WarwickBass.com interview with Scott Shriner - June 2008
Scott Shriner is one of those bass players that other bass players make sure to see whenever he comes to town. It has always been that way. When Scott attended the Bass Institute of Technology in Hollywood , CA , he quickly caught the attention of the instructors there. Whenever he would take the stage in the main performance hall all eyes would be on him and all ears would be on the bass lines coming out of his hands. Scott was the perfect balance between insane chops and foundational grooves. He seemed equally comfortable slapping a frantic, over-the-top solo or laying down a Motown groove. He was real.
And that has not changed since he left BIT. In fact, it has only gotten better. Scott, the bassist for the amazing band Weezer, recently took sometime to sit down and chat with our own Dale Titus, and here is what they talked about:
People who read this interview will most likely want to know what you are up to now. So, what has been going on for you and the band?
Weezer has just finished The Red Album and it is set for a June 24th release with the first single being "Pork and Beans" which will hit radio by the end of this month.
These days we are working on album artwork and finishing up our mastering choices which we have spent a lot of time on to make sure Weezer fans get the most out of this album. So the joy of recording is over and we have a little time off before we start touring later this summer. So for me its time to start writing again and get ready to tour.
Do you really find joy in the recording process? I know many players see the studio as an intimidating chore.
Man, I love recording now. When I went to MI [Musicians Institute] back in the day with you I thought I shredded. Then when I started recording I heard what I was playing and I was shredding a lot of mess. Then when I started recording records with Weezer, man, I really heard what was going on and that's when I started learning about another level of bass. The sessions for The Red Album were pretty amazing.
I love recording now. I love the gear, getting different sounds using different basses and amp combos, effect pedals. I learn so much every time.
I should explain to the readers that I was a teacher and counselor at the Bass Institute of Technology when you were a student. I can tell you that the bass instructors loved watching you play! You have such a big, organic sound to your playing - an amazing sense of groove. You were obviously a great player before you came to the school, so why did go to BIT?
Man, that's so cool, Dale, and coming from a player like you it means even more. It was teachers like you that made my time at BIT one of the best years of my life. It was a great time at MI, the energy was fantastic and I felt so much support from you and a lot of the other teachers. I was getting constructive criticisms and good feedback. Instructors were hard on me but encouraging me at the same time. I knew I was a pretty good bass player but I knew I had so much to learn and I was dying to move to LA so BIT was my salvation. I looked at Los Angeles as the proving ground for Rock. There were so many amazing bands around LA then with Rage Against The Machine and Tool and Stone Temple Pilots and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Guns N Roses was also ruling at that time.
OK, so I am dating myself but shit man, those were great times for rock and metal.
I feel an on going need to learn. I think that is important for musicians.
What did you do right after you graduated from BIT?
I started a band with a couple of guys from MI called Black Elvis. Great name, don't you think? I quickly found that I was not getting swooped up and rushed to fame so I got a job in a horrible clothing store that I will not mention and just kept playing.
So how did you end up playing in Weezer?
There is a man in Los Angels who has magic. His name is Barry Squire. I'm sure you know him, Dale. I met him while I was at MI and he sent me out on some great auditions. Funny story: when Rivers [Cuomo] asked him for a bass player to fill in while Mikey was getting it together and I was far down the list of candidates for Weezer due to the “Dirtbag Rocker” look I was sporting at the time. The first five guys Barry suggested all got shot down when Barry said he knew a kick ass bass player that was covered in tattoos and had a gold tooth Rivers said "Perfect. Send him". I love that story.
That is an awesome story! You always have had a great sense of groove and feel which, at times, reminds me of some of the Motown or Stax/Volt bassists. Were they an influence on your playing?
That's cool that you pick up on that. I first studied with an amazing Jazz pianist in Toledo , Ohio named Mark Kieswatter. We would play standards and he would mess around with the feel all the time telling me to push or lay back in the groove. But it was from playing in local R&B bands that got it to make sense. I studied James Jamerson and Duck Dunn to learn how a good groove feels. R&B moved me way more then Jazz as a kid so learning the songs and playing with the records was my first experience playing with amazing drummers and guitar players. All those old Motown and Stax recordings are like Bass School all on there own. Then I got all messed up on the funk Metal, ha! Chili's and Fishbone and Primus… WOW! There was a great teacher at BIT names Kat who was a Keyboard instructor. He kind of took me under his wing a bit and got me to get back to basics with Bootsy ala James Brown era and Prince. Less notes… playing with spaces and really stickin' it. Get it? I know ya do.
