Bass Tendencies: An Interview with Ra Diaz
Suicidal Tendencies has a legacy of great bassists. Louiche Mayorga, Tim “Rawbiz” Williams, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, and Metallica’s Robert Trujillo have all held the throne, just to name a few. Earlier this year, bassist Ra Diaz stepped up to the plate to carry on the tradition.
It’s been a bit of a dream come true for the Chilean-born, Los Angeles-based low-ender. While he’s played with plenty of big time bands like Drogatones, Tiro de Gracia and Ritmo Machine, he’s always been a big fan of the thrash legends. Not only that, his rhythm section partner is the legendary drummer Dave Lombardo, formerly of Slayer.
We caught up with Ra to get the scoop on his start in music, how he landed the gig, and what it’s like to lock in with a drummer like Lombardo.
How did you get into music?
When I was little, my whole family lived in the same big house, and there was always music around. My grandpa always listened to a lot of tango, guests would come and play guitar and sing, stuff like that. Eventually my brother got an electric guitar and I was like, “Hey, that’s cool, I want to play too!” and my family got me one of those small drum kits for kids. Eventually when I was around 12 I just gravitated towards the bass and got one. Haven’t stopped since then.
What drew you to the bass?
I guess it’s because the music that I liked as a kid was always pretty bass driven. You know, I grew up listening to bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Infectious Grooves, Fishbone, Funkadelic, Primus… and of course Suicidal Tendencies! There’s always been a strong bass presence in those bands and that just always caught my attention.
How did the Suicidal Tendencies gig come about?
We go back around 10 years. I’ve always been a huge fan, I still am, and finally met them the first time they visited Chile – where I’m originally from – in 2007, I believe. After that we always stayed in touch, every time they played in Chile I was there and we would hang out. Eventually I moved to Mexico in 2010 and to L.A. in 2013 and the friendship just kept growing I guess. When the time came for them to look for a new bassist, they knew I was ready and gave me a shot. I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity. It’s a dream come true. Now it’s up to me to prove that I belong there every night on stage.
How did you prepare?
They always knew I was a HUGE fan, and I’ve been playing those songs and albums for years now. I still practice them and listen to their music on a daily basis. Even my ringtone is one of their songs [laughs]! I was always practicing and posting short videos on Instagram playing Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves stuff, and at some point I started to notice more and more likes from the bands IG account as well as people related to them and their fans. I was like, “Hey, wait a minute, there’s something going on here.” [laughs] Also, being a fan and seeing them live many times helped me understand a lot about what the band and the show is about. When I got the call I was actually driving listening to ST, and when they told me it was going to be Lombardo on drums, I had to pull over and call my mom [laughs].
What is it like to lock in with a drummer like Dave Lombardo?
Dave is amazing. Not only a fantastic drummer, but also a great guy. I still get a little starstruck from time to time. I mean, it’s Dave Lombardo! I think a lot of me and him locking in has to do with the fact that we joined the band the same time, same day, same rehearsal, etc. You know – all eyes on us. They way he plays really pushes you. Makes you become a more aggressive and energetic player. We started rehearsing everyday and playing and getting to know each other and we just became a very solid rhythm section. We’ve been getting some good compliments on the road. We all became good friends and sometimes while we’re playing we look at each other and smile and laugh, and I don’t know man, it’s just a beautiful thing. We are just so full of energy. Even the fans have noticed that.
What tips do you have for touring, especially international touring?
First, I would say be happy and grateful. Understand that you are doing something that other people can only dream of. There’s fans all over the world that this might the only chance they have to see you live, or people that have been waiting years for you to play in their town. So always do your best, smile, be on time and be polite to everyone. That includes the band and crew, venue staff, hotel staff, flight attendants, and so on. Second, stay focused and healthy. Our shows are pretty intense and physically demanding, and you can tell by looking at me that I’m not the most athletic guy, but I do try to stay as healthy as possible on the road. You know, eat light, stuff like that. Another good piece of advice would be to travel light. Just take what you really need. Oh, and Febreze, lots of it [laughs].
Can you give us a rundown of your gear?
I’m not much of a gear head, I’m a simple man. My main bass is my beautiful custom made Spector Coda5 Deluxe. We call it Coda RAD5. It’s purple, it has a Darkglass Tone Capsule On Board Preamp in it, EMG Pickups, and everyone loves it. Everywhere I go there’s people that asks me about the bass or want to take a pic with it. I also have several other Spector basses. The upcoming ST album was recorded entirely with my Spector Euro 5XL and it’s killer. Sounds so good! I use Gallien-Krueger amps. I love the MB Heads series, they’re just so light and amazing and you can even carry them inside your gigbag or backpack. I use D’Addario FlexSteels strings on all my basses. They just bring the best out of them and are very reliable and consistent onstage. Never had a problem. Pedals I have the Darkglass Electronics B7K and their compressor. That’s pretty much all I need. And when traveling you’ll always see me with my GruvGear Gigblade gigbag and my GruvGear ClubBag backpack.
What’s coming next for you?
We just got back from touring South America and Mexico, and are getting ready to go back to Europe next week for a few shows. The new album titled World Gone Mad is going to be available September 30th – preorder starts August 5th. We also have a couple summer festivals here in the US, like the Riot Fest in Denver. I’m really excited about that one because lots of bands that I love are playing. After that we are doing another US tour with Megadeth in September and October. We are also headlining the Lemmy Stage at this year’s Ozzfest. It’s such an honor! January we are headlining the Persistence Tour across Europe. And I’m sure once the record comes out we will be adding more dates and promoting it in the U.S. as well. So yeah, there’s a lot going on. Just make sure to check our website and our Facebook page as well to stay up to date with everything and upcoming announcements.