Bassist Spotlight: Dustin Cantrell (Wicked Garden, Constraint, Three Poisons, Glob)

Photo: Errick Easterday

When I moved back to Louisville, Dustin was someone I noticed right away. I'm pretty sure the first time I saw him was at Midwest-Bloodfest now know as Life & Death Brigade Fest (LDB Fest). His bass playing, tone, and use of effects are right up my alley. I've gotten to know him more in the past few years because his bands and Miracle Drug have played together a ton. He's always down to let someone borrow gear on top of being a fantastic musician and an all-around kind human being.

I hope you enjoy getting to know one of Louisville's finest treasures.

Introduce yourself to everyone.
Hey, it’s me, Dustin. D-Pain to some. right now I play bass in Wicked Garden and Constraint, as well as guitar in Three Poisons, Glob, and Full Zenith.

How did you get into playing the bass guitar, and do you play other instruments?

Partly, I got into punk rock when I was 14/15 and the DIY ethics that came with it led me to believe it was something I could actually do. and partly, I always had trouble fitting in and making friends, and I just wanted to be a part of something and feel like I had a role to play. being in a band seemed cool and also bass seemed easier than guitar. I played by myself for a long time before starting a band. I’d usually find tabs online and learn full records and just sit in my room and play along for hours. I stuck with bass for many years and then dove into playing guitar at 21 when I joined Another Mistake.

Does your family support your musical endeavors?
They bought me my first bass and drove me to many shows in my teenage years that formed my love for music and the punk scene. I don’t think they particularly enjoy any of the music that I make but they always come out when I invite them. Very thankful for my parents, they are wonderful. 

A portrait of the bassist as a young man

Typically, how do you write your parts for your bands?
I don’t know much theory so I just know which shapes I like to make on the fretboard and combine those in different ways. In Wicked Garden, I usually just start with the root notes and try different things out while we jam until I find something I like. In my hardcore bands, it's generally better to follow the guitar for the most part, but in bands like Wicked Garden, I can sneak in some cool licks.

How do you remember riffs if you're away from the bass?
If I need to remember it I usually play it enough for it to be stored in muscle memory. If I can remember the beginning of the song my fingers usually know the rest. 

Do you use a guitar pick?
I do! .88mm with the turtle on it.

What are you doing more of, downstrokes or upstrokes?
A lot of both, whatever’s more comfortable for the groove of the riff.

Are there any bass players who have influenced your style?

  • Matt Freeman of Rancid/Operation Ivy
  • Paul Simonon of The Clash
  • Homie of Choking Victim
  • Mark Hoppus of blink-182
  • Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth

Honestly, I listened to a ton of ska in high school and I think that style of playing has always impacted me, for better or worse.

I've been blessed in my music career to play with phenomenal drummers like Jason Balicki, Thommy Browne, Terry Campbell, Denny Gray, Jimmy Santiago Vela lll, and Chris Daly. I play a little differently with them all. Depending on who it is, I will emphasize their kick drum hits, or maybe their snare hits. It's always different. Are there any drummers who have changed the way you play your instrument?
Like you said, sometimes you gotta switch it up a bit based on the drummer's style, especially playing fast music, You don’t wanna be trying to grind out 16th notes or 32nd notes when you could just play 8th notes and follow the bass drum/chord changes. overdoing it just makes it sound sloppy IMO. But also wanna say I too have been blessed with playing alongside some insane drummers through the years, like Lake Tracy, Cameron Cousins, Isaac Hale, Bryan Prosser (No Echo interview), Jim Barron, Evan Peak, Jake Snider, and Seth Lewis.

Photo: Errick Easterday

Wicked Garden is one of my favorite bands. How did you guys get together?

At our core, we used to be a band called Ill Advised that strived to be Louisville’s version of RZL DZL, although we only wrote 5 songs in like 5 years, and 3 of those songs were written at the very first practice. We got a little older and decided we wanted to do something a little more serious so we transitioned into Wicked Garden, adding Isaac Hale (Knocked Loose, Heartstopper) on the drums and soon Chesley Sommer on second guitar. We started drawing a lot more influence from bands like Culture Abuse and Drug Church, as well as '90s grunge. I think the mix of inspirations has been super interesting.

