Interviews

Bassist Spotlight: Reid Black (Into Another, Eleven Thirty-Four, Innaway, The Third Degree)

Into Another @ Yost Theater, Santa Ana, CA, 2016. (Photo: Dan Rawe)

In the late '90s, friends of mine started playing me songs from a California band called Eleven Thirty-Four. At the time, my tastes leaned toward East Coast and Midwest hardcore bands. I was a massive Strife and Farside fan, but I definitely hadn't been seeking out West Coast bands.

Eleven Thirty-Four blew me away instantly because the songs were written so well, and I could hear every instrument in the recordings. The bass parts were amazing, and it was always important to me if an album had the bass turned up properly in the mix. Notoriously lots of some of our favorite records neglected to make the bass audible from the rest of the mix. 

I would grow up to always have those Eleven Thirty-Four songs in my head, and would often soundcheck their version of "The Imperial March" scene from Star Wars at shows.

Fast forward to 2014, and Supertouch is playing a weekend run with Into Another. Thommy Browne texted me asking how the shows were going and brought to my attention that Reid Black and Brian Balchck from Eleven Thirty-Four were now in Into Another, and I had been watching them play, and didn't know it. 

I immediately went up to them at the Anchor's Up show in Haverhill, MA, and began gushing on how much I loved their music. I don't think I made them uncomfortable, but I definitely was next-level fanboying. 

Ever since then, and later on when Supertouch did another mini-tour with Into Another in 2016, I have kept up with Reid via text and social media. I totally understand why he was chosen to play bass in Into Another and fill the shoes of the late great Tony Bono. He is a beyond talented musician and is probably one of the kindest people I've befriended in my musical journey.

We've never really spoken about it, but I feel we both bear the weight of representing the legendary bass players who wrote such amazing music for Into Another and Supertouch. I've written about Joe Graziano for No Echo before, and just what a massive endeavor it was to learn those songs. I can only imagine what Reid went through.

Reid has been featured on No Echo before, but I felt there was a lot more I could ask him to shine extra light on what an amazing person he is. I learned he's played bass with one of my favorite skateboarders, Mike Vallely, on top of playing guitar in the band Steakhouse through this interview.

Introduce yourself again to the No Echo community.

Hi, I’m Reid. Bassist for Into Another and guitarist for Steakhouse. And now a No Echo repeat offender.

How did you get into playing the bass guitar?

Just from an opening in my old band, The Third Degree. I initially suggested working things out with the original bassist and I would help out with a second guitar. But they wanted to keep it a tidy three-piece so I gave the bass a go. That set me on the path to becoming the opportunistic generalist that I am now.

Did/does your family support your music?

Growing up, yes. By encouraging me to pursue it and tolerating the noise from my practicing. And even allowing my old band Eleven Thirty-Four to practice in the garage at least once a week. My parents both worked in emergency services, as an ER nurse and an LAFD firefighter. We’d be playing in the garage, on full blast, pictures actually falling off the walls, and due to the hours they kept and the grind of those jobs, they’d often be fast asleep in the house.

Do you like to play any other instruments?

Ya, different instruments for the different types of bands I’ve done. Keys, bass, guitar, a little drums sometimes. I feel like keeping things moving like that keeps me learning. I bought a pedal steel recently too; that’ll be my old man instrument. Meaning I’ll be an old man by the time I really get a handle on that thing [laughs].

Do you use a guitar pick?

I mostly use a pick, yes. The attack you get with a pick is needed for the Into Another/Tony Bono sound.

How do you feel about playing with your fingers?

I like it when it’s deemed necessary. Aside from a few exceptions, hardcore/punk/metal stuff usually doesn’t call for that pulsing thump you get when playing with your fingers. It’s too round sounding. But two of the mellower Into Another songs have brief sections where I play sans pick.  

What was the first band you recorded with?

The first band, I recorded with was Eleven Thirty-Four. The first studio session was in ’94 and the last one was in late ’97 or early ’98. I wish we recorded the last few songs we wrote.   

And now for some Eleven Thirty-Four bass trivia. That last session was at a studio in LA that Megadeth used from time to time. And the actual bass we tracked with belonged to Dave Ellefson. Brian played bass on the recording and, for some reason, I didn’t think to take that thing for a spin. Didn’t even touch it. Which is weird since I’m the Megadeth fan of the bunch.

