Dan talks bass

Dan keeps things tight but pared down as a bass player, and gets a wide range of tones purely through the bass guitar itself.

"I quite like the muffled bass sound, I don’t like too much treble in the way I play. I play a Fender Jaguar, Japanese Fender Jag, with a Marshall Compressor pedal, straight through that with a Boss tuner. Less is more for me really, as a bass player, it’s more about what I play rather than how I play it."

He had to hunt around for his Jag, and he loves it but it doesn’t always behave!

"I’d wanted one for a long time. It’s a Japanese Fender, they reissued the Jaguar I think 2004, some time around then. I bought it off eBay for about £800. To be honest it’s been great, And bad as well. Because there’s so many switches that can go wrong on that guitar."

Ah yes the switches. Players love what they can do, but they need handling with care, and guitar guru Johnny Marr even swapped traditional sliders for a blade-style switch when he designed his signature Jaguar guitar. We asked Dan about whether he ever tapes the switches on his bass.

"I fell in love with it, the amount of tonal differences you can get through that one guitar"

Made by Fender
The Fender Jaguar Bass is similar to the switch-laden Fender Jaguar guitar first made in 1962, but has a slim Fender Jazz Bass-style neck, bridge, and pickups. With so many controls, it is a hugely flexible instrument that can give you everything from growly to bright tone, and features a preamp with bass and treble boost options. The pickups can be switched on and off individually and toggled between parallel (single coil sound) and series (humbucker sound) wiring. Plus there is master volume and tone. It has vintage styling and a classic look but was actually launched in 2006, and variations include a Pawnshop Reverse model and the new Deluxe. The Jaguar Bass is used by players like Stefan Olsdal of Placebo, Eva Gardner of Telstar, Colin Greenwood of Radiohead, Georg “Goggi” Hólm of Sigur Rós, Mikey Way of My Chemical Romance, and Chris Edwards of Kasabian.

"I’ve done that quite often actually to be honest. The guitarist from Yuck who’s amazing, he’s taped over all his switches, so sometimes I do, it depends. Things can go wrong, you know, you can knock things. That’s a Jaguar…"

Since Dan bought his bass, a new Deluxe version has been issued by Fender. We asked him for a bit more insight into his passion for the Jag.

"I basically fell in love with a Jaguar bass that my friend lent me. Dave Miller, his name is, he’s the bass player in Fiction, a great band, absolutely love their music. He lent me his black Jag, probably four or five years ago now. And I spent four or five gigs playing with that. Absolutely fell in love with it, the amount of tonal differences you can get through that one guitar, for me, as a bass player."

"I like the bottom end more than the treble, and the tonal differences I can get through the active and passive circuit, through the variety of switches that you have on the Jaguar was really appealing to me.

I personally think it’s, a great investment. As a bass player, for me, tonally, it’s the most fun I’ve had.

You know, P-Bass things like that, they’re great, they sound great from the get-go but with a Jag you’ve got that little bit of flexibility, and you’ve got that room to manoeuvre and craft a sound of your own, which you don’t get with a P-Bass or a Jazz Bass or something along those lines."

When it comes to pedals, Dan’s set-up is so streamlined that the one pedal he does use, a Marshall ED-1 Compressor, is there for a very specific reason.

"To bring the rest of the strings to the same volume, also give a bit more warmth to the sound"

Made by Marshall Amplification
This compressor/sustain pedal allows you to get a range of tones, from a twangy and snappy bite to a smooth legato. With volume, attack and compression knobs you can adjust the compression parameters to get the exact sound you want. A nice addition is the Emphasis control, which works like a tone knob, but which lets you select which range of the frequency spectrum you want emphasised as the signal is compressed. This way you can get some really bassy jazz tones, or brittle top end, and everything in between.

"The thing I’ve found with this particular Jaguar, is that my pickups, no matter how much I tweak them, my bottom E string, is always that slightly bit louder than the other strings. So I use a compressor pedal, not only to bring the rest of the strings to the same volume as the E but also to give a bit more warmth to the sound. Regardless of what amp I’m using, it gives me a little bit more control over my sound really."

Dan has a favourite amp and cab set up for live.

"I’ve got an SVT 450-H head and a 4X10 cab, which I love, it’s a classic sound for a bass."

"Classic sound for bass"

Made by Ampeg
The Ampeg SVT-450H is designed to be powerful and flexible, with warm, tube-like performance at big volume levels. It uses MOSFET technology and features an Effects Loop as well as Optocoupler Limiters, which prevent unwanted power amp distortion. It has an onboard 9-Band Graphic EQ.

Recording the Planes album is giving him the chance to experiment with new amp combinations.

"I’ve been alternating between various amplifiers recently, trying to work out the best amp for the album. I’ve been alternating between Ashdowns and Ampegs, and Oranges, still finding my niche really."

"I play with a plectrum. I can play with my fingers, but certainly with the Planes sound, I prefer playing with the plectrum, but really just taking the treble and the middle down on the amplifier. Certain amplifiers, like the Ashdown that I’ve been playing with tonight has subharmonics, certain things like that. I can bring the bottom end up and make it more lively without giving too much treble and mid range. I’d say it’s just simply through EQ really, is how I craft my sound."

So how did Dan come to be playing bass in Planes?

"I was a guitar player from the age of about eight, my dad taught me the guitar and music’s been a huge passion of mine for a long, long time. I’ve been in various bands as a guitarist/bass player, managed to play with Ed Harris, the drummer from Planes, for about two or three gigs.

He stepped in for a friend of ours, who was the drummer and he recommended me, I met Steve, Ted and Ed in the Lock Tavern in Camden, we had a good night out and then the next day I came and auditioned as a bass player and the rest is history, basically. That’s why I’m here."