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Interview with Bassist Alex Diaz

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.

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