Wednesday, 16 May 2012

INTERVIEW - Steve DiGiorgio

Steve DiGiorgio is a highly respected American bass musician who has played in heavy metal bands such as; Death, Autopsy, Control Denied, Testament, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Charred Walls of the Damned, Obituary, and is a founding member of Sadus. He is widely renowned for his technical skills on the fretless bass. He is also a founding member of the jazz-band Dark Hall and is currently the bass player for Futures End. Steve was kind enough to answer a few questions for Chamber Of Ages.

COA: When did you start playing bass and are you self taught?

SD: Not really. I played different instruments when I was young through school, so obviously the fundamentals were all there, and I learned to read in class. Started on woodwinds, I switched to brass, then ended up on strings. So I kind of was programmed the right way, but it was really just whatever public school would teach you. Plus, since I switched around instruments so much, I never really specialized. So it didn't seem like I was a prodigy or anything by any means. I kind of started playing bass in this style of music like anyone else – I just sat on the side of my bed next to my stereo, just playing to albums. But that's when a lot of people first started to learn music in general, and I had already been, as a kid, playing music constantly. It's kind of a hybrid of self-taught and classically trained, I guess. It's somewhere in the middle. What I’m playing now is definitely self-taught know what I mean?

COA: Why have you chosen to play fretless bass?

SD: Well, I just love the sound of it. When I started to play it, I just liked that sound. There are tones you can get on that you could not get on a fretted, and I wanted that for me. Once I found the sounds I was looking for, I stuck with it. It gave me my own kind of little niche in a big, big sea of unoriginality and look-alikes and do-alikes. I kind of had a little thing of my own, and I just kind of built on it. I try to make what I play sound fretless, because it's just basically something I like.

COA: How did you develop your technique and musicianship?

SD: Just basically starting off in a thrash metal band with two guitar players that, when they picked, it would sound like someone just kicked a beehive down a hill. I mean, their hands were blurry! I started off on bass with fingers, and just as an experiment, when we got these thrash guitar players I switched to pick just to try it out, and I would watch their hands and say, “How the hell could I pick like that?” and there was no way, my mechanism was just totally different to keep up with them. So, I realized I had five picks – well, my pinky never touches a string, and my thumb doesn't really pick, it just kind of bashes – so I had several picks on my hand without using a pick. I just developed this quick finger technique without even kind of pre-planning it. It just kind of came out as my only way to keep up. I mean, they were just hell-bent on playing fast, fast and faster, and that's all it was about back then. When we were young, if we weren't the fast band in the world, well, show us who's faster and give us a day, and we'll be faster than them the next day. That's the only way my technique came out, as far as speed, is because I had to keep up with those guys. I didn't really analyze my technique or realize I had one until other bass players started asking me about it, and then I had to start thinking about what I was doing. And that totally screwed me up.

COA: Who are your main influences in the bass world?

SD: I just try to stay influenced and inspired by everything and everyone around me that I can. I still hold on to the influences of my youth when I was starting out and learning who was out there. Guys like; Chris Squire, Geddy Lee, Dave Pegg, Steve Harris, Geezer Butler, Charles Meeks and Billy Sheehan.

COA: How did you get involved with session work in the extreme metal genre?

SD: My personal level with that was a friend connection, but the result of it made me this really well-known session bass player, and I just made more friends by touring and playing. Now it’s to the point where e-mails and phone calls and all kinds of crap comes in from so many different level bands. The first band was called Autopsy, which is just a really underground death metal band, but the drummer of that band used to play drums in Death. So Autopsy was my first session gig, but it was just helping out friends. But because of that connection, the guy from Death called me, who was mainly a friend just knowing that I would fill in.

COA: You've recently been taking part on the Death To All Tour, as a tribute to the late Chuck Shuldiner. Is there any news about a second Control Denied album?

SD: I don’t know if we’ll get to it exactly this year, but a lot of the legal issues have been pretty much cleared-up now and there are plans for us to get together and do the second Control Denied album. Chuck’s parts have been recorded and he finished everything he had to do when he was still getting around and could play. Him and Richard’s parts are completely done, it’s just the rest of us – me and Shannon and Tim that need to finish. There are no confirmed dates or super facts to put out, but I know a lot of people have been asking and I’ve been answering the question now for over 10 years, “Will the album ever come out?” and it just seemed like it never would. But I’ve talked to his family, I’ve talked to his personal manager and I’ve talked to the band members and we are definitely moving ahead for planning the recording.

COA: What was it like to work in the studio with Chuck Shuldiner for a Death record?

SD: Sometimes people make good music together, and sometimes they vibe like yin and fucking yang…! Chuck is credited with a lot of things in the music world (metal world, of course), but one thing a lot of people don’t know much about is how aware he was. What I mean is that he was a good listener. If I thought of a wacky bassline to something he was writing, before I could even try to explain why it came to me, he was already ahead of it and looking for something on the next part. He had a good sense of when to hold me back and when to push me. It was great to have someone, especially the “main man” of the band not only appreciate what I contributed but also help me find my inner demon to conjure even sicker and more abstract things to play. There really was some math going on in that roiling storm sometimes.

COA: I'm led to believe that you've got two teenage kids. What do they think about metal?

SD: What do they think about it!? I’m back here in my little office/jam room trying not to turn into my parents and tell them to “turn it down”. I’m in here making metal, they’re out there turning it up! They listen to a lot of stuff, most of it’s really heavy stuff. Most of it’s new but I don’t know the names of the bands. But, it’s not that different than what we were listening to when we were young.

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