Alice Cooper's Chuck Garric on Getting Awesome Bass Tones No Matter Where You Are
"For the most part I was just blown away by the fact that we were able to get as creative as we did," states Alice Cooper's king of bass, Chuck Garric. "I think the whole record for me was just a big, happy accident. We were learning the songs for the tour as we were recording them. It was great getting away from having to do overdubs and making it as raw as we could. [Producer Andrew] Mudrock really gave us the freedom to let it loose." With the band holed up in a rehearsal studio in the Valley, producer/engineer Mudrock brought in his recording gear and turned the empty room into a recording studio. And let loose they did.
Before hitting the stage in Sudbury, Canada, Garric jumped on the phone with EQ to discuss his technique for getting an awesome rock bass tone, whether recording in the studio, living room, garage, or in a hotel room on the road.
"I used a Music Man bass on this record. It has flatwound strings with Bartolini MMC-style pickups and Aguilar (3-band) onboard preamps," confides Garric who has also lent his wicked signature bass tone to LA Guns, Lynch Mob, and Dio. "I ran that through Ampeg 8x10 cabinets with Ashdown amps. I also ran direct. We had an AKG D-12 on the cabinet, which we ran through a Neve 1073 preamp and a Tube Tech LCA 2B. We recorded everything to Pro Tools but mixed on an SSL J9000."
"The D-12 was placed on the lower end of the cabinet to capture some of the natural low end from the speakers," explains Garric. "It was about 1/2-inch away and a little off-center. There really wasn't a whole lot of experimenting with the mic placement . . . we messed around more with the EQ on the amps and my bass."
"This record was recorded live . . . there were no overdubs on my bass and the drums," Garric says. "Everything you hear was pretty much: learn the song, jam the song a few times, and during one of the jams we got the take that made it to the record. So with the processing and miking, I think Mudrock took that into consideration. He miked my bass in a way that was going to pick up the best possible tone, but he also realized there was going to be a bit of room bleed because we were all in a room together. "
"We didn't use any plug-ins on my bass, just the Neve 1073 and the Tube Tech LCA 2B. When Mudrock was mixing, he used a Hycor passive EQ on my bass but that's it. We were definitely going for a '70s feel to get that Alice Cooper kind of bass tone . . . a natural rock 'n' roll record."
"When Alice talked about the kind of record he wanted, I went back to thinking about the records I listened to as a kid, like AC/DC and Alice Cooper," concludes Garric. "We basically went with what sounded good. I brought in the equipment I've been using for live shows, but this was my first time using the Ashdown amps in the studio, which was a result of Mudrock and I trying out different things. "
"When I record my bass, the most important thing is to make sure it's got that thick rock sound. Each time I go into a recording studio I'm learning how to get different tones and ways to approach songs and play them differently. I see myself getting more knowledgeable each time I pick up my bass and end up in any type of recording situation. There's so much to learn and there's no rules when it comes to that stuff. "
"Bottom line, when you're recording rock 'n' roll: You don't have to be as anal as you would for something with more of a clean sound. When you record a dirty rock 'n' roll record in someone's garage you're going to get some bleed and the odd sounds that you get from miking the bass amp in a garage. But that's what's so cool, because that's what wrote the song anyway - that's what brought the song to life; we weren't in some fancy rehearsal studio writing the songs."