Bassist Spotlight: Sam Wilkerson (White Reaper)

Photo: Rob Loud

I always feel blessed to be able to talk about my favorite local musicians on No Echo. I was lucky enough to be born in Louisville. KY. Currently, Louisville is killing it musically in the major music scene, and hardcore punk scene. One of those bands features Sam Wilkerson of White Reaper. They have become local legends playing Louisville's smaller punk clubs, while also touring with The Killers, and soon opening for Pearl Jam.

Sam's bass playing in the band is drum orientated, while he's writing his own hooks during the songs. He's really guiding the listener through every song. His style is infectious, and I hope you enjoy what he's got to say about the funnest instrument to play: bass guitar.
Introduce yourself to everyone.

Hi, I'm Sam. I live in Louisville, I play bass in White Reaper

How did you get into playing bass guitar?

I actually started on a six-string guitar and took lessons for a few years. I learned a few scales and solos mainly by just bringing CDs in and getting my instructor to show me how to play stuff I liked at the time. Lots of Green Day in there. Years later, I picked up the bass for fun, played around in a few bands starting when I was 14 and then I ended up in White Reaper.

Can you play and sing at the same time?

I’ve tried to sing and play and I can definitely do it with practice.

Did your family support your choice of pursuing a career in music?

Yeah, my family loves what I do and it’s become a major topic of discussion at every family gathering. Also, my dad is a big reason I got into music in the first place.

How do you write your parts for White Reaper? I've noticed you, and Nick are always locked in together. Do you focus on the kick drum or any other instruments when your writing your parts?

I don’t know much about music theory or anything. When I’m recording, I usually just turn up the kick loud as hell in my mixer and focus on that. I’ve always really loved the punch sound of the kick and bass at the exact same time. I really just try to play the part that matches the rest of the song. I never want to be too try-hard. You can tell when that happens and things can get out of hand [laughs]. 

Have you always used a guitar pick?

I was in a band called Econo-Head where I used my fingers and that was cool. Other than that, I always rock with my Dunlop max grip 88mm.

When picking are you doing more upstrokes or downstrokes?

I’d say its a perfectly even mixture of both!

At practice do you usually keep your original ideas, or do you take it home and work on them?

Before the studio, I definitely play around with all the songs and try all sorts of things. I'll add a little flare here n there.

Is there a particular bass player you draw inspiration from?

Bruce Foxton (The Jam), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), whoever wrote the "Time Warp" bass part for Rocky Horror [Picture Show]..

Are there any drummers who have changed the way you play the bass guitar?

Only my brother, Nick [laughs]. I try and play to the part. Sometimes he gets funky.

(The Wilkersons playing with The Killers at Forecastle):

What is your current amp, bass guitar, pedal combination? 

I have a Fender Bassman 800 with a 610 cab, a Sansamp bass driver, a chorus for our song "Might Be Right," a Mel9 for the song "Headwind"!

Did you grow up in Louisville, and if so, has that influenced your musical style at all?

I grew up here and I’d have to say that there's something in the air that provides encouragement for artistic pursuits. Most of the show-goers are so welcoming and arms are usually open wide for new stuff. Also, I talked to my friend Lance about this a while ago and he made the point that it’s a river city, and that may have something to do with it. Growing up listening to Slint and Squirrel Bait is awesome because they are from my neck of the woods, they feel like they are my own special thing. 

You have toured a lot, is there any other city you would like to live in?

Los Angeles, mainly for the weather, or Seattle. Somewhere in the PNW. I like the trees.

Do you have any gear malfunction stories?

There are too many to count. My bass wiring has malfunctioned on stage, cords, pedals, amps overheating, fuckin venue power not working, the list goes on.


A post shared by Sam Wilkerson (@studded_montoyan) on

What's the best part of being on tour for yoy, and how well do you eat?

The best part of tour is seeing new sights and meeting new people. Usually, we go to Whole Foods or Chipotle, so I’d say we eat pretty good. 

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

The Replacements.

Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for someone picking up the bass guitar for the first time?

It's easy! There are only 4 strings! You can do it!


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Tagged: bassist spotlight, white reaper