So far so good, but now this Manson gig is heavily double bass—driven. And when Sutter was on tour with Chris Cornell, he’d tried to play single kick on tunes that Cornell had recorded with Timbaland that were heavily bass drum—programmed. It didn’t work, just too damn difficult. “So I slowly started to add double bass drum into my playing, and it made a huge difference. I would start practicing double pedal and I’d go out and hang with younger guys especially, because double bass has evolved so much from when I was younger, when Tommy Aldridge and Neal Peart reigned. I mean, they were amazing double bass technicians, but nothing like what’s going on now.”
Sutter’s Marilyn Manson Setup
Drums Ludwig Legacy Classic (Eggshell Black)
1. 26" x 14" Bass Drum
2. 14" x 8" Ludwig Classic Maple Snare Drum
3. 14" x11" Tom (in snare basket)
4. 16" x16" Floor Tom
5. 18" x 16" Floor Tom
6. 20" x 16" Mounted Bass Drum
Cymbals Paiste (Custom Black finish)
A. 15" 2002 Medium Sound Edge Hi-Hat
B. 18" 2002 Medium Crash
C. 20" 2002 Medium Crash
D. 24" 2002 Ride
F. 12" Alpha Metal Splash/16" Alpha China/16" Alpha Thin Crash (stack)
G. 20" Alpha Rock Crash
H. 19" 2002 Wild China
Jason Sutter also uses a 14" x 7" Gregg Keplinger Black Iron snare, DW 9000 series hardware and 5000 series double pedal, Remo heads (Emperor Black Suede on all tom batters; Black X on snare batter; Ambassador Black on all resos; Powerstroke Clear on bass drum batter), Regal Tip Custom Jason Sutter sticks, Kelly Shu bass drum miking system, and Puresound 30-strand snare wires.
For a fresh perspective on the modern art of double bassing, Sutter went to new-school sources like The Mars Volta’s Dave Elitch. “I said, ’Show me what you’re doing. Give me your take on this.’ And I took what he showed me and applied it to my playing, and since then have been able to be on these tours with the best metal drummers in the world, from Dave Lombardo of Slayer to Chris Adler with Lamb Of God, to Vinnie Paul from Pantera and Hellyeah, and Joey Jordison with Slipknot. Because we’re playing the same stages with Manson, I sit five feet behind these guys, and I’m learning so much from watching. It’s a whole other art form.”
Double kick technique is a way personal thing, he says, so whether he’s playing heels up or down depends on the tempo, mostly, and to an extent the pedals themselves. “I came back from tour, and I had these DW 5000 double pedals I’ve been using for four or five years, and I switched to some 9000s, and it’s like the difference between Haydn and Mozart. And I’ve evolved to this other place where those pedals now are essential to what I need to do with Manson.”
On the new Marilyn Manson album Born Villain there’s a song called “Murderers Are Getting Prettier Every Day” that features some gruesomely complex drum patterns programmed by producer Chris Vrenna, who was originally slated to attempt to play drums on the record.
Sutter laughs. “Chris said, ’I’ll never be able to play this; it’s physically impossible.’ And when I was first auditioning for Manson, I was listening to this track and he said, ’Don’t worry, you’ll never have to play this, we’ll just have the tracks flown in and have you play along with the click – I want you to be able to run around and chase girls after the show, I don’t want your leg to be falling off.’”
Yeah, but Sutter digs a challenge.
“I thought, If it takes hours and months and weeks, I’m going to play this f__king song. And as soon as I got the gig, I would spend an extra hour a day practicing double bass. Well, so far we’ve done ’Murderer’ maybe four or five times, and it’s an extra half hour that I warm up double bass in my dressing room with these silent bass drum warmup things called Hanzenfütz pedals. Then I go out onstage, and as the crew’s testing basses and moving lights and mikes around, I practice the pedal – sixteenth-notes at varying speeds. So I’m practicing double bass for at least an hour a day before the show just to be able to play these tunes like this.”
As far as the band and its fans are concerned, Sutter is one of the best double bass players they’ve ever heard. “My joke is, I’m completely fooling them, [laughs] because it’s still a new thing for me. I’ll never be as good as Joey Jodison or someone like that, because they’ve spent years at it, but I will be close someday, and that’s the goal. Where I’m at in my career, it’s fun to have something to kind of go, ’All right, this is going to kick my ass for the next five years.’”
From Smashmouth to Vertical Horizon to Foreigner to New York Dolls to Chris Cornell and Marilyn Manson, Sutter’s basic “John Bonham” drum set (26" bass drum, a 14" mounted tom, 16" and 18" crashes) for live work is pretty much the same for just about everything he does. When he records he uses whatever’s there, but for each job he’ll approach those drums differently, adding a different drum or cymbal here or there to create a particular kind of sound. Live and in studio with Manson, he’s tasked with creating a “mechanical” sound that will match a gnarly mass of triggered electronics and samples fed into the drum parts. “That’s a whole new world I’m having to become familiar with,” he says. “All the drums have triggers on them, and it’s blended in, and then I’m playing along with tracks, counting everything off. On tour, we have a giant refrigerator rig behind us with a drum tech who’s running all that. I start the tracks, but basically you’re playing with a whole other instrument.”
He could really care less about the electronic side of the band’s sound, frankly, preferring to keep his head in the sand about all that. He relies on the soundman, or the front-of-house guy and his monitor guy to help his head wade through the Manson band’s wall of noise.
“For the monitor mix, though I need to basically just feel the drums, I always need to hear the taste of the snare drum – the actual pitch of the snare balances everything out for me. But ultimately I’ve got to have Manson’s voice in this gig, and the tracks and the click are pretty hot. What’s great is, I have Twiggy [Ramirez, bass/guitars]’s amps next to me to my left, and I have both guys in my mix but not blasting. So now I’m getting the sound of these guys from the stage, and it’s great ’cause there’s a lot of interaction and swing going on. I’m not a slave to the grid.”