Studio Talk: Alex Webster

_MG_5060 (1)001Cannibal Corpse bassist and BGM columnist Alex Webster discusses A Skeletal Domain

I’m inspired by bass players whose tone you can hear all night long. No matter what they’re doing, they’re still present, and that really inspired me on this record. Cannibal Corpse is a death metal band, but I’ve always been very impressed by thrash metal production, and I always wondered what our band would sound like with a production that was a little closer to something that a thrash band like Exodus or Overkill would do. I feel like the bass tones on A Skeletal Domain are leaning a little in that direction, because you can hear the bass quite clearly. That overdriven tone cuts through, and I’m pretty sure you can hear every note I play on the new album. That’s uncommon for bass in a metal band!

Before this new album I’d always used an amp in the studio, but for A Skeletal Domain I used an Aguilar Tonehammer DI pedal and a Darkglass Microtubes B7K DI overdrive pedal. The Aguilar was my clean channel, and I did a little EQ-ing on it and sent the other signal into the Darkglass. That channel was overdriven, so it gave our producer Mark Lewis options with the two channels. In the studio Mark also used the Ampeg SVX plugin, which simulates Ampeg amps. It’s one of the best bass sounds I’ve ever gotten.

I have a signature Spector, which is a modification of the Euro 5 LX, made in Spector’s Czech Republic shop. They’re really excellent, and super high quality. I’ve changed the fretboards from rosewood to ebony, because I’ve always liked that feel. I used to play Ibanez basses with ebony fretboards, and then for years I played Modulus basses with graphite fretboards, which has a similar feel to ebony. I also modified the electronics: in a standard Spector Euro 5LX you have a TonePump, and I still do have one of those in a bass which I use for recording, but for playing live I’ve always preferred the EMG BQC system, and that’s what I have in all of my signature basses. The pickups are 40DCs. The EMG system I have allows you to blend them equally. It sounds very tight that way: when it’s only the bridge pickup it lacks a little body, and when it’s only the neck pickup there’s a little too much body, as if it’s a little out of control.

A lot of the tone comes from your hands, as the saying goes, so my gear has changed over the years but a lot of the sound that people associate with me comes no matter what gear I’m playing. Having said that, gear has a big role in everything I’ve got. It’s all designed to have fully body and great attack. I want there to be a killer fundamental note and I want there to be a sharp, noticeable sound that cuts through when my finger hits a string. I’m a fingerstyle player, but I like to have an attack that can rival a pick player in terms of clarity.

IMG_5895 (1)002I endorse Aguilar and use a DB751 head and a DB810 cabinet live. What’s interesting about Aguilar is that they’re normally associated with studio and jazz musicians, but this rig I’ve put together is a really excellent metal rig. The cabinet has an excellent midrange growl, which is just what metal and rock players are looking for: it’s more than just jazz stuff.

Live, I’ve got my Aguilar on, and people in front of me are getting a good earful of it, but the sound that’s going to the desk is coming from a Radial Bassbone. On the road I use the Bassbone, plus the Darkglass for overdrive, and I do the same thing as I do in the studio and send two channels to the desk, the clean one from the Radial and the dirty one from the Darkglass. I like to have the amp giving me sub-bass behind me, though, and if I need a bit more volume I can turn it up myself.

I switch basses for different tunings. We have one group of songs which is detuned a minor third, meaning that every string is down one and a half steps, and then the bulk of the set is just a half step down. I’ve tried to adjust the string gauges within those tunings to make the basses sound similar, but they still end up sounding different, so I compensate on the Bassbone, which is a two-channel preamp, so I have channel one EQ-ed for one of those basses and channel two EQ-ed for the other. When it comes time to change basses, I just switch channels and they sound a lot more similar.

A Skeletal Domain is out now on Metal Blade. Info: www.cannibalcorpse.net

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