“Working on this album made me fall in love with the bass again"
Since releasing their debut album in 2010, US outfit Sleeping With Sirens have slowly but surely built their name as one of the hottest bands of their generation.
The band's latest album, Gossip, landed in September, and made a dent back home and in Europe - and the band really worked at it in the studio
"We recorded with David Bendeth in Nashville at House of Blues Studios," Justin Hills confirms. "He is very intense; he will push you to the limit. It was definitely a learning experience - we all took something from it and ran with it.”
Justin suggests that the Tonight Alive producer’s hands-on role may well have yielded Sleeping With Sirens’ finest work to date.
“I think it is the best stuff that we have done so far. It is great to have someone to push you like that in the studio. He makes a good point that if you hit 30 years old and you’re not continuing to learn your instrument and to progress then you'll hit a wall where you’re as good as you will ever be. Unless you really want it and strive for it then you won’t improve.
“Working on this album made me fall in love with the bass again. I was excited to play again. Now when I get home I don’t just sit at home; I dedicate three hours a day to playing and he put that in the back of my head.”
And so with what he considers to be his band’s best album out in the wild, we gave Justin a light grilling on the records that he considers essential to his journey as a bass player. We start with a rock titan…
1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)
“Growing up, I would listen to a lot of other bass players. I always wanted to broaden my horizons and that would then filter into my own bass playing.
“My dad was a huge music buff, so he introduced me to a lot of stuff. Red Hot Chili Peppers were one of my favourites. Flea is obviously such a great bass player.
“I loved Blood Sugar Sex Magik. That was my jam. My dad was obsessed with that record. I remember seeing the cover and the crazy tribal artwork everywhere. It was always in my dad’s car and he would take it from the car to the house and the house to the car no matter what.
“He was an ‘80s metalhead but this was the album that got me into appreciating music. I can’t even pick out a favourite track from that album, that’s how good it is. This is an album that I can listen to from front to back and never get tired of it - and Flea’s bass work on this record is just incredible.
“I appreciate the way that they progressed as a band as well. They moved with the times and stayed relevant. Each time they released a new record their fans gave them a chance and it was always something different.”
2. Rage Against The Machine - Evil Empire (1996)
“This is an awesome, bass-heavy record.
“I remember the first time I heard this record. My best friend’s brother took me to his room and he was smoking a joint listening to Rage Against The Machine. I remember it being the worst smell ever, but I couldn’t leave because I was so sucked into the opening riff of the record.
“I can still close my eyes and see that moment vividly in my head. I associated the smell with Rage Against The Machine.
“To me, Rage was less about the vocals; it was the rhythm section that was so groovy and they just hooked me right from the off. You see a lot of bands trying to do what Rage did today, but it’s never done as well as they did it.”
3. Metallica - Kill ‘Em All (1983)
“I have to have Cliff Burton on this list; his playing was just insane.
“This was the first CD that my dad ever bought me. I was too young to appreciate it. I was never really into heavy music, and it took me a long time to get into this album.
“I started playing bass and I revisited this album and dude, Cliff Burton is a genius. He is so fast. I wish I could play that fast. I wish I could play that clean.
“And Metallica is still out there doing it now. I like all of the bass players that Metallica has had, but Cliff paved the way. It’s inspiring to see Metallica still out there. I don’t know if there is another band out there that has been doing it as long, as hard and as consistently as they have.
“And man, they do things like going to Antarctica to play a show! I wish we could do that one day - that would be amazing.”
4. Alice In Chains - Facelift (1990)
“I love all of Alice In Chains’ slower stuff. It is so groovy, and the bass work just holds it all together.
“I don’t know how I got into Alice In Chains. We actually jam a lot of Alice In Chains in this band. We did a record in Nashville that we ended up not putting out a couple of years ago, and Alice In Chains had just recorded in there previously to us, so we got to hear some of their stuff and that sparked my love for them back up.
“I got into them as a kid and I just got back into appreciating them again. The chemistry in that band is unreal. We sing along to this album; it is a real vocal thing with this incredible low-end.”
5. Envy On The Coast - Lowcountry (2010)
“This is a newer choice, and the bass and drums on this album really are so locked in.
“I’ve gotten to see a lot of the bands on this list live, although obviously not always with the original bass players, but you can hear how tight the rhythm sections are and how big that makes the sound. The bass has such a purpose on all of these records that I have chosen.
“This is one of my favourite bands in the whole world. The drummer and bass player are just so locked in and I feel that every hit and every part has been worked out for every song perfectly to make it sound as big as it can be. They do that live as well.
“The first track on that album is one people need to hear; it’s called Death March Until Ready. It is so rock 'n' roll, dirty and gritty. It’s messy, but somehow not.”