Guitar World: Metallica is a lot heavier than some of its predecessors. The bass has made a comeback.
Jason: I'd like to think so. [Laughs] Bob Rock spent a lot of time figuring out what bass frequencies were going to work with the guitars. They cover so much space, we had to find some room for the bass to fit in and still allow the kick drum to break through. It took some time.
GW: Which of your basses did you use most on the album?
Jason: A Spectre, which worked out great.
GW: Did you use your Alembics at all?
Jason: Yeah. I tried out about 25 different basses. I went through P-basses, old Thunderbirds, new Thunderbirds, Paul Reed Smiths...you name it. But the Spectre was the one.
GW: Did you experiment with different pickups?
Jason: Not really; we had a nice selection of pickup configurations. But we did try different strings and different amps. I ended up using a combination of three or four different amps. I used 18-inch SVRs for the low end, a Marshall guitar cabinet with a Trace Elliot for a mid/high clickey thing, and an old Ampeg SVT head and cabinet for the meat of the sound.
GW: You wouldn't think that getting a good bass sound would be so complicated.
Jason: [laughs] I never realized what it entailed. It used to be quick because nobody gave it much consideration. But in Bob Rock I found someone who knew what he wanted and how to achieve it. I learned a lot by listening for what was needed in terms of actual bass sound. I learned to bring lots of mids up in my sound. I didn't do that before. I spent about three weeks recording my tracks.
GW: Did you use your new Hamer Mandocello twelve-string bass?
Jason: Yeah. I played it on some different little pieces. I'm into playing eight-string too. I have a bunch of those old Hagstroms, which sound pretty cool. I also have a Hamer eight-string. I was always into the multi-string thing, so it wasn't that hard to adapt to twelve. I use them sometimes to play rhythm parts.
GW: When you enter the studio, do you usually have all your bass parts worked out?
Jason: Yes. I had the songs down pretty well this time, and I tried to create a real rhythm section rather than a one-dimensional sound. If it took a few eight notes instead of just whipping around all over the place and losing the weight, then so be it.
GW: Did it take long to adjust to altering your playing style?
Jason: It took a second. [laughs] But I realized that's how it's got to be, and how I should be doing it anyway. Kirk and James have a big enough guitar sound, and are good enough players, so that they cover all that stuff anyway. When it comes time for a solo, I can cut loose and skeedle around. Now it comes down to the music--making it a real rhythm section for once, and letting the guitars do their work. I'm glad the rest of the band could tell me that that's what was needed.
GW: I know you use a pick on just about everything, but do you fingerpick on the acoustic numbers?
Jason: On a couple of the mellower songs, I do hit a few strings with my fingers--and on the twelve-string, to lighten my attack in
a couple of spots. But most of the time, I use a pick. That's how I'm comfortable.
GW: Is Bob Rock responsible for those well placed bass slides and swells?
Jason: Oh, yeah. He made a lot of suggestions about those types of things, and I tried them all. He could always see five or seven steps ahead of my playing. I've never seen anything like that.
GW: What kind of strings do you use?
Jason: LaBella's, .128 to .45 on the five string, and .105 to .45 on the regular.
GW: Your road basses appear to be customized.
Jason: Yeah, I pick the wood and everything. I also design the pickup configuration. Alembic has built my last 10 basses from my specs. Even if I go for an already existing shape, I'll modify the body contour so my arm comes down comfortably for picking. I had them put LED's on the side of the neck--different little things like that. I also have things coated on brass and gold.
GW: One doesn't usually associate Alembics with Metallica-style music. What attracted you to them?
Jason: I always thought they were incredible. As soon as I could afford one, I tried it--and that was it. Their factory is in Santa Rosa, so I can always go there and deal with them face to face, right down to the guy who helps me choose the wood.
GW: What are you going to use on the road?
Jason: My Alembic Stereo bass, four Ampeg 300-watt heads and several old Ampeg SVT 8x10 cabinets.
GW: Why is the album called Metallica
Jason: We just decided to keep it simple. It took us a long time to think up that title. [laughs] I guess we could have called it "Five," or titled it after one of the songs. I don't know; you got any ideas?