Nashville Pussy bassist Bonnie Buitrago on the power of sixes...
“I started off playing guitar in my bedroom like a lot of soon-to-be bassists, but as I started playing with bands, I found myself in love with playing bass and singing. I wound up working with some incredible audio engineers and producers, who showed me that bass was my calling. I got to spend lots of time recording and finding my voice.
“My first bass was a vintage short scale sunburst Teisco knock-off, no-brand. I still have it - it actually sounds pretty great. I got to have fun with it recording at Scott Reeder’s studio, the Sanctuary, out in the California desert. Among all his monstrous bass amps and arsenal of bass guitars, we mic’d up my first bass amp, and plugged in my first bass.
“I brought that gear to his studio because I knew the heavy, overdriven fuzz bursting out of my old, torn-up five-watt Japanese amp, plus that bass, was gonna provide the perfect gnarly touch on some overdubs I had in mind. My main bass sounds were coming from the Ampeg SVT, which was used on [1994 Kyuss album] Welcome To Sky Valley, and some of his other amazing amps, of course.
“I’m most known for my work with Nashville Pussy, touring internationally with them for the last seven years, and having recorded on their last three releases - Up The Dosage, Ten Years Of Pussy and our new album, Pleased To Eat You.
“I came from the underground punk world prior to that, touring alongside legendary punk bands around the US and Europe with my band Bloodhook before I joined Nashville Pussy. We had a self-titled album recorded at Sound City with Sonics drummer Dusty Watson. Touring on the ZZ Top/Nashville Pussy tour in 2012 will forever be a highlight for me. And I got to join one of my favourite bands ever!
“Fender have been great with me, going beyond what I could expect. I bought a vintage P-Bass on the road one time, and it didn’t have a case. My birthday was that week and when I arrived at my hotel room, I opened the door and there was a box from Fender with a new case and a note that said ‘Happy Birthday’! Ernie Ball, too; they had me on their radar before I started playing in Nashville Pussy. I’m grateful for all their support.”
“I love my 1962 Olympic White Fender Bass VI. If you’re unfamiliar with them, you might mistake the VI for a baritone guitar. It’s not. It’s a six-string bass, in standard tuning, but one octave lower.
“The VI has a 30” scale and requires its own special strings. Depending on what I’m going for, I might sprinkle it into small parts of a song, or use it straight-up for the whole bass track. It’s got a characteristic sound all of its own; it can sound like the darkest surf guitar, as it has a tremolo bar too, but it’s unmistakably a VI in any form. It’s really all about how you choose to use it. When I found mine in the back of a local gear shop a long time ago, I felt like I’d found a treasure… I still do.
“Basslines can be incredible if they are driving and simple, or wild, non-stop jammin’… that’s the beauty of bass. It can be all about anchoring the song down with fewer notes - that space, that silence - or showing off artistically with the most out-of-this-world bass playing. Then there’s the songwriting bassist, who thinks differently to most of us, choosing wisely for the vocal parts, as they’re building the song from the bottom up, constructing the melody on top.
“My favourite bassists come from all these worlds. What matters is that you play from the heart; it doesn’t matter if you’re walking all over the neck or holding it steady, you’re the pulse of the song. Good tone feels good - for everybody involved!
“My favourite bass ever is my trusty, slightly rusty 1981 Candy Apple Red Fender Precision Special. It’s on all the Nashville Pussy albums I’ve done, and always on tour with me. She’s lived a punk-rock life: scorched by the sun, sweated and bled on, marinated with beer. And she’s got all the scars to prove it - she’s a trooper!
“The second-place runner is my indestructible Peavey T-40, which I use when playing in drop tunings. I originally got it as a cheap backup for my Rickenbacker 4003 - but the T-40 is another proven punk-rock beast, and not to be messed with…”
Nashville Pussy’s album Pleased To Eat You is out now.