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Interview with Bassist Alex Diaz

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Alex Diaz of Florida-based punk/rock/grunge outfit, The Quarantined doesn’t just play bass—he makes his own. Yeah, seriously…he’s a luthier.

Since joining forces with singer/guitarist, Sean Martin in 2012, Diaz has not only provided the low end for the hard-hitting group; he has produced their albums and videos, taken their band shots, and helped to shape their sound since their first “Antiquate Hate” EP. We chatted with Diaz to see how he got involved with The Quarantined, what his rig looks like, and what we can expect to hear from the band in the near future.

How did you and Sean meet? 

We actually met twice. We went to Musicians Institute together and had some classes together, but after that, each went their own way. It was actually another guy I had been playing with and trying to get a project going with (unsuccessfully) that told me this band of people he knew needed a bass player; it ended being Sean that was in the band. 

You have a lot of roles in The Quarantined. Aside from being the bassist, you’re also co-producer, one of the lead songwriters, and the band photographer and videographer. Does it ever get a bit overwhelming wearing all those different hats? More importantly, how do you also manage to simultaneously take band pictures and capture video when you’re also in the band (haha)? 

I mean, sometimes, but I like it. I like having many roles and helping with whatever I am capable of. Also I can never keep my mouth shut, but it ends up being that I have good insight. Also, wanting what’s best for the band is always helpful. With the photos and videos, I like photography; it’s a hobby and something I really enjoy. Taking the band photos though has been tricky when I need to be in them, but with tripods and remotes it’s worked out pretty well. 

You’re also a luthier and have started your own handcrafted guitar and bass business. How did you learn to build guitars? Did someone in your family teach you to do it, or was it just something you took an interest in on your own? 

That was MI again. I took a guitar-building course and after that started working in a Guitar Factory (Premiere Builders Guild). After that, I started making them on my own. Ever since I was a kid, I not only wanted to play music, but I was also interested on how the instruments worked. I was always interested in both these aspects of music; both the performance and the instruments themselves. 

Do you play your own custom basses onstage? If not, which one(s) do you normally rock in a live setting? 

I do have some I’ve made for myself, but usually I either play a passive Fender Jaguar bass or an active Stingray bass. It depends on the song and the sound I am going for on the song. Basically I look for basses that handle both distortion and slapping well. I have not played my own basses live, but that’s been mostly due to not having any to actually keep for myself! But I do plan on building my own bass for playing live once I have time for it! 

The Quarantined are definitely on the heavier side. Which brand of strings and gauges do you normally gravitate toward to get that deeper tone? 

Oh definitely, and I love to bang and abuse my strings live, so I usually go for long-lasting strings. I really like Ernie Ball Cobalt strings, because they last a long time without sounding dull and just feel really nice to play. Also they work for fingerstyle, pick or slapping, which is I all use on The Quarantined. As for gauge, I usually go for 50-70-85-105 because I like the rumble of the thicker gauge. I like the slapping sound and they take abuse better, haha. 

You guys definitely have a gritty, grungy tone that echoes some of the 90s stalwarts like STP and Rage. Which pedals help you to achieve those sounds? 

Oh yeah. I love distortion on bass. I usually run first through a Tech21 VT Bass DI to fatten up the tone and split my signal and run one channel clean and another with effects. Then, I run the effected channel through either an OCD, Big Muff Pi or Swollen Pickle for my dirt, and then through a delay and reverb, which yes, I know is a no-no for bass, but they are used for texture on a few quieter passages or intros, and are usually off. At the end, I like running through a clean but powerful bass, so I use Markbass, which have an amazing clean sound, so they give me a great starting sounds which I can then color with my pedals. Also they are loud!

You’ve been in the band since 2012. How has the band changed musically over the years, and what do you think you personally bring to the table

I think we’ve all grown, of course not only musically, but in experience. Also with the addition of Jeremy, we’ve been able to do more complex stuff than before. I think that musically it’s always changing from song to song, but overall I think Sean’s lyrics have become broader and more self-reflecting. I think one of the things I bring to the table is that I get Sean and understand his effusiveness. Many people take it as aggression, but I get him, and see it’s more excitement most of the time, so I have been a good sounding board for Sean and whatever he comes up with. 

What’s in store for this next EP, and how does it differ from The Quarantined’s previous efforts? 

Well, it’s been quite the few years, from changing management, having one of our members quit the band, both Sean and I moving out of Los Angeles, and Jeremy joining as a fixed member, so the dynamic has changed, but I think the songwriting is always a personal matter. Of course the way we interact does matter.

Be on the lookout for The Quarantined’s new EP, Aversion to Normalcy, which will be released soon.

Follow the band at thequarantined.com.

Bass Videos

Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

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Artist Update With Bassist Derek Frank

Bassist Derek Frank…

Many of you will remember the last time I chatted with Derek Frank was back in 2017. The main thing that impressed me was how busy Derek was and how he juggled playing with many huge acts.

