Bassist Spotlight: Larry DiGiovanni (High Disciple, Dub For Light)

High Disciple (Photo: Danielle Dombrowski

If you haven't checked out Larry DiGiovanni and his band High Disciple, I hope this interview gets you on board ASAP.

Supertouch did a run with High Disciple and Into Another in 2017, and I got a chance to see Larry work his magic in person every night. 

Chris Daly had sent me their recordings, but I had no idea how great Larry was till I was in the same room with him. I got another chance to play with Larry at St. Vitus when Miracle Drug opened for 108. His mastery of the low-end groove is sophisticated as fuck.

The pandemic has obviously slowed them down, but Larry and High Disciple are still writing, occasionally practicing, and definitely making plans for 2021. 

Introduce yourself to everybody.

Hi, I'm Larry. I'm currently 44 years old, live in northern New Jersey and I'm a musician/producer. If it wasn't for music, I don't know who I'd be or what I'd be doing in this life.

Tell us about the first time you were in a room with a bass guitar, and what made you pick it up.

[A little background story first:] I got my first guitar in 1989 on my 13th birthday but I couldn't play it. It was a cheap Strat-like knockoff with one shitty pickup. I was really into thrash metal, punk, and hardcore at the time and I could absolutely not reproduce anything like that sound on this guitar.

I didn't want to take lessons because I had previously tried to learn the saxophone in that manner and it wasn't happening. I didn't have the luxury of YouTube or anything to help me get going and I got frustrated quickly.

Eventually, I (badly) learned a few Misfits and Fugazi riffs but I never thought I'd ever learn to play "for real." 

The six strings overwhelmed me, but I didn't consider playing bass because at that time I was really into guitar players like Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Tony Iommi, Spike Cassidy of D.R.I., Dr. Know, and John Christ of Danzig.

These cats were some of my musical idols and I felt that the guitar was destined to be my one and only instrument...the only one I would ever be cut out to play.

My good friend got a bass for Christmas a couple of years later and that was the first time I played one. I can't say it felt better or worse to me, I was just as clueless on the bass as I was on guitar. He learned a few things eventually and wound up showing me how to play the bassline to "Swordfish" by The Dead Milkmen.

Still, at that point, I still had no interest in being a bass player and I wouldn't dedicate myself to truly learning any instrument until I was about 20.

Is your family supportive of the time you spend being a musician?

When I was a kid, it wasn't something my parents encouraged in me outside of it being a "hobby." When I got into my 20s, I became serious about it, and anyone in my life since that point has had no choice but to accept it haha. It's just who I am and what I do.  

Also, if I spent time thinking or worrying about getting support from others, I would have never learned how to play at all. Support is great to have, but it surely isn't necessary in my opinion. You simply have to believe in yourself and be truly dedicated if you are really going to get anywhere.

Do you play other instruments?

Guitar, keyboards, and melodica. I wish I could play the drums, but I can program them in machines so I'm good with that too.

Do you use a guitar pick? 

Sometimes, but not often.

What are your opinions on the difference between playing with your fingers versus a pick?

I rarely even play the guitar with a pick let alone the bass. I think at times it's necessary in the studio or something, but live I really feel no need. I've tried using a pick on some High Disciple songs live but it never sticks. I'm more comfortable playing with my fingers and it's just what works for me personally... so I go with it.

Is there a sweet spot on the neck of the bass that you frequent the most?

Again, I think this would depend on the band setting or what the material requires. If High Disciple is in a straight-up jam session, I usually frequent the 2nd fret through the 7th fret range of the neck. That's where the heavy dub grooves normally lock-in.

Your recordings on the High Disciple material are fantastic. When writing with them, is there a general approach? Are the first versions of the riffs making it on the record or are you always rewriting the songs?

We are pretty casual. Sometimes one of us will have a riff or song idea and we try it out. If it sounds good, we build on it in whatever way we see fit. There are no rules or limitations.

One example would be the tune "Outbound" on our first album. That was something I made a demo of by myself back in 2005, 10 years before this band even started. I came across it one day and sent it to Chris and Scott. They liked it and at the next rehearsal, we worked on it and arranged it into a proper song.

Some stuff is written on the spot and remains the same and others take on another life of their own eventually. Also, the longer we play a song together, the more experimental it becomes. It's all about the vibe, not about intricate moments having to be reproduced in the same way again and again. We aren't that kind of band.

Are there any bass players that have influenced your style?

Countless. Robbie Shakespeare, Jah Wobble, Darryl Jenifer, Eric Avery, Ron Carter, Flabba Holt, Family Man Barrett, Joe Lally, Phil Lesh, John Paul Jones, Jaco, Peter Hook, Cliff Burton, Geezer Butler, Roger Waters, on and on and on and on...

