I talked to Intronaut’s bassist Joe Lester in Minneapolis, MN on November 23rd, during the band’s tour in support of Between the Buried and Me. We discussed the role of the bass in Intronaut’s newest album The Direction of Last Things, the Mestis show he was a part of, and what new music he’s been listening to. I also talked to Dave Timnick, Intronaut’s guitarist, and that interview can be found here.
One of the first things I noticed on the album was that you’re kind of backing off on the bass leads, following the other instruments more. Was the goal there to sound more streamlined?
If I was going to assess it, I don’t know if I’d say that I’m following the other instruments more but you’re right, there’s less pronounced bass exposition, lead-bass type stuff. I don’t think it’s more of a conscious decision beyond that all of us are on the same page. Especially in this day and age of technical metal being so verbosely technical, that beyond all the odd time signatures and all the crazy riffs and everything, songwriting is what is the most important thing for us to bring back into the fold. A lot of times I find myself looking to write a bass part and experimenting with some shit that’s maybe a bit more… bass-tastic or something, and then deciding, you know what? That’s not what serves the song best. So you’re right, a lot of it is more in the service of the song, but Fast Worms also has a bass solo. It’s all about balance, I think.
I know you recorded the album in about four days. Was the writing process, at least for you, any shorter or longer than normal?
I’d say it was about the same. Once we get into full writing mode, we work at around the same speed each time – which is not fast. The way that we write music is democratic, which is different than some bands that have a primary songwriter but our songwriting process revolves around a system where anybody can write any riff that they want, they bring it to practice, teach it to the other guys, we jam on it, and that’s when the magic happens, because during that jamming phase we’re all allowed to suggest changes. It might be Dave’s riff, but I’ll say, hey, I think it would sound cool if we chopped the last beat off. And we’ll try it. And then one of us will say, oh, it was better your way. In a way, we have the friction between four different points of view polishing each riff before it winds up in a song, which slows it down a little, but I think ultimately that leads to a better product. There’s never filler.
And that method of working off of each other, you’ve said that that’s how you got the interlude on Fast Worms.
Yeah, it was actually funny how that came to be because so many of our songs involve either rhythmic or melodic themes that get contextualized through the different parts, and so we said, let’s have a little crazy jazz-chord freakout right there. I came up with the chords in that part in order to match one of those little repeating themes that happens, but once we had written it, we were like, you know what? This sounds cool on its own, let’s do it without the theme, so it was kind of born out of the theme, but then never got overlapped with it. Once it was there, we decided to use that little interlude to bookend that jazzy section in the middle. We experimented a bunch until we decided to have a little solo on that outro.
Another thing you’ve said is that you went for an overdrive sound on a fretted bass for Cloudkicker and you go for a cleaner tone on the fretless bass for Intronaut. What did you use for your show with Mestis?
For Mestis I used a tone that’s pretty similar to Intronaut – still fretless, but basically EQ’d a little differently, and that was based on Javier’s mixing of the record. I recorded it with my normal Intronaut bass sound, and he mixed it to get a bigger, fatter, muddier sound than my normal sound. For the live show, I matched what he did by beefing up my EQ, using both pickups instead of mostly the bridge pickup to get a fatter version of my normal sound. But overdrive-wise it’s similar. Both Intronaut and Mestis have almost no overdrive, just a Darkglass pedal that’s barely on. That’s my standard setup.
And how was that? Was it a change of pace from your usual Intronaut work?
It was awesome. I think we all got a taste of that when we did the Cloudkicker thing. To go outside of your comfort zone and play someone else’s music in a setting that’s just as serious of a show as our own is a little bit nerve-wracking, moreso than playing our own because that’s our shit. We know it backwards and forwards and if we fuck it up, we have no one to account to but ourselves. I think we both felt a bit of heightened responsibility, but it was such a pleasure, the first show went great, and Javier’s an awesome friend, and awesome songwriter, so we couldn’t be happier.
And last question, 2015 has been a pretty good year for music, which has included your release. What have you liked from this year’s releases?
Joy of Motion, was that this year?
That was last year.
That’s like still my favorite. I can’t get over how good it is. But I was pretty moved by Little Histories, the Cloudkicker album that came out this year, especially because it was – even though it’s instrumental – almost thematically based on the tour that we did together and the experience that we had together.
It felt like you affected it in some way.
Exactly. It’s even in the content of the artwork and the titles, we could tell, oh, this is based on the time we spent together. Another record that comes to mind that David and I have both been freaking out about this year is Hiatus’s Kaiyote, which is not metal at all, it’s neo-soul-funk-R’n’B. It’s almost future funk or something like that. It’s so creative, it’s so musical, it’s so rhythm-oriented – and, in a way, that’s what Intronaut is about – that even though it’s a totally different type of music, the fact that this sexy R’n’B band with a female singer is using almost sickening, weird, subdivision-rhythms and pocket grooves is… that shit inspires me, you know? So I’m really digging on that.
Alright, that’s it.
My pleasure, Good to meet you.