Progressive metal bassist tells of his background, equipment and landing the coveted Periphery gig
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
October 20, 2014
Hailing from Bath, England, Adam “Nolly” Getgood is the bassist – and occasional guitarist – for the progressive metal band Periphery. FBPO’s Jon Liebman caught up with Nolly backstage before a recent Periphery show in Lansing, Michigan.
FBPO: Tell me about your musical upbringing. You’re not from around here, are you?
Nolly: I’m not from around here. Actually, I wasn’t born anywhere near where I am from, if that makes any sense! I was born in Singapore, actually, and very quickly, I started playing piano. My dad was a piano and organ player and, as a young child, I had a huge interest in following his footsteps, mainly classical music. I played piano till I was about 14. I picked up some violin and clarinet along the way, mostly classical, with a little bit of jazz, as well. When I hit my teenage years, I guess I wanted something a bit louder and more aggressive.
Originally, I wanted to play drums, but I was aware of just how awkward those things can be, with how loud and big and everything they are. One day I saw the equivalent of a high schooler playing a certain riff on his Stratocaster during recess at school and it just captured me straight away. I said, “That’s what I want to do!” So I played guitar for a number of years. Actually, I have a degree in electric guitar.
FBPO: From where?
Nolly: From the Bristol Institute of Modern Music. It was a degree in professional musicianship, with a speciality in guitar. Halfway through that degree program, I had the opportunity to fill in on bass with Periphery, which was actually one of my first times ever playing bass, let alone performing on bass. I just kind of assimilated it as part of my guitar playing. It was a number of years after that before the opening in Periphery came up to be the full-time bassist and when it did, I jumped at the chance. I’ve really enjoyed playing bass, from the first experience that I had. At that point, I made the move from making guitar my main instrument to making bass being my main instrument. It’s been just a little over two years now since I started playing bass full-time with Periphery.
FBPO: That must have opened up a whole new world after your classical upbringing, and all the piano, violin, drums and clarinet.
FBPO: Who were some of your influences on the bass once you began looking at it in this new light?
Nolly: Once I realized I was going to be joining (Periphery) as a full-time bassist, I really wanted to get into the mind of bass players that were doing similar things musically. One band that I was very into was a band called SikTh. They were a British band, kind of progressive metal, a little more frenetic than the kind of music we play. The bassist is incredible! His name is James Leach. He mainly plays finger-style. He’s also got some very, very cool slap and pop patterns and some very cool tapping work. All in all, he’s extremely inventive, a very clever musician. That was one of the first times I said, “Wow! You can really do so much with this instrument beyond just holding down the riff notes.” It was a huge inspiration for me when I started. I was essentially putting together bass parts from what I thought a bassist would play. Whereas, I am very schooled in guitar, the bass is more of a visceral reaction to the music. I was very influenced by the stuff James was doing and I started writing my own bass lines.
There’s also a guy called Jon Stockman, from a band called Karnivool. He has a fantastic bass tone above all else, but is also a fantastic bassist. Similar to James, he’s just so musical in everything he does and really finds a way to contribute more than just holding down the band, to really contribute harmonically and sonically and texturally to the band.
FBPO: The U.K. has a very rich musical heritage, including a lot of bass players. What about guys like John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Paul McCartney, Lemmy …?
Nolly: I mean of course I’m a huge fan and appreciate all of their music, but a lot of my influences are kind of second-hand influences. I’m influenced by the more modern school of players, who are, in turn, influenced by the older ones.
FBPO: How would you describe Periphery and the type of music that you play?
Nolly: I think the label that we like is “progressive metal” because progressive is an adjective that enables you to go basically anywhere. You’re basically saying you pull influence from a whole of different spheres. With that said, once you label something as progressive metal, you can pretty much go in any direction. Musically, you can go to a very light direction or you can go extremely heavy and kind of dense.
Influence-wise, there’s this whole mix from the more modern metal bands, like Meshuggah and SikTh, but there’s also more of what’s almost a videogame influence. I know that Misha (Mansoor), the principle songwriter in our band, was hugely influenced by Nobuo (Uematsu), the composer of the music for the Final Fantasy games, which is just incredible, musically. I mean, when you listen to the music that’s composed for games, it’s extremely complex, modally, with all sorts of crazy rhythmic stuff going on. It’s actually very dense music. When you start to hear that stuff and then listen to our music, I think you can find, not all the time, but you can find a lot of similarities in the way they approach chordal structure and harmony and chord progressions. I think that’s why progressive suits us because we couldn’t just say heavy metal or rock or something like that.
