Big Bottoms: Revocation’s Brett Bamberger
The best musicians know when to adapt. So when Brett Bamberger left New Jersey progressive metal alchemists East of the Wall for New England thrashers Revocation a year ago, he went prepared for a litany of new challenges. From his playing style to his signature bass tone, Brett had to make allowances in deference to his new band.
An expert in counterpoint and all things chromatic, in Revocation Brett embraces the root note, stays in the pocket and keeps the flourishes to a minimum. Known for his thick, sinewy distorted tone, Brett shelved his pedals and rumbled clean and clear… for a little while anyway.
Brett’s performance on the forthcoming self-titled album by Revocation (due out Aug. 6 — stream the new song “Invidious” here) is true to the band’s thrash metal roots, and their inspiration from the likes of Slayer, Testament, Exodus and Kreator. The only difference is Brett’s heavily-distorted bass grooving. His new focus, however, is on rocking hard (never a problem) and bringing out the best in the guitars and drums.
Below, Brett discusses working long distance with Revocation, taking criticism for his new bass approach, bringing back his old bass tone, gear, Argonauts and East Of The Wall.
I’ve had some time now to get into the new Revocation record. Your playing is understated, but I fee like you still get yours.
Yeah, but it’s still not like an East Of The Wall record, where the bass is up front and there’s so many bass-centric parts. But I got some freedom to do some weird stuff. I like working in this setting where Dave [Davidson, guitars/vocals] and Dan [Gargiulo, guitars/vocals] are the band’s songwriters and they hand me the tune and we jam out. I’ll take the tunes home and sit with them and write parts and things like that. It’s cool.
Your role as the bass player in Revocation is so much different than what it was in East Of The Wall, so to whom do you look, as a bass player, when you’re writing bass for this band?
It’s tough. I notice when checking message boards, people are like, “This guy isn’t playing what he’s supposed to be playing! He’s not ripping like he was in East Of The Wall.”
I’m like, “Guys, you don’t put fucking 10 pounds of garlic on every dish.” For each different musical project you do, it demands a different thing. For me, stepping back and really just grooving on the root notes and letting the parts be without a lot of counterpoint, it was a learning experience for me.
Looking to other players, there’s so many guys in this scene that just do it well. To be specific, I don’t know. You know when it’s bad and when it’s good. Whatever feels right. I’m hearing the parts a little bit more instead of 10 different things going on. It’s interesting for me.
So you’re not wrapped up in asking yourself “What could I be doing in this part?”
No, I’ll ask what they’re feeling with a part. Sometimes it’s just supposed to be straight up and then we’ll go like that. For the more difficult parts, I’ll ask where they want the root to be. My ear wants to hear the “wrong” notes, and Dave, who has a sick amount of training behind him, doesn’t want to hear the “wrong” notes. It just sounds sour to him with his music, I’ve found. He likes hearing weird stuff in other music, but when it comes to his jams, he wants the more straightforward root, no crazy harmonies.
There are a couple parts where I’ll say I want to do something weird and I’ll send over the idea. They’ll hear it, and if it works, we move on. Some of the stuff we wrote while we were recording it. We only got like three solid jam sessions with all of us in the room playing everything before we recorded. I got to spend a lot of time at home working on stuff, but the record is straightforward.
Were there times where the guys encouraged you to let loose?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting. I’ve been playing with the East Of The Wall guys and the Postman Syndrome guys—essentially the same group of musicians for 15 years. When we all got in a jam room, it was like everyone was little worker army ants and did their own thing.
With Revocation, sometimes they’ll tell me to do something weird, and sometimes I’m just not feeling it in the same place. It’s just a different chemistry. It’s definitely teaching me a thing or two about working with different guys in a different style of music.
You asked me before if I try to write something technical over a part; I’m more conscious of trying not to overplay. I’m trying to do something minimal so it doesn’t stand out. It’s not a bass-heavy band; it’s a guitar-heavy band.
Do you feel like you got some of that bass lead guitar stuff out of your system with East Of The Wall? Would you have approached a band like Revocation the same way 10 years ago?
