Carcass Bassist: 'Every Bass Player Is Just a Failed Guitar Player'

"Just as every music journalist is a failed musician, you know?" says Jeff Walker.

Ultimate Guitar

In an interview with Backbeat, Carcass bassist Jeff Walker has revealed that he got into bass because he was a failed guitar player:

"I was just a vocalist. I tried to learn guitar as a kid. As you know, every bass player is just a failed guitar player. Just as every music journalist is a failed musician, you know? When I got kicked out of that band I was asked by another band that hard heard I'd played the bass and they asked me to join. Playing the bass was easier than trying to play the guitar."

When asked which bassists he looked up to, Walker responded:

"Probably Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. He played bass on the album, "Nevermind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols." That's a fantastic sounding record. Now I'm old, of course, and now I respect the usual people like Entwistle or whatever. But I'm not really musicians' musician. I don't really classify myself as a musician. I really don't take myself that seriously. For me it's a trade-off because I've got to do the vocals as well and something's got to give and something's got to suffer and unfortunately it's both things in my case."

Personally, we at Ultimate-Guitar think that Walker is giving bassists a bad rep. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments.

90 comments sorted by best / new / date

    It's a shame that there seem to be a lot of bass players out there who seem content to just mirror the guitar part, essentially turning the bass into a 'guitar junior'. A good bass player can really help to add to a band's sound, see Flea or Geezer Butler, and shouldn't just be viewed as an easy version of the guitar
    Cliff Burton just mirrored James Hetfields guitar parts yet he's up on the highest pedestal ever known to man.
    Velcro Man
    I'm sure people will cry about this, but I agree 100,000%, it's sad that bassists like that are the heroes to countless bassists. He was talented and all, did solos and all that, but it was still just guitar emulation which completely wastes the potential of the bass guitar. At least Les Claypool is pretty popular as well.
    Joey Radical
    I don't understand why Burton gets praise. He used way to much distortion and didn't no much creative stuff really.
    Potentially the fact that he was directly involved in writing a lot of the melodic sections of their music? There's more to your musical ability than what you hear recorded by him on his records.
    For the most part yes, but being a great musician isn't necessarily making a part your own, but adding to the song. Burton was a bassist who followed the rhythm part when needed, but he could also go jam with the best of them. I wouldnt say he's the greatest, but he had some chops, and as someone else pointed out, he was a mian songwriter for the band.
    Exactly. I love playing the guitar, and i dont think im terrible, but when i first picked up a bass it just clicked.
    Honestly, any instrument can be played lazily. You can drop-tune the guitar, if you want to have an easier time playing power chords. You can mimic the guitar on the bass if you lack any imagination. On vocals, you can also simply mimic the guitar. On drums, you can play the simplest rock beat throughout the entire song. It's not the instrument that's simple, it's your imagination.
    Well that's just plain wrong.
    Downvote me if I'm wrong, but I think he was just making a kinda half-joke? Also when he says "every music journalist is just a failed musician", he wasn't saying either of those with complete seriousness? I don't know, it just sounds as though he wasn't meaning for his quote to be published as an article on a guitar website. And if he was saying that with 100% truth, then of course, that's completely wrong, bass is a completely different instrument than guitar.
    I think he's definitely joking, the British sense of humour doesn't seem to translate all too well onto text.
    If you play in generic rock bands or "hardcore" metal bands that chug powerchords all day and do not require much bass prowess, then he may be right. But in most dignified bands, the bass guitar should be its own distinguishable instrument. The bass guitar should offer something different to the music other than just low frequency doubling of guitar riffs.
    Dnt u mean... Evry gutur player is jst a faild base player!
    This is the problem with people, they think just because something happened to them it's exactly the same with every other person in the world.
    Wait, what? I'm pretty sure that most jazz bassists can play circles around rock/metal guitarists.
