Four String Brew's Dan Cochran Talks About Playing in Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

Why Isn't Cheap Trick  in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? is playing Ace of Cups Friday, April 8th. Click here for details

- What is is about Cheap Trick that motivated you to join this band?
Dan - I’ve been a Cheap Trick fan for years now.  They have such a great catalog of tunes, and most of it is underrated.  In addition to that, they have toured forever.  It’s great for fans, because they come through most American cities every year.  They headline their own shows, open for obscure bands, play corporate gigs, and come through on festival dates.  If you pay attention, you can see them a couple times of year without having to travel very far.
 - Tom Petersson and his 12-string bass have a very distinctive sound, how has your rig evolved over the years trying to simulate it?
Dan - When we started this thing four years ago, I really had no idea what I was getting into.  The first few years, I used one of my Fender basses and my regular rig.  I’ve always played with my fingers and continued to do so on the Cheap Trick tunes.  In the end, it didn’t feel right and it didn’t sound right.  What a lot of people don’t understand is that Petersson’s sound is most of what you hear in the Cheap Trick sound.  His bass covers a giant frequency range, and the way he plays holds down the bottom end while creating melody and full harmonic range at the same time is truly distinctive.  

Once I really started listening to the Budokan record, I realized that he was playing most of the parts.  What I thought was guitarist Rick Nielsen in so many places was actually Petersson.  Nielsen really just paints on top of everything with tasty leads (and writes nearly all of the tunes).  Even Robin Zander plays more guitar live than people think…..and not like a pussy either (Bono).  So, I realized last year that I needed to take the plunge and get the 12-string bass sound going.  For those who don’t know, Tom Petersson literally invented the 12-string bass.  His basses have multiple outputs and he splits his signal in many ways.  Nobody knows for sure exactly how he is crossing the frequencies. He also changes his amplifiers on a regular basis.  For me, part of the fun of going to see CT is to stand stage left in front of Petersson and look at what amps he brought out.  It’s different every time, and always totally bad-ass.  

Dan Working on Gonna Raise Hell at his Brewery. Photo by Chris Casella. Bass Tuning by Oscar.

Dan Working on Gonna Raise Hell at his Brewery. Photo by Chris Casella. Bass Tuning by Oscar.

I decided against buying a 12-string bass.  What I would want is ridiculously expensive and I’m still not convinced it would sound right.  So, the challenge is to get a distorted 12-string bass sound from a 4-string bass.  With some help from bandmate Rick Kinsinger, I started building the rig.  I have played with bass distortion for many years, and there is a major problem with it.  No matter what pedal you use, the low end goes away when the distortion is engaged.  So, the answer is to split the signal.  I use my regular rig for a clean low end.  It’s a Traynor 200 watt bass head on an Ampeg SVT ported 4x10.  For the high end, I’m basically putting a guitar half-stack on top of my other amp. This year I’m using a Sovtek 50 watt head on a vintage Music Man folded cabinet.   The high end signal is run through distortion and a pitch fork pedal.  The pitch fork gives me the octaves for the 12-string sound.  Together, it sounds killer!  

The other issue is what bass to use.  When I plug a Fender bass through it, it sounds great, but not like Petersson.  Last year I used a vintage Gibson Thunderbird.  It was perfect!  Everything I wanted.  Lately, Petersson has been playing a semi-hollow body Gretsch 12-string.  I recently found a 4-string version of the bass that is really cool.  That’s what I’m using for the show this year.  The hollow body gets a great low end tone and tons of feedback!  It’s basically a giant guitar envy setup, which has been a lot of fun. 

- Do you feel like Tom gets enough credit strictly as a bass player? 
Dan - No, I don’t think he does. I think it’s linear with Cheap Trick as a band.  They are one of the great bands in rock & roll, and most people don’t realize it.  Petersson is the same way.  If you ask bass players who their favorite players are, his name doesn’t usually come up.  It’s probably because of his crazy tone and 12-string basses.  What CT fans need to know is that his sound IS Cheap Trick.  His sound covers the entire stage.  He’s more than a bass player.  There aren’t many other examples of this.  John Entwistle from The Who is one.  I remember reading an interview with Pete Townsend talking about the reunion tour The Who did back in the late 80’s.  They decided that because of hearing damage, the stage volume would have to stay below 90 db.  The problem was that when The Ox wasn’t able to turn the full rig on, they had to hire strings, keys, and horns to sonically fill things out.  Petersson does the same thing.
 - What are your favorite Cheap Trick songs to perform live?
Dan -  I really like the heavy stuff….Auf Wiedersehen, He’s a Whore, On Top of the World, etc.
- Who are some of your other favorite bass players?
Dan -  There are so many: James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, John Paul Jones and Paul McCartney are a few.
 - Four String Brewing is going through a major expansion and you have two young ones at home, how do you find the time to squeeze in a project like this?
Dan - That’s a great question.  My time has gotten really tight in the last year or two.  We just built a new production facility on the West side, expanded the Grandview taproom, and opened distribution in the rest of the state.  I decided a few months ago to promote my two year old son, Oscar.  He’s basically running the show these days: running the brewery, booking gigs, and working as my bass tech.  He gets a little whiny sometimes, but I don’t have to pay him.  It’s a good deal.  The brewers get a little pissed off that they have to report to a two year old, but whatever.
- If I stopped by the Four String Taproom and I hear some Cheap Trick playing, what beer would go best with that?
Dan - Definitely a Brass Knuckle Pale Ale!
 - Any chance of a special edition 12 String Brew in honor of Tom Petersson making the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Dan - I think we would have to brew (3) Four String beers for the math to work.

Dan Cochran is a founding member of the band Why Isn't Cheap Trick in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? and the Four String Brewing Company. He also plays bass in Colin Gawel and The Lonely Bones and toured the world and elsewhere with the band Big Back 40. Four String Brew is available everywhere so look for it on a tap or in a store.

Tom Petersson Hoisting a Four String Brew to Honor Dan.