When it comes to bass players, there’s no denying the presence of fantastic female musicians in rock ‘n’ roll over the years. These women brought new philosophies and styles of playing to rock, alternative and metal, offering their own way to make the bass guitar sing and scream. In this Gibson.com feature, we pay tribute to 10 Great Female Rock Bass Players.
As a bass player, I know there are countless others to honor. Who’s your favorite female bass slinger? Give us your picks in the comments!
Melissa Auf Der Maur (Hole, the Smashing Pumpkins)
Melissa Auf Der Maur famously played bass with Hole in the ‘90s and the Smashing Pumpkins in 2000, but she eventually drifted off on her own, releasing two solo albums: Auf der Maur in 2004 and Out of Our Minds in 2010. She has an understated bass playing technique, always knowing the just-right bass line to carry the song forward, plus a creativity that’s all her own. On leaving Hole and joining Smashing Pumpkins, she tells Ask Men, “. . . I wanted to branch out a little more musically. Joining the Smashing Pumpkins was just intense work, much more about work than about emotional experience. When I joined, I had to learn their catalog, and they are prolific songwriters, Billy has a huge massive catalog. I was working 24 hours a day, learning new songs every week. They were also very ambitious in their live shows; they would always be changing arrangements and keys of songs. The work ethic of the Pumpkins is so full-on and so demanding that I didn't have much time for anything else, or to think of anything else.”
Kim Deal (Pixies, the Breeders)
As an original member of the Pixies, Kim Deal helped spearhead one of the most influential alternative rock bands of the late ‘80s. She eventually formed the Breeders with her twin sister, Kelley, and scored major fanfare with the mega-hit “Cannonball.” On the song, Deal tells Spin, “It’s great that somebody even likes the song, or any song I’ve ever done. They don't even know it as ‘Cannonball,’ they know it as ‘the one about the bowling ball!’ It’s really weird, because I’ve never done interviews — through the ‘90s and Title TK, even — where anybody cared that much about the Pixies. Around here, I was the person in the band that did “the song about the bowling ball.”
Nicole Fiorentino (The Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt)
Nicole Fiorentino was a key player in Chicago-based alternative band Veruca Salt in the ‘00s, as well as a number of high-profile groups such as Radio Vago, Spinnerette, Twilight Sleep and Light FM. Now, Fiorentino is a full-fledged member of the Smashing Pumpkins and appears on the legendary group’s most recent albums: Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and Oceania. As for her style of playing, Fiorentino tells Music Radar, “I approach it in a melodic was, as opposed to just being a 'root note' person. I think that's what attracted Billy to my style. He always tells me I'm like a Geddy Lee-type player or a Peter Hook kind of player. I've just always thought melodically. But I never had the desire to be the front person or lead singer; I'm cool with hanging back and doing my thing, singing background vocals. That's good enough for me.”
Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
Kim Gordon had an immeasurable influence on the ‘80s underground music scene and, let’s face it, is easily the Godmother of alternative music. In addition to her groundbreaking work in cult band Sonic Youth, the bass player also records as a solo artist and fronts the group Free Kitten. Before joining Sonic Youth, Gordon, first and foremost, was an artist. So, what pulled her away from fine art into rock ‘n’ roll? “When I came to New York, I’d go and see bands downtown playing no-wave music,” she tells Elle. “It was expressionistic and it was also nihilistic. Punk rock was tongue-in-cheek, saying, ‘Yeah, we’re destroying rock.’ No-wave music is more like, ‘NO, we’re really destroying rock.’ It was very dissonant. I just felt like, Wow, this is really free. I could do that.”
Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle, Zwan, the Entrance Band)
Pat Lenchantin started out on her musical journey as a violinist, eventually switching to the bass. She’s brought her imaginative playing style to A Perfect Circle, Billy Corgan’s ephemeral pop group Zwan and currently plays in psychedelic rockers the Entrance Band. She describes her meeting with A Perfect Circle’s Billy Howerdel and subsequent move to join the band as a learning experience, telling the Louisville Music News, “The second I heard his music, this light inside of me just grew and grew. I knew this was something I would learn from, benefit from, grow from and will keep me challenged. Still today, four years later, I’m still playing the same songs and I still feel like I'm growing. It's a beautiful feeling, you know?”
Kira Roessler (Black Flag)
Kira Roessler joined Black Flag as a replacement to founding member Chuck Dukowski, and she fit the band’s jam-packed touring schedule between her coursework in applied engineering at UCLA. She appears on five of Black Flag’s studio albums and went on to form the two-bass duo Dos with now former husband Mike Watt. Roessler keeps up with her bass playing, telling MarkPrindle.com, “. . . One of the things I learned a while ago was that a big part of it with bass playing, and I don't know because I don't play a lot of other instruments but, is just having your hands strong enough to do what you're trying to do. So what I find is that even when I don't have the energy to really be writing songs or whatever, doing a full- blown practice, I'll sit in front of the TV or whatever or what I'm doing, listening to the radio or whatever, and I will just doodle with my hands to try to keep my hands strong. . .”
Jeanne Sagan (All That Remains)
When it comes to modern hard rock and metal bass players, Jeanne Sagan is certainly on the list. The rocker cut her teeth playing bass in the Acacia Strain and selling merch for Prosthetic Records, and now, Sagan holds down bass in All That Remains. As for how she’s dealt with the change from working behind the scenes to out front, Sagan tells The Dead Hub, “I’ve never went on tour before so my entire world changed. Going to see the band then to be onstage is insane. A lot of my friends always wondered what it was like and now I am on a bus and touring.
Sean Yseult (White Zombie)
White Zombie wouldn’t be, well, White Zombie without Sean Yseult. The North Carolina-born rocker played bass in the Rob Zombie-fronted metal outfit for 11 years, laying down heavy lines on albums such as Soul-Crusher, Make Them Die Slowly and beyond. Yseult prefers playing with a pick as opposed to finger-style: “I always wanted more attack, and more clarity of the notes,” she tells Ultimate Guitar. “I like writing notey riffs, like the ones I wrote for Black Sunshine, and that kind of bass line is not going to come through without a pick.”
Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads)
As a founding member of Talking Heads, bass player Tina Weymouth broke ground for female rock and brought a funky style of playing that earned her a generation of loyal fans. She also laid down chunky lines in Tom Tom Club and, more recently, has worked with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz. She joined Talking Heads by the request of her now-husband Chris Frantz, who also plays with Weymouth in Tom Tom Club, and tells Inklings it took a little bit of convincing: “Chris wanted me to join, and I didn’t think it was appropriate. But I really loved what they were doing, so I joined. I picked up the bass because it was all that was left.”
Lindsey “Lyn-Z” Ann Way (Mindless Self Indulgence)
Sure, she’s married to My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way, but Lindsey Ann Way, or “Lyn-Z,” holds her own as the back-bending bass player in synthpop band Mindless Self Indulgence. After taking some time off from MSI and having a baby, Lyn-Z is back. “Sometimes you have to leave in order to come home. You know what I mean?” she tells Alternative Press.