Dave Starr interview by Toby T. 8-10-04
The new long awaited CHASTAIN Cd "In and Outrage"is finally out. Joining guitarist David Chastain and singer Kate French for the new Cd are Metal veterans Dave Starr on bass and Larry Howe on drums. These 2 guys come from the legendary band "VICIOUS RUMORS" and they played together on 7 albums over a 10 year peroid. I caught up with Dave to talk about the new CHASTAIN CD, VR, 8 string basses, and other things going on in his life....
Q: You and Larry together again, wow did you ever think that would happen?
Well, no not really! But things change, life changes, we all change and grow. Larry and I had our issues in the past when we were in VR, but all is well now. We are older and wiser. He and I are one of the best bass/drum combinations in metal. Even though we had not played together in years, we picked up right where we left on in VR.... tight as ever!
1) What's it like working with David Chastain? Any differences to other projects you've worked on or subtle nuances unique to him? How did you guys actually hook up and decide to work via long distance rather than in person?
David plays in a style that I was not real familiar with in terms of his use of scales and modes. I was a bit freaked out when he sent me the disc to work on the songs, some of the stuff I just could not figure out! We E-mailed each other back and forth and he was real cool about showing me what he was doing. I guess it was all in my head, it was no big deal to him showing me the parts, breaking down the exact notes etc. Some of the stuff was real frantic and I guess I was a bit intimidated, but he could not have been a nicer guy helping me along.
The way we hooked up was real simple. David's singer is Kate French, she was married to Larry Howe who was my drummer in Vicious Rumors for all those years. David was looking for a new Bass player and drummer and Kate just said, "Why not just get Dave and Larry from VR." It made sense for a lot of reasons, Larry and I were together for 10 years in VR, we played together very well, David would get 2 guys from a band that had been around for years with a worldwide following so that could help sell more records, and besides... Larry and I were not doing anything anyway!
I had the choice of flying out to David's studio in Georgia to lay down the bass tracks, but my wife had just bought the Roland VS2480, and that was compatible with David's studio gear so we decided to just stay out here and do the bass tracks. Plus, it made a nice project for my wife and I to work on. She ended up being my producer and engineer for the bass tracks. The drums and vocals were done out here as well, but at different studios.
2) What do you feel the pluses and minuses of working long distance without the other players in the same studio are?
Well, it was something totally new to me. I had never done anything this way before. Back in the day with VR, we would live and breath together for a year, working on 10 songs until we got it right, then head to the studio to record the new record. I guess the old way is more organic, maybe this way is a bit more sterile, but that is life in the computer/Internet era. I know many bands work like this these days. It has its good and bad side, just like anything. It was nice for my wife London and I to work at our own pace, we would do 2 songs each weekend, then take a break!
3) What was it like working with Vinnie Moore, although I realize it was when he was sort of just starting out in his career?
That was a long time ago! Hard to believe that first VR CD "Soldiers of the Night" is almost 19 years old! We recorded with Vinnie the summer of 85, and the record came out in 86. I could trash the guy, but I won't. He was real young when he flew out here to do the record, and he became real homesick and unhappy with us and the way the record was turning out. He told Mike Varney that he wanted to go home half way through the recording, but Mike told him to stick it out and finish it. He did. Then he told us a lie about needing to go home to Delaware to take care of some personal matters... and we never saw him again!!! It is all water under the bridge as far as I am concerned. Vinnie played great on that CD, and it was a boost for VR and for him. I just wish he would be a little kinder to us, he seems to go out of his way to put down that record and distance himself from it. It makes no sense to any of us from the band, or the fans as well. I think the "Soldiers" CD is great and I am proud of it! Last time I saw Vinnie was at the NAMM show in 1993. Vinnie is now with UFO, and I wish him all the best.
4) How is your function as a bass player different form your work with Moore, as compared with Chastain?
Really no different, although I was not playing 8's back then. I think guitar players like David and Vinnie need a bass player that will not step on their toes since they have so much going on. That is fine with me, I don't need to show off... I just want to rock!
5) Is it ever tough working with your wife? How do you work giving and taking advice/criticism in that situation? Sometimes it is a LOT harder for advice not to be taken personally and cause fights that bleed over outside the studio and cause delays until everyone's happy again.
My wife London was very cool and helpful to me on this new CHASTAIN CD, I could have not done it without her. Yeah, there will always be good days and bad days in marriage. And good days and bad days between band members as well. I just try to be understanding and calm, that is 2 of the many things my wife says she loves about me!
6- How long have you been playing bass?
I started to play bass in 1981. I switched from guitar because we could never find bass players, so I just figured I would solve that problem and do it myself!
7-When did you first get an 8-string (model/year)? How?
The first 8 string bass I got was one those old funky Kramers with the aluminum neck. This was in 1989. I do guitar repair and the bass came in my shop as a trade in. I was intrigued by it, so I bought it. I used that bass on several tracks from the Vicious Rumors CD, "Vicious Rumors" Atlantic Records 1990.
8- Can you give us a quick listing of significant basses you've owned/used over the years?
