Issues bassist tells his story, from his days as a church-gigging bassist to Warped Tour… and beyond
Skyler Acord is the bass player for the rock band Issues. Skyler grew up in Washington State and studied jazz at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle before relocating to Los Angeles.
Issues has been enjoying a steady rise in popularity, having performed to enthusiastic crowds throughout the world, including the Warped Tour in 2016. They are currently back on the road, co-headlining with Motionless in White and Falling In Reverse. The band’s new album, Headspace, was released in May 2016.
Skyler was the recipient of the “Best Bass Award” at the 2016 Alternative Press Music Awards.
FBPO: You sure look like you have fun when you play the bass.
SA: [Laughs] Well, I try!
FBPO: How’d you become a bass player?
SA: Well, initially, like many, I started out on guitar, just ‘cause I really liked Jimi Hendrix. My little sister kind of got spoiled; she got a bass and a guitar and eventually a bunch of other stuff for successive Christmases, but she never played anything. So I just like picked up her bass and liked it a lot better than guitars because guitars felt flimsy to me and I just kind of went for it. It just clicked. I mostly started in church.
FBPO: Did you start listening to music differently after that, picking out the bass?
SA: Yeah. That started coming as soon as I started learning some Black Sabbath riffs and I was putting [it all] together: Okay, this fret sounds like this and that sounds like that. I was really into nu metal back then, when it was first starting, especially this band called Mudvayne. Their bass player is amazing!
FBPO: Ryan Martinie. I know Ryan; I’ve interviewed him a couple times.
SA: Oh, awesome! I’m a huge fan. I was listening to them and the bass was at the forefront and that was the first time I said, “Okay, this is what I want to do. I want to gig with the bass. I want to practice and jump around and slap and have a band like this guy does.”
FBPO: Who were some of your other bass influences?
SA: I really liked Oteil Burbridge. I was a big Aquarium Rescue Unit fan. Richard Bona, who’s awesome. Obviously Victor Wooten, obligatory. And then Jaco. Absolutely Jaco. I guess those four or five were my absolute biggest influences.
FBPO: Well, I can understand Ryan Martinie, but I sort of think of you as a funky, “metal-head” kind of guy. I didn’t expect to hear names like Oteil and Jaco and Richard Bona.
SA: [Laughs] After I started taking bass seriously, I started focusing a lot on jazz and R&B and stuff. I grew up on R&B just as much as I grew up on metal. I’m definitely a product of my bi-racial background.
FBPO: How did the Issues gig come to be?
SA: The Issues gig, kind of funny. My twin brother started it with our singer, Tyler (Carter), and they were recording in Portland. I was in Seattle at the time, two and-a-half hours away, and they didn’t have a bass player. So I just kind of wiggled my way in. I’m like, “Hey, I’ll play bass for free if you credit me – which they never even did, but, you know, I’m not bitter [laughs]. I played bass on Issues’ EP. The guy they had playing bass couldn’t learn the parts because he couldn’t hang, so I ended up joining the band as a fill-in. And I’m like, “Hey, guys, I wrote all the bass parts and now I’m like in the band, touring with you guys, and my twin brother started the band. You should probably let me be a member.” So I ended up being a member.
FBPO: You’ve been immersed in a pretty major tour with the band. How’s that going?
SA: It’s going, actually, super well! The tour we’re on right now is supposed to be three headlining bands all joining together. It’s us, Motionless in White and Falling In Reverse. Motionless in White and Falling In Reverse have a little bit of a younger crowd – or older crowd, depending on who you talk to! It’s like older bikers and people who grew up on glam metal and then younger, like [a] late high school and middle school kind of crowd. And those crowds are super interested in what we’re doing.
FBPO: There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for Headspace. How would you compare that with the band’s first album?
SA: Headspace is just the idea that we’re kind of growing into our own headspace as a band – hence the name – as opposed to five or six different people just throwing our influences in the gumbo. Our first EP was just throwing a bunch of things at the wall and our first album was kind of a continuation of that experiment. Headspace is, “Okay, we figured out what we like to do, what we don’t like to do, what works, what doesn’t work, so this is what Issues sounds like.”
FBPO: The band is definitely more established now than even on the Warped Tour. Does the current tour feel any different to you than that one?
