IDLES tell whynow about the basslines that made the band

Ahead of the release of their new album TANGK, IDLES' powerhouse bass player Adam ‘Dev’ Devonshire tells whynow about his most influential and favourite basslines.


“This album is driven by gratitude and the power of being held and carried by the beautiful force of our audience, and more importantly, the energy force created by IDLES’ and our people’s exchange,’ the Bristol post-punk band’s frontman Joe Talbot recently told The Big Issue about their new album, TANGK.

IDLES’ impending fifth album – co-produced by Nigel Godrich, Kenny Beats, and the band’s very own Mark Bowen – sees the soul-seekers preoccupied with the human condition and connection. It’s a connection the industrious band have sought and nurtured across years on the road. Though at this juncture in their career, the necessity for communion is reciprocated from their ever-growing fanbase according to their powerhouse bass player, Adam ‘Dev’ Devonshire.

“We’re playing 50-60 less shows than we’ve done in previous years,” Dev notes in regards to their upcoming tour in support of TANGK. “I think for [2017 album] Brutalism we were playing nearly 200 shows a year. People are coming to us, rather than us going to them”.

As they prepare to take TANGK to the masses, Dev, the fulcrum of IDLES’ punishing and purifying sound, gave whynow the scoop on the basslines that inspire him, influenced his playing style, and his fail-safe favourites to spin on the decks.

The Fall – ‘Blindness’

“I play it at every sound check. I absolutely love that bassline, though by Mark E. Smith’s own admission, he ripped it off of a Roots Manuva tune.. so it’s probably ‘Witness The Fitness’ by Roots Manuva. But nah, I’ll stick to The Fall. There’s a groove to it, the relationship between the bass and the drums on that tune. It’s just got a mean groove, I really dig that tune. 

I went to watch them play at Reading Festival, maybe in 2005? 2006? I knew a little bit about The Fall, but wasn’t massively into them. But I went to watch them and they played ‘Blindness’. After that I went and delved straight into them. There’s a lot of stuff to get through, it was kind of intimidating. I just got some money together and spent it all on records by The Fall. Seeing them live at Reading though, it was pretty damn good. It’s played with gusto and a bit of attack. In the earlier albums of IDLES, that’s what we were known for. Having a battle with your instrument.” 

READ MORE: The Most Anticipated Albums of 2024: From IDLES to Yard Act via MGMT

The Rapture – ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’

“I think this track will be played at an indie disco night, every night, for the rest of time. It’s such a cool track, it’s got such a good bassline. It’s got a real pocket and groove I just really dig. I fuckin’ love it so much. I never get bored of it. That whole scene at the time coming out of New York, the DFA Records stuff, I definitely embraced the dancier side. Like !!!/Chk Chk Chk, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem [who guested on the band’s single ‘Dancer’], a band called Radio 4. It was that melding of dance – which I love – and guitar music. I love house and techno. It was a beautiful amalgamation of the two. It was so fresh to me. ‘House Of Jealous Lovers’ in particular. 

Me and Joe used to DJ before we started IDLES. I’d play it every time. You know if the dancefloor is kind of failing, you just whack it on. We DJ’d at TVI in New York either last year or the year before, and played it at a DJ set in New York. It was pretty special. And it went off of course.”

READ MORE: End Of The Road Festival 2024 announces lineup with IDLES, Slowdive, Lankum and more

The Stranglers – ‘Peaches’

“What a band. There’s just something proper dirty and filthy about it. I like basslines that have a menacing groove. That makes you do the bass face, makes you curl that lip. Just the tone of ‘Peaches’ was really influential in earlier IDLES stuff. It’s my favourite bass tone ever committed to an album. J.J. Burnel, man [The Stranglers’ bassist] he’s something else. I saw an iteration of The Stranglers quite a while back, they played at the Bristol Academy. You just forget how many bangers they’ve got. Long may they continue, it’d be great to see them again.”

READ MORE: IDLES debut fresh tracks from ‘TANGK’ on Euro tour

Justice vs SIMIAN – ‘We Are Your Friends’

“That bassline is filth. I love electro and techno, like I said. This is one of the tracks from that era that just blew my mind. It has that rubbery funk to it, but sounds nasty as hell. Gnarly bassline. Me and Joe and Bowen saw Justice do a DJ set in Bristol, just as this track was released. I remember my mate put the night on, I can’t remember the club, though. Then Justice dropped ‘We Are Your Friends’. I was like, ‘What. the. fuck. is. this.’ An absolute stonker of a tune. 

There were a lot of like-minded people fucking around with synths, then adding guitars in at the same time. Like Late Of The Pier, like Klaxons, like Soulwax, all these great live bands that opened up these possibilities for indie music. And people are going back to revisit it now. One of our mates is one of the [three] drummers for Soulwax – he plays in Turbowolf too – and he just looks like he’s constantly having the best time. That was just such an eye-opening era, for what you could do with being in a traditional band. Then came Caribou, ‘bands’ that became dance acts. ‘Gift Horse’ is very much in this vein, when me and [IDLES’ drummer] John [Beavis] came up with the groove to it. There’s little touches of it in our stuff, it’s always in the back of our minds.”

Joy Division – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’

“It’s classic. It’s iconic. That word gets bandied around a lot for things that aren’t iconic. But, to me, it’s the greatest song ever written. It’s the reason I play bass guitar. No matter how many times I hear it, it’s still an incredible piece of work, and I’ll never get bored of it. I wouldn’t play bass if it wasn’t for Peter Hook and Joy Division. My nan and my grandad bought me a bass guitar, because I wanted to, well, play something. So I went into my first ever music lesson with a tape of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, being like ‘I want to learn this’. 

My mum used to play a lot of eighties stuff, like Tears For Fears, she would play Joy Division too. I just always remember it. I feel like I’ve known it my whole life. The beauty of music isn’t it, when it feels like you’ve known it forever. I love it when you just get music like that, when it feels like home.”

Keep up to date with the best in UK music by following us on Instagram: @whynowworld and on Twitter/X: @whynowworld

Leave a Reply

More like this