This is our seventh album. I feel like I wasn’t really around for most of the recording, as I was trying to juggle it with having a real job, but I think that kind of worked. Being in a band is weird. Sometimes I feel like I’m supposed to be there for every decision to make sure I have a chance to influence it going in a direction that I like (or rather, prevent it going in a direction I don’t like), but unfortunately my attention span won’t let me sit around in a studio for that long. Some people can sit there trying stuff in the studio all day. I can’t. I’d rather just point microphones at a band, play the song, then get out of there. But these days, even if you set out to do that, you still might land in “I dunno, let’s scroll through some soft synth presets for an hour?” territory. Over time my involvement in Cat Empire albums has gravitated closer and closer towards “just show up, play bass, then walk away from the explosion without looking back”. But that’s a good way to be. Bass is my department. I have faith that the other departments are being handled very well by someone else. Separation of concerns. Delegation of responsibilities. Something like that. I wish I’d discovered this five albums ago.
A short note about gear: I played my ‘64 Precision through an Ampeg V-4B and an SVT-112 (Great rig! The poor man’s B-15!) on everything except Barricades and Oscar Wilde, which was my Hofner. I switched the head out for my Hiwatt Custom 100 for La Sirene, for maximum Melody Nelson click. There are a few tracks (Barricades, Echoes, Sola) where the low end is waaaaay more happening than the other tracks, when I had a Sansamp Para Driver in line before the amp. I took other things in (dozens of pedals, which didn’t get used, a Rickenbacker 4001 which I soon sold because the studio proved I don’t like the sound of it anywhere near as much as I like how it looks - and I don’t want to live like that) but they didn’t make the grade. I played my old German upright on Saturday Night. Out in the live room with a mic in front of it. That bass doesn’t have a pickup at the moment, which simplified things. “Do you need a DI?” “No, I have nothing to plug in.”
A longer note about the actual music because that’s more important than the gear: Kila. I really just did my thing on this one. Originally it was the same line played with a pick and a dirtier sound, but that didn’t survive. Stolen Diamonds. The brief was ‘play that line for a really long time’, which luckily is one of my favourite things. Oscar Wilde. I think Felix wanted a really busy Graceland kind of thing but I convinced him it only needed about one note every fifteen seconds. There is a bass solo at the start. I would usually say, “That’s very rare for me,” but there are three on this album. Ready Now. Not much to it: play something that fits under the horn line. Barricades: this started as a track Harry, Jan and Ollie got drunk and made after hours. The next day Will and I replaced the drums and bass. I think the demo had constant 16th notes. I left a few of them out. Anybody. I think Felix wanted a really busy Graceland kind of thing (again) so I sat outside in the dark with my bass one night and came up with the best bass fill I could possibly imagine. It was hilarious. I have voice memos of me laughing and trying to play it. Further down the track, a mix turned up in the Dropbox without the bass fill I’d recorded. That’s probably the most Fleetwood Mac thing that’s ever happened to me in this band but in hindsight the song is much more tasteful as a result. La Sirene. Felix was surprised we liked this one but I thought it was great. The French lyrics made me want to sound like one of those bass players in the ’60s, so I took that and ran with it. A cyclical chord progression, where it’s not quite clear when the start of the cycle is, that I haven’t gotten right many times yet, but luckily one of them was while we were recording. Echoes. I always love hearing those old reggae tracks where one of the bass strings is about half a semitone out of tune, and always wished I had the guts to do that on purpose. So I did. Who’s That. Another bass solo. Other than that, there’s not much to it. I just play the piano riff, basically. I love it when the song makes it obvious what I should play. Or maybe one of my strengths is hearing what the song is telling me to play. Adelphia. The hardest thing I’ve ever recorded, I think! It took hours to learn too. By the time we were finished, I still wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. But when I came back in the next day and the smoke had cleared, I absolutely loved it. Saturday Night. I hadn’t played much upright for a while, and expected to need to spend all afternoon trying to play the song, but was pleasantly surprised and I think we used the first or second take. Maybe upright bass is like riding a bike. A bike that gives you blisters if you haven’t ridden for a while. Bow Down to Love. Another “play that riff forever” situation. That’s my MO. Sola. I wasn’t happy with my playing on this one, but as I listened back I realised that even if I could do a better take, I probably shouldn’t. The sleepy, barely-hanging-on-to-the-beat feel was exactly what it needed.
It’s available on Spotify.