Bass Players To Know: Klaus Flouride
It’s election week here in the U.S. The country has been saturated by advertisements, campaign rallies, and repetitive debate jargon. Times like these require a creative outlet, a way to ease the politically charged anxieties. For many people, music is the perfect remedy. While some listeners flock to acoustic folk music or groovy reggae, others set their radio dials to the aggressive, anti-establishment grittiness of punk rock. There’s a unique element of primordial energy present in punk music. The attitude is electrically charged, embodying the sentiment of the listener in a way that resonates deep within. American punk band Dead Kennedys and bass player Klaus Flouride have a way of connecting with this inner turmoil. With the intense, pick-driven tone of a Fender Jazz bass, Klaus provided the necessary power behind the band and happens to be our latest Bass Player to Know.
So Who Is Klaus Flouride?
Geoffrey Lyall, aka Klaus Flouride, hails from Detroit, Michigan. Fascinated by early rock and roll records by Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and many others, he picked up the guitar as a teenager and began playing in bands. The switch to bass occurred in 1968 after moving to Boston and playing in a power trio. For roughly a decade, Klaus went back and forth between Boston and New York with various bands and as a freelance player. In 1977, he moved to San Francisco and found a new musical home in the punk rock scene. Klaus responded to a magazine ad by East Bay Ray, auditioned, and shortly thereafter, Dead Kennedys came to be.
Between 1978 and 1986, Dead Kennedys released a number of singles and albums, including Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, In God We Trust, Inc., Plastic Surgery Disasters, Frankenchrist, and Bedtime for Democracy. Known for their high-energy performances, controversial lyrics, and unpredictable stage antics, the band accrued a dedicated fan base and gained plenty of media attention. After years of touring and an ever-changing underground scene, the band split up after a final show in 1986. In the meantime, Klaus worked on various projects and released a handful of solo records including Cha-Cha-Cha with Mr. Flouride and Because I Say So.
After a long hiatus, Dead Kennedys reunited in 2001 and have continued to tour and re-release albums. Flouride continues to be a member of the band, all the while collaborating with other artists and working on solo projects.
Let’s Talk Style
As a member of one of the most controversial punk bands, Flouride owns his side of the stage with an undeniable amount of passion, attitude, and ability. His bass lines reflect a welcome amount of dissonance, often integrating the tension of chromatic motion or the jump of a tritone interval. Influenced by early rock’n’roll and surf music, he sneaks in quick arpeggios to add variation to the otherwise root-based pedal grooves. One of the more impressive technical aspects of his playing is his right hand picking technique. Often sporting a Jazz bass and picking close to the bridge, he plays with an incredibly nimble and accurate attack. His tone jumps out of the mix, providing both rhythmic definition and a biting, aggressive edge to the low end.
In addition to his contributions to Dead Kennedys, his original compositions reflect his musical adaptability and diverse compositional style. A multi-instrumentalist, he sings and plays most of the instruments on his solo records. Ranging from the experimental, noise-driven “art music,” to the more traditional song forms of pop and rock, he stretches out creatively. As many band members find themselves confined by the rules of the collective, it’s refreshing and encouraging to see how a musician like Klaus Flouride can step out and create a completely different kind of catalogue.
Where Can I Hear Him?
“Holiday In Cambodia” (Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables)
Beginning with a descending chromatic line over a droning root note, Klaus sets up the song with tension and a hint of aggression. During the pre-chorus and choruses, he follows the movement of the vocal line, pedaling with an affirmative right hand. This song is a great example of passionate yet catchy no-frills bass playing that, due to its simplicity, places greater emphasis on the attitude and lyrical content of the song.
“Jock-O-Rama” (Dead Kennedys: Frankenchrist)
Fooled by the initial lighthearted major 7th arpeggio, the band breaks into the raging fury of a root-flat 7-five riff. Throughout the song, Flouride creates tension by digging into a half-step above the root note. The breakdown into the vocal monologue provides a welcome respite; however, the tragic and unfortunate story is juxtaposed by a high major chord in the bass. The song quickly returns to its pervious state of aggression by means of an ascending chromatic build.
“Keep On Walking” (Klaus Flouride: Because I Said So)
A departure from the intensity of Dead Kennedys, Klaus’ solo projects are distinctively Beatles-y in production and writing style. This particular song demonstrates his abilities as a composer and multi-instrumentalist, with a simple descending line that repeats throughout the choruses and extended outro. While his approach to the bass part is fairly simple, he implements quick arpeggios and chromatic lines that are doubled in the low register of the piano.
How about you? What’s your favorite tune or album with Klaus Flouride? Please share with us in the comments.
Ryan Madora is a professional bass player, author, and educator living in Nashville, TN. In addition to touring and session work, she teaches private lessons and masterclasses to students of all levels. Visit her website to learn more!