Robert Trujillo Bass Rig and history in Suicidal Tendencies
In this video series we reveal the Robert Trujillo bass rig and complete the Metallica Bass Rig Trilogy.
By looking at every bass, amplifier and effects pedal Robert Trujillo has ever used. In this first installment of Rob’s career, we look at his formative years with West Coasts Suicidal Tendencies, Infectious Grooves and Ozzy Osbourne.
In part 2 we cover his entire career in Metallica.
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Robert Trujillo’s early life
Born on October 23rd 1964 in Santa Monica California. Rob was born to a young couple just getting into their 20’s and explained that he had the good fortune “of growing up with parents at an age where they were appreciating music.
“My parents were like sponges when it came to music”. He declared “They weren’t necessarily gravitating to one style. You could find jazz in the household Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, but you’d also get Led Zeppelin in that mix, too. That’s what I was surrounded by.”
Rob joined his first band around the age of 14 years old, jamming with buddies and swapping between drums, bass and guitar. One of the group would introduce him to the music of Jaco Pastorious whom Rob would admire for years to come.
Originally, Rob set his sights on becoming a drummer or a keyboard player calmly stating how cool they looked onstage. Because of his situation living in a small apartment. He wasn’t able to lug a heavy piano up the stairs nor play the drums due to the noise.
Robert Trujillo’s first bass
At age 15, Rob would have some luck from his fathers’ best friend who gave him a Harmony Hollowbody bass, which did not need an amplifier.
Robert would recall the action of the bass completely off the neck. He would also draw inspiration from his father who had previously played flamenco guitar as a hobby using different strumming and finger techniques.
Rob played this bass for about a year, getting used to the instrument, practicing scales and the like. Eventually moving onto a “Fender copy with rubber strings”. Again without an amplifier.
During this period Rob was still playing with his school band mates in various incarnations. Focusing more on rock music genres like Rush, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. He explained in an interview with For Bass Players Only.
“My first playing experience really was in rock, even though I was listening to and obsessed with fusion and going to the fusion shows.”
Robert’s first real bass
Finally, Rob get his hands on a working amplifier and paired that up with a Precision bass followed by a Jazz and Gibson SG and the Robert Trujillo bass rig had started. Although the basses were knock offs, he shared “I got what I could afford”.
A hobby Rob and his father would enjoy together was fixing up second hand musical equipment and selling it on. Around 19 years old Rob had bought an Ampeg SVT and 8×10 cabinet for $300. He and his father redid the upholstery with the intention of selling it on.
Robert and the Ibanez Musician
Using the proceeds from the SVT rig, Rob bought an Ibanez Musician Bass with a Peavey amplifier
and this was his first real rig and the start of his professional career and bass rig.
Rob spent the next few years woodshedding his chops at backyard parties before studying at the Dick Grove’s school of music.
Where he also spent time playing with top 40 artists but felt like he had eventually exhausted that avenue.
“I was playing in four or five different projects, just trying to absorb it all. After a few years of that, I finally realized that I’d gotten my feet wet playing the circuit and doing the live thing, but I wasn’t really learning. I hit a limit. I wanted to go beyond that. ”
Robert joins Suicidal Tendencies
High school friend Rocky George introduced Rob to the likes of Mike Muir. Rob remarked how it all came together;
“I hooked up with Suicidal Tendencies in ’89. I was really good friends with Rocky George, their guitar player. Rocky was the one that got me into ST and I auditioned for the band. I thought it would be this massive audition with all of these different players, but they were like, ‘If you want the gig, you got the gig. The next thing you know, I’m in Europe with ST, opening for Anthrax. “”
Basses on the Suicidal Tendencies tour 1989
Upon joining ST Rob shared that he started playing a Tobias bass. However, during some early performances in the Robert Trujillo bass rig we see the Ibanez Musician and during the European tour.
Footage shows Rob playing what is believed to be a fretless Musicman Stingray 5 string. Of which he did admit to owning later in the interview. In addition to this you can also see him play fretted ray’s
Robert Trujillo’s first Tobias bass
Returning back to the Tobias bass, Rob commented.
“When I started touring with ST , I started playing a Tobias. I had that Ibanez bass. I got bored with the way it looked, and I cut it up and made it look kinda like what would’ve been the “hip” bass at the time.
Two days after it was finished, someone stole it. So all I had was a fretless, and I played fretless for a year, It was a nice custom Music Man fretless.
My friend Steve McGrath, who now plays with Billy Idol, was already playing Tobias. He said, “We’re gonna get you a custom five-string.”
They were beautiful. These were expensive basses and I ordered my first real Tobias custom bass at that time because he felt bad for me and he goes, we’re gonna get you something good. So I got the Tobias. “
He continues the story and good news everyone. He gets his stolen bass back after the perp found god. Los Angeles amirite?
