"I’m a sound guy," says The Aristocrats' bass master Bryan Beller. "I’m a big believer that every great band has one note that’s all theirs. And the sound of that one note is the sound that they make."
Beller cites Rage Against The Machine and Steely Dan, both of which have records on his list of 10 Essential Bass Albums, as examples of his theory. "Think about it: Those are two bands that couldn't be any more different from each other, but you hear that one note, that one perfect sound, and you know who it is." He laughs and quickly adds, "Of course, I also believe that the bass player contributes to making that sound.”
Since graduating from Berklee College Of Music, Beller has established himself as one of music's most adventurous and versatile bassists, tackling everything from jazz fusion to death metal, with stops at pop and progressive rock along the way. But despite his reputation as a certified chopsmeister, Beller has strong feelings about players who showboat their virtuosity.
“Anytime the bass playing is great on a bad album, something definitely went wrong," he states. "Virtuosity can play a role in great music, but everything has to be in sync and have meaning. I'll take a great band with great songs, and if somebody stands out, that’s terrific. But the whole thing has to matter."
In compiling his list, Beller explains that he arrived at his choices from more of a classic-rock perspective than an R&B one. "That would almost be a separate list," he says. "The Jamerson records, the Stax records – that's a world unto itself. Also, I wasn't really into that stuff as a kid, so for the most part, I'm going with the records that really changed me and informed my approach to the bass when I was growing up."