As we spend an enormous amount of time practicing, recording and experimenting with various bass techniques, a players’ ear is on the “never-ending” quest for tone. To some, the quest has come to an end many years ago with the creation of various types of bass enclosures. Whether you’re a fan of the 15″ sub-woofer enclosure or a 410 cab, odds are some of you are still on this quest of tone. After years and years of playing through every type of bass enclosure I could imagine, I still find myself analyzing my tone. Then there’s the fact that once recorded, the tone of the bass is then played back through studio monitors, home theater systems, headphones etc. Now….ask yourself, what do these have in common? They all playback in a full range spectrum (meaning that the lows, mids and highs are perceived equally). Well….why not just have your bass tone come out in a full range spectrum to begin with? Good question.
Accugroove has provided the solution to this very question. Offering a selection of various full range speaker enclosures is the bread and butter of Accugroove. I was given the prilvilege of sitting down with the El Whappo from Accugroove. The El Whappo is an enclosure featuring a 15″ Neo Sub-Woofer, 12″ Neo Mid-Woofer, 6″ mid range and 2 Neo tweeters w/ circuit breakers. Equipped with Speakon connectors and a handling capability of 800 watts at 4 ohms, the El Whappo, delivers a clean, crisp, full range tone, in a single enclosure at an impressive 58 lbs.
During the review, we chose to run a couple different heads through the El Whappo. To start, we used a Tech21 VT Bass 1969 head, rated at 350 watts. The El Whappo easily provided a clean tone, allowing the true characteristics of the Tech21 to come through. The other head chosen was the Gallien Krueger MB 250, for its crisp clean tone. Again the El Whappo successfully reproduced everything with sonic perfection. The basses used were a Regenerate Malibu 5 and Regenerator 5.4, a ZON Sonus Special 5 and a Kala Ubass. All of these basses provide different tones yet the El Whappo always provided a clean and precise way for each bass to show its characteristics. To put it simply… Accugroove enclosures offer an uncolored, clean, studio monitor sound, that lets you hear the true sound of your bass.
So…. if you feel that Accugroove can bring your quest to an end, check ’em out and see what they have for you.
We recently had a clinic in Northern California with Norm Stockton at a place called Tone Mountain in Douglas City. It is approximately 45 miles northwest into the mountains off Hwy 299 from Redding. Needless to say, this place is off the beaten path and for that reason, it is the last place that you would expect to see a state-of-the-art studio with a sound room, one big jam room, 2 bathrooms, a back porch and fresh, mountain air surrounded by small cabins. The drive alone is a beautiful trip that leads you to a space where the mountain opens up to make room for this surprisingly advanced studio set-up.
Tone Mountain Studio in Douglas City, CA
Years ago, Jorgen Moholt, owner and creator of Tone Mountain had a vision and went through great lengths to get it done right. He even had to explain to the local county clerks that he wasn’t building a ‘living’ space (because the details of the specs were so involved and included installing 2 bathrooms) but, of course, they have never heard of such a thing up in the hills. . . A studio? They assumed that he was building a “living” space which requires a whole new set of permits. But he wasn’t. In fact, a “studio” is nothing more than a glorified “shop” so when he finally convinced them that all he was building was a “studio”, he was on his way and ended up with the coolest “shop” that any musician has ever seen. A space that was built for musicians, by a musician (Jorgen plays bass, so, that’s cool!). I mean, there might be bigger studios in the world or studios that are simply set up differently, but this guy has every detail in place that makes this one comparable to all of those. You can see it from start to finish on his website: ToneMountain.com. So, to commemorate this new, awesome place,
Jorgen’s first, featured guest was none other than bassist Norm Stockton.
Norm found his way up the mountain and produced a clinic that was so profound that even I learned a little something! Mainly because he has an easy approach when he speaks so that any amateur bassist (like myself) doesn’t feel overwhelmed by any sort terminology that he has to use in order to describe the bass and its purpose in most performances. Norm Stockton tends to “feel out” what the audience is capable of keeping up with because when he did touch on ‘theory’ for a bit, he was quick to notice that some of our eyes were beginning to glaze over because (let’s be real) the topic tends to be boring and so he quickly switches gears, plays hard, answers questions and really just let himself enjoy the atmosphere.
The one thing that I can say is that he did tend to lead any “potential bass players” into his own direction which he calls “session” work. Norm describes session work as showing up and having the music plopped in front of you. He explains that each band member is playing just the right supporting part and that the music is a great tapestry of stuff (who writes this stuff? That’s my question). He also admits that anyone could’ve played it but, in his opinion, a session player requires tons of skill and talent with a huge bass vocabulary. I agree.
“I want to encourage you as bass players to listen to a broad range of music and have a broad range of music in your vocabulary. It’ll increase your potential vocationally to have a wide array of styles”.
