Interview with Monte Allen of Rollerball & Moodring
Name: Monte Trent Allen
Bands: Rollerball, Moodring
Websites: http://www.silbermedia.com/moodring, http://www.silbermedia.com/rollerball
Listen to Moodring “Into the Doom”
Listen to Rollerball “Girls Hugging Trees”
Listen to Rollerball “Chi Town Cub”
Listen to Rollerball “Erzulie”
QRD – What was your first bass & what happened to it?
Monte – Fender Mustang; it was a loan, so I gave it back & bought an Ibanez 5 string.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from bass to effects to amplifier?
Monte – Bass, Orange Squeezer copy that Jesse Stevens made for me, Moog Ring Modulator, Boss Delay, Boss Bass Overdrive, DOD Envelope Filter, MXR Direct Box, amp. Sometimes throw in a Big Muff & a Digitech Delay/Chorus.
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – bass, amplifier, or effects?
Monte – The bass because it is the source of the sound.
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Monte – Ampeg B2RE, it is solid state & has been really low maintenance & durable.
QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass?
Monte – Electric works for me.
QRD – Do you prefer to use a pick, fingers, or a bow?
Monte – Pick & fingers/thumb.
QRD – How many strings do you think a bass should have?
Monte – I like 4 strings because it is more simple/primal, but 5 or 8 might be fun.
QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?
Monte – I started out playing guitar poorly & when I was ready to play in bands, it seemed as if there were a million guitar players & just a few drummers or bass players. So I switched to bass.
QRD – How is a bass different than a guitar other than being lower in pitch?
Monte – The bass is more of a drum. The guitar is better for playing chords & bending the strings. Cake & frosting.
QRD – What’s your main bass & what are the features that make it such?
Monte – Someone built my bass. It is neck through body, all of the hardware is brass. Bartolini non-active pickups & an extended scale ebony neck. I love it.
QRD – What do you think of the thumb rests on some basses?
Monte – I like it on the P-style bass. It could help in keeping a consistent sound with your fingers.
QRD – If you had a signature bass, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Monte – Long scale, not active, brass hardware, ebony fret board, XLR instead of 1/4 inch jack.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Monte – It would be a really small multi-fx with one knob & one button that did everything. I was going to say an envelope filter that has more options, but Electoharmonix solved that with the Enigma Q Balls.
QRD – How many basses do you own?
Monte – Two.
QRD – How & where do you store your basses?
Monte – On stands.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a bass?
Monte – No dead spots, no plastic tuning pegs. No orange. No purple. No pink. No active pickups. It should be made of solid wood, not particleboard.
QRD – How much do you think a good bass should cost?
Monte – $500, of course we could spend a lot more if we got it.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your bass or just stick with what you get?
Monte – If it needs it. I always think the hip shot is a good upgrade. A low D is a good thing.
QRD – Are you after one particular bass tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Monte – I would like to have a classic sound, but it really is dependent on the music. The bass needs to blend in, so whatever it takes.
QRD – What are some basses, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Monte – I like all the Moog pedals. Everyone should have an Ampeg SVT. My Whammy Pedal burnt up in Glasgow; it would be great to get another one. Someday, I will own a 60s Fender Jazz or P-bass. I like almost any pedal.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first bass that aren’t always there?
Monte – Maybe a built in tuner. Full scale. No baby necks. Playability. It needs to stay in tune. If you play standing up, it should be somewhat balanced.
QRD – What have been the best & worst bass related purchases you’ve made?
Monte – One time Rollerball was on tour & I got a hold of a Peavey fretless. It had not one, but two 9 volts. I grew up in a town with one music store & they were big into Peavey, so I had a lot of Peavey stuff & had good luck with it. This bass was a poorly built piece of shit. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. That thing blew up speakers weekly. Now I hate active instruments. That fucking thing was $699 & that was after I talked them down. (It was marked at $1000.) I sold it for 85 bucks. Peavey is a joke. Oh well, I don’t need a fretless anyway. Danelectro pedals do not last because the jacks are plastic. My bass was the best purchase. Mae found it for $400 used with plastic strings. The neck was like new & it was 20 years old. That was a good day.
