ALEX WEBSTER (Cannibal Corpse) – En levende legende
Alex Webster er han duden som buldrer i vei med bassen på utallige Cannibal Corpse skiver. Han har vært med i CC siden starten i 1988, men har også bidratt i band som Hate Eternal, Alas, Beyond Death og Blooted Science. Han har vært nevnt i flere Down Belows som inspirasjonskilde og da Metal Blade ga grønt lys for å dra inn Alex i vår voksende bassistserie, var jeg ikke treg med å sende over spørsmålene. Alex begynte som bassist rundt 4 år før han var med å starte verdens mest kjente death metal band Cannibal Corpse. Han er en noe skolert bassist, foretrekker å bruke fingrene fremfor plekter og spiller til daglig på en 5-strengers bass. Her er The Down Below Series og Alex Webster fra Cannibal Corpse.
When did you start playing bass? Who/what inspired you to pick up the bass?
I started playing in 1984. I really liked hard rock and heavy metal and wanted to play in a band. I liked the sound of the bass and it also seemed like it would be a little easier to learn than drums or lead guitar. So, I asked a friend who played bass in the school jazz band to give me lessons. That’s basically how I got started with bass.
What kind of role do you think the bass should have in a band; Primus, AC/DC, or a bit of both?
The bass should do whatever it takes to make the band sound good. That could mean a very busy bass part or a very simple one, depending upon the context and individual musical tastes. There’s really no right or wrong answer of course. Whatever makes the band sound good (in the bassist’s and the band’s opinion) is the way to go.
What would you say characterizes your bass playing, technically and musically?
I like to play with strong plucking hand attack. I want my playing to sound "metal" even if I’m playing music that’s not necessarily metal. Also, I’m able to play with this hard attacking style at fast tempos using my three finger plucking technique. That’s my style I guess: hard attack at fairly fast speeds….I definitely try to have a metal approach to bass playing.
Do you have any formal music training?
I’ve taken some bass lessons from a few different teachers over the years, and I also took a year of music theory in high school. The theory class helped me a lot, both as a bassist and a songwriter.
Any tips for developing and maintaining technique and musical creativity?
Well, practicing a lot helps, and in particular practicing challenging music that makes your brain work will help the most in my opinion. For example, if you practice scales alone you might make your hands really strong and be able to play fast, which is good of course. But what would be even better would be to practice the scales, learn the arpeggios derived from the scales, practice reading pieces of music written with those scales, learn to use those scales for soloing and riff writing, etc. Learning musical applications for the techniques and scales you’re practicing is very interesting and therefore motivating, and if you’re motivated, you’ll want to practice more. And while you’re doing all of this practicing you’ll probably end up creating some music of your own along the way. Technique and creativity can go hand in hand if you practice the right way.
Tips on how to give a bass riff that extra cool sound or groove?
It depends on what the rest of the band is doing. If you can find a way to tie together the drums and both guitars it can sound really cool. What I’ve tried to do in a few songs ("Coffinfeeder" and "Beheading and Burning" come to mind) is write a bass line that uses notes from both guitar parts while also locking in with the kick and snare. It works pretty well and is an interesting alternative to just playing exactly what one of the guitars is playing.
How do you prepare for a gig?
I’ll try to warm up if that’s an option (often times it isn’t due to space constraints in the venue). In my warm up I’ll play some scales and some chromatic exercises, and also I’ll run through the most difficult riffs in our set list. If I’m feeling good playing those I’m usually ready for anything.
How about touring, any tips on how to keep delivering through weeks on the road?
Get plenty of sleep, eat good food, don’t party too much. Basically try to live a healthy lifestyle. If you feel good physically you’ll usually be in a good state of mind as well, and a good state of mind is key to performing well.
Is the right musical gear important for you? What kind of gear do you use?
Yes, gear is quite important for me, although I’d like to think that in a pinch I can play gear I’m not used to and still give a decent performance. I use SWR amps, Spector basses, Modulus basses, DR Strings, Radial D.I. boxes, Monster Cables, EMG Pickups, Planet Waves straps, Dunlop Straplocks, Classic Cases, and Road Ready Cases….I think that’s all!
How would your dream rig look like?
I’ve already got it, at least for our North American shows. I have 2 SWR SM1500 heads and 2 SWR Megoliath cabinets. I guess to make a "dream" rig I could double up on what I already have. That would be so loud I wouldn’t need to be in the PA system, even in a big venue!
How many strings on the bass, and why?
I like 4 string basses, I guess because that’s what I started off playing and they really facilitate shredding with their small necks. I use 5 strings most of the time now though, ever since 1995 when we started used tunings that required an extra string. By the way, I think extended range basses (7 strings and up) are really cool to mess around with, but I haven’t found a need for one in the music I do so far.
Pick or fingers? Why?
I like playing with my fingers better, that’s really the only way I can play. It just sounds better to me and seems more natural. There definitely are some killer pick players out there though, such as DD Verni of Overkill, Danny Lilker of Brutal Truth, and Nefarious from Macabre. Once again, there is no right or wrong, it’s a matter of taste. I prefer fingers.
Any tips for aspiring bass players?
Just practice a lot. Listen to your favorite bassists and try to figure out how they did what they did. Make your brain work while you’re practicing and you’ll do well.
Mention three bass players within metal that has a style you like, and what you like about them.
Well, obviously I love the greats like Steve Harris and Cliff Burton, but since those players are bass legends I doubt I can add much new insight to their already much discussed playing styles. So, instead I’ll mention a few players people might not have heard of, or at least not as much about:
Doug Keyser: Doug is Watchtower’s bassist. He plays incredibly technical music with extremely strong attack. His performance on the classic album "Control and Resistance" is epic and I can’t wait to hear the long awaited follow up.
Steve DiGiorgio: Steve is pretty legendary himself but I felt the need to mention him anyway because his high speed fingerstyle playing influenced me more than any other bassist during Cannibal’s early years. My plucking style is a mutated version of what Steve does, and his chord playing on the early Sadus and Autopsy albums was something I definitely tried to emulate.
Jeroen Paul Thessling: Jeroen plays for Pestilence and Obscura and I think his performance on Obscura’s "Cosmogenesis" album is probably the best metal bass performance of 2009. He plays fretless and makes his bass lines an essential part of every song.
There are many more amazing metal bassists, but these three came to mind right away. If you haven’t listened to them before then I suggest you do so immediately!
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.
Well, Steve DiGiorgio for reasons mentioned above. Billy Sheehan is another who inspired me, he has so many killer techniques. I’ve been able to pick up quite a few of his techniques from instructional videos and have actually been able to apply them in a death metal setting. Also, Geddy Lee actually inspires me a lot, I love how his bass lines are written and he also plays with very hard attack. I love when you can hear a bassist digging in.
Which bass player would you like to see in this series?
Any of the guys I mentioned above would be great. Also, here are a few more amazing metal bassists you should consider covering: Franck Hermanny, Felipe Andreoli, Erlend Caspersen, Patrick Boliej….the list goes on. Fortunately there’s no shortage of killer bassists in metal!