“We’re trying to get everything in place where we can tour, people can come out to the shows and not have to worry about their health.”
Success takes more than talent and skill, it takes perseverance. A singular determination to ‘hang in there’ until you succeed. This is easier said than done. We do not have a crystal ball that will outline how long we’ve got to try before we hit paydirt, it might be a year, a lifetime or not at all. Sometimes recognition comes down to how much you love what you are doing, not how long you are willing to do it.
Bill Bodily is a serious bass player. A member of the progressive death metal act Contrarian as well as thrash metal titans Flotsam and Jetsam, his star is definitely on the rise. I recently had the opportunity to check in with the renowned bassist, please enjoy some excerpts of our 4/23 interview where we talk Flotsam and Jetsam, Contrarian, Covid-19 and playing a Chapman Stick.
David Halbe: Flotsam & Jetsam has had some prolific bass players: Jason Newsted (Metallica), Phil Rind (Scared Reich), Troy Gregroy (Prong) and most recently Michael Spencer who had to step away for health issues. What’s your history with Flotsam & Jetsam, what made you the right replacement? Also did it have anything to do with working with Jason Bittner in Toxik?
Bill Bodily: Ok. Well, I’ll just start off with the last part of your question. It was Jason Bittner, he and I are really good buddies as a result of meeting up and playing in Toxik.
Bill: Then back in 2016 he asked me to do my first fill in for Michael Spencer (Flotsam and Jetsam Bass Bass – 1987-1988, 2014-2020) during one of the tours that they were on.
Bill: So, I did that tour with them on the self-titled album. Then back in 2019, I got the call from them to come and fill in for Spencer again on The End Of Chaos tour for the U.S. run.
Bill: As Far as Flotz goes, I actually didn’t know about them when they first came out. Some friends of mine introduced me to their music later on, I’d say around the Cuatro album (1992).
Dave: So early ‘90s?
Bill: Yeah, exactly. We were onto Jason Ward (Flotsam & Jetsam Bassist 1991-2013) at that point. Basically, I filled in the gaps back then, learning what was going on with them and stuff.
Dave: You mean, checked out their back catalogue, that kind of thing?
Bill: Yep. Back catalogue, history of the band that sort of thing and I became a fan of them.
Bill: Yea and now I’m playing with them. (Laughs)
Dave: (Laughs) Yea, I was gonna say that. So, after the introduction via Jason you got on the road with the guys a couple times and realized you all got along?
Bill: Definitely. Getting along with everybody, when you’re on the road and stuff, it’s really a huge part of it. That’s important, having a good rapport with the other band members.
Dave: What was the working process for Blood In The Water? Did you contribute lyrics, were the bass lines pre-planned?
Bill: So, as far as that goes I came aboard at the last minute. They said “Would you mind giving us a demo on a couple of tracks?” I was like yea, so they threw a couple of tracks my way.
Dave: Was it all done online?
Bill: Yea, it was all done online. They’d send me a track of something so I could come up with the bass lines and I shot it back to them and they liked it. They said, “All right cool, let’s get you on board and get these songs put together.” I didn’t really have a whole lot of time on top of it because they were coming up on deadlines to hand the material over for final mixes and whatnot.
Dave: Despite the deadline, it sounds like they gave you a freedom to be creative.
Bill: Actually, some of the tracks already had bass lines added, some of them didn’t. They basically wanted to hear what I would come up with instead of just giving me ideas out of the gate. They didn’t say here’s what we want you to play. They wanted to hear what I had to say with their material.
Dave: I think that’s very respectful.
Bill: Yea, considering everything in their history. I think it was quite generous.
Dave: I feel dumb asking this but are you considered a full-time member now?
Bill: Oh, I’m definitely a full-time member.
Dave: Excellent. I’m glad to hear that. What are the touring plans? I noticed you were supposed to play out by me (Joliet, IL) but now the date has been postponed? What’s the deal, are you waiting to see if this Covid shit breaks?
