Geeking Out

Dead Bass Goon
WARNING! Bass Players only! If you are not a total bass geek please exit this site immediately. Below you will see two written examples (traditional notation and tablature) of the most famous Bungle bass-line ever. This bass-line was written by drummer Danny Heifetz (no bassist in their right mind would dream it up ). You will notice that it is basically two chromatic scales starting an octave apart (C#) and collapsing (one ascending, one descending) to a unison (F#). If you play this line on piano with one finger from each hand you will realize what a ridiculous concoction it is. On bass, however, it's not so easy. It took me a long time to figure out how to play it, and a very short time to forget it. I had to re-learn it in order to teach it to a student, and now, at the behest of many bass-dweebs, I am disclosing the secret of the dead bass goon:

Dead Bass Goon
**click image for larger version

In manuscript form, I have divided the line into four positions. By "position" I mean a four-fret span, one finger per fret (1-2-3-4). Technically, the line can be played in three positions. The five notes in position VI can be played with the other two notes in position V. But I never played it this way. I found that at such a fast tempo, it was easier to play if my hand was constantly climbing upward. This also makes more sense when you realize that position V, VI and VIII all begin on the A string. Above each note I've written a fingering. And the roman numerals represent what fret the position begins at. So, for example, in the last measure your first finger should be at the 8th fret even though the figure starts with your 2nd finger.

Good luck, and let us never speak of this bass-line again.


The Basses
My very first bass was a Hondo double cut-away which I received for Xmas in 1980 right before my 13th birthday. The only recording I ever made with that bass was the first Mr. Bungle demo from 1986. That, with my VT (Vibration Technology) combo amp. In 1987 or so I purchased an Ibenez Pro-Line, which was used on susequent demos as well as Mr B's first CD, and which I still own. Incidentally, on that record I used a Peavey TKO combo amp with a 15-inch speaker. Kinda silly. Anyway, Bungle got a big check from Warner Bros. so I decided to get an Alembic bass. I had been enthralled with Alembics ever since I had Stanley Clarke's double LP "I Wanna Play For You". On one of the inner sleeves there is a photo of twelve of his basses gracefully displayed on the brick steps of a mission. I didn't really consider the sound of Alembics. I just thought this was the coolest picture ever.

