Below are some excerpts from the original interview with both Joey Vera and Eddie Jackson (Queensrÿche). See the above link for the full interview.
What’s the difference between playing bass now versus when you were coming up?
Joey Vera – It’s really easy to get humbled these days scouring YouTube where you see these super young guys coming up. Some of these players now are crazy. We grew up in a different time—music and players were all so different. We’ re probably biased because we grew up in the ‘70s, but I feel like there were players that truly had their own voice and it was new and original at that time. Since then, and maybe it’s just the old man in me talking, I feel like a lot of things have been regurgitated and watered down. Not to say there aren’t any great new bands, because I really do enjoy many new bands and new players who could wipe the floor with me. But there’s something about having your own voice on your instrument and in your songwriting. It’s a little bit lacking these days. I wouldn’t say 100%, because there’s a lot of great music, but it’s harder to grasp onto new things because they are few and far between.
Eddie Jackson – Bass players back in the ‘70s came from this strange sort of melodic school. There was a lot of melody in their bass playing and it’s kind of a lost art. Nowadays you do find elements of that, but the difference between then and now, when it comes to bass lines and composition, is that there was a lot more melody back then.
Who are some of the players you find inspiring nowadays?
JV – I’m often around the stuff that I consider my own work, so I don’t have a whole lot of free time to listen to other music. If I’m traveling that’s the chance that I’ll have to check out something new. But in the end, I always grab something like my old Thin Lizzy records [laughs]. So, I’m not really listening to anything new-new, but in the last 10 or 15 years I’ve become a big fan of the band Opeth. Martin Mendez is a great player. He’s not so much up in the mix on their records, but I’ve seen him live and he plays some killer stuff—they write really interesting songs. Justin Chancellor from Tool is another and Juan Alderete from the Mars Volta. Dan Briggs from Between the Buried and Me is another. I’m not such a big fan of death metal, but they’ve really pushed out into a King Crimson-like area.
You both play in guitar-driven bands. How do you get the bass to cut through?
EJ – It’s called a volume fader [laughing].
I’m curious to hear what Ed says. His bass sound has been consistently amazing on every record. It’s always got its own spot. It gels nice with Scott’s [Rockenfield, Queensrÿche drummer] kick drum and the guitars never seem to get in the way.
Joey, I remember a prior interview from a few years ago you said you didn’t use an amp at all in the studio. Is that correct?
JV – On Theories of Flight there is no amp. Everything is DI. I had it split into four separate tracks and they all had completely different emulation on them. It’s all live though. I don’t use Plug-ins for that. I’m using actual outboard preamps or stompboxes and it all gets printed as it goes down. I did that on Sympathetic Resonance (Arch/Matheos, Metal Blade, 2011) as well. But the Fates record had four different bass tracks. I had them split off into a DI, a SansAmp RBI-1 and a SansAmp PSA-1. And then I had the SansAmp Bass Driver DI going as well. I had all these sounds—some are ratty and distorted, some are bright and clanky, some are subs and some are some nasally and mid-range. Then I got the mix back—it was mixed by Jens Bogren, who has worked with Opeth and Katatonia—and he perceived the songs completely different than I did [laughing]. I was like, “What happened to the bass sound?” But at some point you have to let it go. There are moments when it pokes through. It’s a tough thing. Win Hands Down was a little different. I did have an amp in there—an Ampeg SVT through a Hartke 8X10. That was combined with my SansAmp RBI-1 and a DI track.
EJ to JV – That’s a pretty ballsy tone, dude.
JV – I was really happy with it going down. To reiterate what Ed was saying about the engineer, Win Hands Down was mixed by Jay Ruston, who’s a great engineer. He knew where I was at psychologically with the mixes. I didn’t have to say anything to him like, “I can’t hear the bass on that part.” He just found a good pocket for it where it was audible and it wasn’t overpowering. For basses I used a custom built ESP and my ‘72 Fender P-Bass.
What advice do you give people who are trying to make it in this business?
JV – You have to follow your heart. You have to be in this business only because you love making music and for that reason alone.