Now, I am happy to hear that Derek launched a new album last March titled “Origin Story” where he digs deep into his roots and pays homage to Pittsburg.

Join me as we get caught up after all these years and hear the details about the new album, how Derek gets his sound, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Stephen Bradley

Visit Online:

www.derekfrank.com
www.instagram.com/derekfrankbass
www.youtube.com/derekfrankbass
www.facebook.com/derekfrankbass

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

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Interview With Bassist Graham Stanush

Bassist Graham Stanush…

Return to Dust is keeping Grunge alive and well! They have a new self-titled album that went out on May 3rd, 2024 and will be super busy promoting this project in the near future.

Graham Stanush is the bass powerhouse driving their sound and adding vocals to the mix. Join me as we hear all about Graham’s musical journey, details about the new album, how he gets his sound and their plans for the future.

Visit Online:

linktr.ee/returntodust
instagram.com/returntodustband/
twitter.com/Returntodustbnd
youtube.com/@returntodustband
tiktok.com/@returntodustband

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Bass Videos

Interview With Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes

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Interview With Bassist Erick Jesus Coomes

Bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes…

It is always great to meet a super busy bassist who simply exudes a love for music and his instrument. Erick “Jesus” Coomes fits this description exactly. Hailing from Southern California, “Jesus” co-founded and plays bass for Lettuce and has found his groove playing with numerous other musicians.

Join us as we hear of his musical journey, how he gets his sound, his ongoing projects, and his plans for the future.

Photo, Bob Forte

Visit Online

www.lettucefunk.com
IG @jesuscsuperstar
FB@jesuscoomes
FB @lettucefunk

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Bass Videos

Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

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Tour Touch Base (Bass) with Ian Allison

Ian Allison Bassist extreme

Most recently Ian has spent the last seven years touring nationally as part of Eric Hutchinson and The Believers, sharing stages with acts like Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Rachel Platten, Matt Nathanson, Phillip Phillips, and Cory Wong playing venues such as Radio City Music Hall, The Staples Center and The Xcel Center in St. Paul, MN.

I had a chance to meet up with him at the Sellersville Theater in Eastern Pennsylvania to catch up on everything bass. Visit online at ianmartinallison.com/

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Features

Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

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Interview With Audic Empire Bassist James Tobias

Checking in with Bergantino Artist James Tobias

James Tobias, Bassist for psychedelic, Reggae-Rock titans Audic Empire shares his history as a musician and how he came to find Bergantino…

Interview by Holly Bergantino

James Tobias, a multi-talented musician and jack-of-all-trades shares his story of coming up as a musician in Texas, his journey with his band Audic Empire, and his approach to life and music. With a busy tour schedule each year, we were fortunate to catch up with him while he was out and about touring the US. 

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived in the Dallas area most of my life with the exception of 1 year in Colorado. I moved to the Austin area at age 18. 

What makes the bass so special to you particularly, and how did you gravitate to it?

I honestly started playing bass because we needed a bass player and I was the one with access to a bass amp and bass. I played rhythm guitar and sang up until I met Ronnie, who I would later start “Audic Empire” with. He also played rhythm guitar and sang and we didn’t know any bass players, so we had to figure something out. I still write most of my songs on guitar, but I’ve grown to love playing the bass. 

How did you learn to play, James?

I took guitar lessons growing up and spent a lot of time just learning tabs or playing by ear and kicked around as a frontman in a handful of bands playing at the local coffee shops or rec centers. Once I transitioned to bass, I really just tried to apply what I knew about guitar and stumbled through it till it sounded right. I’m still learning every time I pick it up, honestly. 

You are also a songwriter, recording engineer, and a fantastic singer, did you get formal training for this? 

Thank you, that means a lot!  I had a couple of voice lessons when I was in my early teens, but didn’t really like the instructor. I did however take a few lessons recently through ACC that I enjoyed and think really helped my technique (Shout out to Adam Roberts!) I was not a naturally gifted singer, which is a nice way of saying I was pretty awful, but I just kept at it. 

As far as recording and producing, I just watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked people who know more than me when I had a question. Whenever I feel like I’m not progressing, I just pull up tracks from a couple of years ago, cringe, and feel better about where I’m at but I’ve got a long way to go. Fortunately, we’ve got some amazing producers I can pass everything over to once I get the songs as close to finalized as I can. 

Describe your playing style(s), tone, strengths and/or areas that can be improved on the bass.

I honestly don’t know what my style would be considered. We’ve got so many styles that we play and fuse together that I just try to do what works song by song.  I don’t have too many tricks in the bag and just keep it simple and focus on what’s going to sound good in the overall mix. I think my strength lies in thinking about the song as a whole and what each instrument is doing, so I can compliment everything else that’s going on. What could be improved is absolutely everything, but that’s the great thing about music (and kind of anything really). 

Who were your influencers in terms of other musicians earlier on or now that have made a difference and inspired you?