The Kramer 8 was nice, but the tone was a bit lacking because of the metal neck and the shorter scale. It was important to me since I recorded with it so those bass tracks will live beyond me. When we got signed to Atlantic Records, I got an Ibanez endorsement. They gave me several nice 4 strings, but they also helped me out with a custom 8 string. This was a one of a kind project between Ibanez, myself, and a guitar builder in S.F. named Dan Ransom. I used this bass on several tracks on the next Vicious Rumors CD, "Welcome to the Ball" Atlantic Records 1991. I still have this bass today. I have 2 custom 8's that I put together for the new CHASTAIN CD. I put these together myself, and I think they turned out nice. Warmoth necks, ALLPARTS Jazz bass bodies, EMG pickups, and Schaller hardware.
9- Can you give a brief history of your 8 string bass usage -- live and studio?
The 2 Vicious Rumors CD's that I mentioned, I used 8's on 3 or 4 tracks from each record. I used 8's on the 1990, and 1991 US Tours, several songs each night. We did a "Live in Tokyo" CD in 1992, I wish I would have brought the 8 with me.... DAMN!! The new CHASTAIN CD, I am playing 8's on all of the songs.
10- What have been the best recorded song examples from your band using it?
There is song on the new CHASTAIN CD called "Women are Wicked", where the 8 really stands out. "Hamunaptra", "Lucky to be Alive", and "Souls of the Sun" sound great as well with the 8 string bass. On the Vicious Rumors CD's, "Ship of Fools" and "Can you hear it" from "Vicious Rumors", and on "Welcome to the Ball", the songs "Children", "Dust to Dust", and "Ends of the Earth".
11- Have you used your 8 string bass on any session work outside of your band? If so, details?
I played 8 string bass on the CD for a local band called PRESS. I did this 3 years ago, but these guys keep delaying the release date. Not sure why.
12- What percentage of your playing has been done with the 8's over the years?
With CHASTAIN, it is all 8. Back with VR, it was probably about 25%
13- How do you RECORD your 8 the studio? Any specific techniques/equipment?
For the new CHASTAIN CD, we used a Roland VS2480 digital recorder. We used 2 tracks. I played through a Crate BX100. I miced the 15" speaker with a Sure SM58 for one track, and a direct line out for the other. No effects were used.
14- What has been your experience with producers and engineers in their reaction or getting a good sound tracking it?
Well, my wife was the producer and engineer on the bass tracks for the new CHASTAIN CD and we got along great! She did a wonderful job and really pushed me. It was nice to do this at home. To be honest, I hate doing studio work. I get real nervous and just want to get it over with. This was a nice change of pace compared to all the CDs I did with VR. We had overbearing producers and big time studios.
15- Can you give a breakdown of your live rig? Any particular gear that you've added that solves any 8 problems? Any pedals/etc?
I am not really doing any live work anymore. although that will change if CHASTAIN hits the road for this new CD and/or if we ever get the original VR back together. Back in the day with VR, I used all GK gear live and in the studio. I swear by that stuff, it is top notch and bullet proof. I did about 400 shows with VR, and the only amp problems I ever had was one blown fuse (Tokyo 1992) My live set-up was 3 GK 400RB heads, 2 1x15" cabs, and 4 4x10" cabs. I used a BOSS Bass Chorus pedal that I took the guts out of and had it in my rack set up. I had it set to a mild setting and it was always on.
16-Do you play your 8 finger-style or with a pick? Any special techniques/tricks? Pick type (size/gauge) if used?
I use a pick all the time. I am not a very good finger player. I use COOL PICKS, they came out a few years ago and I love them. I use the nylon 88mm.
17- What string brand/type/gauges do you use on your 8? Do you string your 8 with the root on top or on bottom of the octaves?
I use stainless steel strings, they have more of a bite/growl then nickel. I use whatever I can get my hands on of good quality. I like D'Addario and GHS. GHS is nice because they have lots of odd guages. I make up my own sets. The 2 Custom 8's I am now using are tuned to C, and D. The C bass is: 65/125, 50/100, 40/80, 35/63. The D bass is: 50/100, 40/80, 35/63, 18/35. Root note is on the top.
18- Who are your current favorite bands/players? Who are your influences?
To be honest, I don't listen to much new music. I always go back to my old favorites like Savatage, Priest, Thin Lizzy, KISS, etc. I really liked the Rob Halford solo CD's, but I am also happy to see him back in Priest.
Phil Lynott is probably my favorite bass player, lots of soul and he was a great song writer. I like the meat and potato guys like Gene Simmons, Ian Hill, Pete Way, etc. This might freak out some bass players, but I am not into any of the virtuoso guys at all. I just have no interest in that stuff. I am a pretty good bass player, but I am a better guitar palyer and song writer. I only pick up the bass when I need to, I spend most of my playing time on the guitar.
19- Any other 8 string players you have listened to or are friends with?
I don't know anyone else who plays these things! Ok.... Tom Peterson! Ian Hill (Judas Priest) used 8 string bass on the "Turbo" and "Defenders of the Faith" CD's and tours.
20-Your opinion as to any advantages and/or disadvantages of using an 8 string bass
Sometimes I wonder why I took up the 8 string, I love the sound but they are a pain in the ass to play! It's not like all the guitar players in the world were crying out " 8 stringers!!!.... where the hell are you!!!.... we need you!!!..."
21- If you could design the perfect 8 string bass, are there any specific improvements you would make?
Maybe a thinner neck. I like my custom Warmoth necks, but they are a bit thick.
22-Is there anything else you'd like to add that we've not covered?
I am also working on a new project called WILDESTARR, that is me and my wife London Wilde. She plays keyboards and is the singer, I am playing guitar and bass. Heavy, yet melodic stuff. Stay tuned....
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