When bass came calling, McKeegan kicked off
with a classic cheapie brand from the era that many
readers will recall. “My first bass was a white Marlin
Sidewinder. Andy played bass on the first Therapy?
demo but it's my bass that he used. I was 18 at the time
and I thought that demo was great! Later I had an Aria
Pro II SB1000 and a Yamaha. I never really dabbled in
five-string basses, because after a while Therapy? got
into lower tunings and there was no need for it. I like
that classic Lemmy, Cliff Burton feel. Those extended-
range strings always feel too chunky, too.”
For sounds, McKeegan found a desirably dirty tone
early on in his career, but he rarely fell prey to the
slapping craze of the day. “I remember using Boss Metal
Zones and Blues Drivers on the bass, which gave it that
Stranglers sound. When it came to slapping, Bill Gould
of Faith No More was the acceptable face of slap in the
80s. There's a song on the
reissue called
'Speedball' where I'm slapping, but I can't do it now so
I play it with a pick and it sounds all right. It was just
following the kick drum, basically.”
We noted that there were two reasons to feature
McKeegan on our cover: the second is Therapy's
excellent new album
which despite being
their fourteenth, is packed full of energy and
atmosphere. It's produced by Tom Dalgety, who has
worked with Opeth and Killing Joke (and evidently
knows a thing or two about bass as he also produced
Royal Blood's debut album last year). You might think
that McKeegan could produce his own records after
this long, but no - he prefers to utilise a fresh pair of
ears, for good reason.
“Sometimes you need someone to come in and kick
your arse a bit,” he explains. “Otherwise we might think,
'That's the default setting for a Therapy? part' and
we need to shy away from that complacency, which
we find a bit terrifying. A lot of bands have a formula
for their albums, which come out every 18 months or
whatever, and it can be an exercise in treading water.
That's what we want to avoid. That said, when it comes
to the bass tones, we've got a good idea of which ones
work. The core sound is a rattly, lairy bass.”
For said rattle and lairiness, McKeegan has a tried-
and-trusted arsenal of basses courtesy of Warwick,
whose gear he's been using for ages. “I've been playing
Warwicks for 12 years now. They're unbelievable!
They're Streamers with EMG pickups. My amps are
Warwick X-Treme heads, which I'll use like a power
amp in the studio with a Sansamp in front of it. Then
I've got a Rusty Box pedal, which is based on an old
Traynor preamp, so it has kind of a clanky sound. I
had a Blackstar distortion pedal, but it was a bit more
mushy and it wasn't working as good as the others.”
Of course, McKeegan has been through a few
different basses in his time, some of which are still in
Therapy?'s lockup. “I had a Music Man for a long time,”
he recalls, “and we'd use that for the lower tunings -
we use A# and C - but it was getting tough to achieve
the tension and clarity that we wanted. A lot of it was
to do with using 15” speakers in the cabs, actually: it's
all 10” speakers now. Andy has a lovely Mos-Rite bass
that we sometimes use. I also have a really nice '57
Precision, but it's not so good with the lower tunings.
Tuning that down to an A# is a nightmare, with
intonation problems. I have a couple of Status basses,
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