    The biggest advantage Jazz bassists have over most other genres is their ability to improvise. The same can be said for any jazz instrument, but the bass has the hardest job. The drummer does not have to worry about note choice and can focus on rhythm. The guitarist and piano player can choose to cut out if they want. But the bass player has to play on throughout pretty much the whole jam, while at the same time improvising their bass line that sets the tone of the entire piece. In jazz, it's very common for a bass player to just get a piece of paper with chords on it and then improvise the bass line based off that. It's a lot of fun if you are good at it, but it takes a lot of skill. My advice to any learning bassist is join a jazz group. Your chops and improvisational skills will grow enormously rather quickly. This will translate to whatever genre you love playing: rock, hardcore, death metal, hip hop, country, or whatever you play.
    While that may be true in a lot of cases (and probably more common in rock and metal than funk or jazz or reggae etc.), that's just his way of saying "I'm bad at something, so I assume most others are similarly bad at it too." Also, if Steve Jones is who he looks up to, then he has set his standards pretty low, even as far as punk bassists go.
    The problem is most people in rock and metal see it purely as a background instrument, supposed to fill up the lower frequencies, which the guitar won't have. But who said you can't do something creative with it? Why not try slapping, or something else that's real fun, in metal. It's just a matter of trying out something different. If someone wants me to stay in a band, I'm sure as Hell not gonna sit there playing 8ths on the root note.
    Is there anyone in this world who thinks Cliff Burton was a failure ?!
    As my friend told me once It's easy to become a bass player. It's hard to become a good bass player
    Way to take off the cuff humour way out of context and get all offended.
    As a guitar player i found playing the bass more difficult cos the frets are wider, neck is longer, more out of reach, the instrument is heavier on your shoulders, strings harder to press, harder to tremolo, to string skip, etc etc. Of course when it comes to harmonic guitar picking or fast shred soloing, guitar is harder, but in general, the bass requires much more stamina i think.
    Im pretty sure this is Jeff's sarcasm and humor, least I hope so. Only a failed guitarist who "resorted to playing bass" would say something like that,..but lets be honest; thats not what most of us would call a bassist. Lets not forget the bass drives the changes. Our root notes determine what key the chord will be in many cases. we also tie the rhythm and motion together and create counter melodies. Someone noted Cliff Burton stating he only followed hetfield's lines, but Hetfield was a control freak, the music warranted that arrangement and Cliff's solo pieces CLEARLY showed him to be a bassist and impressive arranger. Failed guitarist?? I think not!
    Bass and Guitar are actually very different when you play them. They may have the same tunings (an octave apart) but that is about the only real similarity between them. Anyone who thinks one is harder than the other probably does not know how to play either.
    *sarcasm* Sure, Les Claypool and many others are just failed guitar players. */sarcasm*
    Joey Radical
    If you have to clarify that you're being sarcastic, then the very sarcasm itself is moot.
    If playing the bass is easier then playing the guitar . . . you're doing it wrong
    Seriously, all of you guys do get that he's joking, right? I mean, the line "...Just as every music journalist is a failed musician, you know?..." gave it away.
    If any of you have ever watched any video interviews with Jeff Walker, you would understand that this was intended to be very tongue in cheek.
    My girlfriend bought a bass guitar, practiced like twice in between child birth and work etc , next thing shes playing in a classic rock band at a country fair.Meanwhile i'm still practicing the first song we ever played together. lol(sunshine of your love btw)
    I think UG meant: "we at Ultimate-Guitar think that Walker is giving MUSIC JOURNALISTS a bad rep. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments."
    another point to consider is...slapping and fingering fat n funky/bluesy bass grooves will get you more ass than playing a couple chords or "shredding" away any day! in fact, the only people who really pay attention to guit players are other dudes, who look and debate at how "awesome" or "sh1tty" that player is, meanwhile, all the girls are in the bass player's corner bouncing their nice sexy goodies right in your the end of the night, the dudes tell the guit player how good he was, while the chicks flirt with the bass player coz he made them all warm n fuzzy inside. there's no fail to that
