Here is guitarist Jon Hudson's go-to live setup—a respectable pedalboard with two EQ pedals (a Boss GE-7 Equalizer and MXR M109 6-Band Graphic EQ) that he uses to lower and boost the amp's volume and his 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom.
Billy, talk about the groovy, slithering main bass riff in “Sunny Side Up.”
Gould: That was the last instrumental part we added in that song, which usually isn’t the case, so it was definitely a challenge to work from that angle or perspective. Since the structure of the song was already there, I tried to play around the drummer. Usually I’m pushing the drummer along, and normally I have a thing where I kind of play bass like a drummer, so we’re always playing off of or against each other. This time I just decided to kind of sail around it and play a little more syncopated. For a Faith No More song, it’s not our typical approach. “Sunny Side Up” might be my favorite song on the record right now.
And about two minutes into “Matador”—when Mike’s vocals shift from singing to an almost spoken word—that bass line steers the song. What was your goal for that part?
Gould: Just like anything I play in Faith No More or any project, I try to put a groove into the song. What’s catching your ear is probably weird 7/8 timing that we’re playing through most of the song. It’s not in your face, but you notice something is just off, but in a good way.
Let’s talk gear. Jon, are you still using the Marshall-Fender dual-amp setup?
Hudson: No, I got rid of the Twin. I love Fender Twins, but it becomes problematic to get a good balance between amplifiers onstage. The levels got off, and sometimes it became more of a hassle than it was worth. A few years ago, I started trying to get everything out of my JCM800. Right now I just have a Boss GE-7 Equalizer that boosts the midrange a little bit—that’s sort of my overdrive/boost. I can obviously boost that signal and get it to go a little more over the top, but my other EQ pedal—the MXR M09—pulls almost all the frequencies down by 10 dB. I’ll leave a couple of the upper frequencies intact, but I’ve also tried pulling the full signal down, too. The amp is consistent the whole time, so the tone isn’t altered.
I’ve had different overdrive pedals, but sometimes when I go back and listen to recordings, I feel they compressed the sound more than I wanted. The tonal character changes and the guitar disappears. That’s an issue I sometimes have with a lot of high-gain amplifiers as well.
Billy, your signature Zon bass has an onboard preamp for instant distortion. Did you use that at all while recording or is that just a live thing?
Gould: No I didn’t record with it—it’s on my bass to kind of replace the Fulltone Bass-Drive in my live rig. Roy [Zichri] at Greenhouse Effects and I worked on this idea for a preamp circuit that’s kind of like a parallel drive. Not a distortion—it just adds a little bit of drive and a little bit of edge.
If you disengage it, it goes back to passive I imagine?
Gould: Exactly. It takes the circuit out completely. The other thing that’s cool about it is that when I tour a lot, sometimes I can’t bring my amp with me and the backline gear is a struggle to work with. With something like this onboard preamp, I can actually bypass a lot of those problems by having the tone come from the bass.
Tell us about your signature bass.
Gould: The signature models that are coming out are actually based on the first Zon I got back in 1990. Joseph made me something to the specs that I needed, because I have small hands, and I needed to feel comfortable touring and playing every night. My old No. 1 bass broke a string, so I used the Zon for the rest of the show. That was it—I haven’t used too many other basses since then. The Bartolini pickups in the signature models are based on the original pickups I got back in the early ’90s. This bass coming out now is my bass of 20-some years ago.
That Fender Bassman 300 you recorded with is a big tube monster. Will you tour with that or pare things down?
Gould: What I’m using now is an Aguilar Tone Hammer 500. I really like it a lot. In fact, I probably would have recorded with it if I’d had one then.
I’m curious about your approach to effects. From what I could tell from recordings and watching live videos, you’re not using many effects on the bass.
Gould: The whole time I’m using my signature Zon bass with my Fender Bassman 300 into my old Peavey 8x10 cabs. Completely dry signal. It’s just a big, ballsy, full amp. It’s a very big, thick sound with lots of bass. If you’re playing jazz-fusion, you’re probably not going to like that amp very much. It’s a little closer to the SVT side of things, but for me it was a pretty cool sound. It has something like 18 tubes, so it’s not very practical. When it’s good, it’s really pretty badass. It’s like having a tractor with a supercharger.
Check out one of Faith No More’s frenetic sets from one of their first shows in 2009—complete with a cover of Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited.”
I try to make the bass sound like a bass. I like messing around with effects for fun, but oftentimes bass—more so than guitar—loses its oomph and low-end character the more its core tone is altered, and that causes it to get lost in the mix.
Jon, you’ve mentioned that growing up you played Teles and Strats, but now you play Les Pauls with a DiMarzio Dual Sound in the bridge position. What do you like about that setup?
Hudson: Well, in this band and this context, it fills out the sound the right way. A Fender with a humbucker wouldn’t be quite the right sound for this band. I think that live, the Les Paul is the way to go for Faith No More. I can actually get a fairly twangy sound if I knock the volume down a little bit and maybe play closer to the bridge. I really like the DiMarzio humbuckers because while still being hot, they offer a nice, solid midrange tone.
What are you using for the beginning of “Cone of Shame,” where it’s just spare drums and a spaghetti-Western guitar line?
Hudson: That was definitely one of Bill’s plug-ins because I played that part clean with a Fender American Standard Telecaster. I remember I wanted a really bright tone that would really pop out of that sparse arrangement, so I played that Tele on the bridge pickup and we added reverb and delay afterwards. Live, I’ll use an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail.
Another unique guitar sound is in the opening, cabaret-style part during the intro and verses of “Rise of the Fall.” What are you playing?
Hudson: There are lots of clean parts on that song—some are mixed down a little quieter because we wanted them to sit lower in the mix compared to the vocal. I did a lot of work with my Gibson ES-335 for the real, clear precise parts. There were a few different layers on that one. For the melodic break in the vocals, I double-tracked parts with my Les Paul Custom and the Tele.
How about another new album?
Hudson: Oh boy. Now you’re going to get me in trouble!
I get it, but let’s not wait 18 years until the next one.
Hudson: Message received [laughs].