John Entwistle. Paul McCartney. Cliff Burton. Flea. John Paul Jones. Geddy Lee. Les Claypool. Geezer Butler. Lemmy. Lemmy!
These are just some of the best bassists that rock and roll has ever seen. But not all is bright for these folks, thumping or picking away on their rumbling four-string steeds. Next to drummers, bassists are some of the most misunderstood and unloved members of the rock-band dynamic.
Bassists have plenty of things to complain about, be it muddied sound, haughty attitudes from lead guitarists, lead-singer dramatics and drumming dullards who can't count. We let a few anonymous Houston bassists vent about their biggest pet peeves, as well as a few of the good things about being one-half of a rhythm section.
WE HATE HOW YOU MIX OUR SOUND
- "Some sound 'engineers' don't know how to mix the bass so that the entire note is audible, and not just the marshmallow bottom end."
- "Then there are sound guys refuse to miKE my amp, which is an awesome tubed Ampeg with super-sweet vintage tone, and tell me, 'Ah, I usually just run the bass direct in.' Lazy assholes."
- "I hate getting mixed almost completely out of recordings to make room for clearer cymbals or douche-baggy, overly reverbed vocals."
WRITING SONGS ON BASS ISN'T EASY
- "It's great how some guitarists will try to write a song like Jimmy Page and completely ignore chord structure and phrasing, and expect the bassist to just pick it right up and turn their asinine noodling into a coherent song."
- "I may spend hours building awesome, complementary basslines and even throw in some solos, and nobody notices because it's not some wanking, squealing guitar solo."
- "I've written the majority of the songs for most of the bands I've been in, and then had them changed by the guitarists and drummers and singers so much that I no longer get credit."
- "It really bothers me when I try to introduce a new song to a band and they immediately call it boring or too simple. It's a bass line, you idiot! It needs you to help it turn into something great."
DRUMMERS AND GUITARISTS GENERALLY SUCK
- "There are drummers who don't know how to count. Thankfully, I don't deal with those anymore, but there are plenty of them out there in Houston. Self-trained drummers make up most of the drummers in town, and if it isn't a 4/4 or some feel that they can make 4/4, their heads explode."
- "Some people think it's somehow easier for a bassist to sing lead, when it's super ridiculously hard."
- "I hate when guitarists try to tell me how to adjust my amp tone to fit their own wack sound."
- "I have played with drummers who bring too much equipment and maybe only use the bass drum, the snare and a cymbal the whole time. Too much space gets taken up in the vehicle, and it takes them far too long to set up onstage."
- "Some guitarists don't know note names. I went to school for music theory and double-bass performance, you can at least communicate with me on a letter-by-letter basis rather than a point-and-grunt basis."
WE DON'T GET NO RESPECT
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- "It's assumed that since I don't have a pedal board like my guitarist or a drum set that my load and unload for shows is easier, even though bass amps are one of the heaviest, most cumbersome pieces of equipment onstage."
- "People think bassists are a dime a dozen and we all do basically the same thing when the bassist is usually what really gives the band its sound. When a new bassist is found, he or she will often completely change the sound of the group, but the guitarist will take all the credit."
- "Always, in the back of people's minds, is 'Bass. That's where they put the lame guy.' I actually had someone say, 'Oh, you only play the bass' in a dismissive fashion."
- "The role of the bassist is to somehow bring together the ego of the guitarist, the arrogance of the drummer and the uselessness of anyone else present. Switch adjectives as needed."
- "There is the idea that fewer strings equals easier to play. It's harder because you have fewer tools, or notes, and you need to move around more to get to them."
- "It's a magic moment when the drummer changes his rhythm and totally, completely fucks up the line you've painstakingly crafted."
- "I only get guitar envy when it takes them a tiny little speaker to be louder than my huge, heavy stack. It takes way more equipment for the low end to be heard."
- "I have to carry this fucking heavy bass rig. No, I will not check your mike during sound check."
- "I feel like a glorified roadie sometimes."
OK, SOMETIMES BEING A BASSIST HAS ITS PERKS
- "We can get as trashed as we want and we do not have to worry about playing shitty because most of the time the audience can't hear us over the 'real' guitars. We only have to worry about thumping on four strings and maybe playing some sort of fill every once in a while."
- "Bassists come in handy when the singer meets a hot girl with a fat friend."
- "I used to play bass for a band but then I decided I wanted to stop paying for drinks and start having sex. So I became the lead singer."