Bassist Spotlight: Caleb Murphy (Inclination)

Photo: Spencer Chamberlain

Full disclosure time. I obviously ripped my Brother Thommy Browne's Cutting Steak interview series. I loved his idea and wanted to apply it to bass players

Thank you, Thommy, for the great idea, and Carlos for allowing me to participate. It was honestly one of the best decisions I've made recently.

During this time of isolation in our homes, it is super cathartic to have this form of art for me. I love writing and owe Thommy, and Carlos a lot. I hope everyone else is diving deep into whatever form of expression they can during these insane times. 

I can't play music with my people, but I can write about it. 

With that said, I'm excited to introduce you guys to Inclination's Caleb Murphy.

Introduce yourself to everyone.

My name is Caleb Murphy and I play bass in Inclination.

How did you get into playing the bass guitar?

When my brother and I were young teenagers, we both asked for guitars for Christmas. He got a sweet Jackson and I got a hand-me-down bass from my Aunt. After I got over the initial disappointment, I realized that playing the bass is way more fun and started trying to learn all my favorite NOFX songs. That’s where it all started for me. 

Does your family support your musical endeavors?

My parents were very supportive of me playing music when it was just a free time hobby, but they were really not happy when they found out I was dropping out of college to play in bands. I wasn’t disowned, but we had exponentially less contact for a bit. Once they realized it was taking me all these cool places and saw how important it was to me, they came around. Since then they’ve supported it 100% and that’s something I’m truly grateful for. They come out whenever I’m in their area. 
Do you play with a guitar pick?

I play exclusively with a pick. Usually an .88mm.

Photo: Emma Lee

When picking, what are you doing more of, upstrokes or downstrokes?

If I’m trying to really punch a note or measure to emphasize something with the drums, I make sure that it’s a downstroke. But outside of that I try to be fluid and use both up an downstrokes. I’ve always felt that if you try to pigeonhole yourself into it only using downstrokes it makes your playing look very unnatural. 

Can you play and sing at the same time?

I can, but I’ve never done it in a hardcore band. I don’t know if I could play fast and actually sing at the same time.

Watching you play live is great, because not only are you killing it/nailing all the notes; you are also going off. Have you ever hurt yourself playing so wild?

I really appreciate that, I never want to be boring to watch. I hate it when you watch an aggresive band and the people with instruments look like they’re falling asleep standing up. I’ve had a few knee/ankle injuries but nothing severe. I did fall of the front of the stage once at the Hard Rock in Vegas during a set, but caught myself on the PA stack. I never watched the video of that set. 

Are there any specific bass players you are drawing inspiration from?

I’ve always wanted to emulate the bass tone that Leeway achieved on Desperate Measures and Open Mouth Kiss. I think Jimmy Xanthos played bass on both of those records. I think if you’re a bass player in a hardcore band you have to respect Harley Flanagan’s style and ability. Darryl Jenifer from Bad Brains is the pinnacle of bass playing in a hardcore band for me. He brought all the cool funk and jazz influences to a hardcore band and was a maniac live. I guess I am just inspired by bass players who go wild and look cool while still playing a great set.

Have there been any drummers in your life, that change the way you play?

To be honest, I’ve only played with two drummers over the past decade. My friend Marcus who I toured full time with for 8 years really made me realize how essential the connection between drum and bass is. We always made sure we were locked in with one another no matter what. 

Bryan [Prosser] who drums in Inclination has influenced how I play because he always looks like he’s having fun. He’s a great drummer and really brings his own style to everything he touches. Watching my friend Mitch [Reitman] from Low End play drums makes me wish more than anything I could play in a band with him.

Depending on the song, I will sometimes leave what the drummer is doing, and play what the vocal melody is doing. Do you ever get "lost in the sauce", and accent a different instrument in the band?

Inclination songs have me emphasizing both drums and some melodic guitar parts. But it’s still mostly drums. There’s a lot of bass chords in our songs so sometimes I get distracted in those and find myself emphasizing Isaac or Peter instead of the drums but it always comes back to the drums. 

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

I currently use a 2005 Ampeg SVT Classic and and Ampeg 8x10E. My bass of choice is my 2000 Fender American Standard Precison bass with a set of Seymour Duncan SPB-3 pickups. For pedals I use a Boss ODB-3 and a Tech 21 Sansamp with a TC Electronics tuner and a Voodoo Labs power supply. The Boss ODB-3 gets a lot of hate because using the gain knob turns it into a horrible sounding distortion pedal, but if you keep the gain knob just above zero, it’s a cool overdrive with some grit. 

Do you like touring, and how well do you eat on the road?

When I first started touring, I used to eat whatever was cheapest because we were all poor and working shitty jobs just to be able to afford to tour and pay rent. We’d buy ramen at grocery stores and hopefully whoever was nice enough to let us stay with them would let us use their kitchen. As touring became a legitimate source of income [Caleb previously played in Expire], I ate a lot better. Trying different restaurants and going to whatever the best local spot was became one of my favorite parts of touring.

Inclination doesn’t really tour at all, so when we do we always try to hit good local restaurants in whatever city we play. A few of us are big coffee heads so we are always on the hunt for the best brew, cost be damned. 

Photo: Sam Jameson

Is there anything going on in your personal life you'd like to talk about?

People always ask us why Inclination doesn’t tour or can’t fly to their country and play shows. I’m partly to blame for that because I’m currently pursuing my Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kentucky, so I’m not really able to do much. We all have very busy lives outside of Inclination but we are thankful for every person that reaches out to ask us to play their city, even if we can’t do it. 

Photo: Kat Nijmeddin

Is there anything new musically for you that you can give us a heads up about?

Well there is a new Inclination record in the works. No official timeline on it yet, but it’s coming. 

Past or present, are there any bands you would love to fill in for on bass?

I’d love to play in a heavy instrumental band like Isis or Russian Circles, or something softer like This Will Destroy You. I’ve only ventured outside the realm of playing in hardcore bands a few times and it’s something I’d like to do more of. It would be cool to play in a country band.

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

Just keep at it. Playing bass is so much fun and changing your strings is so much easier! Hardcore bands need more actual bass players, instead of the friend who’s bad at guitar so he gets demoted to bass. Find tabs on the internet and play until your fingers bleed. Start a band and stick with the drummer. Low-frequency gang for life. 


Donate a few bucks to help with No Echo's operating costs:

Tagged: bassist spotlight, inclination