(From Gearwire, US music magazine, 1 December 2006)
Bass Icon Paul Raven on Killing Joke, Ministry and Prong
by Patrick Ogle
Paul Raven has been an integral part of some of the most influential bands in the high end of underground rock. From Killing Joke to Prong to Pigface and Ministry (and even a brief stint with Godflesh), Raven has provided bass lines for a generation and a counter-culture's soundtrack. And over the years he has used different gear to produce those signature sounds.
"I've always been a fan of valve [Brits use that word for "tube" -- Editor] gear. When I first joined Killing Joke I had a relationship with Trace Elliot and I've always been a fan of Trace Elliot, also old SVT. I am a big Ampeg guy" says Raven. "I don't think there is anything better than 8X10s with three heads slamming away."
The bass sound on the last Ministry CD, Rio Grande Blood was from an Ampeg. Ministry fans, and especially fans of Rio Grande Blood will be happy that Raven will be back for the next CD.
"I am going to El Paso next year to record The Last Sucker--the last Ministry record" says Raven. "It is going to be interesting--a lot of songs, a double CD maybe."
One of the attractions to playing with Ministry these days has been the political bent of the music. A review in Stylus magazine describes Rio Grande Blood as the aural equivalent of a Michael Moore film. And this appeals to Raven as a product of the 70s London punk rock scene.
"For me politics and punk rock went together." says Raven. "That has been handy about my association with Al and his Bush bashing. I have tried to keep my musical roots intact. I have lived in America so long I feel entitled to state my opinion. 'Maybe I can put a foot on George Bush's ass on his way out of the White House'."
Raven, who now lives in Portland, has other irons in the fire as well.
"After MInistry there is a new Prong record and with that there is an opportunity there to use a lot of different effects; of painting a bit of a different picture."
Other projects have afforded him an opportunity to employ different basses. In addition to the Ministry recording a CD of covers is in the works. Raven has plans to incorporate some of his other basses in this recording. He regularly uses are a '77 Fender Precision, and has also become a big fan of Schecter basses.
"When I first started with Schecter I bought their baritone guitars and then I tried some of the basses." says Raven "Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots plays a Model T and that is what I use on the Ministry record (Rio Grande Blood)."
He also uses an Schecter Ultra, which is similar to a Thunderbird. The Schecter basses are Raven's workhorses and the reasons for this are simple.
"They sound like me. They are part of my picture. They feel good. They play good." says Raven.
Another bass, one of two made for him by Fernandes in Japan playing with the pioneering Japanese industrial band Ziltch, met a sad end as well. It became a victim of Hurricane Katrina.
"It was in a warehouse in New Orleans and was washed up the river." says Raven.
These basses had bridges made out of a solid piece of aircraft grade aluminum and were tuned A-D-A to play lower sounds.
When recording the last Killing Joke record, Hosannas from the Basement of Hell, in Prague Raven used a Duesenberger bass.
"It has no F hole and is solid down the middle. It has an awesome tone." says Raven.
Recording with his Killing Joke takes a toll and not just on the creative side of the brain. The recording was supposed to take three months and wound up taking seven.
"It was absolute torture making the record. We nearly destroyed ourselves, each other and Killing Joke in the process," he says. "But I still think Jaz Coleman is a genius. It is difficult to describe what goes on with those guys. I am there and I can't describe it. Damage, broken bones, stitches all from that record (Hosannas)."
The result was a solid but little-heard (at least in the USA) follow up to the 2003's brilliant eponymous Killing Joke CD. That CD featured Dave Grohl on drums and Raven says there is the possibility of working more with Grohl.
In recent recordings, both Ministry and Killing Joke Raven has taken to recording his bass using direct tone through a Line 6 Bass Pod--a rack mounted effect.
"I would recommend that to any bass player." he says. "With Killing Joke and Ministry I have been recording basic dry tone with one clean channel and one dirty. When it comes to mixing been re-amping through SVT 8X10 cabinet and using a 60/40 mix--60 percent speaker, 40 percent direct tone. It gives a bit more grit, a bit more live tone. Sounds like it the sound comes from the front of the speaker."
Live he uses the DigiTech X series, BP80 for distortion and also their bass overdrive.
"I used to be into rack pedals but since Prong I have used DigiTech," he says "I used to use the yellow two stage distortion pedal but I stomped through it and broke it. I use the whammy to get good tone too."
Over the years what Raven plays hasn't changed that much (according to him). But that doesn't mean there is no variation and nothing gained from (as of next year) 30 years in the music business.
"Mostly I haven't changed what I use but I have changed how I play," he says "But I play less hard So I have somewhere to go dynamically. Chris Chaney from James Addiction does that. Its something I picked up listening to that dude. Previously I would bash away."
To get unique sounds on the bass has not only led to three stringed instruments and effects.
"I have tried everything from a tiny 4 inch speaker to using eight speakers at once. I have tried to whole spectrum." says Raven. "The main thing is if the guitar sounds good, is a decent piece of wood, and you can play you can make anything sound great."