In my experience, bass players themselves come in a “wide array of styles” and “session” work is a pigeon hole (that pays! That’s really the point that Norm was trying to make) but it doesn’t seem to leave a lot of room for creativity and some of the best bass players in the world don’t read music or worry about theory and (even the slappers) are creating the coolest rhythms and sounds that anyone has ever heard. Session work? That sounds like a compromise to most of them.
However, Norm suggests that “if the idea of playing a bass line like that sounds like a drag and a waste of time – you picked the wrong instrument”. Then he discusses the two ends of the spectrum, according to him (with reference to NAMM artists playing in booths, jamming their little hearts out all alone with no sheet music to guide them).
“On the one end there are session player chops (which consists of music being plopped in front of you) and on the other end, there are NAMM show chops. On the NAMM show side,” he admits that “there is some jaw dropping stuff that took some time to work up, some talent, some dedication and some hard work. . .wow,” and then he jokes, “I don’t know where I would ever use that. . . but wow!”
He goes on to say that “one of these two [styles] have complete applicability to most of the music that you and I will ever play and that is the session player thing.” Which, as he puts it, has a lot to do with interpreting the song and being able to help convey it. “I want to encourage you to develop your session player chops and that involves listening to a broad range of music” and that there is “value to knowing what some of those rhythms are, even in your own genre.” Well, THAT I can understand. I like it when we get on the topic of value. In this case, mixing Rock and Latin to create “something fresh” might spice up your band’s music, making it a valuable experience.
When he does discuss the slap technique, he says, “it’s not that hard to get the technique to where you can put together a steady stream of 16th notes. It’s a matter of getting the mechanics together and develop your ability to be subtle.” Subtle? Not the BassCravers that I know!
However, despite any differences in styles and approaches, getting the opinion of a successful bassist like Norm is always a gold nugget of knowledge. He is sincere in his efforts and wants only the best for us all. It was good advice. So, thank you! We had a great time. Here’s the video if you want to see more:
What started off as a casual introduction between restaurant owner Mathias Wakrat and bassist Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine turned into an epic upcoming album for their newly formed band, Wakrat.
The two were first friends because of their common interest in mountain-biking. They often spent time together talking about it. Commerford tells Rolling Stone, “We both just share the same enthusiasm for riding mountain bikes. We’d talk for many hours about mountain biking and one day, he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, I play drums.'”
Tim Commerford – Bassist For Rage Against The Machine – Has A New Band.
Wakrat (with the addition of guitarist Laurent Grangeon) is now a hardcore group with a deep message to send in their upcoming album that has yet to be titled, but the first single, “Knucklehead” has just been released. It was filmed in the new group’s rehearsal studio with Commerford, who wrote all the album’s lyrics, screaming, “Gimme the gun/Fuck the knife/I’m alright … Why am I locked in my aquarium?” For Commerford, it is a deeply personal song.
“I’ve been dealing with some very deep, dark family stuff in the last year, stuff that left me in tears,” he says. “I spent a lot of time crying in the last year and feeling trapped and alone. That’s what ‘Knucklehead’ is about. Sometimes the dark side spawns incredible things, and the music came from that. It’s the ray of sun at the end of the day. I went through some deep shit that I hope I never go through again, but look what came from it: this incredible opportunity in music that I love. The scream at the end of the song makes me feel like I’m just putting my face in a pillow and screaming my guts out.”
In addition to this new emotional grip that he has, he still integrates the political and social messages that have permeated his other bands (Rage Against the Machine and Future User) and the fans are excited to see this new emotional twist in correspondence with the overall anger that we all agree to have against the world as it stands today.
“I can’t stop myself from finding information that makes me mad and writing about it,” he says.
Wakrat has been together only 18 months and originally they were looking for a singer, but when they were unable to find anyone, Commerford took a stab at it and was able to work with the group’s “weird punk-jazz music with odd time signatures” which he originally thought would be hard to do. The upcoming 10-track album is a punk, fast and spastic to say the least and apparently they even use some electronic and spoken word to help round out the group’s sound. I love it!
“This is the music I grew up on and always wanted to do. It’s the same feeling when Rage Against the Machine started playing.” “I always looked at Future User as performance art. I had a vision, and I wasn’t a part of that vision,” he says. “With Wakrat, we’re a band, and we’re going to play all the time, and we’re going to pay our dues the old-school way. This is the kind of music that I grew up on and always wanted to do. It’s the same feeling as 1991 when Rage Against the Machine first started playing. It felt uncomfortable and doesn’t feel right, and I love that feeling. I am enjoying myself right now on a musical level more than I’ve ever enjoyed myself in my entire career. It’s incredible that I’m saying that; it’s a beautiful thing.”
This new band is treading water in the music industry the way it used to be done. They open for bigger bands and work in a grassroots sort of way, playing in small clubs with no label in place. “We’re bottom feeders. We got nothing” and Commerford says that he plans to work with “passionate people who go, ‘Fuck, I love this shit.'”