Nearly three years ago, guitarist Dave Nassie -- formerly of No Use For A Name and Suicidal Tendencies -- merged with Orange County heavy metal veterans Bleeding Through.
In 2010, the band released their self-titled album, and their first to feature Nassie. Earlier this week, the band released another -- and heavier -- album, The Great Fire (Rise Records).
Although Bleeding Through have been around for more than a decade, they’ve released what they consider to be their most accomplished album to date.
Guitar World sat down with Nassie for an in-depth conversation about The Great Fire, his career in teaching, growth as a musician and thoughts on what it’s like to be signed to Rise Records.
GUITAR WORLD: At what age did you start playing guitar, and what persuaded you to play heavier music?
I started playing guitar when I was about 9. I was really lucky because I had a very cool neighbor who played me “Eruption” when I was 5. That’s really kind of how I got into it. I played music with my grandparents. My grandfather used to manage jazz bands years and years ago. We would all just sit around and make a bunch of noise. As far as learning how to play guitar in the '80s and '90s, I just kind of gravitated to a hard rock style. When I was a little older, that same neighbor took me to see Stevie Ray Vaughan, so that kind of changed everything for me. It was really positive for me to have those people influence me, be it with country, blues or rock. As far as playing, the style I do with Bleeding Through, I’ve just always been a fan of heavier music and the aggression that goes behind it, and of course, the more technical aspects of it from a guitar player’s point of view. I was really lucky. I had good neighbors and started off nice and young.
Does your work with Bleeding Through best represent you as a musician?
I think what Bleeding Through enables me to do is not only write in a context where I can do some more technical things, but also apply things I’ve learned a bit more behind the scenes while working with other bands. I mean in terms of recording things to the point that you can almost orchestrate them — building sounds and such. In some of the other bands I’ve played with, like No Use For A Name, the singer wrote everything, and I would just add my little bit at the end of the day. Bleeding Through allows me to be a writer and more of a technician.
Do you find yourself critiquing past recordings and wanting to change certain elements in a song? Or is it something you take and grow from as a sort of experiential collaboration of personal styles?
I do listen to old recordings sometimes and want to throw up in my mouth [laughs]. But the thing that always kind of holds it together is that whenever you’re working on anything, as long as your intentions are good and you’re trying to do what you feel is really best for the recording, you kind of have to put it to bed with that. When I listen to old stuff, I definitely think there’s stuff I could have done a little bit differently, but I’m solid with the decisions I made, because I’ve never compromised anything that I’ve done.
In terms of technique and style, do you feel you’ve reached your plateau as a guitarist or do you continue to seek out new things to learn?
I definitely seek out new things to learn. To be honest, after all the years of playing, I feel like I’m starting over. I teach quite a bit, and I’ve got about 50 students a week — I do a lot of Skype lessons. There are a lot of guitar players who are starting to get into that, and I’ve been blessed with having a pretty heavy roster already. I also do clinics with Charvel, and I’m starting to work on a solo project. So I think being a teacher is always inspiring. You have to make sure you’re up on everything that’s going on. It’s nice because you can see the waves of how things change and what kids are into. To be able to work at a good level where you feel you can play different styles the right way — I’m just lucky I can wake up every day and still be fired up about it.
I’m always seeking out new things. Music is evolving now to where people are starting to get a bit more creative with things. When a student comes in and says they want to learn Animals As Leaders, and you’ve got an hour to prep for it, you have to kind of hold your own [laughs}.
You’ve been doing several demos of Charvel guitars. What attracts you to Charvel and what do their guitars do for your playability?
I’m really lucky to have been with some of the better brands, but I’ll be honest, Charvel hits home. It’s like one of the best guitars out there. I believe in being loyal to people. I was having dinner with the guys at NAMM the other night, and I was just saying I want to work with people I can consider my friends, who can let me enjoy the company, and that will let me do hard work for them and support me in doing it. A lot of times with guitar companies, you can get lost in the wash behind the bands that do well, and that’s normal.
I’m not one of those guitar players who are seeking out custom guitars. I don’t want to abuse the privilege of being able to get free instruments. All I really I want is to be able to go do my clinics and be able to teach — to be able to go to places like MI and have seminars and to have a company get behind me that has guitars that I just really like playing.
