Interview with a bassist #2
This week we're talking to Matt Wolff, whos spirit animal isn't a wolf (everyone's spirit animal should be a wolf!). He plays in a band called Dissonance and Dissent in Lafayette Indiana (US). He's also featured on The Pickn' Pear's new album.
Hi! Tell us a little bit about yourself and the gigs you play.
My name is Matt Wolff. I started playing guitar in the late 90's. That lead me to learning the upright bass so that I could be in my high school's symphonic band. I bought my first bass guitar while in high school so that I could play in the pit orchestra for the school's drama productions. I've dabbled with the bass guitar off and on since then, but not very seriously until the past year.
I am in a ska/punk band called Dissonance and Dissent from Lafayette, Indiana, USA. The gigs that we play are mostly in punk clubs and bars. We have also played some larger shows with bands like Authority Zero, The Toasters, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and The Slackers. We will be releasing our first full length album in July, then touring in support of it.
Additionally, I occasionally play with a folk-n-roll band called The Pickin' Pear. They combine non-traditional song writing styles with their traditional instruments (banjo and ukulele) and create an original mix of modern American music. Earlier this year, I recorded bass on their debut album, Feels Like Home, which was released in May.
Bass or guitar?
Both, but bass guitar has become my primary instrument for the past year or so.
What's your favourite bass guitar and why?
I have grown quite fond of my Ernie Ball Music Man Sterling 5H. First and foremost, I think it sounds great! This is the first electric instrument I've owned where I leave the EQ flat by default. I'll adjust slightly on stage if the room requires it. The Sterling also feels very natural to play for me, as opposed to some other 5 string basses whose necks feel unreasonably wide. I believe part of the natural feel comes from the balance of the bass and how it hangs on the strap. Another feature for me is that the body is slightly smaller and lighter than other basses. I can stand through a 6 hour rehearsal and not have a sore back the next day. Lastly, Sterlings just look cool! There is something about a giant humbucker sitting in the skewed, egg-shape pickguard that makes it look mean and elegant at the same time.
What BAREFACED cab(s) do you own? Why did you choose them?
I am the happy owner of a FOUR 10 cab. I chose this cab for a number of reasons. I was looking for something lightweight, yet capable of producing enough volume to compete with two 100W guitar half-stacks, rock drums, and a horn section. The ideal cab also needed to thicken up the low-end (compared to my previous cab) at all volumes without becoming flabby, keep the high-end from becoming harsh/brittle at high volume, AND help achieve the tone that I was trying to create. After exchanging a few emails with Alex, I was confident that the characteristics of the 10CR250 speakers combined with the design of the cab would do exactly what I wanted.
Why is phonics not spelt the way it sounds...
Ha! I've made this joke a few times, too. I like how you all think. :)
What cabs did you have before your BAREFACED? What were their limitations ?
My previous cab was a mid-90s Ampeg 410HE rated for handling 200W @ 8 ohms. I felt that it had a few limitations. The high-end would become harsh and brittle at stage volumes. The low-end was unsatisfying at any volume, a problem which was probably magnified by playing a 5-string. With my power amp turned all the way up, I could still not hear myself live and I was concerned about blowing up the cab due to its relatively low power handling. Oh, and it was HEAVY (~45kg|100lbs), so I usually needed help loading and unloading
Have the BAREFACED cabs solved those problems? If so, how?
The FOUR 10 is a miracle worker. The low-end *does* exist, in all of its tight glory. The high-end harshness *doesn't* exist. Using the same power amp, I don't need to turn up as much and I can now hear myself in the mix! The FOUR 10 can handle 1000W @ 8 ohms, so I'm not concerned at all about blowing it up. Oh, and it is LIGHT, so I can load and unload without assistance now.
Are there any limitations to your BAREFACED cabs?
The only potential limitation that I can think of is that I feel like my rig should be louder than it is. However, I'm not convinced that the problem is with the cab, as it could be an issue with my power amp.
What amps are you using? Why do you like them?
I use a Tech21 Sansamp RBI preamp that runs into a dbx 166XL compressor which runs into a Crown XLS 1502 power amp in bridged mode. When I put this rig together, I knew what I wanted to hear, but I wasn't sure which components were going to get me there. So, I wanted it to be as modular as possible. The bridged-mono/stereo power amp allows me several options that I wouldn't have otherwise. I like the preamp because it is capable of a wide range of tones, and it does a great job conjuring up gritty SVT-like tones. Additionally, the preamp allows me to DI the wet and/or dry signal(s) to mixing console or PA system, which has come in handy.
What do the band think of your BAREFACED?
My band LOVES the FOUR 10. I wasn't expecting anyone to notice the difference, but they did. I'm pretty sure the drummer told me once that he was excited to be at rehearsal because he got to hear my new cab again. Ha!
What do you think about the sound / look of your cab?
I'm very happy with both the sound and look of the cab. I opted for the silver cloth grill primarily for the extra weight savings, but I also prefer the vintage look of it compared to the steel grill.
Have you ever used your BAREFACED for recording? How did you find it?
Unfortunately, I had finished tracking all of my parts prior to placing my order. I hope to get the FOUR 10 in the studio as soon as possible!
How did you find out about BAREFACED?
The power amp that I use can handle a 2 ohm load. So, I was originally searching for lightweight 4x10 cab that was a 2 ohm load. I eventually came across some posts in one of the online bass forums that mentioned that Barefaced had a 2 ohm version of the FOUR 10. (Disclaimer: I believe this option has since been discontinued.) That lead me to investigate their products and (seemingly impossible) claims on their website.
