A couple of weeks ago, I scheduled a consulting session with one my favorite musicians, Bryan Beller. Bryan needs no introduction, but he’s played with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Mike Keneally, Dethklok and of course his own superhuman band, “The Aristocrats”. He has a solo career too, where his own touring band members are the exact same members as the Mike Keneally Band. I’m a huge fanboy, and always found his bass tones ridiculously amazing. I’m not even really a bass player and I’m a fan. Go figure. While some of the conversation topics shall forever remain private, there are other things that I can share here that may be of interest to folks out there.
On how he got his bass tones from the studio, on the latest Joe Satriani record “Shockwave Supernova”, as well as on his own records (solo, Aristocrats).
For the recent Satriani record, he used the A-Designs REDDI. Distortion came from the Sansamp plugin. The recording chain was decided by the staff, rather than him. There was an AMPEG rig in an isolation room, miced up. DI was duplicated, and SansAmp bass-driver plugin was put on one of them.
On his own records (Aristocrats, Solo), he decides on the recording chains. The signal path is not the same as his live rig. On records, they’re typically DI – one clean DI, one dirty DI, blended together. The dirty DI is done using overdrive pedals.
For the song “Oh No” from The Aristocrats “Culture Clash” album, he used a combination of overdrive/distortion pedals – the Dark Glass Electronics B3K overdrive, and the Dunlop M80 distortion DI together. No mic cabs were used.
On whether the Aristocrats albums were mixed In-The-Box (ITB) or Out-of-The-Box (OTB)
First two albums “The Aristocrats” and “Culture Clash” were completely done ITB – i.e., within protools. The third record “Tres Caballeros” was mixed hybrid – i.e., with both protools and the console. I have always been curious about this because I’ve always really enjoyed the sonics (and the songs) of the 2nd record (“Culture Clash”).
If you’ve watched some of Bryan’s DVD extras for his solo records, you would notice that those albums were all mixed ITB as well (AND sounded awesome).
On how he works through writers block
Time. When forced a deadline, you’re just pushed to write. There was one song that he wrote in 6 hours because of this. But he recommends going away and coming back to it.
“Sometimes you need to live through the life experiences to be able to have something to write about.”
On how he keeps himself from repeating himself when coming up with new parts or contributions (on his own records or records for others).
He doesn’t really think about it like that. He just writes whatever works. The parts would always be like “different children from the same parent”.
This is an interesting answer, because I know Mike Keneally has mentioned publicly that he really puts emphasis into not repeating himself. These are very different approaches from two people that have worked so closely together for 20+ years! Fascinating indeed.
On how he approaches his work differently when it is his own project vs supporting another artists
Doesn’t try to approach anything differently. Some artists might want something a bit more basic, and just to play the song as it was written. It’s just whatever that works to serve the song/songwriter.
It’s usually up to the producer to make the balance. For Aristocrats each member produces his own songs. (Typically, each member contributes 3 songs – and their producing styles are quite different.).
On what piece of work he’s most proud of and why
- “Love Adrenaline” (which happens to be my favorite song he wrote too). Writing process for that: He had a good idea of where he wanted the song to go, and he just ‘chipped away at it’.
- “Through the Flower” (Aristocrats).
- Playing-wise, couple of songs from Keneally’s Sluggo album. “Life’s too Small”
- Proud of “Smuggler’s Corridor” too.
- He’s more interested in compositions than anything in his playing.
- Hopefully his playing makes the song better. Otherwise he feels that he’s doing it wrong.
- Favorite work of his usually are ones that are the better songs and ones that he has an emotional attachment to.
On how he writes
Yes. He grew up playing piano and his writing always comes from it first. The piano is how he visualizes music.
Bonus tidbits if you’re still reading this:
- I found out that Bryan went to school with Tobias Ralph from The Crimson Projekct (who also played drums on my record)!
- Bryan finds my music weird. I was a bit surprised to hear that at first, considering some of his past work he’s done, so I’ll more than gladly take it as a compliment (… even if it wasn’t meant to be one!)!
(Continue to Part 2 here)