CM : When did you begin playing the bass ? What attracted you to the instrument , initially , and made you stick with it ?
Nestor Chumak : I played double bass all throughout high school , and I did love it , but I was actually always a guitarist first . I feel like it ’ s the origin story for a lot of bass guitarists , but I was playing guitar in a band , the bassist quit , and I said “ I got this ,” went out and bought a bass the next day . I ’ m like , “ Oh , I took one for the team … everyone feel good for me ” [ laughs ]. And to be honest , I liked it better anyway . I ’ d pretend like I made some huge sacrifice for everyone but I do love playing the bass [ laughs ].
CM : For PUP ’ s new album , The Unraveling of PUPTHEBAND , you guys said you spent more time in the studio crafting your sound , and that you incorporated things like piano , synths , and horns for the first time . What does this mean for the rhythm section on the new material ?
Chumak : So , the rhythm section of Zack [ Mykula ] and I , we basically grew up together . We grew up on the same street as kids and we ’ ve been playing in bands — like the band I mentioned where I quit guitar to play bass , Zack was in that band . So , we ’ ve always been a tight band-ina-room type thing , because we ’ ve been playing together for like 20 years .
This time around , to get out of our comfort zone , we added things like drum machines , and in terms of bass stuff , there ’ s some sub-synth , bass-drop stuff that we kind of had fun with on the previous records , but this time around , we just dove straight into it . So yeah , the main thing , though , is we still wanted to maintain the band-in-a-room thing and then all that other stuff is kind of in-addition-to but not replacing anything .
CM : When you listen back over PUP ’ s discography , from the original Lionheart EP in 2010 to the new album , what ’ s the evolution you hear from yourself as a bass player ?
Chumak : I think it ’ s kind of cliché – not to keep using clichés – but I ’ ve learned a lot more about what the bass does in a song arrangement throughout my career as a bass player . If I ’ m going to try to do something that stands out in a song , whether it ’ s melodic or whatever , it ’ s just more impactful if I choose those moments correctly so I ’ m not stepping on anyone ’ s toes — I can pop out and have my own moment . So , I guess I ’ m more sure of myself as a bass player , for better or worse . I think that ’ s what I hear from the first record to now .
CM : Do you feel you have a distinctive tone ?
Chumak : Yeah , I think definitely live , I do . I mean , I hide behind a lot of gain and I make mistakes , but it ’ s like , “ Oh , the amp is about to blow up ” or it ’ s almost on fire or whatever . So yeah , I think my distinct tone would be blown-out and railing the amp sort of thing .
CM : Aside from the new album , anything you ’ ve been working on during all the time off the road because of the pandemic ?
Chumak : Yeah , totally . It ’ s actually funny because when everyone was getting into sourdough , our tour manager had already got me into sourdough like a year before the pandemic hit , so I was like , “ Okay , I need a new hobby ” [ laughs ]. So , I do have a new hobby — I ’ ve been building pedals . It started out with just building a couple of kits , like couple of fuzz pedals — a Big Muff clone and I ’ ve moved on to a Centaur clone . So yeah , it started with a couple of kits , but now I ’ m sourcing the parts myself and that kind of thing . It ’ s a lot of trial and error and I burn myself sometimes , but it ’ s fun .
CM : Oh cool , that teaching you anything in terms of finding new sounds ?
Chumak : Not quite yet . I hope to get there one day , but right now I ’ m just stoked if they work [ laughs ].
CM : For our gear-loving readers , I always have to ask : what ’ s your go-to bass setup at the moment ?
Chumak : In the studio , the [ Fender ] P-Bass that I bought like 10 years ago for $ 500 and I ’ ve used that on all the records . It ’ s my standby . On this new record , I got the EarthQuaker Westwood [ pedal ], which is just like a transparent overdrive . I used it all over the record . And then , this company Wren and Cuff , they make a ’ 70s-style Big Muff that ’ s deadly . I love that thing . It ’ s a guitar pedal , but it just handles the low-end super nicely . And then , recently , I built a pedal from this company called God City Instruments — they sell pedals and also the circuit boards . So , I made one of theirs and it ’ s called the Bass Brutalist , which is like a super deadly overdrive . I love that thing . So , those are the three pedals that I used .
Then , amp-wise , it kind of depends on where we ’ re playing . Like , my standby is the Orange AD200 , which is just like a 200W bass head . And then if we ’ re flying somewhere , I got one of those Darkglass things . When we ’ re in Europe , our buddy works for Hiwatt over there , so they hook me up with their 200W custom bass head , which is actually pretty similar to the Orange , but it does its own thing , too . That thing ’ s a beast . So , those are the amps .
52 CANADIAN MUSICIAN