BRYAN BELLER – The WALL Of BASS For STEVE VAI, ZAPPA, THE ARISTOCRATS…
Hi… Introduce yourself to Bassylum readers please?
Hello, this is Bryan Beller, and I’m very glad to be talking to the readers of Bassylum!
You have a great feel for the music… so when you do your amazing solos,Is it just music theory or is there something else behind that?
Well, thanks for the compliment on “feel for the music”. I think this is more important than chops or playing fast or anything like that. About soloing, I think theory always informs it to a degree, but to be honest I’m not a really intuitive soloist in my own opinion. It’s something I have to work at. I’m much more fluent in creating basslines in improvising while supporting the rest of the band, which is something I enjoy doing very much.
Not manny artists ask their wifes to share stage with them…how did that project start? you know,i went to see Bonamassa show ,he performed a few numbers with his girlfriend… well .. it was a bit aquard when he did a tune he wrote for his ex.girfriend… dont get me wrong on this one….
This is quite a long story, but the short version is that I first met Kira at Berklee College Of Music in the early ’90s, and was immediately impressed by her talent and professionalism. We worked together on several projects there (one of which featured Abe Laboriel, Jr. on drums, now the drummer for Paul McCartney!). But we didn’t become romantic partners until many years later, in 2005, when we reunited at the funeral of a mutual friend. She is interested mainly in singer/songwriters and pop and country music, while I prefer instrumental rock fusion and metal. But we both love and appreciate funk, soul and R&B, and I heard her new original material (which ended up being songs on her 2007 release Love In A Dangerous World) and really wanted to play it live with her! She was skeptical at first – she thought I might play too many notes! – but it worked well the first time we tried it, and we’ve been having fun playing together and touring ever since.
History behind THE ARISTOCRATS? how did you come up with that name… you guys really kickass… There are rumors you are coming to Croatia? …. The Aristocrats Dvd Realese?
The Aristocrats were formed by accident, actually! Marco Minnemann, Greg Howe and I were supposed to do a gig at NAMM, and Greg had to bail out on short notice, so I contacted Guthrie without even knowing him based on recommendations from others, and from watching some insane YouTube clips of him. The reaction to our short NAMM set was so great that we knew we had to make a band out of it, so we did. Then we started coming up with song titles, and they were all quite “dirty”, so Guthrie thought of the name “The Aristocrats” because there is a very dirty joke called the Aristocrats that he was thinking of. It’s too difficult to explain, but you can look it up on the internet if you want to know more. We are planning a live DVD that we hope to have released very late this year. And yes, there are plans to come to Croatia, but they are not 100% confirmed yet. You can find the most recent information about our tour dates at http://the-aristocrats-band.com/shows/
How did you get to play with Steve Vai… ? How was that like… to share stage with him? what did your reharsals look like…? was there any free space for you? did you guys improvise alot ?
I was introduced to Steve Vai because I was in Dweezil Zappa’s band at the time, and he was part of the whole “Zappa” circle of musicians. I recorded with him a few times in the ’90s and early ’00s, and we did a record together with the Metropol Orchestra called Sound Theories, Vol. 1 & 2. I actually auditioned for his live rock band in 1996 and didn’t get it, but then I auditioned again in 2007 and got the gig. It was a true honor to share the stage with someone who’s music from Passion And Warfare was such a key part of our collective music education, to say nothing of what a great guitarist he is. It was surreal! Rehearsals were always very long and difficult, but it always paid off when the show came around because the band would be so tight. I would say we had a little freedom in our parts, and I had more freedom than some of the other people in the band, but for the most part Steve writes his parts and wants you to play then the same way every night, which is part of the gig and fine with me.
