Chris Tapp

Low-End Addendum
Chris Tapp
Chris Tapp: Alex Morgan.

On the latest Cold Stares album, Voices, guitarist Chris Tapp did the unthinkable – he hired a bass player! With the addition of Bryce Klueh, the Stares made a record that bristles with rhythmic intensity, poignant lyrics, and the kind of playing Tapp has been dreaming about. It’s not your granddaddy’s blues, but hits hard with emotion and zeal.

What’s different about Voices?
We had songs recorded during the previous record that we couldn’t pull off live without a bass player. Going into this one, I didn’t want to repeat myself. So, drummer Brian Mullins and I went round and round about adding a bass player, and it was good timing. Our friend Bryce got freed up from a gig, so we added him. Once we did, we could do whatever we wanted and we knew it’d be fun to finally record things we could actually play live.

From a songwriting standpoint, it was almost more difficult because I’m used to the constraints of trying to write for a two-piece. Bryce was onboard before we started writing because I wanted to have that mentality going in. I didn’t dictate parts, because Bryce is a great bass player. I played bass on the other albums, so once he was in, I started writing.

How different would the songs have been without Bryce?
It would have been a much different record. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves, but with a song like “The Joy” or any other, really, there was no way we could have done it with a two-piece band. When I started writing in that style, with more chord structures and bass, it opened topics I hadn’t touched on; I hadn’t done a happy song before “The Joy” because I wasn’t playing many happy chords (laughs).

“Nothing But The Blues” has everything you want in a blues song, but skips the clichés.
The themes I like in the blues are the down-and-out stuff. Sometimes you listen and think, “Maybe my life isn’t as bad as that.” (laughs) You have to decide what kind of artist you’re going to be. Our friends in GA-20 nail the Lightnin’ Hopkins thing and ’50s blues. If you’re going to do that, you have to be reverent and not just walk over it. My thing is more about paying homage so a listener can say, “I know where you’re coming from with those references.” But if I was in a room with Lightnin’ Hopkins, he’s not gonna say, “Hey! You’re ripping me off!” It takes maturity to grow into the blues, but it would be nice to write something that a younger person hears and not know they’re listening to the blues, but still identify with it.

What gear did you gather for recording the album?
I used a ’68 Super Reverb and ran it in stereo using a Black Volt 30-watt 1×12. I wanted traditional amp sounds and to color some stuff with the pedalboard. We cut the record in a day and a half; we dialed the sound in the room, said “Go,” and took off. Most of the solos I did in my home studio, and I spent a lot of time on them because I wanted to figure out how to do something different from all the great soloists out there killin’ it.

What’s in front of your amps for dirt?
That’s the Supa MKII Fuzz by R2R Electric. My friend, Chris Vincent, in Los Angeles, takes transistors from the ’50s and builds them. I also used a Rick Weaver FX Octave8 fuzz and a King Tone Blues Power pedal.

How about guitars?
I used a ’65 Strat on all the Fender stuff, and the rest is a ’53 and a ’56 Les Paul – all P-90s. There isn’t a humbucker on the record, which is different for me.

It must be very freeing for you, as a guitarist, to have a bassist onstage.
It has allowed me to start being a guitar player in more of a three-dimensional thing instead of a one-dimensional thing. Before, I was having to cover everything. We weren’t using samples or loopers, so I couldn’t hold notes and let things move underneath. Now, I can make statements with the guitar that I couldn’t without a bass player. I also didn’t want to put so much effort into playing solos on the record that I never could play live. Also, older songs in the catalog can grow when we’re playing them live. Having Bryce in the band has been life-changing.

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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