My dad exposed me to a lot of music early. I was playing a toy guitar while watching a VHS of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble live at SXSW on repeat at 4 years old saying I wanted to “do that” when I grew up. I was the only kid in daycare that had his own CDs that weren’t kid’s songs. I was listening to Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and The Doors when I could barely talk. I would make up songs and sing them into my Panasonic slimline tape recorder and take it to my preschool to show my friends. As I got older went through a bunch of music phases. Metal, grunge, rock, punk, hip hop, reggae, ska, etc. Whatever I heard that I connected to I’d dive in and learn as much as I could about it. I was always in bands and I think I kept picking up different styles along the way and kept combining my different elements and I think that’s evident in Audic’s diverse sound. 

Tell me about Audic Empire and your new release Take Over! Can you share some of the highlights you and the band are most proud of?

Takeover was an interesting one. I basically built that song on keyboard and drum loops and wrote and tracked all my vocals in one long session in my bedroom studio kind of in a stream-of-consciousness type of approach. I kind of thought nothing would come of it and I’d toss it out, but we slowly went back and tracked over everything with instruments and made it our own sound. I got it as far as I could with production and handed it off to Chad Wrong to work his magic and really bring it to life. Once I got Snow Owl Media involved and we started brainstorming about a music video, it quickly turned into a considerably larger production than anything we’ve done before and it was such a cool experience. I’m really excited about the final product, especially considering I initially thought it was a throwaway track.

Describe the music style of Audic Empire for us. 

It’s all over the place… we advertise it as “blues, rock, reggae.” Blues because of our lead guitarist, Travis Brown’s playing style, rock because I think at the heart we’re a rock band, and reggae because we flavor everything with a little (or a lot) of reggae or ska. 

How did you find Bergantino Audio Systems?

Well, my Ampeg SVT7 caught fire at a show… We were playing Stubbs in Austin and everyone kept saying they smelled something burning, and I looked back in time to see my head, perched on top of its 8×10 cab, begin billowing smoke. We had a tour coming up, so I started researching and pricing everything to try and find a new amp. I was also fronting a metal band at the time, and my bass player’s dad was a big-time country bass player and said he had this really high-end bass amp just sitting in a closet he’d sell me. I was apprehensive since I really didn’t know much about it and “just a little 4×10” probably wasn’t going to cut it compared to my previous setup. He said I could come over and give it a test drive, but he said he knew I was going to buy it. He was right. I immediately fell in love. I couldn’t believe the power it put out compared to this heavy head and cumbersome cab I had been breaking my back hauling all over the country and up countless staircases.  

Tell us about your experience with the forte D amp and the AE 410 Speaker cabinet. 

It’s been a game-changer in every sense. It’s lightweight and compact. Amazing tone. And LOUD. It’s just a fantastic amp. Not to mention the customer service being top-notch! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another product that, if you have an issue, you can get in touch with the owner, himself. How cool is that? 

Tell us about some of your favorite basses.

I was always broke and usually working part-time delivering pizzas, so I just played what I could get my hands on. I went through a few pawn shop basses, swapped in new pickups, and fought with the action on them constantly. I played them through an Ampeg be115 combo amp. All the electronics in it had fried at some point, so I gutted it out and turned it into a cab that I powered with a rusted-up little head I bought off someone for a hundred bucks. My gear was often DIY’d and held together by electrical tape and usually had a few coats of spray paint to attempt to hide the wear and tear. I never really fell in love with any piece of gear I had till I had a supporter of our band give me an Ibanez Premium Series SDGR. I absolutely love that bass and still travel with it. I’ve since gotten another Ibanez Premium Series, but went with the 5-string BTB.  It’s a fantastic-sounding bass, my only complaint is it’s pretty heavy. 

Love your new video Take Over! Let us know what you’re currently working on (studio, tour, side projects, etc.)

Thank you!! We’ve got a LOT of stuff we’re working on right now actually. Having 2 writers in the band means we never have a shortage of material. It’s more about getting everything tracked and ready for release and all that goes into that. We just got through filming videos for 2 new unreleased tracks with Snow Owl Media, who did the videos for both Love Hate and Pain and Takeover. Both of these songs have surprise features which I’m really excited about since these will be the first singles since our last album we have other artists on. We’ve also got a lot of shows coming up and I’ve also just launched my solo project as well. The debut single, “Raisin’ Hell” is available now everywhere. You can go here to find all the links distrokid.com/hyperfollow/jamestobias/raisin-hell

What else do you do besides music?

For work, I own a handyman service here in Austin doing a lot of drywall, painting, etc. I have a lot of hobbies and side hustles as well. I make custom guitar straps and other leather work. I do a lot of artwork and have done most of our merch designs and a lot of our cover art. I’m really into (and borderline obsessed) with health, fitness, and sober living.  I have a hard time sitting still, but fortunately, there’s always a lot to do when you’re self-employed and running a band!

Follow James Tobias:

jamestobiasmusic.com
Facebook.com/james.tobias1
Instagram.com/ru4badfish2
TikTok.com/@jamestobiasmusic
audicempire.com 

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