As far as rock goes... that coexisted along with the funk the whole time.
I was a tiny kid listening to Beatles every day, then Black Sabbath turned my heart and head around. Led Zeppelin shook me up, scared me and really made me want to play hard rock. Bring in Jimmy Hendrix "Electric Ladyland" and Band of Gypsy's and see what you get. A crazy ass melodic grooving metal head? Is that what I am? Or just crazy is fine…
Even though you have some crazy ass chops, it is your maturity that really impresses me. When I first heard you play with Weezer I was blown away by your note choices and your dedication to the song. I think your bass line on " Beverly Hills " is perfect. It is one of those bass lines that would be ruined if you added even one note. Explain how you come up with your bass lines. How does the writing process work in Weezer?
I wish I could take the credit for writing Beverly Hills and you're right - one more note would ruin it. Rivers demo'd it on acoustic guitar and it was obvious what the bass line would be. It's just a perfect song as is. On Malidroit I played a lot of notes and was thinking more about countering the guitars and getting in on the melody a bit also. Make Believe was way more stripped down. I kept it simple on Make Believe , trying to think more about what would be best for the song - not trying to stick out as an individual. On our new album, The Red Album , I'd say it's a combination of both. I tried to make myself happy and shred a little and do what's best for the song. There is way more bass playing on The Red Album . Let's get more specific, once the album is released.
One of the songs was born from a Thumb Bass I got from Warwick last year. Got the bass out of the bag, plugged it in and this song came out of it! THANKS WARWICK ! Pat and Rivers write great bass parts and Pat our drummer is a fantastic bass player. For the most part Rivers demos songs without bass so I get the chance to do something cool and if I get stuck he or Pat or Brian will help out.
It sounds like a great team effort in Weezer, which doesn't always happen in every band. Back in the BIT days didn't you play a Warwick ?
I got my first Warwick while I was in school off a German dude. It was one of the early ones with a Badass bridge. Man, that bass was amazing. It changed the way I played and I immediately fell in love. I tossed it at Graduation (much like a cap) and busted up the headstock a bit. Got it fixed and went broke and had to sell it. Bummer...
Later, when I met Craig [Costigan, Dana B Goods Product Manager] at NAMM in 2006 I told him the story of the sad departure of my first shredding bass. The rest is history. Now I have a Thumb Bass and also a "Dirty Blonde" which really caught my eye from first sight. That bass sounds amazing too in a different way. The Dirty Blonde will be heard on another song on The Red Album .
Let's talk more about the sessions for The Red Album . Do you record your parts in the control room going direct, or do you prefer to recording in the soundroom, standing next to your gear?
I did it both ways on The Red Album . I got some good performances in the control room with the big mains up really loud. I felt tentative on the small monitors but did get by. Then we moved into an auditorium were I was standing in front of an amp with headphones on. I feel like I got the best shit that way. Even being in the live room with the cab in an isolation room cranked would work as long as I can feel the low end power in the floors and walls. We recorded for a couple of months at this place on a hillside in Malibu and one of my favorite moments was when our engineer Andrew Scheps said "Man, we got to turn you down… people on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) are complaining". Ever since I was a kid I wanted everyone to be able to hear me. Bass is a good instrument for Scott Shriner.
Damn straight. Do you go into the studio with all of your songs written or do you prefer to write in the studio?
We have everything pretty demo'd up before we go in. That way we can vote on our favorite songs so when it is game time were ready. Most times it's just the skeleton of the song but the main structure is there. Sometimes I will have parts worked out before recording and sometimes I work on the fly. I personally really like playing the songs for a couple of weeks (months? years?) before recording them so it feels natural and comfortable.
Are there a few songs on the Red Album that are your favorites to play?
The song "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is a masterpiece that includes ten different styles of music based around a common theme. It's awesome. That word gets abused a lot like...”wow these pancakes are awesome” but “Greatest man” IS F&$^#%@*'n AWESOME ! Pat wrote a song called “Automatic” that is heavy and really fun to play, THIS RECORD HAS SOME OF THE MOST FUN SONGS TO PLAY OF ANY WEEZER SONGS. I can't wait for people to hear The Red Album . I am so proud of it.
Wow, "Greatest Man" seems very progressive! Were you into any prog bands growing up?
Dude, are you kidding!?! Rush and Yes were a close tie and King Crimson, too. I love me some Prog. I still listen to a lot of King Crimson and Tool, and Mars Volta keep it fresh.
With the Red Album almost finished you guys will be heading back out on the road. What do you enjoy most about touring?