FBPO: How about your equipment? What are you using?
Nolly: Bass-wise, I really like Dingwall instruments.
Nolly: Yeah! Sheldon Dingwall has been ahead of the game for decades, since he started the company. My challenge as a bassist is to keep the octave relationship with the guitarists, who are tuning down as low as an F-sharp. On the new album, there’s one song, it’s not designed to be the clearest-sounding thing, but it’s tuned down to a C below that, and I am a C below that. That’s almost an octave lower than a five-string bass would normally go.
FBPO: You play it on a five?
Nolly: I play it on a 6-string, which has two extra low strings.
FBPO: So your high string is still a G?
Nolly: Right. The top four strings are like a 4-string. So when one of the guys is playing an 8-string guitar, I omit the top two strings on my bass. The real challenge is getting some kind of actual tone out of something that’s that low. It’s possible, just about, to get a sine wave out of that kind of sound. [Laughs]
You know, I’ve got that kind of tuning on a regular bass, but the way Sheldon’s instruments really come into their own is with the “fan fret” system, allowing for such a long scale length on a bass. That’s just absolutely invaluable! Inherently, the longer the scale can go, the more focused the top and bottom ends become, with a slightly more piano-like kind of timbre, actually. And that works very well with the music that we do, so I was extremely happy to find that there was someone out there doing these things with the bass. He’s been doing it for decades and now we have a chance to apply it in a modern context.
FBPO: How about your amplification?
Nolly: Again, another problem with those low notes can be having a cabinet that can reproduce that sound. So what we do is run direct, using Axe-Fx II guitar amp processors because, with a digital unit, you can bend the rules a little bit and get perhaps more bandwidth than you can get out of a regular cab.
FBPO: What about speakers?
Nolly: I’m using a Celestion powered 6×10 on stage. Honestly, that’s more as just a front fill for the people at the front of the stage. Because we go direct, the PA can be way out there in the back and if someone’s fought their way to the middle of the stage up close, they might not actually hear anything except for drums.
FBPO: Ten-inch speakers are enough for those way-low frequencies?
Nolly: Yeah, it’s more about the sensation of the low end at that point. It’s about the air that’s moving. I’m not mic-ing the cabinet. I have in the past and it contributed a very nice midrange character. Actually, though, I find the optimal way to do things with the cab, at least for my setup, is to have a speaker that doesn’t necessarily reproduce the full extent of the bass frequencies, so that you don’t get something that’s muddy or “woofy.” It’s mainly going to represent the midrange content. With the very distorted tone that I use, that midrange is really where the cut and the kind of binding nature of the bass and the guitar live. The cabinet is made by Zilla cabinets, which is a U.K. cabinet company that I’ve used for a long time.
FBPO: How about the future, Nolly? What else would you like to do that you haven’t already accomplished?
Nolly: We actually just got done recording our album and I’m excited to hear that.
FBPO: And the title is…?
Nolly: The title is Juggernaut. Actually, probably right after I do this interview, I’m going to go on the bus and sequence the final master. It’s an 80-minute long album, so there’s a huge amount of work that’s gone into it. Eighty minutes of program material is a lot to put together. I actually produced the album and mixed it, as well, so my last six months have been very, very stressful and time-consuming. I think the end result is really, really something which I can be proud of and the bass work is definitely a step up from the previous album. To me, it’s just about serving the music, when it comes to the bass.
I look forward to writing more and more with the band. Hopefully, by the time the next album rolls around, we’ll have a whole new set of influences and I’ll be able to push the bass playing further than I have been so far. There are some cool moments on it, including some finger-style playing, which is not my forte.
FBPO: Just curious, Nolly: How did you get your nickname?
Nolly: It’s a secret. I never tell anyone! It’s the lamest story. It would ruin the magic. It would be like a magician showing his tricks, so that one stays wrapped up, I’m afraid.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
Nolly: I’m a huge photography fan, so I would probably look to make a living doing that. The thing which I enjoy about photography is its creative process that I don’t have to think about as a business. Music has become like that for me, which is in no way a bad thing, but it’s nice to have a creative outlet where I’m not tied to the schedule and don’t have management and label and so many other people involved. It’s purely for myself.