Real modern-day rock 'n' roll pioneers Royal Blood have an extremely unique sound founded in bass guitars and drums. Let's get into the nitty gritty of that fiery bass tone and break it right down to what makes it great!
Royal Blood duo Mike Kerr and Ben Thatcher are true rock crusaders in a time of electronic pop music, regularly breaking into the charts with a sumptuous blend of catchy hooks, big breakdowns and soaring melodies. The Brighton-based band consist of just two mainstay instruments: a drum kit and a short-scale bass, making them truly unique in both pop and rock circles.
One of the many clever aspects to Royal Blood’s music is Mike Kerr’s use of several effects pedals, which transform his standard bass tone into a hybrid lead guitar beast. Along with the tight, hard-hitting drum sounds, Royal Blood are a genuinely heavy, yet accessible-sounding band who have risen to astounding levels of popularity.
We’ve attempted to recreate Royal Blood’s bass tone in our ‘Sound Like’ videos both on a budget and with money no object, with effective results…
A short-scale bass is an absolute essential in order to follow in the tonal footsteps of Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr. In many ways, it’s a throwback to the sixties when shorter scale basses battled it out with the Precision and Jazz for the for most popular bass.
A short-scale bass is usually classified by a scale length under 31 inches. The space in between frets on a short-scale instrument is smaller and the strings hold less tension across the fretboard than your standard Jazz or P bass.
This is perfect for Royal Blood as a lot of the bass parts share similarities with a lead guitar, which involves arpeggio runs and big bends. When you’re holding down rhythm sections, the reduced string tension allows you to dig in hard on your picks for an aggressive, boomy attack.
Mike Kerr generally favours his Fender Custom Shop Jaguar, which has been spec’d out with a shorter scale like its Squier Modified cousin. He’s also been known to play the much rarer Starcaster – both of which house fat sounding humbucker pickups. If you’re not willing to spend a few thousand on those basses, more affordable alternatives include the likes of the Gretsch Electromatic G2220 or the Reverend Dub King.
Continuing with the guitar/bass hybrid setup, Mike occasionally favours electric guitar amplifiers for their focussed upper register frequencies, really making his bass pop through at shows and on records.
The Fender Supersonic is a great choice for its balanced dynamic range and versatile sweep of gain and clean tones. If you’re hankering for some more Fender, the Hot Rod Deluxe or Bassbreaker series equally serve up plenty of thickness for bass and have sweet gain stages. Mike has been known to use all three for Royal Blood live shows.
Opting instead for bass amps, Tech-21 are your high-end choice. Great for use in a rack or any kind of audio solution, all while producing a spectacular tone. The Fender Bassman Pro offers your old-school saturated tube overdrive vibes, while the Rumble does an admirable job on a budget.
This is make or break for your Royal Blood-inspired tone. Whether you prefer guitar pedals or bass pedals is completely subjective and just worth testing on a pedal-by-pedal basis. There are a couple of ways you can go about getting the Royal Blood high-gain tones and the odd intrepid effect.
The first solution is to use a line selector and two amps; one set to a clean channel and another chucking out full-on distortion. The second is to invest in a quality preamp pedal you can use to EQ your tone to the right dynamic range. You can refine in greater detail with a dedicated EQ pedal to buff up select frequencies into those lead guitar spots.
On the gain side of things, a thick sounding fuzz will be your go-to style of distortion. You can even layer it over your amp’s drive if you fancy. MXR, Keeley Electronics, JHS and Walrus Audio make a number of suitable fuzz stompboxes. An absolute tone saver if you’re going down this route is the Boss NS-2, a noise suppressor that almost completely removes any noise in and around your playing.
Mike likes a few interesting effects to spice up his lead playing. Two types you should consider are octave pedals and pitch shifter pedals. The former tracks your playing and layers an octave note above your original signal, adding another level of depth to your tone. Pitch shifting, meanwhile, alters your bass tone completely and works well used in small bursts for dramatic effect.