Exclusive interview of Bryan Beller
Hi there, this is Saturax and welcome to this exclusive Bryan Beller interview, made for our community Joe Satriani Universe at the occasion of the release of the third album from The Aristocrats Tres Caballeros, the upcoming G4 Experience and the new Joe Satriani album Shockwave Supernova.
At the end of the video, Bryan Beller is answering the questions you asked him via our social medias!
You can enable the subtitles in the YouTube video player (coming soon).
Tres Caballeros album from The Aristocrats
Saturax : You are just going to release your third studio album with The Aristocrats “Tres Caballeros” this month on June 23. The title is in Spanish, and this album seems to be in a very western or country style, some songs even reminds the Shadows in a sense, is it true and why did you do this artistic choice?
“Well, it’s not totally true. There are couple songs on the record that have Western or Texas flavour. Two of my songs, and one of Guthrie’s songs. Guthrie wrote a song called « The Kentucky Meat Shower », which is the first song that we released, as a free single on YouTube, which is very kind of fast Country-American style. And then I wrote a song called « Smuggler’s Corridor » which is the kind of the Shadows thing that you were talking about, almost like a Spaghetti Western feel. And then there’s « Texas Crazypants » which is kind of like a Stevie Ray Vaughan kind of blues, meets the Dixie Dregs, meets almost like Punk billy. Punk hillbilly. Typical kind of Aristocratic mixture of genres, but those are the kind of “hyper-american” kind of styles, and the rest of the record has a bunch of completely different things that really aren’t like this. Tres Caballeros was… we just tried to come up with something that indicated that it was the third record, we tried a lot of different titles, Marco had a song on the record called « ZZ Top » just because he thought that it would be fun to have a song like that and I thought we should call the record Tres hombres and I thought ZZ Top already had a record called Tres hombres. And so when we started messing around with the song titles and cos “three gentlemen”, that’s what the title means.”
Saturax : How would you describe the evolution of the whole band of The Aristocrats through the albums?
“Well, at first, we really didn’t know each other that well musically, at all. We just got together in the studio, just to see what would happen. And the first record was very fast and we didn’t really have any idea how it was going to turn out. The second record we did was after some touring, so that made more sense and we were more comfortable each other a band but it was still a rough aggressive, in your place record. Then we did a lot of touring, and then for the third record we decided that we would go into a nicer studio, and make a record that has more overdubs, texture, more expansive arrangements, to try to bring The Aristocrats into a new direction, but we’re still being ourselves. So we really explored what was possible in the studio environment for the band. And I think that’s the big difference for this record.”
Saturax : What does The Aristocrats bring you as a bass player?
“It’s a very exciting and challenging thing as a bass player to play with Marco Minnemann on drums and Guthrie Govan on guitar. It’s very, very exciting, very challenging, very fulfilling, and it’s really kind of a dream gig, where I can be me and I don’t have to be like superchops all these crazy things bass player. I just have to play bass in a very exciting kinetic environment and hold together the guitar and the drums, like a fulcrum in the middle. Because Guthrie and Marco are so technically advanced, they can play in any time. My role is to provide the foundation, and it’s very exciting to provide a foundation for two musicians so incredibly talented as Guthrie and Marco.”
G4 Experience 2015
Saturax : You will be a part of the G4 Experience camp, from June 28 to July 2 in Cambria California. This year the G4 is starring Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan, Tosin Abasi and Mike Keneally, and also the whole Aristocrats band will be there with you and Marco! What will exactly be your role in this camp, and what do you expect from those 4 days?
“Well I love educational environments, I like being able to provide whatever it is that I know and learned over over the years, to other people who are obviously very interested in learning from professionals. So that’s what’s exciting for me, even though most of the people in the camp will be guitarists. You know I’ll still be able to provide something for them. There will be a couple bass players there you know, and we’ll have our own little private session. And I’ll talk bass with them. But really you understand, this is a guitar camp for the most part and my role is to explain to people how I support the guitar, and I can do that by talking but I can also do it just by demonstrating, as I will playing with Joe Satriani for his concert with the Aristocrats for their concert and with Mike Keneally for his concert. So I’m a bass player for all these. Maybe I would be the bass player for Animals As Leaders but they don’t have a bass player so… [laughs] But I love Animals As Leaders, I’m a big fan and Tosin is an incredible guitarist completely unique and anybody who will go to the G4 Experience will have an amazing time with these incredibly talented people there.”