Charvel’s got a whole new series of guitars coming out that are fantastic. There’s so much versatility with their guitars. You can do any style with them, and it kind of expels the myth that you can’t play jazz with an active pickup or something. I was playing in the Fender showroom and I picked up a guitar that was about $200 to $300 dollars, and I thought it was about $800. The guys behind the company are genuinely just dudes who love guitar and making cool guitars. There’s no gimmick behind it, and that is important to me.
What is the rest of your setup like, and how does it differ live from in the studio?
I use the EVH 5150III. My setup is actually really stripped down. I’m not a big "toy" kind of guy. I basically have a Charvel guitar going through an MXR Overdrive, a noise suppressor, a wah-wah, and I have a delay and a reverb in the effects loop for solos. I’ve always just been the kind of guy to keep it wire and wood and not a lot of stuff in the way. When we play live, most of the time I go straight into the amp and use a noise suppressor. We play with so much gain and with everything being in Drop B or A or whatever. EVH drives it enough to where it’s not too over the top. And Bleeding Through solos happen so quickly and they’re so short that it doesn’t really matter. If it sucks, it’s not because of the equipment [Laughs]. Those EVH heads are ridiculous. They are perfect. A lot of people use them for effects, which is cool, but the way I was raised is that if you grab a guitar and plug it in and it sucks, it’s because you suck.
Bleeding Through consists of veterans of the music industry. What’s it like being on Rise Records and witnessing this sort of alchemy of genres and younger generations?
Being on Rise has been fantastic because they just let us do what we want. And thank goodness for that, because the reality of it is that nobody’s going to be rushing out to buy Bleeding Through’s 10th record [laughs]. It sounds funny to say, but when a band’s been around that long, all we can really focus on is still making the record that is exactly true to the band and everybody in it, and we put as much work into it as we possibly can. That’s how you ride out a fad.
At the level we’re all working in, we’re all very well aware of what our situation is. Individually, we all do different things within the musical context, but as far as what Bleeding Through is, we’re well aware of what we’ve done, how people that have opened for us before are now bands that we would support on tour, and we just really embrace it. You can’t take for granted the fact that you’ve been lucky enough to do things for this long. If you just concentrate on making good music, people see that, and that lasts.
How have your fans taken to The Great Fire so far?
It’s been fantastic. You always hope people are going to like a new record, but people have really been saying some good things about it. People seem to feel we’ve connected with the older records a bit. I think what helped us, to be honest, was that we played a show of all old songs last year. We took requests, and I think that kind of helped us get back in touch with those first elements that the band had on some of those earlier records. I think we managed to kind of achieve that and move forward a little bit. We wrote this record in the studio, and I think it’s probably our best and heaviest yet.
You guys have scheduled a full US tour for the spring to support the new album. What can we expect in terms of old material? How often do you get to rehearse?
We’re probably going to throw in some older songs people don’t expect, along with certain staples the band has to play and will always play. We’re going to try to mix it up a little bit and play some of the more rare tracks. It’ll be fun to watch everyone play the newer songs and see if anyone fucks it up [laughs]. Everyone is coming over soon so we can all sit down in my living room and hash everything out in terms of parts and arrangements. It’s really cool that everyone can still get fired up and want to get together and jam it out in the living room and make sure everything’s cool.
We only really rehearse when we have stuff to do. We’re all a little bit older, and if we don’t know how to play our songs by now, we have issues. I hate going to band practices sometimes because you sit there, and it’s like taking role! [laughs] Anybody in a band should tell you the same thing after playing for 11 years. You know, we play like two or three songs and then it’s like, “Oh, let’s go grab a sandwich!” It’s just how we function. Bleeding Through is a hilarious band. At the end of a tour, none of us say goodbye to each other, but it works for us.
You released your self-titled album in 2010. Have you noticed any personal growth between your last full-length and The Great Fire? What are some things you experimented with in the studio this time around?
I think this time everybody felt more comfortable bringing their ideas to the table. It was totally free-form in the studio. I would write a song and record it, send it out to everybody, and then our bass player who does a lot of the really cool singing choruses would get up in the morning and be like, “Oh my god, I know a chorus! I’m gonna go sing it.” And then he went down and sang it and left. No one was afraid to change something, even down to the last minute. For this record, we were changing things down to the last day of mixing. I think we grew to learn not to be too critical of each other. We are super-proud of this record and very thankful to still be able to put one out after all this time. It feels like our strongest record — super-brutal and over-the-top, and we have a feeling people are going to be really happy with it.
For more about Bleeding Through, visit their official Facebook page.