Arch Echo's Joe Calderone on his band and using Audified bass plug-ins
Hello Audified friends,
In this blog post, we have asked a few questions Audified artist Joe Calderone from the instrumental prog-rock monsters Arch Echo.
So sit down, take a mug of your favorite coffee and enjoy a little sneak peek into the mind of this awesome bass player :)
Hello Joe, how was your day? Any new music created today?
I haven’t been up to anything too crazy today. Just running errands and working on a production gig for a band called Poincare Conjecture. I’ve worked with them on their first 2 EP’s and we’re currently getting things done for the third!
What are you doing more these days - producing or playing bass?
I’d say it’s about 50/50 these days. I honestly don’t practice bass enough, if I am playing I’m usually tracking or filming a video or something. I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into the production world over the last year and a half, I think it just really interests me because there’s still so much I don’t know, but I’m having a really fun time with it. Since live playing really isn’t much of a thing anymore it leaves a lot more time for production.
At the moment, I am enjoying listening to Story I. Have you had a chance to use any Audified plug-ins in your composition and production work yet?
Thank you! We’re really happy about ‘Story I’, it’s still kinda amazing to think that we pulled it all off during the pandemic as well. I’ve had a few opportunities to flex Peridot and Sphene on some remote tracking sessions I’ve done recently. We just wrapped tracking bass and mixing on the debut album for a band called The Elephant in the Room, and I was able to simplify my usual signal flow by using Peridot and Sphene in place of the other amp sims I had been using.
How did you hear about Audified for the first time? Have you had any experience with Audified before trying our current series of bass plug-ins?
I first heard of Audified a few years ago when Slate Digital added the u73b to their Everything Bundle. I’ve always loved their analog emulations and thought that it must’ve been a big deal if they found a plugin so cool that they really wanted to license it for their bundle. I’ve been using that bundle for years and I really enjoy all the analog flavors it provides.
Would you tell us a condensed version of your musical backstory? You are a Berklee College of Music graduate, right? :)
Yes! I graduated from Berklee back in 2015 with a degree in Film Scoring. Before that, I started out like most bass players did. Originally I wanted to learn guitar but when my next-door neighbor wanted to make a band he said, “Hey, if you get a bass you can be in the band!” And so it was. I started playing when I was 12, and for the first few years I was in middle/high school and just really bored, so I sat at home a lot and just played along with albums that I enjoyed. Started with simple stuff like AC/DC before finding out how fun some tracks from Led Zeppelin and Rush were. I just kept playing from there and eventually found it hard to feel challenged in music. That’s where Berklee comes in! Being in that environment with so many insane players made it much easier to level up my own playing, and through the Film Scoring program I learned a lot of other things I was interested in, like orchestration, composition techniques, and how to utilize tech like DAWs to get my message across. After college, I produced and released a solo EP, called “Isometry”. I’ve also spent a good amount of time writing music for Television shows, and hanging with the dudes in Arch Echo.
Since there is hardly any touring these days (sad face) - any funny bass related stories from back when touring was a thing? Something to cheer us, bass players, up! :)
Not exactly bass related, but on the very first tour with Arch Echo, we had just finished playing a show in Boston. The family of one of the bands we were touring with offered their place to stay for the night, which was amazing. It was about 40 minutes away, so I typed the street address into google maps and clicked the first address that came up. When we arrived I found it odd that I couldn’t find the house number, so some of the other dudes in the band look it up. It turns out I was taken to the same street address in a different town, 40 minutes in the opposite direction! One was called Mansfield, the other Marlborough, I can’t remember which was the correct one. It’s about 2:30 in the morning at this time and now I’m sad and sleepy, so I tried to pull a K turn on this street and got our van stuck on a rock on the side of the road! These rocks were massive. I honestly don’t remember how we got out of it, but it took about 30 minutes of trying, I think we had to unload the whole van. We could see some neighbors turning their lights on as well, trying to figure out what was happening. (Shady black van in a small neighborhood in the middle of the night, what can go wrong?) As we finally freed ourselves and were driving away, we saw a cop pass us, presumably on the way to where we just were. That was just one of many misadventures from that tour.
When hearing Arch Echo music, one can't help to assume that your musical taste is super wide. Is it the case? Could you tell us some of your favorite artists and why are you drawn to them?
Sure! I think the 5 of us in general have a pretty wide range of influences, but even personally I know my tastes are all over the place. My all time favorite has to be Rush, and what’s not to like? They were my introduction to prog, the odd time signatures they threw in always intrigued me, and Geddy as a bass player is just on another level. I basically learned how to play bass by listening to Rush and watching old concert DVDs from them. I’ve found as a counterpoint to all of that, I really enjoy post-romantic, minimalist, and electronic music. M83 is a big favorite as well. Certain video game soundtracks really grab my interest too. I think some of the old games I played as a kid have had their melodies cook into my brain, so they’ve sorta become a stylistic influence as well. Big fan of the Legend of Zelda soundtracks in particular.
