Bassists are way too under appreciated. So we asked Pupil Slicer bassist Luke Fabian to rectify that issue by naming (and explaining why he chose) his 10 favorite bassists across all genres. Check the list written by Fabian out below, and pre-order Pupil Slicer's new record Blossom here before its June 2 release date.
When asked, I instantly jumped at the opportunity to shine a spotlight on 10 underrated bassists.
As a bassist myself, I understand from direct experience the much maligned (read: overbearing guitarists) and often overlooked position, I and my fellow low-end colleagues occupy in the world of metal. Amongst gratuitous guitar acrobatics, blast beats and everything in between, finding ways to contribute melodically or rhythmically, beyond mindlessly hammering root notes is a challenge and should be applauded wherever possible.
With all that being said and dispensing of my inherently passive aggressive and defensive discourse against guitarists, enjoy the Top 10 (in no particular order, and not exclusively TRVE METAL) list and remember… Bass players of the world unite!
Adam "Grungyn" Allain – Fen
UK underground blackened prog stalwarts Fen in of themselves are a highly underrated band. Grungyn (or I guess Adam, to his friends?) as part of a three piece consistently contributes varied and interesting parts to Fen's sprawling compositions. Notably he runs two separate rigs which gives an incredibly dense and rich tone. Further, he uses bass effects very intelligently and with great subtilty. Overall – an excellent example of how key a creative and skilled bass player is in a three piece – live and on record.
Examples – Winter (LP), The Dead Light (LP)
Arif Mirabdolbaghi – Protest The Hero
Handling low end duties with Protest from Kezia to Volition – I have always been astounded at how Arif could keep up with the technical wizardry of the guitar players in the band, let alone be able to go above and beyond that, and contribute heavily to the overall sound of the band. When Fortress was released, I found his application of technique – finger playing, tapping, and slapping – extremely inspiring. Even more so, in that there are tonnes of moments on that album where bass really takes the lead in the overall mix and composition. When Slicer allows some time, high on my list is to tackle "The Dissentience".
Examples – "Blindfolds Aside", "Sequoia Throne", "Hair Trigger"
Steve Blanco – Imperial Triumphant
I will not profess to be an aficionado on the avant-garde art stylings of this brilliant art deco-core band, but from recently seeing them perform their latest LP Spirit of Ecstasy at Roadburn Festival (in the Netherlands) after I had played with Slicer, I was instantly struck and really impressed with Blanco's general stage presence, tone, and bass chops. As part of a three piece, he really contributed to the show, impishly cavorting around the stage; really upping the energy of the performance. The crazy use of bass effects, I thought initially, was in bad taste but as the set progressed, and on later reflection, I found these bursts of transformed bass interesting and dynamic. Lastly, the set culminated in a 70s style extended Rush/Yes prog "jam" which featured some highly impressive jazz bass playing. In short, an amazing bassist and band that I will be delving into more and implore you too also.
Examples – Spirit Of Ecstasy (LP)
Adam Biggs – Rivers of Nihil
Biggs has always been the secret weapon of the band. Notably, his playing from the earlier albums (Monarchy) which was more focussed on displaying his chops has matured and progressed in the last two records and followed the classic (and logical) arc of serving the song more completely than merely partaking in bass shred. Given I do backup vocals in Slicer, I have always had respect for his, and having recently seen Rivers in Southampton at the end of '22, I was further impressed with how fluidly and confidently he stepped into the lead vocalist role following the departure of ex-lead singer Jake Dieffenbach. To boot, he is the lyricist for the band, and the theme(s) of The Work, powerfully resonated with me in context of the Slicer work being undertaken as we prepared for and recorded our second LP Blossom. In short, what a dude!
Examples – "Monarchy", "Where Owls Know My Name", "The Silent Life"
John Deacon – Queen
Are Queen underrated? Obviously not. Does Deacon provide a classic example of a world class bass player being overlooked, and underappreciated due to the context they operate within, yes. Was this helped by him retiring from the band, and moreover the music industry in the '90s, probably not. Whether in his capacity as song writer ("You're My Best Friend", "I Want to Break Free") for some of Queen's biggest hits, and ya know, laying down literally some of the most famous bass lines in rock history ("Another One Bites the Dust", "Under Pressure") or composing and performing highly tasteful and interesting bass lines – his contribution to rock bass playing, and moreover popular music is enormous.