Shockwave Supernova album with Joe Satriani
Saturax : You’ve recorded in January in Skywalker studios a new album with Joe Satriani, “Shockwave Supernova” and it’s gonna be released in July, 24. You’ve been touring past couple years with Joe for the Unstoppable Momentum tours but that’s the first time you’ve ever made a record together. What have you brought in this album?
“I just brought me. I mean, you know my job is always to support the music. If it’s for The Aristocrats it’s a very different role. I’m constantly reacting to Marco and Guthrie and making me sure that the foundation holds together while things are going crazy. With Joe, Marco and I, both our jobs is to hold the groove together and really be steady so that Joe can do his more melodic, and in many ways more simple, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, he just feed less note density so that he can propose his more simple kind of melodic message that he’s trying to bring. And Marco and I obviously play less than we play in The Aristocrats recordings. So then in the end of the day I’m just trying to play the song. You know, Joe write a song like « On Peregrine Wings » I know the groove, I play the groove. Don’t make too many fills on the record, you know. Live, we stretch out some more. But on the record, he really believes to keep it very solid, very straight, very steady. And so I hope that I brought what Joe Satriani’s music needs from a bass player. And in the end of the day I always show up as myself because that’s all I can do, I can’t try to be anybody else, it wouldn’t work.”
Saturax : What were the easiest and the most difficult parts to record for Shockwave Supernova?
“Well, I don’t remember! [laughs] You know, there was no one bit particular that was necessarily hard, it was just maintaining the focus throughout. Maintaining a consistent focus for each of the songs throughout, that was really the most difficult part. You know, with Joe, it’s just about providing consistency…”
Saturax : Can you tell me some fun facts about the time you spent in Skywalker studios?
“It’s a big room! It’s a beautiful place and you can walk around on the grounds and it looks like the Wizard of Oz land outside, it’s really beautiful. It’s a very nice environment, very conducive to creativity and to playing music. I was honoured to play at Skywalker Sound. It was really nowhere else in the world like it. So, it was my privilege. I don’t have really inside stories, we just went there and made a record, and we were treated very well, and everybody was wonderful to us so, that’s all there is.”
Saturax : What did you listened from Joe before you’ve started playing with him?
“…I don’t know if I want to answer this question! [laughs] Because the truth is I didn’t have any of Joe’s records. I knew, of course, Joe’s big songs, but I had not, you know, I hadn’t really gone into Joe’s catalogue. I had more of Steve Vai’s records because the more complicated arrangements was something that kind of drew my attention. And especially kind when I was younger, when it was 1989, 1990, I was in Berklee College of Music and I was 20 years old so you know, I didn’t appreciate as much what Joe was doing which is more of a melodic thing than Steve which is much more kind of… the rhythm section in Steve’s music was always more active so I was always like “oh that’s interesting, I’ll play along with that”. Where’s like I was listening like « Flying in a Blue Dream » but ok that’s a very cool piece of music but you know, when I was like 17 or 18 years old, I was “oh I won’t play that” you know. But as I growing older, I really appreciate the space and the openness in a lot of Joe’s music. And how that is an opportunity to stretch out musically in a whole other way. So really, it’s actually good been special to me to kind of like go back and play Joe’s music as if it was new for me, because it is. And you know, just the fact that you haven’t any Joe’s record is not disrespect to Joe. I’m actually a poor music consumer in my record collection, it’s not nearly as big as the musician’s collection, that’s a little confession…” 😉
About Bryan Beller
Saturax : When was the real starting point when you realised you wanted to be a professional bass player?
“My year before I went to Berklee College of Music, I realised I was very bored in high school and I didn’t want to really do this anymore and I just wanted to go in a place where I could just play music. And when I went to Berklee, I realised that I had a lot to learned, because I thought I was good, and I was not. So I practised and practised when I was in Berklee and I was with a lot of other people who were also musicians I realised “this is where I wanna be, this is what I want to do”. I was 17 or 18, which is just kind of late, but I was a lazy practicer when I was in high school. And then, once I was at Berklee and I started become more professional and a better player, I saw that this could be my life and I became very excited playing music all the time you know, and maybe I could even get paid too.”
