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Donnie Sloan is one of the behind-the-scenes members of Empire of the Sun involved with the production and songwriting. Sloan also plays live bass for the recordings—although you will not find him on stage as he’s a studio rat. Here he explains the way to get the best live bass sound for a produced setting.
It starts with having a great bass. There’s no bit of outboard gear, nothing special you can do to make it sound good if the bass isn’t good to start with. I’ve got a couple of old basses that I use with Empire of the Sun. We plug the bass in with a high-end DI through the desk and then into the computer so it’s pretty simple. I’ve got a 1972 Fender Precision bass and that has jazz pick-ups put on it so it’s slightly different. While we were making Walking On A Dream, I found a late ’70s BC Rich Eagle bass that most people look at me really strange when I mention. But that bass was used by some of my favorite players, the main one being Bernard Edwards from Chic. I managed to find one in a vintage music store in Los Angeles for quite cheap.
When it’s a synth bass, you just make sure to have really good synths to start with and just record that the same way, through the DI, into the desk, and then into the computer.
For Empire of the Sun, there are a few that are synth bass and a few that are live bass. There was a lot more live bass on Walking On A Dream, specifically “Walking On A Dream,” “Miles and Miles,” “We Are The People.” On Ice On The Dune, a lot of it is synth bass with a bit of live bass here and there.