Seven-String Metal: An Interview with Danny Hauser
As the bass guitar has evolved, players have become more and more adept at making technically difficult passages sound musical. That goes especially for proponents of extended range basses, and Veil of Maya’s Danny Hauser is one of those players.
Hailing from Northern Virginia, Hauser lays down the low (and high) end on a seven-string bass for a broader range of notes. He’s also incorporated guitar techniques into his repertoire to hang with the most blazing of riffs from bandmate Marc Okubo. The band recently released their fifth studio album, entitled Matriarch, which is the first to feature vocalist Lukas Magyar.
We caught up with Hauser to get his musical background, his tips on playing sweep arpeggios, and Matriarch.
What’s your origin story? Did you have a musical family?
My dad played guitar and for some reason I just picked up the bass and it felt better than guitar. I got into music because he was really big into The Beatles. I heard Rubber Soul, and that’s what made me start playing.
McCartney is always a good place to start.
Oh yeah, he’s a sick bass player. I guess I went from that to Ozzy Osbourne, watching the Live at Budokan DVD. That just blew me away with Rob Trujillo, and I guess that’s where I started getting into metal.
How did you make the jump to a seven-string bass?
I actually started on a five-string and then I moved to a four, then I went to the seven. I floated between the four and the five for a while before going to the seven, though. I had a Warwick Thumb that I mowed a million lawns for when I was a kid. I went to a seven because of my friend Jason Richardson of Chelsea Grin, who I grew up with. I liked a lot of guitar techniques like arpeggios and tapping. He said, “You should get a seven-string so we can match them up,” so that’s what I did.
I was playing one before I joined the band, so when I learned the Veil stuff I would match a lot of [guitarist Marc Okubo’s] arpeggios and the tapping and stuff so I wasn’t just standing up there with a seven-string playing half of the strings. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Do you have any tips for playing sweeps? I feel like that’s a pretty elusive skill on bass.
I just learned the basics first: major and minor arpeggios. Then I practiced a lot of legato with my left hand then tried to match it up with my right. What I do for the picking hand is act like I’m holding a pick, but I really play with my fingers. Basically I’ll use my pointer finger as a pick on the up and the down and I palm mute it just like a guitar. It works the same way. Then I just practice the left hand super slow until you get it right. [laughs] It just becomes muscle memory, and faster than you think. Eventually you can do it in your sleep. Basically my advice is just practice it way too much.
I know you had a video of yourself playing along with some sweeps on a Veil of Maya tune, but that was before you were in the band. Is that how you got in?
Back to Jason again, he called me from a tour once just screaming at me to try out for Veil. He was in Born of Osiris at the time, and those two bands practically grew up together. He said, “You’ve gotta try out,” and practically forced me to make those YouTube videos. I had recommended to the band before that and they were already considering me. Then he showed them the videos and that just confirmed it for them. I guess the video had something to do with the band, but most of it had to do with Jason being a loudmouth.
What’s the concept with Matriarch?
It was Marc’s idea to make all the songs based off of female characters in popular comics and movies, like female characters of power.
Does pop culture and gaming influence a lot of the music?
For sure. We’re big gamers and we’re nerds, so comics and games and movies [influence us].
There’s been some backlash because the band added clean vocals to their style. Does that change your approach on bass for this album?
I wanted to incorporate a little more of the seven-string stuff. Other than that, the vocals just fell into place once we picked up [vocalist] Lukas Magyar. It’s not like we planned on doing clean vocals here or clean vocals there, it just kind of happened and it flowed really well. We couldn’t be upset about the music because we loved it, so we had to put it out and hope that everyone else loved it, too.
What do you have to say to the critics of the clean vocals?
I think this album is incredible and it’s ten times better for the band. I don’t know… If they don’t like it, then they don’t like it. There’s ten times as many people who do like it. We’ve gained a lot of fans off of this album that we wouldn’t have if we put out another screaming record like the last one. We’re broadening our horizons, and we don’t think we strayed too far from our musical roots because that’s the direction we were going to go with anyway. Even if it was all screaming, all the songs and instrumentation would be the same. You can’t just keep putting out the same sound all the time.
Which song pushes you the most on the album?
Definitely “Lucy.” It’s the one that’s got the arpeggio solo-y part. It goes from the third fret on the lowest string to the 24th fret on the highest string. The tapping arpeggio goes across the whole neck and it repeats twice. It’s just such a pain to play live. I get to play that live everyday, and I hate it. [laughs]
And it’s really just you at that part, too. You kind of did it to yourself, didn’t you?
I did do it to myself, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like having at least one part in the set where I can say, “Look! I actually know how to play this big tree trunk that I have strapped to me.” Gotta try to silence the haters.
What gear are you using?
I play an Ibanez BTB7 neck-through, and live the only thing I run is a Tech 21 SansAmp RBI rackmount that goes straight to the front of house. We’re all DI. I love it, and we’ll never go back. We have our own in-ear system and we run everything DI. That’s it.
How about for recording the album?
We used a mix from a bunch of stuff. It was re-amped and everything. We used the Sansamp stuff, but there’s a ton of other stuff going on.