DON SLATER (Battlecross) – It doesn’t hurt
DON SLATER is the bassist in the American thrash / death metal band BATTLECROSS. He began as a 16 year old in a punk band for the simple reason that they needed a bassist. He joined Battle Cross in 2008 and has been since then permanent in the band. Here is DON SLATER from BATTLECROSS and his contribution to THE DOWN BELOW SERIES.
When did you start playing bass? Who/what inspired you to pick up the bass?
I started playing around the age of 16. I wasn’t necessarily "inspired" to start playing bass; more like "needed at the time". A couple friends of mine in high school wanted to start a punk band and needed a bassist, and I was available! I always wanted to play "normal" guitar, so it seemed close enough. That’s… pretty much it. So much for glorious beginnings, huh?
What kind of role do you think the bass should have in a band; Primus, AC/DC, or a bit of both?
Both, especially if you want to do heavy metal. You can definitely get away being more root-y in metal, but if you want any chance of separating yourself from the stupid notion that bassists are "failed guitarists", you have to play your ass off. Learn scales, learn different style of play, learn how to improvise, and become a more knowledgeable bassist over-all. It doesn’t hurt!
What would you say characterizes your bass playing, technically and musically?
Emotion, energy, and the perpetual feeling that I have something to prove to everyone.
Do you have any formal music training?
Haha, well.. I played the flute in 6th grade. Other than that, nope! Just good ol’ fashioned "learn it by ear"!
Any tips for developing and maintaining technique and musical creativity?
Practice makes perfect. I know, that really comes off as a bullshit answer, but it’s true. Also, don’t get stuck in one genre. Branch out and play along to anything that catches your ear. I used to pause video games and play along to the soundtracks! Emulation of your favorite artists is a great way to develop chops as well. Just play along. If you like what they’re doing, watch how they do it and do it yourself!
Tips on how to give a bass riff that extra cool sound or groove?
Honestly, it’ll just happen. But you have to feel it. If it’s forced, then it will feel forced. Let it come naturally, and the listener will pick up on it. Just jam, man!
How do you prepare for a gig?
Stretch, drink a couple beers to relax, and if my hands are cold, I do the Mr. Miyagi "Healing Hands" technique.
How about touring, any tips on how to keep delivering through weeks on the road?
One day at a time, man. You’ll have a couple shit shows performance-wise now and then, everyone does, but don’t let it get to you. Stay as healthy as possible, keep your mood light and keep in mind that people paid hard-earned money to come see you perform.
Is the right musical gear important for you? What kind of gear do you use?
It is, but it isn’t. A vague answer, sure. The less a musician has to worry about his gear, the more comfortable they’ll be on stage. So as long as I’m pretty damn sure everything is working properly, I get into the pocket without fail. As far as my personal gear, it’s all used and not worth mentioning, other than my Sans Amp and beast of an amplifier. By beast, I mean it’s taken a lot of shit through the years and still turns on each show.
How would your dream rig look like?
Nice and big! I’ve never had a whole lot of gear in my life, so if I can dream, I’d dream big. A couple dozen 10" speakers, a bunch of subs and horns, enough wattage to overwhelm an amphitheater and a bass that feels slicker than snot on glass. Wireless, too. I’m really tired of being tethered…
How many strings on the bass, and why?
Five, but four has always been my comfort zone. The Low B on the Fiver allows me to accent certain riffs with deep bass and makes for some killer bass slides and drops. Other than that, all I need are four. At least for me in heavy metal. I don’t noodle enough to use a High C or F.
Pick or fingers? Why?
Cop-out answer: To each their own! Both have valuable attributes, but I personally perform with my fingers. I use a pick when I need to really shred a note or to get the right tone when recording, but I learned to play with my fingers. It always just seemed more versatile. I can slap, strum, pluck, tap.. all without having to drop a piece of plastic.
Any tips for aspiring bass players?
Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice. Did I mention practicing? Again, branch out. Play different styles, learn different techniques. You can never know too much!
Mention three bass players within metal that have a style you like, and what you like about them.
Only three? Cliff Burton, Geezer Butler, and Steve Harris, just to name a few. There are several more, but those three have always stood out as solid bassists. They don’t noodle too much, but they play with emotional content and drive. Couldn’t ask for better inspiration than that!
If you were to choose three bass players (not necessarily within metal) who have inspired you, who would they be? Tell a little on how they’ve inspired you.
Only three again? Fine… Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Stu Hamm, Mark King, Stanley Clark, Trip Wamsley, Flea, Matt Freeman, Billy Sheehan, Jeff Berlin.. Damn, you said three. Sorry, got carried away! It goes with the whole "branching out" thing I kept bringing up. All these gentlemen come from different styles of play (omitting metal, as requested), and they reveal just what bass guitar is capable of.
Which bass player would you like to see in this series?
Cliff Burton (RIP, dude)! In all seriousness, any of the names I’ve listed would be great additions. Anything they’d have to say, I’d love to read!