Interview With Spector Bass Artist Tom Doyle of Don Broco

We caught up with Tom to talk bass pedals and effects, live bass rigs and life in Don Broco. Check it out below and join in the conversation...

Jack Cooper

Jack Cooper

Bedford rockers Don Broco barely stop to take a breath, so we were stoked when bass player and Spector Bass artist Tom Doyle agreed to do an interview with us whilst on the road. Known for their phat hook-filled songs, Tom drives the rhythm section in 5-string style. From featuring on hit TV show Made in Chelsea (what?), stellar festival appearances and tripped-out music videos, Don Broco are one of the most exciting acts currently on the circuit.

The band consists of Rob Damiani (lead vocals and electronics), Simon Delaney (guitar), Tom Doyle (bass) and Matt Donnelly (drums and vocals). Their latest album, Technology, was released on 2 February 2018 reaching number five in the charts. It’s no surprise they’re headlining an arena tour next year.

Knowing Tom is a bit of a gear-nut, it was too good an opportunity not to put him on the spot and ask some questions for the bassists out there! Before reading on, it’s probably wise that you give this video a watch first…

What’s your signal chain like?
Do you run a wet/dry mix or have any other tricks to get your bass sound live?

I like to run two channels of bass to FOH, one line that is largely clean and unprocessed through octave pedal that can be kicked in when needed and then into my Avalon U5 DI (?) and another that splits to run through a distortion pedal / reverb and into a Darkglass Vintage Ultra-DI for a slightly dirtier/grittier tone. The blend of these two provides plenty of sub and clarity and lets me cut through the mix when needed.

What are your thoughts on Bass effects?
Do you think they muddy the sound or are essential for a bass rig?

I love experimenting with pedals. They’re definitely not essential because the fundamental thing is to hold down the groove and solid bottom end but used effectively they can really enhance a performance, albeit subtly. I love to throw a bit of reverb on some of the more percussive or exposed parts to sweeten things up but used all the time and you could end up with a bottom end that isn’t tight and punchy. A little bit here and there really works for me, even if most people may not notice it!

Do you use a compressor pedal? What’s the best way to set it up?

I use an Origin Effects Cali 76 to lightly compress my bass signal before it gets to FOH. The great thing about this pedal is the built-in hi-pass filter which means I can compress the higher frequencies and tame the more percussive higher notes without squashing all the energy out of the lower notes. Going down to a low A on my main live bass, this is super important. I run a relatively low ratio with a slow-ish attack and fast-ish release to keep most of the dynamics in my playing.

What does your practice regime look like?
Do you prepare in different ways for stints in the studio compared to playing live?

Unfortunately, I’m pretty terrible at practice when we’re out on the road. I never find the right space or time to do any. I have some default warmups I like to do before going on stage but I often feel my playing only really improves when I’m home for a decent amount of time. I find youtube channels like Scott’s Bass Lessons a great way to throw something new into your playing and work on existing issues so if I’m ever feeling uninspired to work on something I’ll head over there to get me started.

What’s the songwriting and recording process like in Don Broco?

It varies from song to song but on the whole Simon (guitarist) and I come up with some music and Matt and Rob (our singers) see what they can come up with vocally to sit on top. If nothing is working, often we’ll just move on. The vocal is key so it doesn’t matter how much we like the music, if we can’t find a great top-line then it’s time for a new idea. We used to have to go into the studio with the entire song demo-ed perfectly but we’ve become a lot better at just going with the flow when we get in there and trying things out – you can get some great ideas when you loosen up, have fun and experiment.

The vocal is key so it doesn’t matter how much we like the music, if we can’t find a great top-line then it’s time for a new idea.

What’s the best way for a bass player to improve their natural groove?

I’d say imitation. There are some amazing players out there, and if you can nail what it is about their playing that makes them so groovy then you can copy it and incorporate it into your own playing. In terms of songwriting ,I think it’s important that the bass and kick drum work together for a solid groove – that doesn’t mean that every kick drum needs a bass note on it but if you can largely work together then you’re onto a winner.

Why did you choose Spector basses as your main weapon of choice?

I’ve been playing Spectors for around 10 years now. Aside from the aesthetics (especially of the natural wood models!), I love their tone and the onboard preamp gives you a huge range of possibilities. They aren’t the cheapest but the built quality is great and after the number of gigs I’ve done on them, they’re still going strong so it’s a great investment.

What advice would you give bassists that are getting into bands and want to start playing live?

Take every opportunity you get given because you never know quite how things may come round in circles. What might seem like a wasted gig might have had one person there that will influence the rest of your career, you just never know. Be professional and ditch any ego and hopefully you’ll go far.

What are your thoughts on playing the bass with your fingers as opposed to with a pick?

Both have their merit – you need to know what sound you’re trying to achieve and go with whichever gives you the best results. I find that any distorted bass sounds tend to work better with a pick and often an octave pedal will track better but personally, I prefer playing with my fingers because I can get more subtlety and control into my playing.

Do you and the rest of the guys in Don Broco listen to the same music?
What’s on your Spotify playlist at the moment?

Funnily enough, we don’t really seem to align on our current musical tastes. We can all agree on the greats and the ones we grew up with but it’s a real mixed bag these days which is great because it gives a real variety to what influences our writing.

What’s been the highlight of your career and what does the future hold for Don Broco?

We’re incredibly lucky to be doing what we’re doing and to see so much of the world and so the highlights are constantly updating with each tour or gig we do. We embark upon our biggest ever UK headline tour next February and capping it all off at Wembley Arena which is set to be a really special gig. I’m not sure any of us realised when we started playing in bands that this would be remotely possible so to actually have a date in the diary is incredible.

Quick-fire questions:

• P bass or Jazz bass? P for feel, Jazz for tone! (Cop out!)
• 4-string or 5-string bass? Always 5 – it’s all about that low-end flexibility.
• Best bass strings and gauge? Something Stainless Steel that is bright and zingy – the Ernie Ball Slinkys or Dunlop Super Brights are both great.
• Jaco Pastorius or Victor Wooten? Jaco, but both incredible.
• Active or passive? Active.

Listen To The Original

Check out Tom and the Don Broco chaps on the upcoming Don Broco UK headline tour

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Jack Cooper
Jack Cooper
Jack is our Marketing Manager and owner of the 'best pedalboard' award at Andertons. He plays a Baritone PRS and a Reverend Kingbolt in Drop C# tuning to compliment his fat-sounding pop-punk rig. You can find him exploring the pedal section for a 'new sound that no ones heard before'.

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