Pic: Tina Korhonen
Watch out for Bass Guitar Magazine’s August issue, out 29 July, for a cover interview with Arctic Monkeys bassist Nick O’Malley — and the chance to snap up two weekend tickets for either Reading or Leeds. Here’s a sneak preview!
The Aurora Borealis of fame is shimmering with multitudinous hue above a band whose career has climbed several degrees north of magnificent. In this rarified atmosphere of festival headline slots, world tours and explorations of the outlands and inner space of rock music it’s more vital than anything else to have feet planted firmly on the heft and hard-hewn ground.
The job of holding up this ever-shifting megastructure of rhythm and melody we otherwise know as Arctic Monkeys has been the responsibility of Nick O’Malley, bassist since 2006. O’Malley is in good form when Bass Guitar Magazine catches up with him to gabble about all things at the low end of the spectrum, beginning with the obvious looming magic of the headline spot at Leeds and Reading, 2014.
“Recently we’ve done some of the biggest gigs of our career, playing Madison Square Garden in 2014 and Glastonbury. We are getting more used to headline slots and they’re not as daunting as they used to be,” he tells us.
As Sheffield lads, of course, Leeds reigned supreme in the nascent Monkeys’ musical calendar. “Leeds was the first festival we all went to age 17,” confirms the bassman. “We’d been to a few gigs in Sheffield but this was the first big thing we’d gone to, and of course we caused mayhem for a few days.” Further, however, he will not be drawn, preferring the diplomatic route. But we can surely guess the rest…
When O’Malley joined the band in 2006 to fill in for original bassist Andy Nicholson as temporary replacement, he famously learned the band’s debut album set in two days flat, then embarked on a set of North American festival dates in front of 15-20,000 people. History records that shortly after those summer dates, O’Malley joined permanently.
He’d first picked up a bass at the age of 16, he says, in a music shop in the centre of Meadow Hall in his hometown. However, it was hardly what you’d call a smooth introduction to the instrument.
“While we were trying to tune it up, the strings broke,” he laughs. “Then I got one of those Squier gig packs for cheap, with the amp and everything. I hadn’t been musical before or from a musical background. I liked the idea of being a drummer but my dad said ‘No chance’ to that one pretty quickly. The guitar seemed too tricky so I then thought bass was the one.”
Like many a teenager his choice of music at the time was on the shouty side. “At 16 I was listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine: at that age I suppose I hadn’t developed a way of hearing bass-lines so much, and the bass was at the forefront of those bands. These days I’ve been listening to more Motown and soul: we all listen to all kinds of stuff. I like the fact that it’s the bass that makes people want to dance…”