Top Five Friday – Ryan Drever, No Island

Who? Ryan Drever, No Island

Top five…bassists

1. Joe Lally, Fugazi

It took me so long to like Fugazi. Having been immersed in the poppier ‘punk’ environment of the early 00s, I found their music to be slow-burning, complex and difficult to absorb. But as I persevered, these were the things I grew to love about them. When I finally ‘got it’, I really fucking got it, and of all the things I love about that band, Joe Lally’s bass playing is easily in the upper echelons. His playing would incorporate elements of funk, reggae and dub, while sounding as aggressive and earth-shatteringly loud as anything else that spewed forth from the 80s hardcore scene. A slick, dedicated and dynamic player, Joe Lally has been one of the biggest influences on me as a bass player and is one of few four-stringers whose lines get stuck in my head more than the vocals.

2. Mike Watt, Minutemen/Stooges/countless others

Mike Watt’s ethics and punk rock philosophy in regards to how to make a band work has had a huge effect on me. Notoriously excitable and generally just a bit of a dude, his playing was, and still is, wild, diverse and incredibly ambitious. In the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, Watt subverted the usual punk rock approach to bass playing, informed by his love for jazz, soul and Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was the one area where he was never economical and has never compromised on. Now in his 50s and still playing for any fucker that’ll have him on stage (a mammoth list which includes the fucking Stooges), he deserves some heavy respect!

3. Steve Harris, Iron Maiden

Whatever you think of Iron Maiden, I will flat out try you for blasphemy if you tell me he’s a shit bass player. Influenced by copious amounts of hard rock and prog throughout the 70s, Harris’s style was punchy yet technical, snarling yet melodic and he even pioneered the infamous ‘gallop’ which formed the backbone for metal’s almighty boom throughout the 80s. The master gunner of the main stage, and single-handed creator of one of the biggest musical empires in history, Steve Harris is of a dying breed of musical stalwarts whose style is still being ripped off something fierce to this day.

4. Geddy Lee, Rush

Again, Rush are a band who have churned out their fair share of, let’s say, ‘divisive’ material over their near 40 years together. But scrape away the 80s synth rock disasters and you’ll still be left with a back catalogue so fucking huge, dense and mindblowingly inventive that you can surely forgive a few ill decisions. I grew up hearing them blasted on every school run, every drive by the beach (in Orkney I might add) and after I got past his voice, I found myself focusing on Geddy Lee’s bass playing. Every member of Rush is a certified musical freak. Neil Peart’s 4000 piece drumkit that he abuses at every second, Alex Lifeson’s extraterrestrial leads… it’s all good but the frantic pops, gruelling melodic runs and franky baffling one-fingered proficiency of Lee’s playing is the cornerstone of one of the most intelligent and boundary-pushing groups of our time. Plus, he always looks so happy – how can you not dig it?

5. Les Claypool, Primus

Les Claypool is one of few technically freakish bass players who doesn’t just spend all his seconds wanking on you with his low end steez. Famously failing his audition with Metallica because he was ‘too good’, Claypool’s music – with Primus and otherwise – utilises bizarre themes, stories and characters, and always pairs itself with unsettling and sometimes even disgusting imagery. It’s something he’s fully committed to but by employing every rhythmic trick and machine-gun-like slap in his arsenal, he can turn stoned, half-cocked jams into pieces of intense musical mastery. Insane, unlistenable at times but always pounds your brain to mush. Check out ‘Lacquer Head’ or ‘My Name is Mud’. Crazy bastard.

Honorary mentions to Dee Dee Ramone (Ramones), Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag) and countless others.

No Island play a The Daily Dose presents… gig at Stereo, Glasgow on 5 March alongside Carnivores, The Darien Venture and Cuddly Shark, with proceeds going towards Action For Children. Get tickets here.

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