Examples – "Dragon Attack", "Killer Queen", "Bicycle Race"
Bernard Edwards – Chic
Much of what I have said about Deacon applies for Edwards, who perhaps penned some of the most famous basslines in Disco, R&B and Funk. Further, the influence of the "Good Times" bassline and its formative role in the development of Hip-Hop is well documented and I don't need to revisit that here. Tragically, Edwards passed shortly after a reunion show in Japan in '94, and never got to see, or participate in, the uptick and resurgence of Chic's recent popularity post the band's commercial heights in the 70's. Arguably, at least to casual onlookers, he has had his legacy obscured (unintentionally) by Nile Rodgers despite their relationship being the driving force behind Chic. His super melodic, funky, intricate, and memorable basslines will continue to be resampled and reinterpreted forever.
Example – "My Forbidden Lover", "I Want Your Love", "Everybody Dance"
Dan Briggs – Between The Buried and Me
Briggs has for many years been a big source of inspiration for me, and with John Myung (Dream Theater) one of my main drivers to keep upping and working on my own bass chops. In fact, the first real van listening session on the EU / UK Boris tour which Slicer are supporting for, was a mix of about four hours of BTBAM from across their catalogue. Similar to Arif in Protest The Hero the sheer fact Briggs can keep up with his cohorts is testament to his chops and ambition as a bassist. I also really love the fusion influences he brings to BTBAM as well as increasingly handling additional synth parts.
Katie (Pupil Slicer vocalist and guitarist) and I share a mutual love of BTBAM and I hope as we develop as a band and musicians, this influence comes to the fore more overtly. Lastly, Colors II is a masterpiece and a worthy successor to Colors; I love the bass-wah work on the former and I hope to use this effect on Slicer LP 3. Lastly, the bass work on "Mirrors" and "Obfuscation" which kicks off The Great Misdirect is personal favourite and great example of Briggs' depth of melodic ability, masterful note selection, groove construction and fretboard dexterity. Again Slicer allowing, I need to pick up some BTBAM books and do some homework. If you are a bass player reading this, I implore you too also.
Examples – "Fix The Error", "Astral Body", "White Walls"
Bae Lynx – Shooting Daggers
Shooting Daggers may not be a familiar name to many of those reading, but hopefully the inclusion of Bae in this list may change that. The three-piece UK Hardcore / Punk band have been adjacent to Slicer in the UK scene, and we have come up together, so there is a definite shared affinity between our bands. Although not strictly "virtuosic" playing in a punk context (like Matt Freeman – Rancid, for instance), Bae's bass playing contributes greatly to the band and is highly varied; employing different tones, effects and feels as required by the songs. Bae's playing moves between being 'in the pocket' – punchy and supportive, to fuzzed out doomy vibes as well as cool, arpeggiated bass lines. Up the punx!
Examples – Athames (EP)
John Riley – Cryptic Shift
To put it simply the bass playing featured in the extra-terrestrial and interdimensional stylings of this UK Progressive Death Metal band, are f*cking outrageous. In the best kind of way. John's fretless bass playing is very pronounced in the bands sound, and initially drew me towards their music. His adventurous bass composition is musically exciting, and his execution of fretless technical wizardry is flawless. His bass work oscillates between being supportive and taking the lead instrument role, whether that be in full-on tech death madness, or more Cynic-esque relaxed and ambient passages. Let's be honest, it's easy for tech death fretless bass playing to be gratuitous, and arguably through a hyper-critical lens, is somewhat clichéd in a modern context. None of this, in John's case, is true. He strikes a perfect balance. Awesome bass playing, awesome band – check it out, earthlings.
Examples – Visitations from Enceladus (LP)
Sam Rivers – Limp Bizkit
Rivers and John Otto are a rhythm-section dream team. Rivers is masterful at holding down the low end when required on chunkier, heavy sections and tracks with his 5 string, but with amazing ease can take the lead in a verse or bridge and has many memorable melodic bass moments: incorporating slinky and smooth jazz and hip-hop style bass lines into the nu-metal mele. Rivers creates the perfect ploy for the experimental and ambient guitar stylings of Wes Borland, and this is what makes him such an asset to the band. A few weeks ago, I saw Bizkit at Wembley Arena, and touring bassist Danny Connell is currently handling bass duties. To paraphrase Freddie D's sentiments, Rivers is working on "getting healthy and dealing with some issues" – Sam, I wish you well and hope to see you back on stage when the time is right as you return to helm the star-bass navi-ga-tion sys-tem.
Examples – "Re-Arranged", "Boiler", "Livin' It Up"
- Tanya Byrne – Bismuth
- Fieldy – Korn
- Simon Gallup – The Cure
- Paulo Gregoletto – Trivium
- Arran McSporran – Tómarúm, Virvum, De Profundis, etc.
- Martin Mendez – Opeth
- Nick Schendzielos – Job For A Cowboy
- Troy Sanders – Mastodon
- Adam Swan – Monuments
- Tye Zamora – Alien Ant Farm