Right now,they're one of the biggest bands on the planet.Their new album Sam's Town has gone double platinum in the UK and their latest tour sold out in a matter of hours.For The Killers,the time is now.Put 'Mr Brightside' or 'somebody told me' on the pub jukebox near closing time on a Friday night and you'll see why.Indie anthems that fuel spontaneous drunken singalongs in the same way Oasis tunes used to.
But unlike those Manchester pub rockers,the bass playing in the Las Vegas four-piece is more than root note plodding.Having grown up on a diet of The Beatles and the smiths,The Killers bassist Mark Stoermer revels in mixing low-end groove with high necked melodic licks.Bass Guitar magazines Matt Smith caught up with Mark backstage on their recent UK tour,to talk basses,backline and brightside.
Youre quite a melodic bassist-is that deliberate?
Yes I try to mix it up.I like to make bassline like in Jenny was a friend of mine or 'somebody told me'(from the debut album,hot fuss) where there's almost a lead line in there.But at the same time,if it's necessary,I don't mind holding it down and just playing eighth notes like on 'Mr Brightside'.
So with 'Jeny'-What were you thinking?
We were just jamming and Brandon (flowers,lead singer/keyboards) was playing a little something that was the beginning of the line and we kind of worked it out together.We weren't really thinking anything but when we did it,we realised it was a little bit like The Smiths but with attitude.
Are you a Smiths fan then?
I listened to The Smiths but not as much as Brandon did.My favorite Bass player is Paul McCartney.Even though it sounds obvious,I liked the beatles more than a lot of people.I just can't get over it.I always go back to them and my bass sound that i've always been going for is theirs.I didnt even realise it till a couple of months ago but it's pretty much the sound on The white album(the beatles) even if id doesnt come out that way.
You try to copy that sound then?That was McCartneys Rickenbacker period.
I didn't look up hte gear he was using for that but i'm trying for the sound of 'helter Skelter' or 'My Guitar gently weeps'or 'Back in the USSR'.The way it's gritty and with a pick and melodic.
So how happy are you with your tone live?
It's something we've had a struggle with.It's easier to get a good sound in the studio because you have more options but live it's taken a while to get the tone right.Right now i'm kind of happy with it but i'm always searching to find the right balance.I almost want to find the balance between something really big,fat and modern but also that white album sound that really mid range,gritty bass.Sometimes I feel like it's either one way or the other.
Are there any differences between how you play in the studio and out on the road?
I've realised a lot of the muted playing I do doesn't really come across live.Songs like 'Bling' on our new album.In the studio,it's subtle and palm muted but i've heard live you can't even hear it and so i've had to adapt my playing.In the studio you can turn things up or tweak them.
Do you ever have nights where you think it's either reallly good or really bad?
Each stage is different.some stages are hard floors and those are worse for the bass player.some are really boomy.you're also not ever really sure what's foing out to the front of hourse-it could be freat,it could be rubbish.I do worry about what's going out front of house,even though I don't have a lot of control over it.Because when I go to a show,most of the time,the bass sound I don't like.It's either way too low-end and woofy and you can't hear the notes or really clicky,very few shows have I seen a band where I like the bass tone.Paul McCartney's solo show was one of them.you could pick out the notes.
Any tips for getting the right tone?
Everybody has a different thing that they're going for but what I try to do is use two different amps together.The Ampeg and the HiWatt.Also-be careful of effects because they can take awya a lot of the bottom-end.
You play a half-step down-why's that?
Most of the time,I'm playing in Eb.A lot of the keyboard songs tend to be in flat keys and it works better to be in Eb most of the time.
You've got to grips with that?
It's a bit confusing because when I'm playing in Eb,I almost always think of the notes as being in standard tuning.But then sometimes if we're going over in rehearsal and Brandon's going over the songs on keyboard, he'll call out a note and i'll have to think about it for a second to transpose it.I play by ear and play by feel more though.
You're also a guitarist-and you play guitar on one track (for reasons unknown) on this tour.How's that different?
The guitar frees you up more.with the bass,you're almost held down more-at least with our music.When you're strumming chords or whatever,you can physically jump around a bit more.
Is that why bassists always stand there at the back do you think?
Maybe-I think it's also got something to do with temperment!
While you're playing guitar-you let Brandon borrow your Fender Geddy Lee jazz and have a go.How does he get on with that?
I don't think Brandon takes his bass playing too seriouslly.He sometimes comes up with a lot of things on bass with one finger.I've been helping him a little bit with the sound.He doesn't kind of know what's going on there,so I dialled it in for him.He started playing in a soundcheck one day and I picked up guitar and that's the way we recorded it and that's why we do it that way live.
Funny thing is-you actually were thinking of being a guitartist in the first place weren't you?
At first I was going to try out as a guitar player but then one day I got a call from Dave(keuning,lead guitar) and he said they'd got rid of their drummer and bass player and,did I want to come and try out on bass?Drummer Ronnie and I started together and from then on we wrote together and came up with a lot more songs.I don't think the band was a band until it was the four of us.
So you're touring throughout 2007-how do you stay sane?
The travelling part of it is difficult and being away from home for so long but at the end of the day,the shows are what make it worth it and it reminds you why you're here.There's never a show that we regret when we're up there on stage.It's what we've always wanted to do.