12-String Bassist Ian Ringler
Prog Metal is an area of music that is often overlooked but is enjoying significant growth in "underground" popularity. And as a result the people who play it are starting to get more attention and recognition. I first heard about Ian Ringler through the grapevine. That's usually a good sign because when people are talking about you, then you're probably doing something right. We tracked him down and learned that the buzz has substance behind it. Thanks Ian for taking the time to answer our questions!
Who is Ian Ringler? How long have you played bass, and how long have you played a 12-string?
Ian Ringler is what happens when you take John Belushi and Michael Anthony (Van Halen) and mix them together. HA HA! Well, I am the bassist for the Colorado-based Prog Metal group Section 16. I have also been recently recruited to take over bass duties with the Prog Metal act Magnitude 9 with guitar shredder Rob Johnson on their upcoming third CD “Decoding The Soul” on the Inside Out Music label. I have been playing bass since age 12 (so about 16+ years now). I am mostly self-taught with the exception of half a year’s worth of training with Gary Willis who played bass with Tribal Tech. I got my first 12-string bass in 1993 and have been playing 12s since. Although I do own and play basses that are not 12s, the 12s are my main style of bass to use.
What originally attracted you to the 12-string bass?
Doug Pinnick and King’s X. I saw a King’s X video late one night while watching “Headbangers Ball” on MTV. I was still in my early-mid teens and just starting to play bass. I kept seeing this weird looking bass that flashed on the TV screen and tried to figure out what the hell it was. I was hooked then. The trouble was how to get one. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that Tom Petersson was “The Godfather” of the 12-string bass. I also had no clue that for years I had been staring at the back of a 12-string headstock on the cover of Cheap Trick’s "Live at Budokan".
Can you describe each of your basses for us? Any special features? What tuning(s) do you use?
Let’s see, currently I have a total of six 12-string basses, one 8-string, and a boat load of 4 and 5-strings. Four of the 12s are Hamers while the other two are a Galveston and a Musicvox.
The Hamers are my main basses. I have two short scales and two long scales. My red short scale Hamer is tuned down to C# F# C# G#. My black long scale is my Frankenstein bass and has a very low tuning of A# D# F# C#. I wanted to match the tunings to my guitar players’ 7-string guitars so I hacked away (literally) at the nut and the bridge with a mini file to accommodate the heavier string gauges. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon.
The other two Hamers are backups. I will use my Hamer 8-string for occasions that require more of an intricate playing style or tapping. I have a hard time trying to tap on my 12s.
I will be honest: I do not play my Galveston or Musicvox at all anymore. In fact, I’m looking to sell them in the near future and perhaps use that money to put towards an acoustic Hamer 12.
What gear do you use in your rig, and why?
I’ve been using pretty much the same equipment for the last 4-5 years now: Ampeg B4 Amp, Ampeg 8x10 Cabinet, Art Reverb unit, an old Boss Heavy Metal pedal (for some crunch), BBE unit, an old DigiTech digital EQ (the real key to use different basses through one rig), and an A/B switching box to swap basses out. Basically, if its not broke don’t try to fix it. I have tried lots of different configurations in my rig only to come back time and again to this basic setup. I love the punch and the warmth of the Ampegs. They are my favorites... plugging for an endorsement here.
You took over on bass during the final few months of the Prog Rock band Psyco Drama. How well did the 12-string fit with that music? Did you play any exceptionally cool gigs with them?
Talk about your perfect fit. The 12-string just filled up so much that was missing before from Psyco Drama’s sound. At first, I brought a 12 in to see how the guys would react to using it on one or two songs. They loved it! It turned from playing two songs to the guys wanting me to play all of the songs with a 12 live. Sadly, things were already going bad in Psyco Drama before I joined and kept on going until the band broke up 6 months after I joined.
I did play some very cool shows with those guys. We played at the movie premiere party for Dee Snider’s Strangeland here in Colorado Springs. We got to meet and talk to Dee (Twisted Sister). Very cool guy. He gave us an introduction before our set.
After Psyco Drama broke up you and a couple other members formed Section 16. Where did the band name come from?
We get this question a lot. There really isn't any hidden reference or deeper meaning behind the name. Section 16 is actually a local Hot Spot on a popular bike trial. Plus it just sounded catchy. At first we went by Section XVI using Roman Numerals to represent the number 16. We learned the hard way that although it was a different idea, the general public cannot read Roman Numerals. People thought we were talking about something sexual. Every now and then we will still use the XVI just for fun. So sorry, its not a conspiracy theory or a religious revelation. You will not learn who shot from the grassy knoll or what really happens at Area 51.