I was born for it. I love coming into a new town every day, ruling it and then moving on to do it again. Having music as my only real concern on a day-to-day basis is the best. No shopping, no fixing the washing machine… just rock. This tour promises to be the most exciting with tons of new and exciting musical acts of danger. I go crazy for gear and cables and power and tons of speakers and semi trucks full of lights!!!! ROOOOOOCCKKKKKK!
Whether live or in the studio, do you use any effects pedals or rack gear?
In the past I have kept it really clean in the studio with just an old SVT and a sans amp bass driver to put a little grit in the direct signal. On The Red Album I used an old Sovtek Big Muff, Lovetone Meatball, Fox Fuzz Whah, Zvex Super Hard On and a Colorsound Fuzz, Electro harmonix POG, MXR phase 100, I also ran our Moog Voyager through a Moogerfooger ring Modulator, Delay and Phaser. That Moog stuff sounds great.
Live I have kept it pretty simple with a Line 6 delay and Modulation Multi Effects which some of that sounded great for playing in hockey rinks. The tape delay with the Rotating speaker effect from the blue pedal can get sick if you turn some knobs (no jokes here please) which I often do. The Tech 21 Bass Driver works great, too, for playing live. So does the Blackstone pedal. This Tour I have no idea what I am going to put together but I am for sure going to change it up a bunch.
As far as rack gear goes, when I first joined the band they were playing through POD's. It was weird. I would spend a lot of time trying to get sounds that got me excited but it was really a challenge. I got a Tech 21 Sans Amp rack effect it was digital hell on wheels. It did cut through the mix and our front of house guy loved mixing vocals with us on Pods. (No stage volume). We don't do that anymore. Too much information???? Oh well.
Not at all! I think many bass players are gear heads and they enjoy reading about the gear that other players use. I know I do.
Even though you are a born road warrior, what do you do to survive the monotony that sometimes comes with touring?
I try to read but mostly I fall victim to video games. I get super A.D.D. on the road with all the excitement so I need fast entertainment. Last tour I was into Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. I would be in the back lounge playing late and all the sirens in the game kept giving people in the bunks nightmares about the bus getting pulled over or being in a high speed chase. I have a hard time sleeping on the bus so I play video games often. There is a new GTA coming out man which I excited about.
I also like to run on tour. It's a blast to run in places I have never been before… it gets to be quite an adventure sometimes. What else?? My wife comes with me so we get into being tourists and looking around and shopping and stuff. She is so hot our life is always like a porno movie. HA! Well… kind of anyway.
I am impressed that the band is cool with your wife traveling with you! Most of the tours I have been on were “Boy's Only”.
We have a totally family friendly band. Kids, wives, girlfriends, whatever. I love that traveling family kind of vibe. I am not a hippy but I do like the pack concept. Bring everybody! We all get along pretty good and if a guy does better with his wife and kid there then its better for everybody including the fans because he is not distracted with missing them or worrying about his kid. We can all just be in the moment.
I have to tell you that my 6-year-old daughter is so excited that I am interviewing you because Weezer had a song on one of her Radio Disney CDs. [“Beverly Hills” is on Radio Disney Jams 9] Did you know that you had a song on a Disney CD and has it had any effect on the average age of your audience?
That's great, Dale! It makes me really happy that kids dig our music. What could be better than that? Weezer hits so many cool people, young and old. Hopefully we will continue to bring fun stuff for the kids.
Do you have any other musical projects going when Weezer is on a break?
Man, I want to start a prog band. I really do! I hope to do that some day. I love singing and I keep writing and staying open to whatever might come my way but I think I will have to just make a move and start a band. I write with my buddy Dave Kushner from Velvet Revolver (we have been in bands together a long time ago). For the most part I am just working at home. I have been trying to get my guitar chops together a little bit and I have taken a couple of keyboard lessons recently so I have a routine of practicing then writing. Weezer will be back in the studio at the end of this year so I need to get some songs together!
I want to thank you for taking this time to talk with me, Scott! Is there anything you would like to add before I let you get back to the band?
I would like to thank you for making this such a cool interview. Thanks to Warwick for making such fine instruments. Thanks to Craig at Dana B Goods for being so cool with me. Thanks to Jonas Hellborg for giving me such a cool NAMM show experience. Meeting him was an honor. Check out Weezer.com for upcoming tour and record release information. Grab The Red Album - it is a strong hot cup of Rock and Roll coffee. (Avail June 24 th ). Thanks to everyone!
(Warwick would like to thank photographer Sean Murphy for the Weezer photo and the photo of Scott sitting on his Vespa.)