JEORDIE WHITE | BASE TENDENCIES
"I don't pay that much attention to the technical aspects of bass," claims Jeordie White. "I am more focused on songwriting and the art of music than on bass specifically. I use the bass as a tool to create my music."
In spite of his assertion, White is one of the busiest bassists in rock. You might recognize him by his previous moniker, Twiggy Ramirez -- a name bestowed upon him by shockprocker Marilyn Manson. A member of Manson's crew since 1993, White can be heard on the artist's 1996 multi-platinum Antichrist Superstar and five other Manson albums, bringing a low-end rumble to the group's angry music. Since leaving Manson last year, Jeordie has recorded with Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme and was one of a select few to audition for Metallica's bass chair. In his most recent move, he assumed the vacant bass slot in A Perfect Circle, laying down melodic riffs amid dark guitar textures after original bassist Paz Lenchantin departed to join Zwan.
White joined A Perfect Circle in time to record the group's sophomore release, Thirteenth Step. "I've known Billy Howerdel for years," says Jeordie, explaining how he got the gig. "And I found out about the vacancy when I bumped into Josh Freese at a New Year's Eve party. We got together and played, and it felt right. Josh is the best drummer I've played with.: The band also includes tool's Maynard James Keenan on vocals, and since guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen is touring with Queens of the Stone Age, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha has filled in for live shows.
Is playing with A Perfect Circle giving you new skills?
It's training me to be a better player. The bass parts are more complicated than what I've had to play in the past, so I'm forced to improve. Each performance becomes a lesson for me.
What's the difference between playing bass for Marilyn Manson and A Perfect Circle?
Well, A Perfect Circle is a two-guitar band and Manson has just one guitarist--that alone is an immediate sonic difference. I had to fill up more space and low end with Manson. I used Ampeg heads and cabs and a Gibson Thunderbird bass for a tone that was more of a rumble, or a huge wall of thud. APC calls for a more percussive sound, similar to Eric Avery's tone on Jane's Addiction's Nothing's Shocking. I've replaced my Ampeg amps with three Mesa/Boogie Bass 400+ heads, but I'm still using an Ampeg 8x10 cabinet placed on its side. The Mesa/Boogie heads give me a punchier, tighter sound that works better for APC's music. Instead of the Thunderbird, I'm playing a Fender Precision Deluxe strung with Ernie Ball strings. As for effects, right now I have only a Prescription Electronics Experience octave pedal, which I use for distortion on one song, but eventually I will need to add other effects like delay.
Has your playing approach changed?
The styles of the bass lines are different for each band. Manson's music tended to be mostly straighahead in 4/4 with lots of marches or swings. APC music waltzes more; the songs are in 3/4 or odd time signatures. There are some parts where I play higher up on the neck than I ever did with Manson. APC is pretty much a live band, but with Manson we ran more sequences. With Manson I honestly could have played a bass with only two strings and it would have worked out just fine. That doesn't mean it was easier music to play, but just that it was different. There were times I would play the same riff for three minutes straight. With A Perfect Circle, there are more parts and changes.
Are you using a pick or playing fingerstyle?
I play with a pick -- a big purple Dunlop triangle pick -- and I like to turn up as loud as i can without killing the soundman. That's more about feel and vibe than a "Hey, listen to me" attitude. It makes me play better to physically feel the bass loud on stage.
How much did you contribute to Thirteenth Step?
I recorded about 80% of the bass. Most of the material was already written by Billy before I joined the band, but I did write two songs with them -- "The Package" and "Crimes". I also worked on the bass lines for songs that were already written.
Do you have a daily practice routine when you are on the road?
No, I pretty much pick up the bass to record, play onstage, o rehearse, that's it. I like to concentrate on the vibe and the groove and not over-think any of it.
What's important to you when it comes to tone?
I have always been a plug-in and figure-it-out-as-you-go kind of guy. In the studio, I've found it's best to just set up and do what you do. You'll end up coming up with something exciting. Don't get me wrong -- it's good to spend time getting great tones, but I've learned a lot from producers who experiment as they go an ddon't spend too much time in pre-production. I prefer recording to be more spontaneous and to capture the initial moment of inspiration.
How important is live performance to you?
Coming from a band that is ased on image and theatrics and performance, I'm trained to automatically work the lights and the stage. I am so used to doing it, it's almost subconscious for me. On this tour, Maynard is in the dark most of the time and James and Josh are on a riser behind me, so the spotlight seems to be on Billy and me. Visually as well as audibly, bass and guitar are very prominent.
What do you feel is your major strength as a bassist?
My understanding of rhythm. Before I picked up the bass, I was a guitar player. I started playing when I was 13 years old, and I never spent much time learning leads. I came from the thrash-metal school where the guitar followed the drums and the bass reinforced the guitar riff. I taught myself by listening to players like Scott Ian from Anthrax and Metallica's James Hefield. I had just started playing the bass when I was asked to join the Manson band in 1993, and it was a natural switch, because I was basically a rhythm player anyway. That particular musical upbringing helped make me the player I am today. To be good in that style of music the bass, drums, and guitar need to be a tight, focused unit. That made me take the bass seriously by learning to play right on the money with the guitars and drums.