Alice Cooper bassist on Dio, Beasto Blanco and more
By David Sands
April 13, 2016
If you were to bump into Chuck Garric at the grocery store, you might never guess that the easy-going musician has wielded his bass in service of some of the darkest and most terrifying lords of rock and roll.
Okay, his long hair and tattoos might clue you in a bit, but the fact remains that the man has some serious heavy metal street cred.
To start with, since 2002, he’s been conjuring bass lines for Alice Cooper, a performer whose horror-tinged lyrics and bloodcurdling shows are the very personification of shock rock. Around the turn of the millennium, Garric also toured with the legendary Ronnie James Dio, author of unforgettable songs like “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark” and the infamous populizer of the “metal horns” hand gesture.
In addition to these rock-and-roll masters, he’s also slung his bass for the L.A. Guns, the Eric Singer Project (ESP), Turd and the Druts. Garric fronts his own band too, a hard-rocking outfit called Beasto Blanco, which released its debut album, Live Fast Die Loud, in 2013.
FBPO’s Jon Liebman recently contacted the affable musician in an effort to understand how he became such a hard rocking bass juggernaut. Their resulting conversation touched on Garric’s rise through the rock and roll ranks, his gear, Beasto Blanco and more.
Garric’s earliest musical memories weren’t rock and roll, but rather the country sounds of his family record collection, which included artists like Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson.
“I always loved music, but my parents weren’t big music lovers,” he tells FBPO. “My dad was a bluegrass player. He played the banjo, but that wasn’t until later on in my life when I started to find music as a young kid.”
Coming of age in South Lake Tahoe, California, the future bassist got his first taste of making music playing trumpet for his school band. That lasted only until he got his first serious taste of rock and roll, seeing Humble Pie and Ted Nugent perform and realizing they didn’t have a trumpet player. Rock bands like Sabbath, KISS, Rainbow, Led Zeppelin and Queen soon lit fire to his imagination and he got the itch to play in his own rock band.
Garric ended up joining forces with some neighbor friends who played guitar and drums and needed a bassist. He ordered his first axe through the Sears catalog and, as he says, “just started thumping away on it.”
Asked about bass influences, he hesitantly names John Deacon, Bob Daisley and Steve Harris, adding that he’s been shaped as much by the total experience of rock and roll—its art, music and feeling—as any individual musician.
After graduating high school, Garric moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s to hone his musical talents at Dick Grove School of Music. There he sharpened his skills at a variety of different bass styles under the tutelage of music industry veterans Joel DiBartolo and Dean Taba.
While in L.A., he also plunged headfirst into the lively Sunset Strip rock scene.
“As you can imagine, in the Eighties there were a billion bands out there,” he says. “If you were a good bass player and you could sing and you looked halfway decent, you could get yourself a gig.”
The bassist’s big break, however, came one day when he got a call that led to a job playing with Ronnie James Dio.
Dio was a mentor and huge inspiration to Garric, who describes the metal legend as a consummate professional with a “God-given natural talent.”
“One thing I learned from Ronnie is that, whatever you’re doing, believe it, and the crowd will believe it as well,” he says. “I look back at that time and my friendship I had with Ronnie, and I cherish every moment. I think of him all the time.”
The bass player is particularly proud of having had the opportunity to co-write a song with him, “Death By Love,” which appears on the 2004 album Master of the Moon.
While touring with Dio in 1999 and 2000, Garric worked hard to master the iconic bass parts of the singer’s tunes. Dio knew just how he wanted the bass to sound and wasn’t above coaching him at times.
“He would sing me a bass line,” says Garric. “If I wasn’t playing a bass line correctly, he’d go: ‘Are you playing this?’ and he would hum it. He was always aware of what was going on around him.”
During a break between Dio gigs, Garric got word Alice Cooper was looking for a new bassist and jumped at the opportunity.
With only a few days to prepare, he gave a thorough listening to Cooper’s albums and learned the parts to “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “I’m Eighteen” and “School’s Out.”
Shortly into the audition, though, Garric realized something was terribly amiss.
“The tempos were completely different,” he says. “There were weird stops and things I just wasn’t prepared for, and I realized that they were doing live versions of these songs.”
Although Garric didn’t get picked up right then, he sees the experience as a great lesson on the merits of being prepared.
Fortunately for him, though, the bass player the band chose didn’t work out. A couple weeks later, Garric got another call to appear on television with Alice Cooper. After the show, he finally got a chance to speak with Cooper, who hadn’t been present at the original audition.
“You want to be our bass player?” Cooper told him. “Yeah, cool. I like it.”
“It was easy from there,” says Garric, “but I definitely went back and learned my homework.”
Playing bass with Alice Cooper is certainly no walk through the park. One the hand, the band has Cooper and three other guitarists in its lineup, which creates a bit of a balancing act for everyone involved. On the other, Garric also has had to grapple with the impressive legacy of Dennis Dunaway, Alice Cooper’s original bassist.
“Obviously there’s a song structure,” he says. “You can only put so much personality into a certain riff. But when the time comes to do something a little bit different, there’s definitely a hint or a wink at something Dennis had done already.”
Right now, Garric has three particular basses he plays on tour with Alice Cooper: a ‘73 Fender P-Bass, a 67’ reissue Fender P-Bass and a Gibson Thunderbird. As for strings, it’s DR.
In addition to playing with Alice Cooper, Garric also sings and plays guitar for Beasto Blanco, a rock band he formed in 2012 with guitarist Chris Latham. Rounding up the group are Jan LeGrow on bass, Tim Husung on drums and Alice Cooper’s daughter Calico, who sings and handles theatrical stage elements.
Fronting the band is a real thrill for Garric, who savors the creative outlet it offers.
“I love the name Beasto Blanco so much, because it has to do with all of that stuff… where you need to express yourself. You instinctually want to do something, or you have this urge to do it and you have to face your fears.”
A follow-up Live Fast Die Loud is reportedly in the works. With all these projects, Garric has got a lot going on right now—and he’s quite happy with that state of affairs.
“I’m sort of a day-to-day kind of guy,” he says. “I look at Alice Cooper and some of these guys that have been doing it for so long. I love what I do, and I’m hoping I can continue to do this as long as it lets me do it.”