1991 Alembic 5-string Europa
So I met this guy at a Bungle show who happened to work for Alembic. He got me a good deal and brought me to the factory up in Santa Rosa, California where I was able to pick out the actual pieces of maple that would be used on the front of the body. Since it was being made from scratch I customized it in a couple ways: I had them refrain from putting dots on face of the ebony fretboard. It looks cool but it really messes with your eyes and took me a while to get used to. Luckily there are dots on the side of the fretboard. I also had them use a left-handed head-stock for that Hendrix look. Unfortunately this puts the E-string tuning peg out of the reach of my stumpy little arms. Oh well, there's no other bass in the world like this. I used it on Bungle's DV & CA cds as well as Zorn's The Gift, but I don't play it that much these days.
1950s Czech Contrabass
1950's Czech Contrabass
My first upright bass was a blonde Kay that I bought in SF for $600. I ended up selling it to this guy Jason who went on to play it with Hank Willimas III. I bought my Czech upright from a friend in college. She was friends with the legendary Red Callender who picked it out for her. I've been told it was probably built in the 1950s. Since I've had it I've replaced the bridge, fingerboard and wooden tuning pegs. Usually I use Thomastik Superflexible strings (rope core), but currently I'm trying out the Bel Cantos. I've been using the simple Underwood pick-up from the beginning and I'm still happy with it.
Ken Lawrence 5-string fretleKen Lawrence 5-string fretless
Ken Lawrence 5-string fretless
I owned a Peavey fretless bass in the 90s which I used on Carousel, Dead Goon and an early version of Platypus. I sold that bass a few years later. I got into fretless via Jaco like most young bass players, and later discovered Percy Jones from Brand X and Kev Hopper from Stump. Up in Humboldt County where I grew up there's a brilliant high-end bass maker named Ken Lawrence. He started his own shop after leaving Moonstone guitars. He was kind of a local hero to me. I'd go see him play bass in fusion bands when I was about 17. Too young to get in the bar, I'd stand outside and listen from the window. Just before Bungle recorded DV I had Ken make me a 5-string fretless. It's a beautifully crafted instrument that I've barely used. I think Platypus is the only time I've recorded with it, and since then I just haven't been hearing fretless.
Guild Ashbory
Guild Ashbory
My dad found out about this weird Guild bass that he bought for me in the late 80s. In fact, I believe Guild stopped making them in '88. And there were only about 1,200 made. The strings are made out of silicone and sort of look like snot, so I started calling it the Booger Bass. I used it on Bungle's Golem but have found little use for it since.
1975 Fender Precision
1975 Fender Precision
Around 1998 I got the vintage bug and decided that I had to have a Fender P-bass. I went to Univibe in Berkeley where they had two. I picked this one up and it felt the best so I bought it. It has since been my main ax. I had a BadAss bridge put on and I had the nut and bridge at the E-string cut to fit a low B-string. In Fantomas I string it B-E-A-D, but for everything else I use regular tuning. Somewhere along the line I decided to start putting butterfly stickers on it--maybe out of contrast to the music I was playing. So, I call this my Butterfly Bass. I've been using D'Addario nickle wound 50 gauge strings for as long as I can remember. I went through a lot of brands when I was younger looking for a string that was bright but not too bright and had longevity.
1966 Guild Starfire
1966 Guild Starfire
After moving to NYC a friend of mine told me her neighbor had a beat up old Guild Starfire they wanted to get rid of. The jack was caved-in and there were no tuning pegs so you couldn't put strings on it to see if the neck was straight, or plug it in to see if the pick-up worked. I gave them $100, then had my bass guy Manny fix it up. What a find! It records beatifully and feels amazing. I have flatwound strings on right now. I believe it was made in '66 but it seems like most Starfires from that year have the neck pick-up whereas mine is closer to the bridge. I've used this bass on some of my own film music, Zorn's The Dreamers and some stuff with Yuka Honda.

The Amps
Gallien Kruegger 800 RB
Gallien Kruegger 800 RB
For years I used an SWR SM-400 with the Goliath Jr 4x10 or 2x10 for smaller gigs. I burned it up on the first Fantomas tour and it hasn't been the same since. At that time I bought a GK 800 as a spare but now I use it for loud gigs.
Acoustic Image Focus 1
Acoustic Image Focus 1
When I play with the Melvins or Fantomas I have an Ampeg SVT Pro-4 out in LA, or I'll just use whatever crap Buzz has lying around. Honestly, when the sound is about pushing air, I'm not picky about gear. As long as I have an 8x10 cabinet I just keep my EQ close to flat and work from there. Also, I rarely bring my own amp to the recording studio. I use whatever good stuff is sitting there, like an Ampeg B15 for example.

What I AM picky about is my upright sound. I used to HATE amplifying my upright but I've learned to deal with it. I still like SWR so for really small gigs I use a Workingman's 10, or as I like to call it, the Lazyman's 10. It's super portable, although not very loud and not the best tone. When I can, I use my Acoustic Image head. It too is super light but sounds incredibly natural to me and is versatile in terms of EQ. It can get plenty loud and I've also used my electric with it.

I still have my SWR cabinets that I use with this head. To me, that's the perfect combo with my upright.

The Pedals
I occasionally use some pedals but I can't be bothered to take a bunch of digital photos of them. Here is a list of the pedals that I use most often:

Line6 Distortion Modeler
Line6 Delay Modeler
Boss RV-3 Reverb/Delay
Boss FV-50 Volume
Mid-fi distortion/octaver/waves
Digitech Echo Plus 8 Sec. Delay
Boss TU-2 Tuner

I use Dunlop Tortex .88mm picks and sometimes a chunk of metal that was probably intended as drum hardware.

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