You can have a rock-solid drummer, a perfectly capable guitarist, and a show-stopping frontperson, but when it comes down to it, many would argue that a bassist could make or break a band. After all, would Give It Away be the same without Flea's bombastic bass? What would YYZ sound like without the genius of Geddy Lee? Our guess is not nearly as good.
So it begs the question: if you could have any (any!) bassist join your dream band, who would that be? Here is our list of low-end juggernauts that could take your band from bars to the big leagues.
Speed is the name of the game with Dave Ellefson, and he can help crank your band’s intensity all the way up to eleven. The Megadeth bassist’s playing is the foundation of the band’s sound, delivering driving bass lines at breakneck speeds that are certain to blow away your audience. Ellefson is a perfect fit for any band looking to push BPMs to the limit, while also starting a few mosh pits here and there.
You have to go big or go home when it comes to selecting the right bassist, and nobody embodies this better than Geddy Lee. His pronounced playing style immediately makes itself known; he takes charge while delivering some of rock's most complex and proggy bass lines. Lee is definitely not a bassist who will hide in the shadows - he thrives in the limelight and will make sure you never forget his playing.
If you somehow land Carol Kaye in your lineup, you've struck gold. The L.A. studio ace has played on over 10,000 recordings, including timeless works by the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and more. Plus, having Kaye as a bandmate could serve a dual purpose - she began her career as a jazz guitarist, so just in case your guitar player isn't cutting it, you're probably covered there, too. Watch Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the Beach Boys, gush over Kaye in this video.
When it comes to technically precise bass parts overflowing with musical vocabulary, Victor Wooten is your guy. As a member of the genre-blurring supergroup Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Wooten has proven his virtuosic chops and innovative take on the bass - and having five Grammy awards under his belt wouldn't hurt your band's cred, either.
We hope your guitarist doesn't mind taking the back seat, because that's likely to happen if Les Claypool joins your band. The propulsive bassist and frontman of Primus is credited for furthering slap bass technique and helping introduce it to hard rock, earning him a rightful place as one of the most respected figures in low-end lore.
Granted you're ok with a little bit of on-stage nudity, enlisting Flea to your lineup would be no-brainer. A founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea's first entry into music was playing jazz trumpet. He later picked up bass, fusing hard funk and punk with his own melodic adventurousness to approach the instrument in an entirely new way.
The word “legend” gets thrown around a lot, but Geezer Butler is more than worthy of the title. On top of writing some of metal’s most iconic bass lines, Butler was one of the first in the genre to use a wah pedal and implement down-tuning. Plus, he’s responsible for nearly all of Black Sabbath’s Ozzy-era lyrics, so get ready for your band’s songwriting to receive a serious upgrade.
Want a player who will add a little versatility to your sound? Look no further than Doug Wimbish, a bassist with some serious studio experience under his belt. In addition to his time with Living Colour, he’s recorded with everyone from the Rolling Stones and Joe Satriani to Madonna and Billy Idol. No matter what sound your band is shooting for, you just can’t go wrong with having Wimbish on your side.
If you’re looking for heaviness with a hint of funk, give Robert Trujillo a call. His jazz fusion background and love of slap bass shine bright in his work with Suicidal Tendencies and Infectious Grooves. Plus, his preference to tackle Metallica’s catalog without a pick is no small feat, solidifying his place as a thrash titan.
As far as rock bassists go, you can't do much better than Paul McCartney. His bass lines stand alone as masterworks, lending brilliant melodicism and counterpoint to any song he graces. And it wouldn't hurt to have a Beatle around to help out in the songwriting department, either.