The best musicians have a signature sound. Regardless of instrument or effects, the musicians sound comes through in the mix, no matter what. Bryan Beller is one of those musicians. His bass is a mark of distinction throughout the progressive rock world.
Beller and his bass have found themselves side by side with some of the best musicians in the world, like Joe Satriani (whom he’s toured with since 2013), Mike Keneally (a musical partner for more than 20 years), Steve Vai (where he can be seen playing on 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are DVD), and Dweezil Zappa.
Beller is also one-third of the instrumental rock/fusion band called The Aristocrats, along with guitarist Guthrie Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann. They are currently on tour in support of their third album, You Know What …? Beller wrote and produced three of the songs on the album, like his bandmates. His heavy, rich, low-end sound can be raw and aggressive, or delicate and tasteful, depending on what the song calls for. These are the skills that keep a top-flight musician in demand.
Beller is releasing an ambitious new solo album, Scenes from the Flood, this September on RJPR music. It is a concept album that asks, according to Beller, “When the storm comes for us, the one after which things will never be the same, what do we keep, and what do we let go?” The album’s idea is so ambitious, Beller spent nearly a decade putting it all together. The results of his efforts are obvious from the opening strains of the first song.
When he’s not on the road or recording, Beller also participates in clinics, passing his knowledge on to the next generation of aspiring musicians.
Bryan Beller was kind enough to answer Seven Questions for your reading pleasure.
Cedric: How do you define the Bryan Beller sound?
Bryan Beller: My main live sound is a fairly bright modern jazz bass, with lots of chime and life in the attack. But in the end, I’m just trying to do what’s right for the song, so I have some darker and smoother options at the ready. I hope people can hear a personality and consistency regardless of whatever instrument I pick up, but it’s not for me to say what that exactly is.
Who are your influences, and how do they affect your playing?
My main playing influences are John Paul Jones, Flea, Jaco Pastorius, Tim Commerford from Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave, John Patitucci, and Scott Tunes from Frank Zappa’s last touring band. They all contribute in some way or another, and I guess the blend has solidified over the years. But there’s all sorts of other players I’ve heard that creep in there as well, I’m sure, even if it’s not consciously happening.
Aside from your bass, what’s the one piece of equipment you can’t do without?
My laptop! 2013 MacBookPro 13″ Retina. Best purchase I’ve ever made. (Yes, Apple, you can send me royalties now.)
What are the biggest challenges facing musicians like yourself today?
Just trying to find time to Do All The Things: Play and practice, manage your tone and gear, promote and be present on social media, travel, manage regular life stuff, and sometimes even sleep. 24 hours never seems to be enough for all of it.
Tell me about one of your favorite “I love my job”’ moments.
Being onstage with Dethklok at the New York City show, and seeing my parents’ mouths (they were in a special balcony seating area) open into perfect “o’s” when the show started and the moshpit opened up.
Tell me about your current projects, and what potentially lies ahead.
My main focus right now is on my soon-to-be-released new solo album. It’s a huge thing, a progressive double concept album called Scenes From the Flood. 18 songs, 88 minutes, and 26 musicians including Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Guthrie Govan, Mike Keneally, Mike Dawes, Gene Hoglan from Dethklok, Ray Hearne from Haken, Joe Travers, and many more. The first single called “The Storm” is out now and there’s a YouTube video for it at https://youtu.be/kw3flhVQ2Wc. It’s coming out on two CD’s in an 8-panel digipack (with two 20-page booklets) and a double vinyl gatefold with a 24-page booklet. There’s even colored vinyl (purple). It’s a hugely ambitious project that deals with themes of ambition and loss, intentionality and reality, and hope and disillusionment. Deep stuff, but that’s what was there for me so I needed to get it out. I’m intensely proud of it. It’s available for presale now at my website, www.bryanbeller.com.
On the lighter side, I’m on tour with The Aristocrats from now until the end of August throughout North America. That’s my instrumental rock/fusion power trio with Guthrie Govan on guitar and Marco Minnemann on drums. And we definitely do NOT take things too seriously. Our new album which just came out is called “You Know What…?” and it’s a cool combination of tricky music and breaking the fourth wall from time to time, with little winks and nods to the listener. We’ll also go to Europe starting in November for a good long while.
Where do you want to take your instrument from here?
Oh, I’m just happy to support the song. I’m not really looking to take the instrument anywhere, other than hopefully to the next gig. 😉
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Check out my book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.
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Interview published originally on CirdecSongs, July 15. 2019