DEREK BOYER (Suffocation) – …swat it like you mean it!

DEREK BOYER (Suffocation) – …swat it like you mean it!

Denne bredbeinte bassisten har fartstid i en rekke band som Vital Remains, Dying Fetus, Deprecated, Decrepit Birth og Criminal Element. Han tok over bassen i Suffocation i 2004 og har siden den gang vært urokkelig. Han har en del sterke meninger om hva det er som gjør en bassist bra, han hater AC/DC og han har mange gode råd til kommende bassister. Her er Down Below Series og Derek Boyer fra Suffocation.


When did you start playing bass? Who/what inspired you to pick up the bass?

I started playing bass 15 years ago in late 1995. I was mostly inspired to play bass because there were no good bass players around. I was playing guitar in a Thrash band and we acquired a second guitarist by the name of John Remmen, later he played for DISGORGE and DEPRECETED (before completely disappearing). John was a Guitar Institute student. He was very inspiring as a musician. He began showing me killer bass players and eventually talked me into switching from guitar to bass. Within 6 months of playing bass I was on stages all over Southern California performing with DISGORGE.  

What kind of role do you think the bass should have in a band; Primus, AC/DC, or a bit of both?

Call me an asshole but I can't fuckin' stand AC/DC. I may have endured one or two of their lame tracks in a bar or some shit like that. Now Les Claypool on the other hand is AMAZING! He's pretty over the top…

I think the role of the bass is to connect with the drums and make solid platform for the guitar and vocal. When there's a union between the right hand of the bassist and the drummers kick drum – you've got what I'd consider one of the main elements needed to be a successful bassist.   

What would you say characterizes your bass playing, technically and musically?

I technically aim foremost to connect the drums to the guitars, after that I'd say having a punchy, glassy tone is my biggest concern. Musically I'm not too concerned. I'm more concerned with being a percussive instrument. Don't get me wrong, SUFFOCATION is very technical when it comes to the left hand and I'm no slacker I just intend on making us "punch!" more than anything else.   

Do you have any formal music training?

My father is a classically trained pianist. Growing up with masterful compositions performed live in my home daily was very crucial subconscious training.

Working with John Remmen (G.I.T. student I mentioned earlier) when I first switched to bass was also very crucial. He taught me about note values and time signatures… I was NEVER interested in learning music theory so I have never been to any school for formal music training. 


Any tips for developing and maintaining technique and musical creativity?

To develop your technique you'll need to be inspired first of all, and be prepared to spend a LOT of time sitting with your metronome. Maintaining your technique is just a matter of playing on a consistent basis. Obviously when you've been at it for many years and you've got your main attacks down, you don't need to spend hours each day as you did when you first started.  

Tips on how to give a bass riff that extra cool sound or groove?

What I tell everyone who asks this is that you MUST hit your strings HARD (right hand) – it's similar to drums in that respect. If you hit your snare like a little girl is sounds weak, swat it like you mean it!

Another useful technique to thicken a groove is to play behind the beat. This is not something you're told then you can do it; this is something you need to feel.

How do you prepare for a gig?

I prepare for a gig by stretching my hands and playing runs up and down the finger board. I also stretch my legs and back (pretty much stretch everything so you don feel stiff on stage).

How about touring, any tips on how to keep delivering through weeks on the road?

That's the million dollar question! If you're fit and healthy it shouldn't be too much of a problem. Regardless of your personal condition, if you're not getting enough food or rest you will run into fatigue on stage.

If you are NOT fit, NOT healthy, NOT well feed or well rested, and you drink and smoke heavily you're going to have to pull energy and focus from an unknown source. Some can do it, some can NOT.


Is the right musical gear important for you? What kind of gear do you use?

I believe your gear is VERY important. I use custom handmade B.C. Rich Warlock basses (4 and 5 string) with Kahler bridges and 18volt Seymour Duncan active electronics. I favor these basses but you can achieve the grinding punch with many different basses. You DO need a good instrument but more important, you need good attack.

I believe in fresh strings to maintain a glassy tone. Dead strings SUCK! I also adore my Tech21 SansAmp DI box. As for speakers I prefer 10inch speakers because they sound tighter and respond faster than larger 15 or 18inch speakers. I use one or two 8×10 cabinets when playing live (depending on stage size). As for amps I prefer large transistor power sections with tube pre sections. Most any of the common brands produce this style of amp.   

How would your dream rig look like?

My dream rig would be two 8×10 cabinets in road cases. A shock mount rack case with power conditioner, tuner, wireless unit, and three amps (one as a spare).

Pretty much what I'm running now…

How many strings on the bass, and why?

I've always played 4 string basses but maybe within the last 2 or 3 years I've been playing 5 strings. We are NOT one of those bands who rely on low tuning so the additional low string has nothing to do with why I'm favoring the 5 over the 4. The two major advantages I find when playing a 5 string is that the strings are closer to each other – (right hand advantage) meaning it's faster to get back to the string you're attacking when you "rest stroke" (look up "rest stroke" if you don't understand the technique). The 2nd advantage is that you have the additional low string to land on (again "rest stroke") where you'd have nothing to land on when playing your low string on a 4 string bass.   

Pick or fingers? Why?

I'm all about fingers. Not to say you can't go fast or get a hard attack with a pick – you can.

I favor fingers because it's a bass, picks are for guitars. With your fingers you can attack the string many different ways and achieve many different sounds.

Any tips for aspiring bass players?

Play with a metronome; spend as many hours a day as you can. When working with your metronome, set the tempo low (80-100bpm) and play through all the time signatures you can squeeze in then work your way back down. Example: play quarter notes (one note per click), then eight notes (double the value), then eight note triplet (triple the value of the quarter note), then sixteenth notes (quadruple the quarter note) then reverse… All to the same tempo. The goal is to build stamina and feel what all of the signatures feel like.

Remember that these values are all relative. Example: 200 bpm eight notes are at same as 100 bpm sixteenth notes.


Mention three bass players within metal that have a style you like, and what you like about them.

Alex Webster, a true inspiration from the begining of my career – great player/great writer/GREAT friend!

Tony Choy, GREAT fuckin player. Go listen to Cynic demos! You'll know what I'm talking about. Check out his entire discoagraphy for that matter.

Steve DiGiorgio, again – just an AMAZING player!!! Do your homework, this cat can play! BIG TIME!

If you were to choose three bass players (not necessarily within metal) who's inspired you, who would that be? Tell a little on how they've inspired you.

I'd say Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, and Les Claypool. All of these players are a huge inspiration because of their unbelievable originality and ablities.

Which bass player would you like to see in this series?

I would like to have seen Jaco the most. He passed away the year I was born… I've seen Wooten at NAMM shows (phenomenal!) and I still plan to see Les play someday.