Rage Against the Machine – Timmy C / Tim Commerford

I used both names in the title because he used both.  Less talky, more rock – let’s kick things off with some live footage.  This is going to make you very happy…

TESTIFY LIVE IN MEXICO CITY

Right off the bat – what do we see?  Lots of people jumping up and down, like a living carpet.  Probably one of my absolute favorite things to see, especially from the stage (been a while to tell the truth, blues fans tend to swing dance…).

Huge bass tone.  Hee-ow-jjjjjjj.  Tim uses multiple amps & cabinets with varying degrees of distortion and grit, blends between them for different songs and sections.  This is a nice way to start a gig though – full on throaty bass doom.

Accelerando at 0:51.  Undeniable.  Sounds great, the crowd go wild.  In this era of digital editing, auto-tune & quantization isn’t it nice to hear a group varying tempo to musical effect?  ABBA were also masters of this (I may be the first person to draw a legitimate parallel between those two acts but it is true!).

Space.  Plenty of it.  The guitar part is textural during the verses, the bass line has lots of breathing room, the drums and vocals carry it.  The bass plays a nice, repetitive, hypnotic line that answers and compliments each vocal phrase during the verses.  Listen closely at 3:46 to hear the only fill/variation – just one extra 16th note syncopation that helps the bounce into the last half of the last chorus.  I hesitate to use the word genius but it is a really, really nice touch – the sort that only comes from having played the tune so many times, and trying so many different things that you finally settle on the simplest thing you can find.

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This group did so much and as you can already see it’s pretty easy for me to wax lyrical about the music, let alone the politics.  Because of that I’m going to (TRY TO!!) keep this to the first album only and just talk about the bass playing.

This image is taken from the cover of the first album.  You pretty much have a clear idea of what you’re getting into I think.  Learn more. Looking at the credits you can see Andy Wallace mixed and Bob Ludwig mastered, it’s an incredible sounding record.  These are names that crop up again and again in the world of incredible sounding music.  Here’s a couple of cuts that feature some distinctive bass lines.

TAKE THE POWER BACK      ( “..Crank the music up..” )

Great slap bass riff in drop D.  Simple and effective.  Musicman Stingray with a tonne of compression (just like Flea).

BULLET IN THE HEAD

On paper this bass-line would probably say …. E7 🙂 The riffs are crushing, the variations on the main chord idea are hip.. there’s a message, simply – it kills.  The first top comment is “i’m 53 years old and this is still fucking awesome”.

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Like Jane’s Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers RATM wore everything were everybody could see it.  It’s not even a matter of courage – looking back it just looks like groups of guys living their out beliefs & dreams.  Where Rage is/was different is that it was all about politics, I don’t think there’s a single song that is not politically motivated and there’s certainly none about getting it on with pretty girls 😉 It’s tribal (just look at the crowds), it’s deep groove music packed with intensity and emotion.

While it took me a few weeks to learn everything from this record it’s really not technically or harmonically challenging for the most part.  Lots of pentatonics, blues scales, chromatics, simple forms, easy keys (D, E and F# exclusively I think) – the challenge is in the sell, making every note count like it’s your last, the stage moves, the passion.  Tim will come up again as part of Audioslave in about 5000 posts time (I’m moving chronologically through my bass related listening – talking about how each cat influenced me for the new readers) – their first record was also something pretty special.

“F#ck you I won’t tidy my bedroom” – LIVE

I had the last 12″ white vinyl single in Redditch.  It was EPIC 🙂                                 I had to sell it years later so I could eat 😦

Commitment.  Passion.  Pentatonics.  Playing the strings really, really hard. These are the lessons I take from Timmy C.

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