Basses used on Controlled by Hatred/Feel Like Shit… Déjà Vu 1989
In October 1989 the fourth ST album “Controlled by Hatred / Feel Like Shit Déjà Vu” was released. With the bass credit listed to “Stymee” An interview with Loudersound asked Rob who is Stymee?
“There’s a lot of reasons for Stymee. “ He responded. I didn’t actually choose the name, it was inherited, so you’d have to ask Mike Muir about that!”
Although Rob toured the album and appeared in the following music videos, he was not a member of the band at the time of its recording; bass duties were reportedly handled by Rocky George and Mike Clark. The Ibanez Musician likely appears in 1989’s Waking the Dead music video, where we catch a few glimpses.
The start of Infectious Grooves
1989 would also mark the inception of the Infectious Grooves. This group was created by Mike Muir and Robert shortly after he joined Suicidal Tendencies, focusing more on musical freedom and light hearted humour rather than a strict and serious ST sound.
Additionally Adam Siegel of Excel and Dean Pleasants took guitar duties with Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction on Drums.
Infectious Grooves was treated on par with Suicidal Tendencies and the two bands often toured together, necessitating two exhausting sets per night for the pair.
Robert Trujillo bass rig with Suicidal Tendencies in 1989
Regarding Roberts amplifier setup; During domestic US ST shows in 1989, We can see Rob using an SVT 2 Pro with 8×10. Whilst on tour in Europe he most likely played loaner gear.
Lights Camera Revolution! Was released in July 1990 with 2 anthemic music video releases.
“You Can’t Bring Me Down” which featured Rob’s hacked up Ibanez Musician. Fitted with PJ pickups, gold hardware and a whammy bar.
The equally catchy “Send Me Your Money “ had Rob playing his custom fretless 5 string stingray.
The custom 5 string blue Tobias returns again on the video for “Alone”.
As well as a new promotional video for “War Inside My Head” which was originally recorded on the 1987 album “Join The Army.”
Robert Trujillo bass rig with Suicidal Tendencies in 1990
Here we can see the bass in daylight, with three pot controls and two single coil pickups. On stage is a Peavey 2×15 and possibly a Hartke 4×10.
His rack looks like it’s sitting on the bottom left of the picture but it’s not clear enough to make out. Rob would also comment that the intro to “You Can’t Bring Me Down” was played on a fretless, and took influence from Jaco’s melodies.
Infectious Grooves releases The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move 1991
Following this, Infectious Grooves released their debut album “The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move” late 1991.
Coincidently, Ozzy Osborne was recording his own album “No More Tears” at the Devonshire Studios in Los Angeles at the same time. Ozzy ended up collaborating on the single Therapy. Rob beamed that Ozzy;
“Really enjoyed the music of Infectious Grooves, and offered us a support slot on the Theatre of Madness tour:
the label didn’t want us on that tour, but Ozzy did and he single handedly fought for us to be on it, so we ended up opening for him. It was a dream come true. “
The “Therapy” music video soon followed and Rob used a 6 string Tobias bass. This was decorated with the band’s prehistoric mascot Sarsippius and nicknamed Uno Mas.
Additionally the video “Punk it up” Shows Rob playing a brand new Tobias Basic bass. This one differs from his custom, With 5 pot controls and different wood options.
The Art of Rebellion 1992
Yet another Tobias bass would arrive in 1992 following the release of ST’s 6th studio album The Art of Rebellion.
Specifically a purple 6 string Tobias with a cartoon on it was sighted on the music video “Nobody Hears”. Following this, in “I wasn’t Meant to feel this / Asleep at the wheel” we get a closer look at this bass.
With that said if you listen to the record, you’ll hear a fretless being played. Oh! And who could forget Infectious Grooves making an appearance on 1992’s Encino Man.
Still Cyco After All These Years 1993
“Still Cyco After All These Years” followed up as the seventh studio album released by ST in 1993. It essentially comprises re-recordings of the original 1983’s ST and 1987’s “Join The Army”. Mike Muir decided to re-release these tracks on a new record label to ensure the royalties were correctly distributed.
The hit single “Institutionalized” also got a makeover with a new video and Rob goes old school using his hacked up Ibanez Musician. Ampeg amplifiers continue to be seen on the ST tour in the US and Europe around 1993 with 2-4 8×10 cabinets and three SVT2 pros offstage.
Sarsippius’ Ark 1993
Infectious were also busy releasing their follow up album, “Sarsippius’ Ark”. Two music videos were released, “Party Without Freaks” and “I hate You Better”. However neither feature Rob playing any basses. Just a ukulele.