Let's come back to bass playing. Do you prefer multi-scale basses to traditional scale instruments? Do you experience any differences when recording with the multi-scale?
It’s really hard to say I have a preference one way or the other. I think in a perfect world, I could take my ’72 jazz bass everywhere and tune it down for Arch Echo and the low strings would still respond as well as a Dingwall’s, but that isn’t happening. For the lower-tuned metal I think having a multi-scale bass is pretty necessary if you want your low notes to stay tight, consistent, and to cut through. Joey, our keyboardist has this thing where he’ll write these technical riffs in Bb or F (Check out Hip Dipper or Strut), which are keys where you can’t cheat and use open strings, and I really only ever feel the multi-scale aspect when I’m reaching up on the first fret for the low Bb, or F. Hip Dipper is such a stretch on a fanned bass, it took a lot of practice to get it down at first.
What is your take on the old debate "fingerstyle vs. pick" bass playing?
Early on I somehow found that I had an easier time playing using my fingers than with a pick, if anything a pick just slowed me down so I never gave them much thought. More recently, I’ve really grown to really enjoy some pick players like Tool’s Justin Chancellor or Death Cab for Cutie’s Nick Harmer, and every now and then I’ll try to practice my picking just to get it a little more in shape. Ultimately, to each, their own, but finger style is definitely the way.
How do you prefer to record and produce music and the bass guitar in particular nowadays? Do you work mostly in the box, or do you combine it with some outboard gear, including bass amps and cabs?
For convenience, I feel like doing everything in the box is easiest. I’m always capturing DI’s just in case, that way there’s the option to re-amp or use some plugins later, but I find that traditional re-amping can be so time consuming, and if you decide you don’t like it you have to go back and let the song roll again. I like being able to adjust things on the fly. The only amp I have is a Fender Rumble for practicing. Live, I’ve been using a Line 6 Helix, and that used to be my main tool for tracking and producing at home, but since adding some of the Audified bass plug-ins to my collection, everything has become easier, and the tones are even better!
Could you share with us one of your pro tips for getting great bass tones in the context of a progressive rock/metal?
Sure! I think a good prog metal tone has enough distortion to blend well with the rhythm guitars, but also has a space in the midrange where it gets to cut through. I usually find a small boost between 1.2k and 2k is the sweet spot for a nice tone. Additionally, if you can separate your bass track into a low and high band, I find it super useful to keep the low band nice and clean while driving the higher band. This helps keep your bass cutting through without muddying up your mix.
What are your thoughts on our bass series of plug-ins? Do you have a favorite one? Have some of them replaced your long-standing favorites?
It’s pretty hard to pick a favorite for me. If you’re going for that heavy “djent” style, Sphene Pro is just so solid for that. I get a lot of use out of the others too. Peridot for the slightly less heavy stuff is great, and I love the GK Amp for nice, natural clean tones. For a while I was using the Line 6 Helix almost exclusively for bass, but with these new plugins, I’m finding I have all the flexibility I need, so they’ve sorta become my go-to options.
We are heading to the finish line! Is there anything you would like to share with starting bass players to make their way to finding the groove a bit more smooth?
Yes, so I got my start by listening to music I enjoyed and playing along with those records. I never really drilled technique, scales or any of the “boring” stuff early on, and I think that helped keep things fun for me. Additionally, playing along with music I enjoyed really helped develop my ear as well. I would also recommend analyzing the bass lines you enjoy. What are they doing? Are they outlining a chord or scale, and how does the line fit with the drums? Most great lines are locking in with the kick or snare hits, with few extraneous notes landing in other spaces. I think that’s the foundation for really finding a nice groove.
What are your plans for the near future? Are you working on a new Arch Echo music or maybe some other projects?
We’ve actually started writing for the third full Arch Echo album. Currently we’re passing riffs and sessions back and forth and getting some ideas together, but hopefully sometime soon some of us will be able to get together in person and hammer out some more ideas. This year I’m also working on a series of VGM covers which I’ll be posting to my YouTube channel. It’s a little of a passion project for me, a way of paying homage to some of the classic video game tracks that have really inspired me, while also being a way of working on my guitar and production chops.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to ask you these questions and be safe and sound! :)
Of course, thanks to you all as well, stay safe!
So here you have it. Thank you for reading all the way through and following our content. Now let's give Arch Echo a listen! This band has a lot to offer to the listener and an epic musical journey ahead of themselves.
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