SA: Oh, absolutely. Warped Tour’s a whole different animal. Warped was kind of funny because it was literally high school, just in a political sense, for better or worse. You know, you’re stuck with all your friends in close quarters, which is absolutely not a bad thing. Everybody stinks, it’s summer, it’s hot, you know. [This tour] is a little bit more routine, which is not bad. You’re playing to a more focused audience. With the Warped Tour, every day is a festival. It is a tour, but it’s absolutely a festival. There are, like, 60 bands on it. Here, there’s five bands, so the shows are more consistent as far as response. Warped Tour is very much like an investigative crowd. People go check out bands they don’t know, which was our experience last time. But this tour, actually, it’s our first tour since we played Warped Tour and our first American tour on Headspace, so there’s a lot of really focused and really intense response to our new music, which is really encouraging.
FBPO: Congratulations on being the recipient of the “Best Bass Award” from the Alternative Press Music Awards. How did that make you feel?
SA: That was pretty crazy! I’m not used to getting attention because most bass players don’t really get that much attention [laughs]. I literally play bass because at my church I had a choice between singing and playing bass because they needed one or the other and I’m like, “I’m not singing; I’m playing bass.” It was just an awesome experience. I brought my whole family up because I knew my parents would be super proud and super stoked and I kind of wanted to show off where I came from. They supported me from day one. They heard all the horrible, horrible band practices when we would just make noise for two hours. They put up with that long enough. In that sense, it really belongs to them because if they didn’t support me like that, there wouldn’t be an award.
FBPO: Tell me about your equipment.
SA: Actually, I’m super, super happy with my setup, finally. It’s been years trying to really nail down what I like. I’m using an Eden World Tour 900 and various Spector basses.
FBPO: What do you like the about Eden amps?
SA: The reason I got turned on to Eden was because I saw Summer Slaughter Tour in 2009 and they all shared backline. I knew Eden as an R&B amp, like a soul amp and stuff, but Summer Slaughter Tour is a heavy tour and they were all using the same Eden World Tour 800, as it was back then, and I was just super impressed because the bass sounded awesome with every band and it cut. I was so impressed that an amp could handle R&B and soul as well as I knew it could and then death metal and brash and stuff, as I saw it being used that night. I was aware of Eden, but that’s when I was sold and I immediately went out and found one at a Guitar Center, used, somewhere, a World Tour 800, and I used that up until I made a connection with the actual company and got a new one, which is the same amp, but better I guess [laughs], but no complaints there.
FBPO: What kind of strings do you use?
SA: Currently I’m using Ernie Ball strings.
FBPO: How about effects?
SA: Not a whole lot in the way of effects. I do use a DarkGlass B7K. Ever since I started using DarkGlass, it’s cleaned up my tone so much. The circuitry is just so solid it just brightens everything up. Also, I’m using an Aguilar Agro pedal for added bite.
FBPO: What lies ahead for you and the band after this tour?
SA: We have a music video coming out soon and a lot of international stuff planned. I’m really excited. We’re gonna try to get over to Asia. We have something in Europe and the UK, a couple festivals and stuff, and we’re already starting to work on new material because we’re always kind of doing that, always writing. Just more of the grind stuff. AJ (Rebollo) and I are also working on getting TAB books together for Headspace, so people who want to learn the songs can actually learn them from us because there’s a lot of weird, technical stuff that doesn’t really make sense, so we’re going to get that out sometime this year. Actually, there’s going to be a Headspace tour. Nothing’s announced, nothing’s figured out yet, but that’s definitely in the cards. We haven’t done that yet, so people who are waiting on that won’t be disappointed, definitely.
FBPO: Where would you be most excited to play, particularly some place that you may not have played yet?
SA: Well, we’ve never played in the Middle East or Africa. A couple bands on the Warped Tour had played South Africa and I would love to play there. It would blow my mind!
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
SA: I would be a herpetologist, preferably working in the field. The study of reptiles and amphibians, that’s what I was super interested in before I played bass. When I grow up, I want to be a panther.
The following Issues albums are available here:
FBPO interview with Ryan Martinie
FBPO interview with Victor Wooten
Jaco Pastorius Feature (with Metallica's Robert Trujillo)