Friday, June 15, 2012

Fat Friday Feature: Guest Post By Bill Zink

It's Friday - time to feature another amazing bass player/bass part.  Today's post was authored by Bill Zink.  Take it away, Bill. . ..

Fat Friday - Genesis P. Orridge and the Bass as Sound Generator

I recently scarfed up a good deal on one of those Orange "lunchbox" amps: a little 15 watt all tube head called the Dark Terror.  I got it because I wanted to have access to that nasty grindcore guitar sound that I love but rarely ever use.  So, I got it plugged in, cranked up the gain, and . . . meh.  Not so much.  I figured maybe it was weaker than expected because I was using a Telecaster, when that death metal sound works so much better with overwound Duncan humbuckers, or pickups like that.

And then, almost out of a sense of ritual more than anything else, I tuned the the Tele down to a drop-D:  much better!  And when I tuned it all the way down to a C, it got even nastier.  I still need some humbuckers to really maximize the darkness of the Dark Terror, but it's clear that the evil lives in the low end.

And that is today's lesson: the evil lives in the low end.  Ladies and gentlemen, Genesis P. Orridge:

This is a departure for Fat Friday: Genesis was much more interested in pounding your ass than he was in moving it.

Throbbing Gristle played at volume levels right at the top end of human tolerance, and Genesis chose to play bass because of the low-end power that the instrument gave him: he often talked about the ability to do physical damage with his over-amped bass.  "Zyklon B Zombie" shows how he used bass as the primary melodic instrument while still occupying the bottom end (certainly not a rarity - Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" does pretty much the same thing, though the bass is reinforced by the guitars there).

TG's bass fixations didn't limit themselves to string basses: they also exploited high volume low end growls from their synthesizers, as here, in perhaps their most famous song, "Hamburger Lady":

In among all the syths and noise, Genesis chose the bass because only the bass gave him the percussive and physical punch needed to execute his version of music.  Here's some live TG with Genesis strapped to his trademark Gibson EB-1:

Guitars have always been the weapon of choice among noiseheads, while bass was often relegated to a grounding role, rounding up the wacked-out guitars like a border collie rounding up sheep (I know, I was in one of those bands).  Throbbing Gristle was a band built around the low end, with the low end as its primary force of assault.  The music sounds somewhat tamer these days, especially at lower volume (remember kids: record at high volume, mix at low volume, for maximum impact on playback!), but Genesis and company manage to open new vistas with the low end . . . this is definitely a different kind of low end theory. 

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