Interview with Chuck Fay from State Radio

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2010 at 1:57 am

The Rigs: What guitarists’ and/or bassists sound influences you the most, both past and present; acoustic guitar, upright bass, electric bass and guitar?  Feel free to name numerous players.

Chuck Fay: Wowsers… so many great sounds. Here we go! Jimi Hendrix & Billy Cox/Noel Redding, Jimi Page & John Paul Jones, Tony Iommi & Geezer Butler, Jonny & Colin Greenwood, Tom Morello and Tim Commerford, Paul McCartney, James Jamerson, Neil Young, Les Claypool, Michael Henderson, Mark Sandman, Jack White, Elliott Smith, Chris Wood, Dave Holland, Jesse Keeler, Bootsy Collins, Mark Knopfler, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, Robbie Shakespeare, Ernest Ranglin, Bernard Odum, Vernon Reid & Muzz Skillings, Liam Finn, Marc Ribot, Brad Jones, Paul Chambers, Paul D’Amour, Justin Meldal-Johnsen etc…

TR: What 2 musicians’ setups (guitar and/or bass, pedals and amp setup) would you like to know about?

CF: I really dig the sounds Chris Wood gets both live and in the studio.  State Radio was lucky enough to play a show with them recently so I got to pick his brain a bit.   Jesse Keeler got absurdly huge sounds with Death From Above 1979.  It’d be fun to check out where those 4000 lb sounds came from…

TR: Three part question: What is the direction of your sound as a band at present and where does your bass sound fit into that? How do your amps, individual pedals and guitars play their roll in that sound.  (be specific to the each if possible)

CF: I think State Radio’s sound will continue to be a hodgepodge of junk rock, roots reggae, ska, punk, and whatever other random crap gets slapped on.  Lucky for me, this variety of styles and the space inherent to a trio affords the bassist much room to freak out da’ box.

I can get really aggressive with distortion using my Fulltone Bass Drive and Crowther Hot Cake. I can go up an octave with my Whammy IV, roll off the neck pickup on either my ’78 Fender Jazz or EBO copy and pretend I’m a lead guitar player.  There’s also room for really gnarley octave distortion using either my EHX Micro Synth or the Whammy coupled with one of the previous distortion boxes.  Or all of ’em at the same time! 11!  I’ll also use the Whammy for getting synthy dub bass sounds with the octave down setting.

TR: Where do you see your sound going in the future as a bassist?

CF: Well, I finally put together enough scratch to acquire an upright, so i’m going to try and incorporate that into the bag. I’ve been working on a score for my wife’s documentary “A Fine State This Is” and that has called for some arco work which is really fun.

One of these days, I’m going to get a little combo guitar amp and an A/B switch for my live setup so I can dedicate individual amps to both bass and guitar textures.

TR: What is the lineage of your bass sound? In other words,  when you started playing bass, who did your sound most resemble and how did that sound evolve to your bass setup today?

CF: When I started playing bass I got way into Primus and RATM as influences from the funky, heavy and (Les Claypool)weird world.  My playing had a lot more slap/pop and hi-fi elements to it. Then there was early 70’s fusion stuff, specifically Dark Magus which was a HUGE record for me.  So heavy and dark and ill and funky!  That’s when I became a Michael Henderson fan and started to get into the non-repetitive (yet ryhthmic) elements of his playing on those recordings.  The sounds were more lo-fi with Michael’s big round motown stylings.

As the years go by and you hear so much music and so many different styles, I think you just try to incorporate whatever resonates with you into your own means of expression.  I’ve been lucky enough to play and record with some great musicians/producers who know how to draw from all these different worlds.  I think now you’ll still hear all those sounds that I was into when I started playing, plus different elements like the synth stuff and reggae stuff which have become part of what I do over the years.

TR: List of basses and Amps you play?

CF:  Live, I play either my ’78 Fender Jazz, 70’s Hondo P-Bass copy or 70’s unknown (possibly Fernandes) Japanese EB-O copy through an Ampeg SVT-350 with an Acoustic 8×10.  The EBO copy has a microphonic bridge pickup which is great for feedback/lead guitar stuff.  I actually just busted the Hondo up a bit at a show in Boston (with the help of State Radio’s drummer MIke “Mad Dawg” Najarian) so she needs a new neck and some body work.  I was throwing the bass to my tech who is invisible and doesn’t exist.

I also HAD a really nice Ken Smith 5 string fretless that has suddenly gone missing.  All those who steal musical instruments should get a really hot poker in the eye and genitals…    In the studio, I’ve been lucky enuf to play some great basses (’58 P-Bass, an old Hofner Violin Bass, a couple old Rickenbackers) through some great amps (mostly B-15’s) and great DI’s.  I know direct boxes aren’t very sexy but some of the best sounds I’ve gotten in the studio have been with (producer) Tchad Blake and we used direct injection exclusively.

TR: What winding style, gauge and brand of strings do you use ?

CF:  I use Ernie Ball’s, usually Hybrid Slinky’s which gauge out to .045 .065 .085 .105

TR: Have you ever gotten any custom work done on your bass?

CF:  I’ve installed a G&L MFD pickup on my Hondo, wiring the pickup directly to the output jack.  I also put a neck pickup in my EBO copy.  It’s just some generic Chinese humbucking pickup I found online.  As I mentioned previously, it looks like the next project is a new neck and some body work on the Hondo.  Damn it.

TR: Do you have a trusted person that works on your basses for custom work and major repairs?

CF: Me!


You can check out Chuck and State Radio’s music and upcoming tour at

Chuck's Basses (Ken Smith pictured is the fretted version on Chuck's fretless Ken Smith)

Chuck's Pedal Board

Chuck's Setup (The small roadcase in center is not part of Chuck's Rig)

Chuck in Boston. Bank of American Pav.


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