Bill: Yes, but there was also a change of hands with the tour promoter.
Bill: So that was part of it but of course the biggest part is the ongoing health issues. We’re trying to get everything in place where we can tour, people can come out to the shows and not have to worry about their health. Different state governments have different rules and different ideas about how people can interact. You know, how many people can come out and whatnot it really puts a big kink in trying to coordinate when, where and how you can go about a tour in different states, let alone different countries. We’re also trying to get some stuff squared away for overseas.
Dave: Got it.
Bill: We have a European tour set up with Accept that we’re looking at in January/February of 2022. There are some tour dates we’re hoping to do later this year but it’s just a handful of shows.
Dave: Can you guys request people wear masks at shows? Can you pass on venues that don’t necessarily have your safety in mind?
Bill: Well, you’re going to have to deal with my speculation on that point because I don’t really know. I will say that this is more of a state government thing. With that being said, venues and clubs have to comply with what that state is going to allow. If they say, you have to operate at twenty five percent capacity, people have to have tables to sit at so they’re not right next to each other and whatnot then, you’ve got the whole mask thing.
Dave: Yea, it’s gonna be messy. For the short amount of touring you may do this year, do you have plans to fly out to Arizona to get some practices in before you actually hit the road? Or are you not to that point yet.
Bill: I think at this point we would probably do something like that. We’ve got some stuff planned that would most likely be strictly ‘West Coast’ oriented. So the best scenario for me would be to fly out there and probably do a couple of rehearsals before we hit the road.
Dave: I keep hearing June 15th – things are going to be open out West.
Bill: Yea, I hope so. We’re all chomping at the bit to get out on the road. We really want to get out there and promote this album.
Dave: Absolutely, I’m dying to hear it live!
Bill: Right on.
Dave: What can you tell me about the “Burn The Sky” music video? Have any more videos been planned?
Bill: Yes, I flew out to Arizona in December of last year to shoot that video. It took a little bit of time before we could actually get into the place and get the video shot. We actually shot two videos on the same day. So, we have two live performance videos, one of them is “Burn The Sky” and the other one I’ll let you figure out when it actually comes out. (“Brace For Impact” – Released 5/25/21)
Dave: (Laughs) Man, that sucks!
Bill: (Laughs) And we also have a lyric video planned.
Dave: That’s cool.
Bill: That should be out soon too.
Dave: That’s some solid promotion. I’m looking forward to it.
Dave: So, when I was researching you, I came upon the name Contrarian in your biography. I’m a huge fan of their 2019 effort Their Worm Never Dies and noticed a new album, Only Time Will Tell, was released late last year. (November 2020). How did you end up in this band?
Bill: So that band, I think the reason why those guys called me was I played a show with Brian (Brian Mason – Guitar) from Contrarian who’s also in a band called Sulaco.
Dave: I’ve heard of them.
Bill: We played a show when I was in a band called Inhumatus.
Bill: So, we ended up playing a show together in Rochester (New York). I think from that show my name must have popped up on their radar. It turned out Ed, (Ed Paulsen – Contrarian bassist 2014-2019) their former bassist, wasn’t able to continue with them. They ended up giving me a call because they needed a bassist for an upcoming tour.
Bill: I ended up doing the tour towards the end of last year, August, I think it was.
Dave: So that was the Their Worm Never Dies tour?
Bill: Exactly. I told them I’d do the tour and then shortly after I got the call for the Flotsam tour. (Laughs)
Dave: See, your name is getting out there man!
Bill: (Laughs) Yea, I was juggling both bands at the same time, learning all the material, which was quite a lot of crunching. I basically came off one tour and jumped on another.
Dave: What was the creative process for Only Time Will Tell, did they allow you to contribute?
