Transcribed from Bass Player Magazine, July 2003.
By Bill Leigh
"There's more room on the bass for interesting parts than most people think," says Ozma's Daniel Brummel, whose tight creative lines help drive the Pasadena quintet's pop-punk mini-masterpieces. "My lines start simple, but over time I come up with fills or little parts that make things more complex and interesting. I listen to everything that's going on--the guitars and the vocals--and try to come up with more of a counterpoint rather than just supporting the guitar chord."
Brummel has played with Ozma since he was 14, and now that he's 21, he and his bandmates manage to slip in college terms between tours. Currently they're out supporting their latest Kung Fu release, Spending Time on the Borderline, whose single "Bad Dogs" has barked up the college radio charts. "The band definitely takes precedent; we tour when we have to," says Daniel, a UCLA music composition major and a graduate of Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. Brummel's musical esperience has included performing in school jazz bands, playing in a combo with esteemed jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, and touring nationally with Weezer when he was just 18. All that has informed Ozma's melodically intense songwriting, a duty Brummel shares with guitarist and fellow lead singer Ryen Slegr. "We may use more extended chords than lots of rock bands," says Daniel, when asked if his composition studies influence the band's songcraft. "But I don't think technique should be a driving force in songwriting. Emotion, intent, and meaning should be behind the songs, and technique should just be the vocabulary you use to express yourself."
Both in terms of songwriting and production, Spending Time marks a big step forward for the band, which recorded its first two albums in a friend's garage. "This time we got a real producer and holed up in a Venice studio every night. After the producer went home, we'd keep working. We've been playing half the songs for three years, and half we wrote in the six months prior to recording. We did a five-night residency at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood before we went into the studio, and that was the only live time those songs got. It takes a long time to really learn how to play a song right; I feel like we're only now beginning to play them as tight as I want to play them."
Daniel* plays Fender American Standard Jazz 4-strings with Ernie Ball Super Slinky strings and Dunlop 1mm picks. He plugs into an Ampeg SVT-4PRO and SVT610HLF 6x10. "It's a pretty standard rig, but it's got a punchy tone and lots of midrange and low end. With all those heavy guitars, you have to find a way to cut through." For distortion he sometimes steps on an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, but he prefers the Big Muff's cousin, the Sovtek Red Army. "I really like that pedal's sound, but it was eating up tweeters on my cabinets. I went through four cabinets before I came to my senses and dropped it from the live set."
"I don't think bass gets enough respect," adds Daniel, who cites low-end influences as diverse as Stanley Clarke, Graham Maby, and Green Day's Mike Dirnt. "It's got rhythmic and melodic aspects, but unfortunately the melodic aspects get ignored sometimes. I'm not afraid to go up high on the neck for melodic ideas, but that can get a little distracting; you do have to remember to hold down the fort but still be creative with it. I'm never afraid to back off and play a groove either. It doesn't matter so much what kind of licks you play, but how you play them. If you've got good rhythm and feel, you're ideas will come across better."
*corrected mistake from original article. "Ryan" was written in place of "Daniel"