You are super blessed to have Chris Daly (Texas is the Reason, Jets to Brazil) as your drummer in High Disciple. I can't wait for people to hear the new Supertouch record, because I really locked in with him on it.

He made it super easy for me, and he definitely made me play in a way I never had before. What are you locking in on when you play with him, kick, snare?

Chris is a great drummer and an all-around solid dude. I love him and I'm grateful we get to play music together. We had spent about a year playing together just as a two-piece before things evolved into a full band. In that time we built up the chemistry we have today, as friends and as musicians.

From day one we never had a problem coming up with ideas or locking into grooves. The kick, snare, and hi-hat is what I'm concentrating on, but we have kind of an unspoken musical bond I'd say. We just know each other's styles and can usually predict what lies ahead.

What's your favorite song/part you play with Chris?

It's hard to specify one particular thing but probably the track "Modus." That's the first song we wrote together as a band. Also, "Night & Day" is another one. That will be on our upcoming album of the same name.

Any other drummers that you love?.

Tons. Sly Dunbar, Carlton Barrett, Tony Williams, Earl Hudson, Stewart Copeland, Bill Ward, John Bonham, Stephen Morris, etc etc etc. My brother Anthony is also a great drummer. We played together in a dub band called The Stereo Cynics [circa 2010].

High Disciple uses electronics in your live shows. Tell us what you're running while also playing the bass during the set.

The electronics that I control personally are the dub efx on the drums. I run my own mic (or mics) on the snare, timbale, bongos, and hi-hat and that runs into a pedalboard of stompboxes that I control with my feet. I sometimes use a mixer on stage, but the floor pedalboard has been my go-to for the last few years.

I occasionally run soundscapes and other samples through the same chain as well. Every show is different in some way but the usual pieces of hardware in the mix are Line6 Dl4, Boss RV-3, Boss DD-7, Line6 Verbzilla, Boss PH-3, Fender Engager Boost, and Korg Mini KP2S.

What is your current amp, pedal/effects, bass guitar set up?

Fender Bassman 400 combo amp and Fender Jazz Bass with flatwound strings. I use an envelope filter for efx on the bass sometimes, but usually, it's just a clean signal with my go-to EQ settings.

How has the lockdown affected you, and High Disciple?

Personally, so far it has had its hardest effect on me financially. In the months prior, I was in the process of turning a part-time pet-sitting business into a full-time business. COVID-19 then paused that plan totally for quite some time. It's been coming back slowly though and I'm grateful for that at least.

Mentally, it's been a real struggle, but I think it's that way for most people. So much loss, sadness, and other straight-up insanity in your face 24-7.... It's hard to look on the bright side of things sometimes.

As a musician and producer, however, it has been a dream to have the extra time that I have had. I spent a lot of time in my home studio, to begin with, but through this whole global fiasco, I've become more disciplined, focused, and productive than ever. I spend a lot of time practicing bass and improving my skills/knowledge on the instrument as well.

For High Disciple, it has just kind of put things on pause a bit here and there. We did manage to release a single, finish a new album and even play a live show. We've gotten together to jam a few times sporadically as well.

I can obviously only speak for myself, but I know for a fact it's been tough for us all in some way or another. I look forward to the day we can rehearse on the regular and play shows again. I miss it dearly.

Do you guys have anything planned for 2021? Have you guys considered doing an online show?

Our new album, Night & Day, will likely be dropping in the spring, that is the plan at this point. We have discussed the online show thing, but I can't say for sure if we will or won't do one. Hopefully, at least by spring/summer, we could play some outdoor gigs.

We did start demoing and writing new tracks just prior to the lockdown, so we hope to get back to that soon as well.

High Disciple (Photo: Todd Pollock)

Anything going on in your personal life you'd like to talk about?

I've been recently releasing a lot of ambient and experimental music under my own name. I've taken a bit of a break from my long-running dub project Dub for Light so that I could concentrate on other ideas and explore other dimensions.

I've also recently co-founded an electronica duo with a long-time friend of mine, we are called Image Theory. Our first release will be dropping very soon.

Is there any band past or present that you would love to fill in for?

That's a hard one for me to answer. Chances are I would be replacing a musician I really admire and I'd much rather see them playing their own music. I would love to jam in some way with Sly Dunbar on the drums though.... and maybe Perry Farrell or Sinead O'Connor on lead vocals with John Frusciante on guitar/backing vocals.

Photo: Erika Aiese

Finally, do you have any words of wisdom for someone picking up a bass guitar for the first time?

Be original and always put the music first. Don't get caught up in other people's visions of what you or your music should look or sound like. Most importantly, less is absolutely more [sometimes]. Be humble and play from the heart. 


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