Heavy metal is a viable career option these days in a way that it never used to be, unless you were one of a privileged few. Nowadays, play like a demon, behave yourself on the tourbus and don’t irritate people and you could be set for life. Such a one is the affable Tony Campos, a man who has wielded an expert bass in bands from various subgenres of the metal mothership. He first came to prominence in the nu-metal act Static-X, which sold many millions of albums with radio-friendly tunes, while he exercised his extreme metal side in a grindcore band called Asesino alongside Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares. When Static-X split in 2009, Campos emerged with a splendid deal that enables him to earn money from his old band without doing anything (“I want them to keep playing!” he chuckles) and allows him to continue to ply his trade elsewhere.
Campos is a man in demand, it seems, playing his new Zon in several landmark metal acts lately. “I’ve been really lucky since the whole Static-X thing fell apart in 2009,” he says when we meet him on Soulfly’s tourbus in London. “I’ve played with Al Jourgensen of Ministry and now I’m with Soulfly: these are pioneers of their respective genres. The end of 2011 was pretty cool, actually, because I did some songs for Ministry and then I did the Soulfly and Prong records. That was a whole lot of rehearsal! For Soulfly’s last album but one, Enslaved, the songs were already demoed and then we went into the studio to jam them out, but for Ministry it was different – Al just said ‘You guys write something!’ while he did his programming. Then for Prong we were writing out on the road, so quite a few of those songs were co-written by me. Since then I’ve been with Soulfly, which is amazing because I’ve known Max [Cavalera, founder] since I met him on Ozzfest 2000. I heard that their bass player had quit back in 2011, and I’d just come off the road with Prong, so I let them know that I was available. I played with Possessed for four gigs as well!”
Bass-wise, Campos keeps it simple, sending his Zon through a Bass Pod XT Pro which goes straight into his amp head and occasionally using a Dunlop bass wah. On Soulfly’s new album, Savages, you can hear this tried-and-trusted signal chain in mesmerising effect, although in other areas of his life, technology has been less forgiving. He recalls the first time he auditioned for Soulfly at their base in Phoenix, Arizona: “I got stuck in the middle of the desert! I pulled over and took a leak, but when I started up again and tried to drive off, the wheels of my truck were stuck in the dirt. Luckily there were loads of rocks around – so I dug out the tyres with an old plank, stuck some rocks under there and drove out, but it took about 40 minutes! At least I made it there…”
Savages is out now on Nuclear Blast Entertainment on 4 October. Info: www.soulfly.com.