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Nashville Pussy’s Bonnie Buitrago talks live albums, Larry Taylor’s influence, and playing through Kyuss’s Welcome to Sky Valley Ampeg SVT

Bonnie Buitrago
(Image credit: Raphael Meert)

As live albums go, Eaten Alive by perennial noiseniks Nashville Pussy does an efficient job, injecting a charge of over-the-top anarchy into what is shaping up to be a rather better year, musically speaking, than the last couple. 

Ask bassist Bonnie Buitrago to describe it and she reflects: “We’re super-happy with how it sounds – downright ferocious! It was recorded across England, Scotland, and Wales by our soundman, David Bennett. And now I’ve been in the band for 10 years, I’m happy to finally have a live album that represents what we’re all about in the present day.”

That’s not the only project Buitrago has on the go, however – she’s also lent her talents to a stoner-rock outfit from across the pond…

“Another new album that I’m a part of is Maleza, by a duo from Galicia, Spain called Bala,“ she reveals. “I recorded my bass tracks and Spanish vocal parts for the album on a few songs at Scott Reeder’s recording studio in California, the Sanctuary. 

“I got to record through the Ampeg SVT that used on Kyuss’ Welcome To Sky Valley album, and my personal favorite was a Bison amp that’s one of a kind – it has the gnarliest heavy tone.”

Buitrago started her musical journey on guitar, but it took several years for her to make the jump to the low-end.

“A bassist friend passed on his first bass to me, just to see if I’d like playing it,” she recalls. “He told me, ‘You’re pretty good on that guitar, but how about you try playing this?’ It was a no-brand, handmade, Teisco-like, short-scale, tobacco burst, little beast of a bass with a sweet overdriven fuzz to it. 

“I still have it, but I didn’t really take to bass playing full-on until many years later. My first ‘real’ bass was a Les Paul semi-hollow knock off full-scale, that I used up until I got my Rickenbacker, which is one of my main basses to this day. That was a turning point in my life. I traded my guitar for that Rickenbacker, and never looked back.”

The bassist is known for high-octane live shows and her explosive playing style – quite literally in one instance.

“On the last tour Nashville Pussy had in Europe, my ’60s SVT head blew up,” she says. “We were on our way to the UK, and Orange Amps HQ came to the rescue with a Terror Bass head. I love it! It’s the amp I use on Eaten Alive. It’s got clarity, low-end, and growl. 

“I also use a Satellite tube preamp and a custom Creepy Fingers distortion. My basses are the same as always – an ’80s Fender Precision Special that has been with me across the world and on every album with Nashville Pussy, and for low tuning, a 1979 Rickenbacker 4003 and 1980 Peavey T-40.”

That combination of classic and cult gear mirrors Buitrago’s influences over the years.

“I was pretty into thrash metal, and that’s a genre easily played alone in your bedroom for years!” she laughs. “But I was always fascinated by punk bass, which I didn’t pursue playing until later in life when I started my old band, Bloodhook. When I dove into singing and playing bass together live for the band, I felt I found what I connected to most.”

Larry ‘The Mole’ Taylor of Canned Heat is another major influence – Buitrago says she “can’t listen to his playing without wanting to pick up my bass. I love how his lines bounce.”

Coincidentally, Nashville Pussy found Canned Heat hanging out in our hotel lobby in Bilbao, Spain one night on tour.

“We got to talking and heard so many amazing stories from those guys,” Buitrago recounts. “Larry told me about playing Woodstock, and also how Lux and Ivy from the Cramps would often come over to his house to sift through his record collection. They got the idea to cover Green Door for their Psychedelic Jungle album from discovering the original on his turntable. I love the Cramps, so hearing this story from him was quite a treat. Larry will forever live on my turntable! He is greatly missed.”

Forever is a theme that’s channeled in Buitrago’s advice for aspiring pro bass players – which itself echoes that of a certain Motörhead frontman…

“Never stop rocking!” she enthuses. “Sometimes you gotta just hear the right words, from the right person, at the right time, for encouragement to keep playing and to stick with it. As Lemmy once told Blaine [Cartwright], our singer, ‘Play till you drop!’” 

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