I wouldn’t even know enough about playing the Revocation style 10 years ago. Maybe I would. Ten years ago is a long time. I was still playing in weird bands. Maybe I’d have a different approach. As you get older, you just want to hear things be as they are. If it calls for something weird, I’m all about it.
A lot of the bands I hear with blazing bass don’t sound right. And you think it might sound heavier with a simpler bass part. For me, the simplest parts are the most rewarding ones because they’re the heaviest parts.
What’s your rig like right now?
Right now I’m playing a Mesa Boogie 400+ Head. I tour with SVT 8x10s, pretty much just running some effects. I’ve got a [Mesa Boogie] V-Twin Pedal with a line selector because I like more of a dirty tone. So I eventually got to sneak the tone that I prefer into the band. Those guys eventually accepted it and they’re into it.
I’m playing a Pedulla Rapture bass. I’ve always played those.
I thought you played a Zon bass.
I have a Zon. I play a Zon in the other band that I’m in, Argonauts. That bass is tuned to G, so it’s got a graphite neck.
Dave Witte’s in town right now. We’re going to jam tonight to write some stuff. The band’s a side project for us, so whenever he’s in town, we get together. He just got back from Australia.
I saw a picture of you playing some Ibanez bass with Argonauts.
Yeah, dude, that’s an Ibanez Gio! It’s pretty much the shittiest bass you can get. It’s awful, but it sounds cheap and heavy, which is cool. That thing has a really shitty boom to it that I really like. I bought it because I needed a backup tuned to G. If my bass breaks on tour, nobody else is going to have one tuned to G. I just ended up using for all of those shows because it was so shitty. For some reason I like it [laughs].
Are you practicing anything specific these days?
I practice about an hour a day. I work a lot and I have a special lady at home. Finding time to practice is tough. I jam on Revo tunes and then I write. I’m not really practicing any technique. Over the past two years, I haven’t gotten a chance to write. I’ve been writing musical memoirs, small pieces and recording them. I’ve been playing a lot of guitar too.
Who is most important to your development as a bass player?
One dude I never get sick of hearing, who I could listen to all day every day, is Colin Marston [Dysrhythmia/Gorguts]. He is pretty much the most badass dude out right now. He’s weird, he’s technically proficient, he’s a genius, but he doesn’t play geeky shit. He’s got nasty tone and it’s just hard-hitting. He’s not like tickling anything; he’s beating the fuck out of his bass. I just like what he’s all about. His sound is aggressive and dark. You listen to Dysrhythmia and you can play that, but you could never come up with that shit. It’s so awesome.
Do you write a lot of what you consider bass lines or do you think more in terms of riffs?
I’m more melodic. I move towards counterpoint melodies. Grooving is something I had to learn more from the Revocation dudes. I really started listening more to the drums and what the part demands. I always did more counterpoint stuff.
Is Argonauts going to do a record soon?
We haven’t done one yet because Dave is so busy with Municipal Waste and I’m so busy with Revo. Chris [Alfano] is playing bass in East Of The Wall now and they just did a record. John [Adabato] has a full-time job and some kids. When the stars align and we can get together, we’ll record some tunes.
I thought Chris really killed it on the song EOTW released earlier this year, “I’m Always Fighting Drago.” What did you think?
I agree. I actually wrote all the bass lines for that song. It was weird because he played most of the parts true to what I was doing on it. The kid is a super shredder and he’s going to be fine. He always wanted to play bass [instead of guitar] in East Of The Wall, so it worked out better for him. I’ve been playing through his rig lately and it sounds fucking awesome. It sounds so much better than mine.
He’s playing through an old ‘80s Ampeg head and a 4×10, but his amp is so punchy it sounds great! I’m really excited to see what he brings forward because I only worked on three or four—maybe five of those songs—I really don’t remember. They were all written and then I wrote my parts. They’ve since completed the record. I’m interested in hearing what the record sounds like. Chris’ rig sounds good and it’s really true to the band. In my opinion, it just sounds better than mine [laughs].