How many songs did you play the 12 on from Section 16's debut album? Do you do any vocals?
All of the songs on our album Identity Crisis were recorded with a 12-string except for the song "Alone". All of "Alone" was played with a fretless bass except for the song’s intro that was played on a 12-string. Fortunately for the guys in the band and for the rest of the listening world, I do NOT sing at all.
Any recording tips you would care to share?
To be honest, I am still learning and searching for “the” best way to record a 12-string bass. We used a Line 6 Bass POD for direct recording on our CD. The problem was we recorded the bass parts second and then the guitars, vocals, and keys. We really should have taken a better listen to how the bass sounded before and after all of the other parts were completed.
One of the songs on the album, "Live Through Me," was selected for use on the TV show Power Rangers. How did that come about?
As far as I know, Eric Cerda (DCA Recording), who helped us establish distribution deals, gave a copy of our CD to a friend of his who works within Disney. This friend loved what he heard and recommended some of our songs for a couple a TV shows. Our song “Live Through Me” was selected for an episode of the latest Power Rangers series Ninja Storm. Further proof of “Its not who you are, but who you know” I guess. We couldn’t believe it! It was a very cool feeling to be watching cartoons with my little boy on Saturday morning and have one of my band’s songs come on right when the bad guy is getting his butt kicked.
A second Section 16 CD is in the works. How's that project coming?
Amazing. We are working with a new guitar player, Rain Zitro, who has really re-inspired the rest of us to write in different ways than what we are used to. He has even re-inspired some older songs and ideas that we thought were dead. Our first CD is a collection of songs that we wrote over a period of four years. In those four years, we played around with a lot of different styles of rock and metal. Some of it was great and some of it seemed like we were trying to sound like a different band. We have always been based as a Prog Metal band and with the new material we are defiantly going to stay in that style. We currently have around 5-6 songs that are almost finished with the writing process. Of course we also have to budget time for other projects that the members are involved in. Our singer Corey Brown, for example, also sings in Magnitude 9 and Redemption with Nick van Dyk. Both of those bands are also working on new material as we speak. I would like to be able to have another CD ready by the end of the summer of 2004. We’ll see.
What does the future hold for you? Any tours coming up? What are your long-term goals?
I am hoping to take Section 16 as far as I can. What does that mean? Establishing a solid deal with a notable label, being able to take our act out on the road without killing the rest of our lives at home (we all have day jobs, mortgages, and families that we cannot just give up), and being able to get our music “out there” for people to hear. At this point, our tour schedule will be limited to areas close to Colorado. Aside from a couple of prospective festivals, we don’t quite have the resources to finance any shows too far away from our homes. My main long term goal is to run my own studio (for both music and digital design) that will finance my musical dreams. Such a pipe dream I know, but I got to try.
Who do you consider as influences, and why?
I always dread this question because I always leave someone out, but I'll give you my influences as they pop off the top of my head right now. Well, for starters, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. He never seems to get any recognition for his huge role in one of the biggest bands of Rock. He is so melodic in his playing. Michael Anthony from Van Halen also falls into the same category for me. Many people blow him off as a low talent player but listen to those early VH albums and to what he is playing underneath Eddie.
Next, would be Geddy Lee from Rush. What a monster of a player. Not only can this guy play bass and keys, but he can sing! John Myung from Dream Theater is also a big influence. Every time I see or hear Dream Theater play he constantly blows me away. I had to save this one for last. This should come as no surprise for anyone checking out your site: Doug Pinnick from King’s X. I love his tone. It smacks you over your head and leaves you wondering what the hell hit you. Amazing, simply amazing!
How do you like Colorado Springs? What's the music scene like there?
I’m a native to Colorado Springs, born and raised. That’s kind of a rarity around here. The scenery is just beautiful. One of the biggest constraints is the fact that Colorado Springs is a very conservative community that usually does not support the rock scene.
Finally, if you could be any animal, what would you be?
I think the closest animal that I come close to is a bear. I’m grumpy in the morning, like to scratch my back, and when I need to, I take care of business in the woods.
Thanks Ian! Good luck on your projects and keep us informed about what you're doing with your 12's!
Thanks for the questions!
Editor’s note: This interview was originally published in early 2004.