Suicidal for Life 1994
Suicidal For Life would be the last to feature guitarist Rocky George and Robert Trujillo on bass. Coupled with the video for “Love vs. Loneliness” a new tobacco burst 5 string Tobias Classic debuts.
Robert Leaves Suicidal Tendencies and the break up 1994
Not long after this the cracks were starting to show in ST. Robert would caution;
“We were working so hard. We were touring all the time. When we weren’t touring, we were making an album. That was hard work we did with our shows. I think it became very taxing on everyone in the band and it created tension. Sometimes, the tension can stir up resentment with your band mates. “
This tension would occasionally erupt into violent outbursts. With Rob admitting he was “a loose cannon” and that some physical fights could have gone “really badly.” Mike Muir also describes his resentment at the time.
“We were opening up for Metallica, playing in front of 20,000 people, and I was absolutely miserable. The manager would say, ‘The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re selling records!’ and when he said that, a lightbulb went off in my head and I said, ‘You know what? It does matter.’ Sometimes it’s hard, but it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate everything.”
Groove Family Cyco 1994
Robert Trujillo’s red classic Tobias
Infectious Grooves on the other hand remained productive. With the release of their 3rd album “Groove Family Cyco”.
Two video releases followed which showed a new direction in Rob’s gear. “Violent and Funky” introduced his 6th Tobias, this time in red. This bass can be considered one of Rob’s most infamous alongside Ozzy Osbourne.
It’s typically stylized with an oval driving sticker which says MEX on the top left of the body and DogTown Skates logo on the upper horn. It also appears the stock Bartolini pickups were replaced with single coil EMGs.
Robert’s first Fernandes bass
The follow up video “Cousin Randy” is also the first time we see Rob playing Fernandes basses. Again another infamous company which follows Rob into Metallica. The bass featured was APB-8 string in black with gold hardware Rob explains the move to Fernandes in the Ace Of Bass article.
“Tobias split up and got bought by Gibson, so the luthiers from Tobias ended up at a place called Fernandes. Fernandes made me basses for a couple years by those same luthiers .”
Robert Trujillo Bass Player Magazine article 1994
Released in August 1994 an article from Bass Player Magazine confirmed much of what we’ve already seen.
- The Tobias Classic 5 was made of bubinga, wenge, and alder; presumably this refers to the red bass
- Secondly a Tobias Basic 5-string with a blue-finish flame-maple body
- Custom painted Tobias Basic 6-string called “Uno-Mas”
- A fretless Basic 6-string
- A Fernandes 8-string
- MusicmMan StingRay 5-string
The Roberts Trujillo bass rig would include
- A T.C. Electronic chorus pedal
- Mounted DBX 160X compressor
- BBE 411 Sonic Maximiser.
- Followed by a splitter box
- Which feeds 6 brand new Ampeg SVT III heads.
- Each head powers one Ampeg SVT 810 DL cabinet.
Robert Trujillo uses Dean Markley strings
Notably, the article also included Rob using Dean Markley Magnum Strings with a heavy B – Most likely from Ernie Ball. Dean Markley officially endorsed Rob around the year 2000 stating on their website that he used Dean Markley medium SR2000’s and Rob continued to use their strings up until 2009.
Robert Trujillo bass rig in the studio with Suicidal Tendencies
Again, in the studio, Rob used a variety of Ampeg and SWR amps for a clean miked-amp sound; While his gritty sounds are obtained with a Peavey 5150 guitar amp.
He also takes a direct line, blending it with the miked-amp tracks for the final mix.
A final word on Infectious Grooves before moving on, In 1996 Rob continued to use the SVT III and 8×10 cabinet. Whilst not technically leaving Infectious Grooves, he would relinquish his bass duties in favour of his new job, with Ozzy Osbourne.
Robert joins Ozzy Osbourne
After replacing Geezer Butler of all bassists, Rob had very large boots to fill. As previously mentioned Rob had met Ozzy in 1991 whilst recording with Infectious Grooves. Rob affirmed;
“A few years later I got the phone call from Sharon Osbourne to come down and audition. I auditioned and I got the gig – the rest is history. I did seven years with Ozzy and I’ll never forget those years being on that roller coaster with him”
During the early period his basses didn’t change very much. Rob’s debut appearance with Ozzy would be at the very first Ozzfest in 1996. Primarily using his Red Tobias Classic.
Robert’s amplifiers with Ozzy 1996
Unfortunately for us, when Rob joined Ozzy, his amps and racks were typically stowed behind the set design for most of the performances.
Robert works with Fernandes
Sooner or later Rob would slowly transition over to Fernandes basses. As the luthiers from Tobias had moved to Fernandes. According to a Blabbermouth article;
“Trujillo had an existing promotional deal with Fernades. For being able to use his likeness in advertising, Fernandes was giving Robert a pile of custom bass guitars”.