Tv-Metal show? Dethklok band?You did a 7 week tour with amazing Mastadon,how was that like?…. man .. you re’everywhere
You are talking about Dethklok, the “band” from the U.S. television show Metalocalypse. This is almost impossible to explain in text, but the short story is that it’s a multimedia metal project in the melodic death metal genre, led by a great guitarist/composer named Brendon Small. He got my good friend Mike Keneally to be his other guitarist, and the amazing metal drummer Gene Hoglan to round out the band. I’m a big thrash metal fan from the ’80s – early Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, etc – so this is a lot of fun for me! We co-headlined a tour with Mastodon in 2009, and we got to watch them play Crack The Skye in its entirety every night, which was amazing. We’re all big Mastodon fans.
Can you tell me a bit on your bass gear.. how do you get “THE SOUND”… you have a killer p-bass,is that a custom too or? what do you like better.. passive or active electronics?(what pups do you like best?) and if you have to choose from 1 bass and 1 effect.. what would that be?….
About tone…there is no way I can properly summarize it in one interview. I am proud to use Mike Lull basses, Gallien-Krueger amplification, and D’Addario strings, and they combine to make what I think is the ideal rock-flavored bright jazz bass sound. But it all actually starts with your hands, and this is a theory I have that I explain in great detail on my new instructional DVD Mastering Tone And Versatility, which you can get right here:
To answer your other questions, the Mike Lull bass I have was a stock model (Modern 5) from the early ’00s, but since they don’t make it anymore, they are now introducing the Bryan Beller Signature Model based on my main axe! It will have Bartolini pickups (generally my favorite). I could take just my original Mike Lull Modern 5 and my Xotic Effects BB Bass Preamp for overdrive and be very happy.
Do you collect basses? any cool vintage bass you never carry around?
I am not a bass collector. I never bought a vintage bass. I’ve always preferred the “boutique” jazz basses, so that’s where my money goes, instead of the expensive vintage market.
Inspiration on THANKS IN ADVANCE? amazing album… it feels like there is a story behind every tune…how do you get that on instrumental only songs? Can we expect new solo projects?
Thanks In Advance was a very heavy album for me to write. It was about me finding my way to a new way of thinking – essentially being reborn as someone who is grateful for life as opposed to resentful of it when things don’t go as planned. I always try to write my instrumental music with some kind of intention of meaning, rather than just write a song and figure out what to call it later. The whole story of Thanks In Advance can be found here:
Bryan Beller DVD?you did a bonus dvd TO NOTHING….to nothing? How do you decide what is the most important in bass instructional videos? Cause’ there are so manny out there… but you really nailed this one….
The DVD To Nothing isn’t really an instructional video – it’s a documentary of the making of Thanks In Advance. We videotaped the tracking sessions and lots of behind the scenes footage in Nashville, Los Angeles, and San Diego, and I’m very happy with the way it all turned out. If you want to know what it was like to make this record, I think you’ll love the DVD. The main movie is 90 minutes long, and there’s an additional 2 hours of bonus video footage, plus audio demos as well. You can find out more about To Nothing right here: http://www.bryanbeller.com/cms/index.php?page=shop#TIADVD
Did you start writing your novel? I know you always wanted to do that.
No, that project is in a storage closet where it belongs.
Experience with Zappa?
I met Frank Zappa twice, at his house in the Hollywood Hills, in the months right before he died. He was skinny and very frail, but he still had his wit about him. I really didn’t say much in his presence – it was awe-inspiring, and actually a little scary to talk to him. Plus there was an air of reverence around him because everyone knew he didn’t have much time left. I was just grateful to have met him at all, and I’m aware that, thanks to his original efforts, I was able to start my career with a big advantage simply because I played in a band with someone with the last name of Zappa.
Onion Boy Records?
Onion Boy Records is just the name I gave to the “label” that puts out my own solo material. I am not looking to become a record label. I just like owning my own material and controlling the business around it. It makes much more sense at the indie level than just signing a deal with some other label and losing the rights to your own music.
Many people think you should do a record with John Mclaughlin…and we belive that it could be a trio of doom ressurection…well.. did you ever consider that…? well.. you should
That’s very flattering, what you said about John McLaughlin…I’m not sure I could keep up with him, but I’d be honored to play with him anytime, of course.
Thank you very much for this interview…see ya in Croatia