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & bass brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Monte – I like Ampeg & Moog. Those red Crate amps are horrible obviously. Hartke is kind of wimpy for the money.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a bass?
Monte – An A chord.
QRD – How old were you when you started playing bass?
Monte – 19, guitar at 12.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best bass playing?
Monte – I am still working on that. I am ready for a break through moment any time now.
QRD – Do you feel bass lines should echo & emphasize guitar & drum parts or be their own distinct elements?
Monte – Mike Watt is one of my favorite bass players because he can do both of these things at the same time.
QRD – Would you rather people hear or feel your bass?
Monte – Feeling is better.
QRD – Why do you think a bass fits you more so than other instruments?
Monte – I have dedicated a lot of my life to playing bass. It is a big part of what I am.
QRD – Do you see your bass as your ally or adversary in making music?
Monte – Ally.
QRD – Who are the bassists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Monte – Rob Kohler is a genius. Boyd Anderson is out of control. Ben Wright turns my world upside-down. Keith Brush has the work ethic. Matteo Bennici is a fucking animal. & on & on. Squarepusher takes it to another level. I love that guy in The Liars.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their bass is natural or silly (e. g. naming their bass)?
Monte – One man’s wrong is another man’s right, but I think that I will leave the cheesy stuff like that for guitar players & Nascar drivers.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a bass & how did you do it?
Monte – Miss Massive Snowflake had a party at Northpole Records (true story I swear), Moodring was playing & I was a wreck. I surfed on my bass until the pick up fell out. Chopped a wood chair in half with it until my cable broke, & woke up the next day feeling pretty stupid. Jesse fixed it for me & I will never do that shit again. Hopefully.
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Monte – String skipping, chord theory.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play bass & how many hours would you like to?
Monte – About 12 or 15 hours a week. Maybe more during football season.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Monte – 40 to 105. DR is the brand. Handmade. Really great strings.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Monte – Not very often, maybe every six months.
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Monte – Occasionally, but not as much as I used to. It helps to play with the amp loud & a light touch. My man Randall Dunn (Aleph Studio) taught me that.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming/bowing hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Monte – My fretting hand is weak, so I keep it simple.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Monte – Standard, I don’t have any extra instruments or I would use a lot of tunings.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Monte – Tab, I wish I could read sheet music. I like to record my ideas because it is the feel that I am more interested in than the notes.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Monte – Unwanted string ring. Is being tone deaf a habit?
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s bass playing?
Monte – Drums or piano. I am a big fan of cross training; playing music is always good for you.
QRD – What’s a type of bass playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Monte – Be-bop, walking bass lines at high bpm.
QRD – What’s a bass goal you’ve never accomplished?
Monte – Having a really good tone.
QRD – What’s the last bass trick you learned?
Monte – Tapping harmonics or right hand slide.
QRD – Did you ever take bass lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Monte – I did. Rob Kohler changed my life. He taught me how to listen. We worked a lot on improvisation & drinking coffee. He also turned me on to so much good music. “Music is Music is music is music” That is what Mr. Kohler would tell you.
QRD – What would you teach someone in a bass lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a bass teacher?
Monte – I am not a teacher I am a player. Just play what’s in your head.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Monte – Smoke about 10,000 bong loads & wash those down with a bottomless cup of coffee.
QRD – If a band has good bass work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Monte – If the bass & drums sound good, I am a pretty forgiving listener. Unless the frontman is trying really hard. That for me is the big turn off.
QRD – What famous musician’s bass would you like to own & why?
Monte – James Jamerson. Yeah. Motown. Jaco’s Fender would also be sweet.
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative bass player & why?
Monte – Tom Jenkins (Squarepusher).
QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work?
Monte – Moodring Scared of Ferret on Silber Records.
Other QRD interviews with
Monte Trent Allen: