Calin on joining Putrescine:
It is October 2019. Shows are still a thing, and a band from San Diego with a newly released first EP just got an offer to open for Dawn Ray’d when those British Anarchists tear through Southern California. But there’s a catch: like so many bands these days, the founding members of Putrescine are pulling double and sometimes triple duty when they record. Since their working-class cred is legit, they cannot clone themselves and have enough members to play live, so they need to do the next best thing and Tweet about it. That is when I, the eternally online weirdo that I am, saw the tweet and decided to respond. They didn’t need to know that it had been years since I’d picked up a bass or that I sold my bass a couple years back to pay the bills. I went out that week to cop some new gear and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now that the shitshow of 2020 is behind us and there are rumblings of shows happening yet again, Putrescine has a chance to play shows again. We’re all working on perfecting some of the newer songs, which if you’ve followed us you know are a little more complex than the first EP, and I’m busy recording bass and strings for some new songs that we will unleash later in 2021.
On to my Influences!!!
Circle Takes the Square – As the Roots Undo (2004)
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that this is my favorite album of all time next to Disintegration by The Cure. If you don’t understand how great As the Roots Undo is based on that description, lock yourself in a room, get Major Depressive Disorder (Recurring) like me, and listen to The Cure until that last sentence makes sense.
Kathleen Coppola Stubelek plays bass in a way that is everything I aspire to. She has been my inspiration since the first time I heard As the Roots Undo in college, shortly after it came out in 2004. I had played bass for almost 10 years at that point, and I had been in my high school’s jazz band and in a few punk and hardcore bands. I thought I knew a thing or two about playing bass. I was completely unprepared for how amazing the bass is on As the Roots Undo. Everything about the low end of this album is perfect. The basslines weave their way in and out of the melody while both acting as part of the rhythm section and often providing additional weight to the guitar lines or the counterpoint to the guitar melody. (And every once in a while, the bassline is not doing any of these. It stands on its own and provides its own unique, heavy riff that the song would not exist without.) To make the bass playing even more impressive, Kathleen sings while she plays. In short: she rules.
While every song has at least one memorable riff, the final two songs are masterworks. They are a perfect melange of screamo, grindcore, and post-rock that blows my mind every time I hear it. The bass is a definitive, unapologetic statement on both of these tracks. One of the major highlights for me comes towards the end of “Kill the Switch.” As they yell “kill the switch, kill the switch,” the guitar goes from a trill into a riff that the bass ends up echoing. The bass echoes it a couple of times, but towards the end of the riff, the bass just keeps going into its own thing. It’s utterly brilliant and provides this massive, ominous undertone right before the song ultimately crescendos and explodes in its final cathartic form. If I ever write a bassline half as good as this I can die happy.
Rancid – …And Out Come the Wolves (1995)
I can think of few albums that have inspired as many punk rockers to pick up the bass as this one. While I obviously play death metal, it wasn’t always that way. In the mid to late 90’s when I started playing bass, I was a punk. I got along fine with the metalheads, and we could always see eye to eye on Suicidal Tendencies and DRI, but this was the type of music closest to my heart. Since I was a massive outcast at my preppy Southern high school, I had plenty of time to myself; I spent a hell of a lot of it learning to play these songs.
I love the way that Matt Freeman conceptualizes his instrument. Much like The Clash before them, Rancid is so fucking good at using the bass. The bass is not only always audible, but it’s almost always doing something different and way more interesting than whatever the guitars are up to. Just thinking of songs like “Old Friend” and “Journey to the End of the East Bay” puts a smile on my face. The bass riffs are timeless earworms. They’re the sort of thing that seem effortless as they propel the song forward, but when you dissect them later you realize how difficult the rhythm is to actually nail. This is the album that taught me the importance of practicing with a metronome, and it is also the album that taught me how to write unique basslines that aren’t just imitating the guitar only an octave lower.
Bolt Thrower – Those Once Loyal (2005)
Holy fuck. HOLY FUCK. I know the last album on this list was Rancid, and I stand by that, but if we’re talking about the type of music that Putrescine is influenced by this is it. I’ve been a Bolt Thrower fan for almost as long as I’ve been a metal fan. If someone asked me for an album to dip their toe into the world of death metal, there is a damn good chance I would hand them this, and it’s not hard to see why. (If you’re curious, the other album I was thinking of handing them is Necroticism by Carcass.)
While I adore the classic Bolt Thrower albums (Realm of Chaos – For Victory), I always wish I could hear the bass more. I’ve heard stories (likely apocryphal) that Jo Bench tuned the strings so low while they were recording Realm of Chaos that they were so loose they just sort of slapped around. Who knows if it’s true or not, but it’s a good story and explains the lack of audible bass on those early records. Here, though, we don’t have any issues hearing the bass. From the opening riff of “At First Light,” the bass is pounding in the background like a tank rolling over its enemies. The bass is the heartbeat of this album, and every note is integral to Bolt Thrower’s sound.
This album is nothing but riffs from front to back – all killer, no filler – and the bass is a huge part of those riffs. Jo Bench’s low end grounds us in the wartorn hellscape they paint with their lyrics and gives their sound a fullness that many bands have imitated but none have realized..
On a personal note, I am also partial to this album because the bass opening to “Anti-Tank (Dead Armour)” is one of the heaviest bass lines on the planet, and there are very few moments in Bolt Thrower’s catalog where Jo Bench gets a chance to shine on her own as she does here. Nothing here is on the technical level of Matt Freeman’s work with Rancid or any of the other albums mentioned here, but god damn her riff is HEAVY and COOL, and at the end of the day what else matters? I was lucky enough to see Bolt Thrower with Autopsy and Benediction in 2013, and I will never forget seeing them play this live. (I also saw two idiots fight it out right in front of me during “The Killchain,” but that’s a story for another time.)
Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)
Since we’re here talking riffs, let’s talk about some capital “r” RIFFS. Black Sabbath has a hell of a lot of those capital “r” riffs, and a good amount of them come from this album. While this is the album that showed the world Tony Iommi was a guitar god, and Ozzy could belt it out with the best of them, none of those accomplishments should overshadow the legit wonderful bass playing of Geezer Butler. From the opening notes of “War Pigs,” you are in for one hell of a ride.
I want you to do something for me: put on Paranoid and crank the bass as high as it can go. Yes, it’s going to sound weird because the bass will be up super high and it will probably distort the rest of the sound in a weird way. No, I don’t want you to do this every time you listen to the album. Just trust me. There is so much nuance and talent in the bass lines that I bet you never noticed. Butler is the driving force behind a great many of their songs. While “War Pigs” is no doubt a showcase for Iommi’s talents, listen to how amazing the basslines backing up Iommi’s shredding are. They are so rich and complex… so fucking textured. Butler never does exactly what you would expect him to, and while he isn’t often carrying the main melody, he is always carrying a melody. No one writes music like him.
I know I’ve mentioned “War Pigs” already, and for a lot of the metalheads reading this you’ve heard that guitar solo a million times. Honestly, just my mention of the guitar solo probably got the opening notes stuck in your head, as it should. However, have you ever noticed that Butler is also soloing underneath Iommi’s guitar solo? He just plays riff after riff after riff, and none of those basslines is ever used again in the song. He just thought it would be good to write a completely unique bassline to go along with Iommi’s solo, and it all comes together to make for one of the most amazing songs of all time. And that’s just the first song! There’s more of those on the album, and they all kick ass. The dude pulls out a wah pedal on “Electric Funeral” and manages to make it sound cool as fuck, not like it belongs in a 70’s porno. There’s a reason that Cliff Burton cited Geezer as one of his biggest influences: both of them have this brilliant sense of melody and movement that I could listen to all day (and often do).