Bill: Yea, the way that band works is Jim (Jim Tasikas – Guitar) writes the material. He’ll do his guitar parts so he’ll have all those written and arranged for the song and then he pushes that out over to the drums and then Brian (Brian Mason – Guitar) for more guitars and he’ll add that in. Finally they’ll send it over to me to add the bass lines. In that band, they just let me have free reign.
Dave: That’s awesome. Both you and drummer Bryce Butler (The Faceless) were new to Contrarian, plus he’s from Texas, how’d you guys get together to build that wall of sound?
Bill: That happened because Patrice Hamelin from Gorguts who was going to be playing drums for us, ended up having an injury to his back.
Dave: Oh, no shit?
Bill: Yea, it happened really close to when we were supposed to leave for the tour, and you know Ian Macdonald from Sick Drummer Magazine? I don’t know if you know him or not.
Dave: I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard of him and the magazine.
Bill: Well, he ended up putting us in contact with Bryce because he said “I know the guy who’s going to be able to learn the material and do the tour for you.”
Dave: That’s really cool.
Bill: Bryce pretty much bailed us out for the tour, we didn’t have to cancel any shows or anything.
Dave: That’s awesome. So you guys basically learned each other on the fly, while on tour?
Dave: Obviously, that worked out because he appeared on the most recent album with you. Can we consider that a solid thing now?
Bill: Oh yea, it’s definitely a solid line-up right now. Bryce is really great, he improvised pretty much everything on that album.
Dave: Holy shit!
Bill: (Laughs) Yeah. He really did a great job there.
Dave: I assume we’re in the same boat as Flotsam as far as the touring schedule for Contrarian?
Bill: Yea, we’re trying to get something together for the end of this year but it’s probably going to be pushed out again to the beginning of next year. I don’t have any specific dates yet but I’m thinking around March or even June. It’s not going to be a really long run just probably two or maybe three weeks.
Dave: Flotsam’s cool with you getting out there and performing these double duties?
Bill: I keep everything open with them and make sure I let everyone know what’s going on because they depend on my availability.
Dave: Understood. You’re in demand now. The Contrarian run you mentioned is that strictly North America?
Bill: Yea, that run is going to be targeting North America. I don’t know if we’re going to be heading into Canada or not again, like we did on the last one.
Dave: Final question Bill, what the hell is a Chapman stick?
Bill: Ah, the Chapman stick. That is a newer instrument, I guess. It was conceived in the ‘70s. It’s a tapping instrument really. It’s basically a straight piece of wood, which you have strings on and you have a bass side and a treble side or they sometimes call it a melody side. The configuration allows you to play both at the same time.
Dave: I think I get it. Did that instrument take a bit of time to get the hang of? Who came up with the idea to use it on Only Time Will Tell? Was it the band’s suggestion?
Bill: Nope, it’s something I’ve played around with for a while. They didn’t ask me to use it but the song that I used it on seemed to be perfect for it. More correctly, the sound that instrument has because it has kind of a chime, harpsichord kind of sound to it.
Dave: That’s cool.
Bill: Yeah, I wanted to add a little bit of a melody line and a bass line at the same time so that’s why I ended up picking that instrument. It also has a kind of synth quality to it; the whole piece was pretty much synth.
Dave: A combination of sound that mirrors itself. Makes we want to dig up that track and hear it again.
Bill: I put a clip out there, I think on my Instagram account, of me playing it so you can see what it does.
Dave: Thanks for your time today Bill, I hope I get to see you out on tour later this year or early next.
Bill: Thanks for calling me and doing this.
Dave: No problem. Best of luck with everything.
Bill: Thanks man, take care.
Flotsam and Jetsam are:
- Eric “A.K.” Knutson – Vocals
- Michael Gilbert – Guitar
- Steve Conley – Guitar
- Ken Mary – Drums
- Bill Bodily – Bass
- Brian Mason – Guitar
- Jim Tasikas – Guitar
- Cody McConnell – Vocals
- Bill Bodily – Bass
- Bryce Butler – Drums