Extinction Level Event is a progressive metal band based out of Winston-Salem, NC. They have been making headlines for their unorthodox approach to utilizing three bassists and zero guitarists in one band. Their debut EP The Catalyst comes out on May 5th.
Where exactly did the idea to form an all bass guitar band come from?
Kennon Pearson: Well, part of it was out of necessity for Ryan and I because we don’t actually own 7/8 string guitars. But the other reason being that with the popularity of tuning lower and lower, some people choose to jokingly tell others to “just buy a bass” and we took that literally.
Were the early practices gimmicky, or did you know from the start that you were going to be writing and recording with 3 bass guitars?
Ryan Reedy: Duncan and I were messing around with the 2 basses in the studio and it felt like the obvious choice to take it to 3 to add more depth to the riffage. That is where KP comes in and adds the extra bassy goodness to the band. Its sort of like your 2 guitar and bass concept only 2 of the basses cover that spectrum and then you have Duncan who is the only true bassist in the band. His tone is complimentary to the lowest , throaty, bassy tone of the 3 basses.
Speaking of gear, I imagine you have some interesting rigs. What kind of set-ups do you each use?
RR: I personally use a Squire 5 string P Bass with stock pickups. For studio recordings I use Waves GTR running 2 separate amp/cab combinations. For live I have tone matched my POD X3 Pro to the Waves GTR.
KP: My main bass at the moment is my ESP LTD Surveyor-415. I’ll soon be getting another LTD bass to complement it, hopefully something with single coil pickups rather than humbucking. I run that into an Audio Technica wireless unit, an older ATW guitar wireless unit. From there it goes straight into my trusty Axe-Fx Ultra which has been a main part of my rig for a few years now. I do a dual-amp blend between a 5150 sim and Dual Rec sim. Both go into different cabs and are blended down into one mono tone.
Duncan Pardue: I use a Roscoe SKB Standard Plus 5 string with jazz pickups, and 95% of my tone comes from a Darkglass B7K with a Markbass tube compressor in front of it. In the studio this goes into a clean amp sim in waves GTR and live it goes into a clean amp sim in a Pod X3 Pro.
This one is directed at Trey. How many bass drums do you use?
Trey Harding: Hahahah…. (in a low demonic voice) JUST ONE.
Does that ever make you feel insecure?
TH: lol….yes. Joke aside, one bass drum with double pedal.
With such an extensive “rhythm section,” what do you guys do to make sure everything sounds cohesive?
TH: On my end, I really try to make sure that the bass drumming is very solid. That’s one place, especially for me, where it can get very muddy sounding live if it’s not extremely tight
RR: First the riffs are written by one or all bassists. That is the first step for cohesion. Secondly we all critique the riffage before sending it off to Trey for drum writing. His final touch to the drumming adds the last touch before sending it off to Gav for vocal writing. This way each part of the song is getting critiqued along the way and it sounds like it flows from the start.
Speaking of vocals, how did you determine what vocal style would fit with such a bass-heavy style?
Gavin Grace: On my side, it’s just what I sound like. Ryan approached me after they had recorded the basses for a track and asked if I wanted to be a part of the project. I really liked the sound and just latched onto the groove of the whole thing.
RR: I had been recording bands full time over the past few years and I recorded Gav’s former band The Devils Roundhouse. I loved his vocal style. I knew that someday I wanted to be in a band with him. After the first song ideas were recorded we invited Gav to try it out.
Where do you find inspiration for your lyrical content? Do you believe that it’s as heavy as the rest of the band?
GG: I take my inspiration from a few different places. I’ll range from political issues, to social stuff, to dinosaurs. It’s kind of what I feel like writing about at the time. As far as being as heavy as the rest of the band… I don’t really think the lyrics need to be any sort of way in order to connect with the emotion that music conveys.
Dinosaurs. Linking back to the whole name Extinction Level Event. Which mass extinction do you find influences you the most?
GG: The coming extinction.
Now for the big question. Which bassists were the biggest influences on you all?
RR: Thats a tough question as KP and I are actually guitarists turned bassists for this band.
KP: I’d have to say Nolly of Periphery because he was a guitar player that transitioned to bass. I love his tone and playing philosophy.
GG: My buddy Johnny. He made me realize I should try another instrument.
RR: I have a few bassists I personally enjoy. Michael Manring, Amos Williams of Tesseract, Nolly of Periphery, Luke Gower of Cog, Jon Stockman of Karnivool to name a few.
DP: Even though I’m in a metal band, a lot of my biggest influences aren’t metal players. Guys like Stuart Zender, Marcus MIller, Paul Turner, Gary Willis, and just generally super tight and groovin’ bassists have had the biggest influence on my playing. Les Claypool, Larry Graham, Evan Brewer, and guys like that are also a big influence, and you may be seeing some of that influence (i.e. some funky slap stuff) rear its head before too long.
Since two of you are guitarists turned to the dark side, which guitarists have been a big influence on your playing?
RR: I have a wide range of guitarists I listen to such as Neal Schon, Chet Atkins, Al Di Meola, Steve Vai, Satch, Michael Hedges, Dimebag, Rocky Gray, Dino Cazeres, Fredrik Thordendal, Kim Olesen just to name a few.
KP: All the Ozzy guitar players, Arch Enemy, Mastodon, Lamb of God, Frank Zappa, Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, Jimmy Page, and a good deal more.
Is there any situation in the future that you can foresee incorporating a guitarist into the band?
RR: I feel like since we are just discovering the possibilities of the bass we cant really say that yet. Cleans, alt tunings, chords, leads on bass are all being explored.
Do you often get told horrible bass (fish) jokes?
GG: Well we kinda brought that on ourselves
We have a sense of humor about the whole thing though
What are your current plans for touring?
RR: Transportation is our number one priority. We currently have a vehicle for single treks but not for a tour. Also we have the EP in some label’s hands. That is really all we can say on that topic.
GG: Yeah, this whole thing kind of caught us off guard. Things have been coming at us a lot faster than we ever could’ve expected.
Gotcha. Any upcoming shows?
TH: May 30th at Lincoln Theater in Raleigh, NC. We also have some shows planned and getting those confirmed, so we will definitely be out and about.
Have you had any problems at shows regarding sound considering how much low end you’re cranking out?
RR: We have had to balance the bass so to speak. We have KP and I set towards a more mid-low with the right amount of highs. Duncan is of course the more bassier of the 3 of us considering he is the true bassist.
TH: Pretty much worked out most of the kinks in our first show.
Cumulatively, how many bass strings do you have on stage at all times? Who uses the most?
RR: 5 strings for all of us. As the songs have progressed more and more of us are using more strings. If we are doing layers and such we are using all of them. For riffing of course its more the mid to low end of the bass. Chords of course cover more than 2 or 3.
Cool. Well that’s pretty much all I have, unless there is something you want to throw out there.
GG: EP releases 5/5, keep a look out for our lyric video using footage from the super awesome games Naisancce, and GO PADRES!
RR: Our EP The Catalyst is releasing on May 5th as well a suprise music / lyric video of one of the tracks on the EP. Stay tuned for more from ELE in the near future. Follow us on Facebook.