Saturax : How would you define your personal style?
“Well I’m always interested in being able to provide the basic foundation that a bass player should provide, even if the music is complicated. He should be to provide the basic foundation of the harmonic content that a bass player is supposed to provide, and a basic foundation for the rhythmic content that a bass player is supposed to provide, even if the music becomes complex and always with a good sound. It’s the sound, it’s the thing that I hope that people will remember if they hear me play, not if I went blublublu or takatakatakata. Anybody can do that, there’s a million bass players who are much more technically advanced than I am. I’m not trying to win that race because I will never win that race. It’s not a race anywa What I want to provide hopefully that other people will recognise is the sound that I make.My basic kind of bright sound and I also have a darker sound I use for certain songs but always hopefully something that people would recognise as me. Because when I hear my favourite musicians, that’s how I recognise them, it’s the sound. When I hear Eddie Van Halen play guitar I know it’s him, in two seconds. When I hear Jaco Pastorius playing bass, immediately I know it’s him because I know what it sounds like. It’s not because he’s playing a Eb Major scale it’s because he sounds the way that he sounds, that’s what I hope to be able to provide.”
Saturax : If you had the power to play with one musician, who would it be?
“John Scofield always been a huge influence on me compositionally, the way that he writes very kind of bluesy-funky things but they only sound simple, when you really dig into them the harmonics they are actually very complex. He makes complex sound like the blues and he makes complex sound like the blues. That’s some achievement.”
SkippyGirl (from Australia) : When you played the UM tour in Australia with Joe, did you have a favourite or standout show from that tour? And 2. When will, either the Shockwave tour or the Tres Caballeros tour (or both) get to Australia?
“The most special show for me on the Unstoppable Momentum tour will always be the Oakland show. It was the last show of the North America tour and it was a very interesting and challenging time for me personally. And there was something that I needed to get to at the end of that tour, and so the Oakland show was the end of the tour and it felt like a moment where I could be completely euphoric that I had made it to there. And that’s the best description that I could give you for public consumption. The Oakland show will always be very special to me.
“For Joe Satriani, I can’t really speak for them when they’re scheduling. I mean they always seems to make it to Australia at the end of the touring cycle so if you do the maths on the calendar you can figure out when we are going to be there. As far as The Aristocrats are concerned we’d love to go to Australia, if someone could just find us a promoter who’s going to bring us. So, people out there in the Internet land, help us come to Australia, we wanna go… get to work Skippy!”
Sean Bodley (from New Zealand) : What’s the one thing you learnt about Joe, that you didn’t know before you started playing bass for him?
“I learned that he is one of the most down to earth, very kind of normal guy that I have ever met, who is also a world famous guitar hero. He is just so, you know like… we grew up in the same part of United States of America. He is Italian and I’m Jewish, we grew up near New York, he grew up in Long Island and I grew up in New Jersey, opposite sides of NYC but kind of the same. So when I talk to him, I feel like I’m talking some guy I went to high school with, even if he is you know a different age that I am, it still feels like it’s the guy who’s kind of from where I’m from. So when we talk, it’s just very like “oh yeah I know this guy”. It’s not like talking to some very important bouuuuh. You know, there’s no stress and no pretense, just talking to some guy that I’ve known for long time which is very comfortable and very nice when you work with someone like that.”
Lisa (from France) : Can you say a few words in French?
“I’m terrible in language, horrible thing. You know, my mother is a Spanish teacher and I never learned even to speak Spanish and for the American that’s terrible you know. French, oh my god… I don’t want to say these stupid things that everybody always says in french, boobeleeboo, corchet, blablabla... So Im trying to find something else. I mean, I know so few words: “Bonjour, mademoiselle” [laughs] It’s really terrible. You know, you’re sitting here looking at a typically ignorant uncultured American who knows very little of outside of my own native language, so consider me busted.”
Interview recorded on June, 15 2015 on Skype, realised by Saturax.
Many, many thanks to Bryan Beller for this consideration and his willingness… you rock!
Credit photo : Mike Mesker, Kris Claerhout
Special thanks : SkippyGirl & Lisa.