Interview: Jett Heysen-Hicks, Tracer


I’m always striving to express in one note as much as others express in three. I only play four string but I play tuned to Bb, Eb, Ab, Db. I made the switch to this tuning four years ago. I wanted the colours the low B string offered, but I never saw the point of the G string on bass in a loud rock band. As soon as you stray onto that G string much above the 10th fret, you are intruding on the world of cymbals and guitar. Working in a three-piece requires each player to cover as much sonic space as possible so I should be playing in spaces that the guitars, drums and vocals can’t. I leave it to the guitars and vocals to do all the fiddly-woo in those higher registers. I equate slapping the bass with tapping on the guitar, it is a great trick that might impress other players or drunk people, but it almost never speaks to the heart. I see the role of the bass as a supporting instrument, so flashy techniques that draw focus away from the singer, the melody and the song feel shallow and somehow unbecoming of a bass player. Also, I am a firm believer in the less-is-more approach and I have never heard a slap line that didn’t sound like the more-is-more ideal had been applied. Listen to the players around you. Listen with all your might to that kick drum, those hats, the melody and play with that. My first bass was a Squier PJ bass with a massive Metallica sticker on it. It was a great bass to start out with. The early stages of learning any instrument can be intensely frustrating and the last thing you want is for the instrument to add to that frustration. I was fortunate to begin on an instrument that welcomed me in, rather than one that put up a wall. My favourite bass is the one I currently play. It’s a Sandberg VM4 35” scale four-string, and it is nothing short of perfect. Whenever I used to get basses, there were a number of mods that I would have to do to them immediately, just so that they would be reliable road instruments, including changing the input jack, the nut, the wiring, the bridge and so on. I couldn’t believe it when I picked up the Sandberg that someone had built a bass where all those upgrades came as standard. On top of that Gregor at Sandberg was able to build me a four-string in 35” scale for the Bb, Eb, Ab, Db tuning. Every note counts, play each note like it is the last one you will ever get to play. We’re getting ready to drop the new Tracer record, Water For Thirsty Dogs, and then smashing out a tour supporting Apocalyptica across Europe in October and then we do our own headlining shows in the UK in November.
Basses Sandberg VM4, Dunlop custom
Effects D*A*M* Ezekial 25/17 fuzz, Darkglass B7k distortion, Dunlop bass wah
Amps Verellen Meatsmoke, Ampeg 810e

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