    oh god all the butthurt bassist in on this article already. christ yeah but it's true there were no bassists in my college, i owned a bass lots of bands needed a bassplayer it was an easier way into a band than out-shredding all the mini-slash's around
    Can we stop using the term "butthurt" as a replacement for "offended" please? It just sounds f*cking childish and dismissive, suddenly you can laugh off someone's feelings of offence by saying "You're just butthurt". No, people get offended, and they have a right to do so without being mocked. Yeah, that's pretty much all I wanted to say, just stop. This is directed to everyone that says this, by the way.
    Lol Natures
    No, you do have the right to be offended, but not the right to not be mocked for it.
    JD Close
    Do you really have the right to be offended whenever you want? Yes, sort of, depending on where you are. Should other people care (and change their opinions to accommodate you)? Absolutely not. In this instance, people really shouldn't be offended because it was a joke made by a relatively famous person. Maybe it's UG's grammar that makes it hard to detect the sarcasm for some people, but this was not a personal attack against anybody whatsoever, and you guys shouldn't be getting upset. And are you really trying to say that you don't know bass players who did exactly this?
    I'm not even talking about the article, I'm talking about the use of the term "butthurt" if you read my comment properly.
    JD Close
    I understood perfectly. But if you believe that you have the right to be offended at whatever you want, then you have no right to tell someone how they should express themselves. I think it's dumb too, but I could care less
    Bass isn't all about being the best, it's more so how well you can keep rhythm. So actually the bassist has to be a little more talented I've played guitar longer than bass and I'm better at guitar, yet I still play bass more frequently. And Twiggy Ramirez from Marilyn Manson played bass even though he was way better at guitar. He's the guitarist now. I love Carcass, but damn. This guy just seems ignorant unless he's completely joking
    Well it's true for Korn's case, Brian Welch said Fieldy started playing bass because he sucks in playing guitar. But I don't think John Petrucci can play the bass as good as Myung or Sheehan.
    That's only half the story. The reason he might have picked up the bass was because the guitar wasn't working for him, but in the end he stuck with the bass because he liked the instrument. If he hated the bass he would have gotten better at the guitar. He wouldn't have been able to play some of his bass lines without any practice.
    Ah, no. I myself picked bass because I was too lazy to learn chords and all that junk. I didn't even touch the guitar for one year.
    Joey Radical
    That's why I don't play bass. Because I can play guitar. Not like a god or anything, but I can do some sweet Nickelback covers on my all stickered acoustic.
    Ouch...My ego. I love playing both the guitar and the bass and I like to think I am pretty good at both. I've had two bands consistently for 10 years just so I could have one for each.
    Tell that to the greats... In fact, tell that to anyone like me who had never touched a guitar before seeing a bassist and wanting to do that. I don't wish I was a guitarist, I love the sound and feel of a bass. Ridiculous..
    lol, way to dance like UG tells you to in a fake argument that Jeff wasn't making. Hopefully, if any 'greats' read this article they wouldn't be as serious and gullible.
    Absolutely true. Noone dreams of being the lead bassist in a rock band.
    If this guy isn't joking: what a tool! shouldn't even be in a band if that's his attitude! I sure as hell hope this guy is joking...
    *cough cough* Ryan Martinie from Mudvayne. Even if it is a joke, there is some truth to it, but it's not completely true.
    We now know exactly one fact based on the comments from this idiot: Jeff Walker is a failed guitarist. That's it.
    Did you enjoy hearing your self talk? I started on bass and can now play lead guitar, so no sorry.
    speaking as someone who is good at both and understands their unique qualities, i can assure you all, that this guy is full of sh1t lol...he says it himself, that he doesnt consider himself a musician because he's a failure, so of course his views wont go beyond a few root notes and keeping time. if you like guit, pick and finger that sexy guit, if you like bass, slap and pluck that freakin bass...if you like playing, there's no possible way for you to fail...that is all.