The people who inspired me, well when I first started playing I was learning a lot of Blues Brothers and soul and Motown so it was James Jamerson, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, all those kind of people, but I soon went onto Deep Purple, Roger Glover, and that led on to my absolute idol, a guy called Chris Squire who is the bass player of Yes. He has that famous kind of clanky sound, with his Rickenbacker. And then it just goes on to John Paul Jones, Paul McCartney… but Chris Squire is my total hero, to the point where I’ve actually got one of his signature basses, which is really rare. These yellow Rickenbackers, there were only about 800 of them ever made. I’ve got mine in a case with a certificate, it’s number 62 so I’m very happy about that.