Upright and Center: An Interview with Bassist Rick Sepulveda
I recently had the pleasure of chatting up the talented bassist Rick Sepulveda of LA-based metalbilly group, Calling Kings. Sepulveda is an impressive upright bassist who brings his many years of experience playing in rockabilly bands to the high-energy trio, wowing audiences with his skilled playing and Jimbo Wallace-reminiscent theatricality.
The boys have just released their latest single from their new EP, “Fake,” which deals with the ongoing social disconnection caused by technology and social media, and also they’re prepping for their first international tour.
Alexx: What inspired you to play upright bass vs. a traditional bass guitar?
Rick Sepulveda: What inspired me to play an upright bass was the first time I saw Jimbo Wallace from Reverand Horton Heat… Watching him play a flamed out upright bass at Hootenanny was one of the most inspiring moments in my life. Also watching Brent Loveday from 3 Bad Jacks lighting his bass on fire; I knew right then that I needed to try it.
Electric basses just haven’t ever been a favorite of mine because I have huge hands. It’s hard for me to stay in tune, plus it’s something that most bands do normally, so I wanted to be different than most. Also, the sound of an upright bass is just so warm feeling; it’s hard to explain, but that thump it gives, an electric can’t do it for me.
Do you play any other instruments?
I do not play any other instruments. I’ve navigated most of my bass career on strictly upright. I feel like there is always something new to learn on it. Plus being creative while playing is so much easier with the amount of space on the fretboard.
Calling Kings are often referred to as “metalbilly.” Did you yourself grow up on rockabilly and/or psychobilly bands?
The metalbilly sound just came out of nowhere. I never played metal in my life, but playing rockbilly for so many years, I wanted to try something completely new. Playing with the Calling Kings allowed me to adventure into a whole new music world.
The rockabilly scene for me just started becoming cookie-cutter bands. Every band sounded the same and there was no new sound to explore or be creative with. I had my fun in it, and was just over the lifestyle. But meeting up with CJ Hockenbury; it was a new adventure by far, and I was intrigued by his unique sound and all I did was walk into the studio and added my flavor to their overall sound.
How did you hook up with CJ and Mathias?
I met up with CJ from an ad he posted online looking for a bass player and truly after years of dealing with my last band, I was looking for a fresh start. So we met up in a bar in Pasadena and talked things through, and here we are now rocking out almost every weekend. Mythias came into the picture because the drummer we were using at the time had to move on with life, so we met him and the punk/metal hard-hitting drummer was what made this whole project come together.
How would you say you get your trademark Rick Sepulveda sound? Which strings and pedals are you using for example?
Well, my sound comes from the whole rockabilly scene, but with more bass instead of your typical high pitch clacky sounds. I like low-end with mid clack. It sounds so much more fuller that way. The strings I use are Innovations. The head is a GK 1001 RB with a GB Neo 4 12 all tied into a K n K rockabilly preamp with Vic pickups.
Aside from being a fantastic bassist, you’re quite the artist, and you even painted the very upright bass that you play with the Calling Kings. How long have you been painting?
I have been a painter for over 20 years now, restoring classic cars and painting whatever interests me. Ever since I started playing, I never had a plain bass. I’ve had over 12 uprights and I normally custom paint them to fit the look of the band I’m in. Black Betty, which is the current bass I use was painted to fit that old school retro Rat Fink era, which I love the most.
You’re also a painter at Disneyland too. Have you painted anything we’d recognize, or has the Mouse sworn you to secrecy?
Yes, I am a painter at the good ol’ rat trap. It’s a job that pays bills and allows me to enjoy my life. After owning a shop for 17 years and having kids, I needed a steady life. Things that I was known for at Disney were painting most of the classic cars on display like the 1939 Packard when you walk into California Adventure. Also the main street corndog wagon, which both have hidden Mickeys. Good luck finding them!
Are you guys doing any touring here soon?
We are in the works to be doing a tour in Europe soon as well as other states. There are many things in the works for Calling Kings, so keep a lookout for us.
Stay caught up with Bassist Rick Sepulveda online at callingkings.com
Photos, Leire Baztarrica