Jeordie White Completes The Circle

Note: This is an expanded version of an interview that appeared previously in the October 2003 issue of Bass Player magazine

ďI was a bit worried about doing this interview because I donít pay that much attention to the technical aspects of bass. I wasnít sure I would have anything important to say,Ē states musician Jeordie White. ďI 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.Ē

If you are not immediately familiar with the name Jeordie White perhaps you may recognize him by his previous moniker Twiggy Ramirez Ė a name bestowed upon him by his former partner in musical crime, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson. A member of Mansonís crew since 1993, Whiteís bass, guitar, and songwriting chops can be heard on the bandís 1995 EP Smells Like Children, 1996ís multi-platinum Antichrist Superstar, 1998ís Mechanical Animals and 2000ís Holy Wood (In The Shadows Of The Valley Of Death). With Manson, White toured the world and elsewhere generating rabid enthusiasm from fans and scorn from right-wing do gooders.

In 2002, White parted ways with Marilyn Manson to follow his own path. Since that time he has kept himself busy with various projects including recording a Desert Sessions CD with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, working with Master of Realityís Chris Goss, auditioning for Metallica, and producing bands. Whiteís most recent move was to assume the vacant bass slot in A Perfect Circle following original bassist Paz Lenchantinís departure to Zwan. APC was formed in 1997 by guitarist Billy Howerdel, drummer Josh Freese, Lenchantin, and on vocals, Toolís Maynard James Keenan. The bandís debut disc Mer de Noms was released in May of 2000 and entered the Billboard charts at #4. After a lengthy hiatus, the band reemerged with new material and vision but without a bass player. Enter Jeordie White to complete the circle. A Perfect Circle is currently on a short-run promotional tour performing material from its sophomore Virgin Records release Thirteenth Step. We caught up with Jeordie via an early morning phone call from his hotel room in Cleveland where he shed some light on his career as one of the busiest bassists in rock music today.

How did you land the gig with A Perfect Circle?
I've known guitarist and songwriter Billy Howerdel for about 10 years. I found out that the band were in need of a bassist after bumping into drummer Josh Freese at a New Year's Eve party. We got together and played and it felt right. Josh Freese is the best drummer Iíve ever played with.

Are you picking up any new skills performing with APC?
Touring with A Perfect Circle is training me to be a better player. Iím forced to improve because the bass parts are more complicated than what Iíve had to play in the past. Each performance becomes a lesson for me.

Whatís the difference between playing bass for Marilyn Manson and A Perfect Circle?
Well, A Perfect Circle is a two guitar band and Manson just has one guitarist. So that alone is an immediate sonic difference. With Manson I used Ampeg heads and cabs and a Gibson Thunderbird bass. The tone was more of a rumble, a huge wall of thud. I had to fill up more space and low-end with Manson than I do now with APC. APC calls for a different type of bass tone. It is a more percussive type of sound, similar to Eric Averyís tone on Janeís Addictionís Nothings Shocking. For this gig Iíve replaced my Ampeg heads with Mesa Boogie Bass 400 +. Three of them. Iím still using an Ampeg 8x10 cabinet (placed on stage on its side). The Mesa Boogie heads give me a punchier, tighter sound that works better for APCís music. For a bass, I am playing a Fender P Deluxe strung with Ernie Ball strings.

Are you using any effects?
Right now I only have an Experience Octave pedal on stage. I use it for distortion on one song. Eventually I will need to add other effects like delay.

Gear and tonal differences aside, has your playing approach changed at all to fit in with A Perfect Circle?
The styles of the bass lines are different for each band. Mansonís music tended to be mostly straight-ahead in 4/4 with lots of marches or swings. APC music waltzes more, the songs are in ĺ or odd time signatures. With APC there are some parts in which I play higher up on the neck than I ever did with Manson. APC is pretty much a live band. More sequences were run with Manson. In Manson I honestly could have played a bass with only two strings on it and it would have worked out just fine. That doesnít imply that it was easier music to play but just that it was different. With Manson I would play the same riff for three minutes straight at times. There are more parts and changes with APC.

Are you using a pick or playing finger style?
I play with a pick. Purple Dunlops Ė the big triangle pick.

Do you play at a loud stage volume?
I like to turn up as loud as I can without killing the soundman. It is more of a feel and vibe thing not a Ďhey listen to me attitude.í It makes me play better to physically feel the bass loud on stage.

Did you play on Thirteenth Step?
Yes I did. I recorded about 80% of the bass that youíll hear on the new CD.

Did you take part in songwriting as well?
Most of the material for Thirteenth Step was already written by Billy before I joined the band. I did write two songs with them. One is called The Package and the other song is Crimes. We needed two more songs so we wrote those together. I also worked on the bass lines for songs that were already written like Pet and a few of the others on the CD.

Do you have a daily practice routine when you are on the road?
Pretty much, I pick up the bass to record, play on stage, or rehearse. Thatís it. I like to concentrate on the vibe and the groove and not to over think any of it.

How important is tone?
I have always been a plug it in and figure it out as you go along kinda guy. As far as the production side of it goes, getting tones in the studio and such, Iíve found in my experience that itís best to just set it up and do what you do. Youíll end up coming up with something exciting. Donít get me wrong, itís good to spend time getting great tones but Iíve learned a lot from producers like Chris Goss and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, guys who set up and do it and experiment as you go. They donít 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 the live performance to you?
Coming from a band that is based on image and theatrics and performance, Iím trained to just automatically work the lights and the stage. It is subconscious for me. I am so used to doing it. On this tour, having Maynard in the dark most of the time and James (guitarist James Iha Ėformerly of Smashing Pumpkins) and Josh on a riser behind me, the spotlight seems to be on Billy and me. Visually as well as audibly, bass and guitar are very prominent. (Note Ė APCís current stage set up is quite different from what has become the norm of modern day rock bands.. Check it out for yourself).

What do you feel is your major strength as a bassist?
My knowledge and understanding of rhythm. Before I picked up the bass, I was originally a guitar player. I started playing when I was 13 years old and I never really spent much time learning leads. I came from the school of thrash metal where the guitar followed the drums and the bass reinforced the guitar riff. I taught myself by listening to records and guitar players like Scott Ian (Anthrax) and James Hetfield (Metallica). When I was asked to join the Manson band in 1993 I had just started playing the bass. It was a natural switch-over because I was basically a rhythm guitar player anyway. Everything happens for a reason. That particular musical upbringing helped to make me the player that I am today. To be good in that style of music the drums, bass, and guitar needed to be a tight, focused unit. It made me take the bass seriously by learning to play right on the money with the guitars and the drums.

What bass players would you name as influential for you?
Paul McCartney and Gene Simmons.

What one aspect of your playing do you feel has led to your success?
Iíve learned to keep it simple.