...How do 'do not walk on the grass' signs get there..?
Do you use stage monitors for bass?
I have when it's been an option, but that has been uncommon. Most times the only reference I have is my rig on stage.
Who are your favourite bassists and why?
Scott Shiflett from Face to Face was one of the first bass players that caught my attention as a young guitar player. To this day, watching him play is a jaw-dropping experience for me. His playing is technical, but doesn't ever feel out of place or like its detracting from the song.
Roger Lima from Less Than Jake is another that I've always admired. His bass lines are interesting, catchy, melodic, and memorable. Those things combined with his energetic stage presence make him fun to watch live, too.
Tomek Sokołowski formerly of Satanic Surfers is a beast. The playing and tone all the way through the 666 Motor Inn album is insane. Those bass lines are fast and all over the place, but add so much character to the songs.
Lastly, James Jamerson. He played on so many iconic Motown tracks, every one of those bass lines are genius and undeniably his. There are some really neat visualizations of some of his songs on YouTube, check them out if you haven't already!
If you could change anything about your cab what would it be?
The only thing that I can think of is that maybe I would have gone with a black cloth grill instead of silver.
What's your spirit animal and why?
According to spirithoods.com (yes, I googled "what is my spirit animal?" and took the first online quiz that popped up), I'm a bird because "Birds bond with very few. They are very resilient, creative, and tend to stay positive. Your spirit animal is part bald eagle, blue jay, night owl, and nighthawk." Cool, seems legit.
Anything else you'd like to mention that I Inevitably forgot?
Something else that made Barefaced attractive to me as a brand, was that it seemed like ethical practices were used in manufacturing and sourcing of components, which is VERY important to me. I forget the details now, but I remember seeing a link somewhere (on the website?) that highlighted how things were built in-house instead of outsourced cheaply, wood sourced locally, etc. So, thank you for focusing on those details, too!
Anything a bit mad ever happen to you / do you have any gig stories you'd like to share?
Dissonance & Dissent experienced "Murphy's Law" nearly all day the last time we played in Chicago. The drummer called to say he was running late, which was unusual, so we decided to start loading the van without him. As we started to load the van in a rain/sleet/snow mix, we found out that the battery was drained and the van wouldn't start. Once we'd loaded all that we could, the drummer showed up.
He spent the morning meticulously tuning his drums for the show, but somehow busted the resonant head on his snare drum. He went to his local music shop to find that they didn't have any replacement heads in stock. He worked out a deal with them to take a brand new head off of one of the kits on display, which was very cool of them. He was able to use the head, got his snare drum tuned up, and met up with us just in time to load his gear.
We decided that we'd load his gear so that he and the trumpet player could go get a new battery. Eventually, they returned with a brand new battery. We replaced the old battery with the new one, then went to test it out: nothing. Silence, other than a few choice words. The new battery was dead, too! We decided to try charging the new battery enough to start the van, then see if it would hold a charge after letting the van run for a while. It did and we were finally ready to leave, about 90 minutes behind schedule.
Finally, we're cruising on the highway towards Chicago. Four of us are in the back of the van, joking about our misfortune and how we're glad that's over. This was about the time that the road noise got noticeably louder. Have I mentioned that our van has a door at the back, like a school bus? Well, it does, the latch mechanism had failed somehow, and the door was wide open! We all looked at each other for an instant, confused. Immediately, the trumpet player dove across the gear, pulled the door shut somehow, and was just lying there -- on top of all of the gear -- holding the door closed. The drummer was holding on to her legs, just in case, until we were able to get the van stopped.
We collectively let out a sigh. Luckily, no gear or people fell out of the van. After trying to fix the latching mechanism on the door to no avail, we opted to ratchet strap the door closed from the inside. This is now standard procedure. Finally, we're cruising on the highway towards Chicago, again. While we were stopped, the weather had deteriorated into a full blown snow storm. We were running about two hours behind schedule, we'd been in the van for all of 15 minutes, and still two hours away from Chicago!
After a long, tense, and slippery drive, we finally pulled up to the venue several hours later than anticipated. The show had already started, the band on stage was about halfway through their set, and we were up next. Once they finished, we started hauling drum gear in towards the stage. However, the sound engineers decided that all of the bands were just going to share a kit. So, all of the meticulous tuning, head busting, and subsequent frenzied search for a replacement head was for naught.
Not all was lost, though. We had made it to the show, safely. I remembering looking out over the crowd for the first time just before we started and thought, "This is going to be a great show." And it was. The crowd was amazing, in terms of quantity and general rowdiness. We made some new friends that night. To our amazement, some fans had hand-made a banner with our logo on it and presented it to us after our set. Very cool!
The rest of the night and trip back home went smoothly. By the time that we returned to home base and unloaded the van, the sun had already been up for a while. When I finally made it back to my bed, I couldn't help but think, "What a great day!"
Catch Matt playing with:
Dissonance and Dissent (ska/punk)
June 7 - Valparaiso, IN
June 28 - Rock Island, IL
June 29 - Madison, WI
July 19 - Lafayette, IN (Album Release!)
July 20 - Indianapolis, IN (Album Release!)
August 3 - Chicago, IL
Pickin' Pear (folk-n-roll)
July 5 - Hamilton, OH
July 6 - Louisville, KY
July 7 - Cincinnati, OH
July 12 - Naperville, IL
July 13 - Naperville, IL