Despite his allegiance to Bloodclot, Nick Oliveri has multiple irons in the fire. Here, he’s onstage with Kyuss Lives!, which features Oliveri and two other original members of the influential stoner-rock band. Photo by Emma Farrer
Nick, what bass were you using to track?
Oliveri: It’s a bass my pal made for me. He built it out of Allparts stuff. He goes, “Bring me your favorite bass and I’ll make you something like it, but better.” I brought him the one I use all the time, which is a P bass with a Jazz Bass pickup added at the bridge, and he goes “Dude, how do you play that thing with the action so high?” And it’s because I set them up myself, but I learned how to deal with it because I pick fast and I don’t want the strings bouncing off the neck too much. Pat came back with this awesome P-and-J Bass, loaded with Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder pickups and a Badass II bridge. It’s got much lower action than my old bass, but it doesn’t buzz or bounce too hard off the fretboard. I used that for the album and I’m loving that thing.
Todd, what amps did you use to get those giant guitar sounds?
Youth: A 100-watt master volume JMP, which is the classic amp for hardcore, and a JCM800 that was modded by Martin Golub at L.A. Sound Design to have just a little bit more gain. For some spots, I was using one of the new 50-watt EVH 5150 IIIs, and I love those amps! I can get them to sound like a JMP at lower volumes and they’re more reliable than some of the old Marshalls.
What about guitars?
Youth: I cut most of it with a 1971 Les Paul Standard that was just smoking! DiMarzio Super Distortions. No funny business: just a Les Paul into a Marshall!
The instruments are so rhythmically tight that it all works as a single unit. Did you track to a click?
Youth: No. Joey’s a human click! And that’s another thing with this kind of music: A click sucks all the soul out of it. It’s got to pull and push, and in certain spots we sit far back on it, and other spots we push it. Joe’s great and can play all around a click, but working to a click really saps the human quality and that violent bounce from it.
Todd, you’ve had an extremely varied career. Coming back to making a traditional hardcore record after that kind of musical journey, what do you bring to the table differently as a player than when you were a kid and cut those seminal albums?
Youth: It’s painful when I listen to any Warzone shit, because it was done right when I was learning how to play lead guitar and it’s just rough, but the reality is that my childhood—and my progress learning and coming up as a musician—is on YouTube. Every year of my life as a musician is on there, so I can see it was at about age 18 when I sort of went “ah!” and my guitar playing started clicking. At the record-release party, John summed it up best when he said, “Between us, there’s 140 years of playing experience in this band.” And that’s fuckin’ heavy, man! So I think it’s just the kind of thing that experience teaches: confidence and efficiency. I don’t second guess myself these days.
Nick, what was it like for you making this record after having been involved with so many different projects and styles over the years?
Oliveri: A lot of the bands I’ve played in and I’m known for being involved with aren’t doing things that I’m into anymore, and I feel like this is where I should really be musically. I’m very proud of the music I’ve made with every band I’ve been in over the years, but this project really satisfies what I’m about as a player. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I was just never surrounded with the right people to do it. My whole childhood was spent listening to crossover hardcore and thrash and there’s a lot of punk attitude in music I’ve made in the past, but this is exactly what I’ve been waiting to do.
Todd, the guitar solos on the record are all burners. Were they premeditated or were you just letting it rip?
Youth: It was all done on the fly, solo-wise. I wanted to get more away from what I normally would do, which is that Ace Frehley rock ’n’ roll thing, and get more of a chaotic feel to things.
My favorite solo on the record is in “Siva / Rudra.” I dig the chewy wah tone on it a lot. Can you tell me what you used on that one?
Youth: That’s that Les Paul into a Tube Screamer, into a Dunlop wah, and then into a Marshall. That solo there is my actual ode to Dr. Know’s style of lead guitar.
What is it about Doc Know’s playing that hooked you so deeply?
Youth: I can’t think of a player who takes leads in the past 30 years that comes close to Doc as far as originality. His note choices, but more importantly, his fearlessness! He’s truly fearless, and if he hits a wrong note, he makes it sound right somehow. His feel is just so next level, and we have the same story in a lot of ways. He started as a bass player, like me. I think all guitarists should spend a year or two as a bass player in a band to really understand the conversation that’s going on between a bassist and a drummer. “Fast” Eddie Clarke from Motörhead was also a huge influence on my style, and I think it comes out the most in my playing these days.
Who would you cite as key influences on your development as a player, Nick?
Oliveri: I think Chuck Dukowski from Black Flag is one of the best. I think Lemmy was probably the best. John will probably get mad at me for saying so, but I think Harley Flanagan is a great bass player and his style obviously influenced me. But Lemmy was the big one for me.
As a 14-year-old kid I went to see Motörhead play and the Cro-Mags opened. When they played, between the crazy pits and everything that was going on and the energy onstage, it just seemed like the band was levitating. I can still see it clearly now, and it was so magical. It was absolutely surreal. That was a life-changing thing for me. At that moment, I knew I wanted to play music for the rest of my life. It was such a pivotal thing.
I’ve always found the early East Coast hardcore scene to contain some truly gifted, athletic, outside-thinking guitarists—especially compared to some of their West Coast contemporaries. What’s your take on why that is, Todd?
Youth: There was a club [in New York] called A7, and it’s known as Niagara these days, but they had no liquor license and it was an illegal bar and cops would come and raid it all the time. Bands wouldn’t start until 2 in the morning, and Tuesday nights were reggae night and the neighborhood dreads would be in there jamming. A drummer or a bass player or a guitarist wouldn’t show up, and I’d be in there and fill in. So I learned how to play all of these different kinds of music in that bar. That, and being around dudes like the Bad Brains.
I always tried to be a musician first. Like when I first heard Mahavishnu Orchestra and caught “Inner Mounting Flame,” and it clicked that that was where the Bad Brains got a lot of their intros and ideas from. I called Doc and called him out on it, and he laughed, but it has to do with New York being such a melting pot and being surrounded by so much different shit. I think being a New Yorker at that time, and in that world—where we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from unless the Hare Krishnas were serving food in the park—we were playing for our lives. I try to still do that. I think we’re all coming from a place like that in this band.
Nick Oliveri punishes his custom bass while Todd Youth blasts his Les Paul through a Marshall at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn during a set packed with songs from Bloodclot’s debut, Up in Arms.