School Days: Billy Gives It A Grade, Again

Billy says:

Earlier this year, I rambled on about some musician books I've read so here's part two. I'm definitely open to more suggestions too.

Justice for All: The Truth about Metallica: Author Joel McIver wrote this comprehensive account of metal band Metallica. I liked how he covered the band members' history before they all joined Metallica and how he portrayed Metallica's up rise with how the music landscape was changing and evolving throughout the 80s and 90s. The book is incredibly detailed yet the book is structured where there's no direct dialogue between the band and the author; all of the facts are recounted through established interviews with other media outlets and secondhand accounts to people close to the band. Lastly, the author gives his own opinions on the band's albums. He hated Load/ReLoad and spends numerous chapters crushing those albums. Now, I'm all about opinions, but devoting that large of a portion of the book to that subject wasn't warranted.

Grade: C+

Watch You Bleed: The Sage of Guns N' Roses: The first 300+ pages of the book are devoted to the band's history from the early 80s to its demise around 1994. It's very detailed but the last 25 pages cover the band and its former members from after 1994 to around 2009. Granted GNR wasn't as prevalent during those years as it was from the 80s and early 90s, but dedicating those few pages to that large amount of years was kind of disheartening. Much like many other band biographies, there are no direct interviews with band members in this book. While the author had 13 people interviewed for the book for details, they asked to remain anonymous, thus the book doesn't have that direct appeal or personality.

Grade: C

Reckless Road: Guns N' Roses and the Making of Appetite for Destruction: This book is unique in a way where it solely focuses on the time before and during the band making their debut album Appetite for Destruction. There are tons of pictures and behind-the-scenes photos of the band during that time and it gives the book that personal feeling. Marc Canter, personal friend of the band during the early days, compiled the book together and framed the book by detailing all of the gigs and venues the band did leading up to making their debut album. Canter even listed all of the set lists the band did and you can clearly see when and where the band debut all of the songs that would eventually land on Appetite. Details like that made this book very interesting to read.

Grade: B+

An Oral/Visual History by The Red Hot Chili Peppers: The band collaborated with author Brendan Mullen by giving their own accounts of the band's 20+ year history. There were even interviews from past members of the band which provided that extra little detail to the topics. In addition, there are tons of photos throughout the book that give a different outlook that other books tend to be missing. The structure of the book is a little confusing since it just jumps around from subject to subject. The titles of each "chapter" are taken from a song by RHCP so it’s unclear on what's about to be presented. Nonetheless, the book is very informative and expressed new facts that I previously didn't know.

Grade: B

Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong

Billy says:

Here's a quick list of six bassists that influenced me over the years.

Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver)

McKagan is most known for his tenure with Guns N' Roses from 1985 to 1997. His bass abilities featured on the band's debut album, Appetite for Destruction, was a major influence in my bass playing. One of the reasons is due to how the album was mixed because the bass is very audible and is the central backbone on all the songs. 

But a big resonance of his influence is McKagan's usage of thirds/fifths/octaves for bass fills; a song like Sweet Child O' Mine showcases his classic bass playing. A song like that, besides the very cool bass intro and being a guitar-centric song, is a good tune to learn basics from. Also a song like Rocket Queen displays McKagan's groove with drummer Steven Adler, which is partly based on older R&B songs that the two would listen too throughout the 1980's.

Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)

One of the major reasons why I love Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave is the excellent rhythm section by bassist Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, in which Commerford is central to that emulsion. Such songs like Bombtrack and Wake Up from Rage's self-titled album are a testament to that fact. A lot of easy bass basics can be learned from that particular album and the difficulty can range from easy to somewhat difficult. More complex rhythm movements are featured on Bombtrack or Freedom while more traditional and easier basics are featured on Bullet in the Head and Know Your Enemy (all featured on their self-titled album). 

Commerford's slapping abilities were showcased in the song Take the Power Back and somewhat in Know Your Enemy but after the band's self-titled album, Commerford stopped slapping because he didn't want the band to (in his own words), "sound like another Chili Peppers clone band." In addition, Commerford is known for manufacturing his own effects pedals, such as the verses in Calm Like a Bomb (which has a cool bass intro) and Township Rebellion.

Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Flea is synonymous with bass playing and he's very famous for his slap abilities. I only slap on very limited instances with Chaser Eight and the Chili Peppers' album Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the album that had the strongest resonance with me. On that album, Flea totally changed his bass playing approach and focused on "less is more". 

While he still slapped, it was only in limited moments on certain songs and he focused more on rhythm, tone, emotion and feeling. From that particular album, songs like Mellowship Slinky, Apache Rose Peacock and If You Have to Ask showcase Flea's stripped down playing yet still maintaining a hard line groove and feeling. Other songs like Emit Remmus (Californication) and Animal Bar (Stadium Arcadium) are other good and notable bass lines.

Various 1990's era punk-rock bands including Mike Dirnt (Green Day), Greg K. (The Offspring) and Mark Hoppus (blink 182)

As I began playing bass through the late 1990's, it's very natural to play to songs by bands you were listening too at the time. For me, it was punk-rock and I thought learning songs via that genre was essential because songs were structured easier plus you can learn the basics very quickly. Dirnt's bass playing has evolved over the years with Green Day and it was after their 2000 album Warning where his style changed to a more stripped-down rhythm. The first song I learned on bass was by The Offspring (All I Want from their 1997 album Ixnay on the Hombre). Including blink 182 and The Offspring, the two bands' styles through the 1990's were very easy to pick up on bass and to learn the fundamentals.