Adam Roethlisberger is an American bass player known best as one member of Portland tech-death powertrio; Vitriol
#1 – Which bass players attracted you to bass and more currently, which players keep you wanting to elevate your game?
I started on guitar at an early age in a very small town. I couldn’t ever seem to find any bass players worth a shit, and I always tried to get my bassists hooked on guys like Alex Webster and Ryan Martinie. So, once I made the switch to bass, I vowed to be the bass player that I always wanted to have.
I started collecting techniques and creative phrasing from guys like Dan Briggs and Steve DiGiorgio and whatnot, but once I discovered Victor Wooten, my whole approach to bass changed. In an interview I saw with Victor, he had mentioned how all his brothers played different instruments and how he tried to emulate their instruments on bass. Strumming for guitar, tapping for piano, slap and pluck for drums, etc. So now I try to find inspiration in artists of all types.
I may watch a horror flick where someone gets bludgeoned to death with a hammer, and it will inspire chord plucking. Or a choir might inspire a certain harmony that will add an element of anxiety underneath one of Kyle’s guitar riffs.
#2 – What’s the relation or connection between the band Those Who Lie Beneath and Vitriol? Is it an old band or was it an early incarnation of Vitriol?
Those Who Lie Beneath is very much a dead band. It has been for a long time. Scott and I were never on the album, we just did 2 tours and Kyle was only 20 when he was doing it. We were all very young and we had no idea what we wanted to do, but that wasn’t it. It’s where we all come together originally, but once it died, Kyle and I started from scratch with Vitriol, and then Scott hopped on board a few years later. Different style, different name, different people in a way. Vitriol is just a completely different entity altogether.
#3 – The new album “To Bathe From The Throat Of Cowardice” comes out Sept 6th on Century Media. What was the tracking process like? Was it a grueling experience or smooth and simple?
That’s a real tough question to answer. We were about 70% done tracking guitar and bass at home when Kyle ended up hospitalized in 2018. The band came to a screeching halt as he battled his way through that tough time. Once he got better toward the end of the year, things started taking off and we had 2 months to finalize some writing and get the rest of the tracking done and get Scott caught up and studio ready. Most of it was complete for a couple years, but some of it was being completed while Scott was tracking drums.
When you work with a guy like Kyle, no amount of time is ever enough. No matter how prepared you are, he will still find a way to pull more out of you. It can feel discouraging at first, but the end result speaks for itself. And it’s never personal, it’s just a higher standard that we hold ourselves to. I wouldn’t change a damn thing about the experience we shared when putting this record together.
#4 – What’s the songwriting process like in Vitriol and did the process change at all from 2017’s “Pain Will Define Their Death”?
Songwriting is a long process for us. Kyle will flesh out ideas until he feels comfortable bringing them to the table. He will try to push ideas one direction, then another, then another. If it keeps getting better, he keeps pushing. Once he reaches a point where the riffs are not getting better by pushing them in different directions, that riff is now done. I’ll write bass this way, Scott will write drums this way. We all offer input to each other’s instruments as we start to solidify the song.
Once we feel good about it, we pre-pro the song and make subtle changes from a songwriting perspective instead of a riff writing perspective. Then we sleep on it for a few weeks and revisit and modify if need be. Some songs just come together the first time through, others we rewrote 6, 7, maybe 8 times. And even then, we are not afraid to shit-can them if they don’t make the cut.
Nobody wants to throw out hard work, especially if you worked on it for months, but if it ain’t right, it ain’t right. Something I wish more musicians would do. This has always been our process, but we are getting more efficient at it, and I believe our next record will come together much faster.
#5 – The newest album is also the band’s first with heavyweight metal label, Century Media Records (Congratulations by the way!), how did the deal come about and how does it feel to take such a huge step forward?
We worked hard for many years and when we released the EP digitally in 2017, we had a fantastic PR campaign that we had hoped would land us a decent deal or maybe some touring. Like so many bands, it just didn’t happen. Nobody seemed interested.
Fast forward a year, we released the EP in physical form through a label called Everlasting Spew and put together a play through video that we didn’t think too many people would give a shit about, and suddenly an offer dropped from the sky. Phillip at Century Media was unaware of us until that play through video, but once he found us, he immediately contacted us. His conversations with us made us quickly realize that he understood what our message is and what we are trying to execute as a death metal band. He just “gets it” and allowed us the opportunity to be heard. I’ve been listening to Century Media bands since I first picked up guitar and it’s very humbling to be a part of something so amazing.
#6 – What bass gear did you use on the new album and does the set-up differ from what you use live? Additionally, has your rig changed much over the years?
The setup on the record was fucking insane! We split the signal and ran one side into a GK 2001RB with a Darkglass B7K in front of it. Fed that signal into a Ampeg 8×10 and mic’d it up. Pretty standard stuff that sounded incredible, lots of low end and some crispy highs, but the real damage was done when we ran the other side of the bass signal into a Fortin custom-modded Marshall 1979 JMP into a Mesa dual 15 cab. The tightness and response that that gave my tone was unbelievable. The Fortin provided all of the nastiest mids. The amp had been made specifically for Kyle by Mike Fortin himself. It sounded absolutely crushing for guitar, so we figured, “why stop there? Use it for bass too!”
