Ashley Purdy on Wretched And Divine and becoming timeless
BASS EXPO 2013: Hollywood rockers Black Veil Brides can safely be described as a phenomenon. Since emerging in 2010 with We Stitch These Wounds the group have been on a mission to revive the lost art of the rockstar persona and, if there's any time left in the day, to become the biggest band in the world.
Three years later and things seem to be going to plan. New album Wretched And Divine Judging scored a stateside top 10, their profile is hotter than ever and there are ever-growing legions of fans, dubbed Bridesmaids, attending concerts around the planet.
If any one member of the band can be said to truly contain the soul of BVB, it's bassist Ashley Purdy. A larger than life character who is about as far removed from the stereotypical 'silent, nodding bassist' as you could imagine, we caught up with Ashley mid-way through the band's UK tour earlier this month to talk Gene Simmons, porn basses and the key to becoming a timeless rock 'n' roll band.
"I'm more of a showman than anything else, so a lot of stuff got destroyed on this tour"
What will make this tour unique in your memory?
"That I actually destroyed all of my basses on this tour so far! I'm more of a showman than anything else, so a lot of stuff got destroyed on this tour. I've even tweeted pictures of it - my broken basses and stuff. I only brought two with me and They both got destroyed in one night and I had to have more shipped out to me. But, yeah, it's all rock 'n' roll...
What's the biggest misconception about Black Veil Brides?
"A lot of people haven't taken our music seriously, but they don't know how technical it is. Initially people judge you first upon your image and they're not even listening to your music. They'll lump us in there with Mötley Crüe and Kiss, but our music is probably closer to Iron Maiden. We're far more technical than people give us credit for. But that's all changed with this new record, this new record is a hit, so we're doing good."
Black Veil Brides - Fallen Angels, the lead single from second album Set The World On Fire
What made you pick up the bass?
"I thought, 'I'll play bass in this band and I'll be the Nikki Sixx/Gene Simmons-style showman as well.'"
"First and foremost, I've always been a performer and a showman. I was the singer in my previous band and I played rhythm guitar as well, but when we started forming Black Veil Brides I met Andy [Biersack, frontman] and obviously he was already the singer, so I thought, 'I'll play bass in this band and I'll be the Nikki Sixx/Gene Simmons-style showman as well.' So that's where my whole state comes from as a bass player, it's not just about playing, it's a show and there's a performance to it too."
Who's the biggest influence on your playing style?
"Probably Duff McKagan from Guns 'N Roses. He's cool - very bluesy, straight ahead rock, but then again there's a swagger to his playing style. Although I've already referenced Gene Simmons and Nikki Sixx's as far as performance, as far as playability is concerned, it's probably Duff."
What's the best example of your playing in BVB?
"I think there's a lot of cool stuff in Shadows Die, off the new record. There's a lot of dynamic that's happening in there. It's all about the right hand and how we pick. There'll be galloping, there'll be a semi-breakdown, there'll be rhythm - and it's all in one song."
How important is your collaboration with CC, your drummer?
"Super important. Even, just to keep ourselves entertained live, we'll start making stuff up on the spot and we'll read each other and say like, 'Hey, let's change this part.' And we'll make it more interesting and more fun by changing some of the rhythms and how we accent things. But it's me and him, who are on the same page, doing that. That's where we lie. I think that's just pushing ourselves to be better musicians, but also just keeping it interesting."
Black Veil Brides - In The End, from their new album Wretched And Divine
When you were writing the new record did you have a central aim with the bass parts?
"Our main intention with this latest record was to try and break the mould with where we were at as a band and what people expected from us. It was a huge departure to make this huge rock opera concept record, so I wanted the bass and the tone to be very 'rock', because our guitar players will come in and they're more metal. We talked about the rhythm side and the tone of the record just had to have a feeling of warmth and roundness. And I guess also, to be timeless, because I think what we were going for - we want to be a timeless rock 'n' roll band."
That's a big goal. How do you try and achieve something - in terms of the sound of a record - that's not going to date?
"Exactly. I think that it's in the writing process of the songs in itself first. I can give you an example: we don't scream any more because we think that's a dated part of a genre that's going to come and go. We're highly ambitious and that's just for ourselves, not for anyone else. We want to push ourselves because we're excited. Even conceptually - we looked at a lot of stuff, like My Chemical Romance and Green Day for what they've done. I think that's more along the lines of where we see our career heading."
"I'm using my bass as like a weapon onstage, so those basses had to handle a lot"
You've got a signature Dean bass. What kind of things were you taking into consideration when you were designing that?
"It's a Dean Cadillac, one of their flagship designs, so for me to replicate that on bass, I went through all of the steps and how that functions for me playability wise. A lot of it was weight distribution. I needed the neck to be more rounded and curved in the back, so I can move up and down the neck easier. Then I went super straight forward with the electronics - basically what Nikki Sixx does - just an on/off toggle switch, a kill switch sort of thing. I'm using my bass as like a weapon onstage, so those basses had to handle a lot, because I abuse them!"
Are we right in thinking that it says 'porn' on the back?
"Well that's one of them - that's a warpaint bass, because you know in our early career we had all of the warpaint on our bodies. The newest one is the Outlaw bass and that says Outlaw down the inlays. Dean's so cool. I'm in the middle of designing some other guitars for them right now and a new bass that's coming out. I'm going more old school rock 'n' roll. I'm doing a semi-hollow body, but it's still kind of like 'outlaw' and western-y."
Dean Guitars discuss Ashley's signature basses
What other gear do you use?
"There are no pedals at all. It's a SansAmp and then a Peavey Touring 700 on the road. Peavey are just good people and they helped us out in the early stages of our career and after playing through a lot of stuff, it was an easy choice. It's durable and you can travel with it because it's rack-mounted."
You want to become the world's biggest band. Is that at odds with your outcast nature?
"I think that's where our ambition comes from. We're all from small towns and we want to be something bigger than where we're from. Like I said before, we're bored with the climate of the music and we want something entertaining, so that's where it all stems from. There's no limit for us whatsoever where that's concerned - we're just gonna keep growing as a band. "