When you were writing and recording with your bands, what happens more? Would you keep the parts you came up with at practice, or would you rewrite your parts away from rehearsals?

If the jam factor is high I try to be more instinctive and write in the moment, as the music is happening. At least establishing higher-level ideas. In those instances, creativity is accessed through interaction and it’s hard to take that home. But finer detailing can happen away from rehearsal.  

With some of the more authoritarian bands I’ve done, parts, and sometimes whole songs, are premeditated. With rehearsals being just for execution.

Do you have favorite spots on the neck of the bass, where you always write great parts or are you all over the fretboard? 

I write great parts, everywhere, all the time. Just kidding. I have no real preference other than trying to keep things bassy and full. If possible, I prefer to play higher up on the neck, on a lower string i.e. 12th fret E or 7th fret A over 2nd fret D.

Through YouTube forensics, I’ve learned that Tony often did the opposite; he’d play lower on the neck, on a higher string.

When you are playing, what are you doing more often, downstrokes, upstrokes, or alternate picking?

That depends on the song. You’ll get different feels from different picking patterns. In my experience, an alternate pattern is more fluid and has more of a swing. Going with all downstrokes will make things much more rigid. I don’t think I’ve ever played a bassline that was all upstrokes.

Photo: Melissa Miracolo

Are there any specific bass players who have influenced your style of playing?

At the fanboy level, the list is exhaustive. On a deeper level, it has to be Tony. The time spent studying his parts and playing the songs has left its mark on me. On the earlier material, there are some great basslines. And there are some busier bass runs, which are still cool.

But on Ignaurus and Seemless, there’s a certain elegance and economy of notes that I really dig. It’s a subtle increase in complexity, sometimes one note at a time, as the song moves along and phrases repeat. And by the end, it’s all filled in.

I played bass on a few Steakhouse songs on the new record and after listening back I heard some Tony-isms that I unconsciously threw in there. Things I wouldn’t have done before.

Have there been any drummers in your life that make you change the way you play the bass?

Drew [Thomas], for sure. Especially live. During the last run of Into Another shows, there was a spot in the set where we did a loosely structured jam that led into an actual song. He only had a few cues for me that marked changes, and every night the result would be a little different.  

The energy, spontaneity, and real-time interaction definitely changed the way I played. Even more so given the higher stakes of performing something open-ended like that, in front of an audience. In conclusion, Into Another is a jam band now.

What is your favorite amp, pedal, bass guitar set up?

I’m partial to the P-Bass. It’s no-nonsense and works well across different styles.

My favorite bass pedal setup is no setup; I just bring em out as needed. T.A.I.L. and Anne Dreud’s Last Entry need an overdrive pedal, and the ending of The Other requires a volume pedal for the fadeout. I don’t use it for Into Another but I do like chorus on bass. I like that neon hue.

And since I don’t have a bass amp, my favorite is one that I have access to. It’d be great to always play through an SVT/8x10 but it’s not practical.

Into Another at Sound Asylum studios, Santa Ana, CA, 2013.

How has COVID affected you, and your music?

All in all, things are cool in my world. Friends and family doing well. Health is good. Livelihood intact. I’ve been fortunate.

Music-wise, I’ve stayed busy but have also fell off in certain ways. The busy part is from slogging thru the new Steakhouse record which has been an arduous process from the start. And I thought, with all the downtime, I’d be writing new stuff. But I guess I’ve been too busy with said slogging, doomscrolling, and watching the country implode.  

The writing is slowly coming back though, and I did a few of those lockdown cover videos too. Which were fun and helped get me going again.

Did Into Another have plans that got canceled?

We had to cancel gigs, yes. But for other reasons. It was some months prior to the pandemic but now feels like part of the same shitstorm.

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

No, nothing interesting to report. I’m just waiting things out and looking forward to a safe reopening.

If you could fill in on bass for any band past or present, who would you want to play with?

How about future? Oasis reunion. Hanging with them would be a hoot.

(L-R) Reid Black, Jeremy Holehan, Carl Cordova

Finally, do you have any advice for someone picking up a bass guitar for the first time?

Everybody needs a bass player. If you like it and stick with it, there will be demand for your services. Especially if you become versed in different styles. A penchant for self-effacement helps as does a knack for diplomacy à la Derek Smalls.

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Tagged: bassist spotlight, eleven thirty-four, innaway, into another

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