We’re slowly transitioning to less breakdowns and more guitar solos. Seriously Steve and Ches both shred and we’re tryna play to our strengths. Listen to the end of “Too Much of a Good Thing” where they trade solos over the last four minutes of the song, It’s nuts. We got Bryan Prosser playing drums with us now and we’ve started working on new songs I’m pretty pumped about.

Do you have a favorite Moe story? 

I’ve known Moe for way too long to narrow it down. When we were like 14 he took a hot knife and branded "P U N X" on his knuckles, that was wild. Here, let me hit you with a few of my favorite Moe mosh calls instead: 

“There’s a hundred of you and one security guard”
“I am a god”
“Dave Baugher”
“I’m a drug addict, come do something about it”
“You can’t tow Moe”

What is your current amp, bass guitar, pedal combination? Your use of the chorus pedal is fantastic and I need to get one in my set up. Are there any new pedals you want to use?

Head: Ampeg SVT-350
Bass: Ibanez TMB 100
Pedals: Earthquaker Cloven Hoof for fuzz
Decimator II for noise gate
Holy grail plus for reverb 
Neo clone for chorus 
DOD flange FX747 for flange 
Memory boy for delay/noise

And thank you! I’m lazy and use my guitar pedalboard for my bass setup too, which gives me access to pedals I definitely don’t need but a lil extra chorus on the bass never hurt anybody. And I always admire the Rainbow Machine pedal by Earthquaker but I know I’m not smart enough to use it.

Dustin's bass rig

Are you stoked for LDB Fest? Wicked Garden is playing Saturday with Terror, Fiddlehead, Magnitude, One Step Closer and other great bands. Who are you excited to see?

Cruel Hand, Bent Life, Fuming Mouth, Foreign Hands, Low End, Absence of Mine, Kharma... so so many.

Do you have any new musical projects you wanna talk about?

Last year, a few friends and I threw together a demo super quick for a band called Three Poisons that I’m super stoked about. we’re almost finished writing our next release and we’ve been taking a lot more time and thought crafting these songs, and I think it’ll really show once we get everything recorded. Hoping we get on the road by this summer:

Constraint (Tyler Short—singer for Inclination) isn’t exactly new but we’re back with a new lineup and a new record almost finished, and you’ll probably see us traveling a bit this year if you keep your eyes out:

Also check out Glob, my band with more of a Dinosaur Jr/Wavves/Bugg kinda vibe, if you wanna hear me wax poetic:

Is there a band or bands you would love to fill in for?

Oh wow, plenty. Knocked Loose comes to mind, every show of theirs looks like a blast and they are all so kind. Another Mistake touring with them in 2015 was the last real tour I’ve been on in years and it was a lot of fun. Hmm, Slipknot would be cool, I love some good theatrics. Maybe Culture Abuse, they have such a fun infectious vibe and they make people so genuinely happy at their shows. I just wanna rock and spread the good times.

Is there anything going on in your personal life you'd like to tell us?

To anyone that came out to the benefit show I had last year for my mom, again thank you so much and here’s a quick update: She is cancer-free! She completed chemo last July and completed all other treatments in December and she is back to work and happy as ever! Very grateful to everyone that supported us through 2019, it was a rough year.

Other than that, I turn 30 this year and I just wanna travel a lot and put out a few records and see where this next decade takes me.

Photo: Errick Easterday

Finally, can you give some words of wisdom to someone picking up a bass guitar for the first time?

Don’t be intimidated! The strings are hard to push down at first but soon it’s second nature. And while bass may be a stereotypical “easy” instrument to begin playing, it can be hard to play creatively and find your own voice within those four strings. Just stick with it, and play what you wanna hear, not necessarily what you think is the “correct” thing to play. Anyone can learn a scale, but writing a bass line that fucking slaps comes from your personality. 

Also, learn about the dynamics of songwriting, you don’t need to be playing over every part. Learning where to play and what to accent can build and release tension in the song and add to your personality as a bass player.


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Tagged: bassist spotlight, constraint, full zenith, glob, three poisons, wicked garden