As for my live rig, I try to keep it simple. When I played guitar, I had 2 amps, and modelers, and pedals, and 20 cables,… it was a mess. Lots of problems that could go wrong and a long setup time, so when I switched to bass, I wanted to keep it simple- Spector Euro 4LX bass, Sansamp RBI preamp, Ampeg SVP 1500 power amp, and an Ampeg 6×10 cab. I’ve been using this setup for a long time. I’d like to start putting together a second amp setup and run both live. Do a Fortin guitar amp through 15’s like I did in the studio, maybe swap out my Sansamp and start using the B7K more.
#7 – What are your thoughts on how digital gear is evolving? Could you ever see yourself recording with amp sim software or touring with a Kemper / Axefx set-up?
Digital gear is getting ever-increasingly more convincing. It’s pretty incredible to see where we are at these days. I remember buying a Line 6 Flextone 2 many moons ago and dialing in all these different guitarist’s settings. That amp had a lot of options, but none of them ever seemed to capture a “great” tone. Just aight, ya know? Nowadays, it’s much closer, but I’m still not convinced. I prefer my cave-man ways! Analog and old-school! That being said, I’m totally open to try anything and give it a fair shake. Digital gear may provide a better tone some day, and when it does, I’ll be happy to make the switch, but in my opinion, we’re just not there yet.
As for a live tone, I feel like a bass player can use a digital setup and by the time it gets mixed at the front-of-house and blended with gits and drums, you probably wouldn’t know or care what’s driving the tone. I’m sure it would sound fantastic. And if it’s a simpler setup and less fuss, I’d be open to trying it. I like to keep things simple, but ultimately, we just want the best sound, whether it’s digital or analog.
#8 – The tech-death bar seems to be raised often, does the ever-evolving genre ever feel like a competition? Or is it more less mutual admiration for any bands that take things up a notch?
When I was younger, it definitely felt like competition. And that’s mostly because I treated it that way. I always wanted to be the best, but now I couldn’t care less about something so subjective. It’s silly. I love watching guys that are well beyond my abilities, it inspires me to work harder. And the younger guys inspire me as well because they are the next generation trying to outdo my old ass and hit the scene with a new approach and perspective. I think the competitive nature is what fuels heavy metal’s lust to push the envelope, but you gotta keep it in check and remember that we’re all friends here.
#9 – Do you think it’s even humanly possible for bands to play a whole lot faster and more technical at this point? Do the human body’s limitations physically limit where tech-death and other genres go from here?
I mean… I’d like to say no, but every couple years, some fucking asshole plays something that was thought to be impossible and now we all gotta learn it to keep up. Haha! I could see microtones really taking off soon. 12-note octaves does seem a bit Sega Genesis at this point.
#10 – A reader question from Jake.H – Do you have any tips for bassists switching from a pick to fingerstyle for technical metal? I am good with a pick but I don’t want my band to suck while I transition.
Well Jake, as a bass player, no one will hear you anyways, so you got plenty of time to work out the kinks. Ha! But seriously, it’s really as simple as just doing it repetitively. When I transitioned from guitar to bass, I would just sit in front of the tv and mindlessly fingerpick the strings, alternating index and middle finger. Pick a note, any note on the fret board, and just move it around, (as the string’s tension will change slightly depending on where on the fretboard your left hand is fretting.)
Try playing your bands songs with your fingers too. Just start slow and as you get more comfortable with it, the speed will come. Then you can start working on 3-note groupings, (or triplets, as most people incorrectly refer to them) by adding in your ring finger. Ring-Middle-Index, Ring-Middle-Index, etc. I have also adopted a new technique of using my thumb as a pick. I put my thumb and index finger together as if I’m holding a pick and I just wail on the string(s).
#11 – 2019 will bring a new album as well as a huge tour with NILE, Hate Eternal & Omophagia. What else is coming up in the next year or so for Vitriol and your fans?
Our schedule is about to get real busy! I can’t spill the beans and provide details just yet, but we are going to be touring a lot. This first run with Nile and Hate Eternal in Europe is going to be absurd. We always wanted to tour with the likes of them, we just never thought it would be our first run. We are very grateful to be a part of it and I hope Vitriol is received well.
The levels of experience, musicianship and songwriting required to do techdeath effectively are immense. Vitriol brings a grindier and more raw approach to things to where the surgical precision feels like it’s happening in a dank, grimy shed rather than an operating room. The result is a much less robotic sound that has all the precision and more for these speeds but it sounds like it’s being played by humans that aren’t being micro-corrected in post. Honest, hard-working death metal at it’s finest. Check out the links below for more on Vitriol as well as Adam’s Merch Company!