Furthermore, that mean his Fernandes basses are custom and you won’t find them in the catalogue. You may even spot his signature on top of some headstocks.
Fernandes Gravity 5 in black sparkle aka the Mexican flag bass
Notably seen in Rob’s performances in Metallica. The Fernandes Gravity 5 in black sparkle and black hardware, Has a crest-like image at the back of the bass as well as a shiny Mexico flag sticker.
Robert Trujillo in the Fernandes catalogues
Rob would also appear in the 1997 and 1998 Fernandes catalogues using various custom basses and the bass in 1997 was using a Gravity 5 with PJ pickups and is the only photo of this bass.
While the 1998 catalogue shows a silver 5 string. This time adorned with a sticker just below the pickups which says “low rider” in front of a Mexican flag.
Robert’s basses with Ozzy on tour in 2000
Around the year 2000 there was another resurfacing of Tobias inspired basses, this time a black MTD bass. Of course Tobias basses were bought out in 1992, previous owner Michael Tobias left to create his own workshop in 1994 under the name Michael Tobias Design or MTD.
Furthermore, the Black MTD can be seen very clearly in the music video for “Dreamer” in 2000 and on the subsequent tour in 2001.
In addition to this, the music video “Gets Me Through” was released in October 2001 and shows Rob performing with three Ampeg 8×10 cabinets powered by two Ampeg CLs and a 1980’s MTI era SVT with rocker switches.
The Red Tobias Classic and his original blue custom Tobias also resurface on the road around the same time. In addition to ths ,the blue custom now sports an Infectious Grooves sticker on the top left of the bass. A natural looking Tobias which made a very brief appearance.
Robert records Down to Earth 2001
Contributing to the writing process of Osbourne’s eighth studio album, “Down to Earth”, Rob obtained 3 writing credits. Something Rob had always dreamt off.
“The challenge, for me, with Ozzy, was that I wanted to be able to write some songs for the guy. After about six years, it happened. I had three songs on the last Ozzy album, and accomplished what I wanted with Ozzy and toured my ass off with him. I managed to get three solid, heavy, cool songs on his album. For me to record them, and to hear his voice on a song that I created, was a dream of mine. It happened, and then it was time to move on.
Blizzard Of Ozz’ and ‘Diary Of A Madman reissues 2002
Furthermore, Rob was also credited on the controversial 2002 reissues of ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’ and ‘Diary Of A Madman.’ Replacing original bassist Bob Daisleys bass tracks. When asked about all the hubbub Rob remarked;
“Well, that was a weird situation. I didn’t even know what we were doing. I was employed by Sharon and Ozzy at the time, so I just did what I was told to do”.
Ozzy Osbourne Live at Budokan 2002
All things considered, Rob would leave Ozzy Osbourne on a high note. Notably, one of Roberts’ crowning moments was playing with Ozzy live at Budokan Japan in 2002. For this reason this concert has a grand display of Rob’s gear and included;
- The Red Tobias classic
- A new purple Fernandes with a Hinano sticker -It’s a beer from Tahiti and Tahiti is a regular surf spot for Rob
- Black Sparkle Fernandes
- And the glossy black MTD
Moreover, the Budokan show is unusual, as it provides a brilliant view of all of Rob’s cabinets on show, consisting of; Three Ampeg 8x10s and two 4×12 Hiwatt cabinets. A Bass Player Magazine article in 2003 would later confirm Rob using
“Two SVT 3’s for tone, one SVT 4 for power, and Hi-Watt 4×12 half-stacks. “
It does appear HiWatt endorsed Rob but it’s not totally clear what else he may have used at this time.
Jerry Cantell Degradation Trip 2002
Following a lull in the Osborune work schedule. Rob collaborated with Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantell on his solo album Degradation trip. When asked about what he used on the album Rob responded.
“I was mainly using Fenders for Jerry’s record. I had a red Tobias which was the main bass in terms of the active electronics for the heavier stuff.”
In a second interview he later added;
“I also used flatwound strings on a Danelectro. That music called for specific instruments.”
He then appeared in the music video for Anger Rising, using the very same red Tobias.
Robert records with Black Label Society
After, Rob would record alongside then bandmate Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society in 2002. Rob contributed to the album 1919 Eternal. Racking up bass credits for the songs “Demise of Sanity” and “Life, Birth, Blood, Doom”.
He also accompanied the band on the road using a black with white pickguard custom Fender Precision with a wee sticker of Andre the Giant near the bridge. As well as a second custom Fender Precision in white with two black racing stripes. The Red Tobias Classic also appeared, dog town sticker and all.
Getting the call from Metallica
Hinted earlier ST and Metallica had toured together in 93 and 94, moreover. This would be the first time the band would have met Rob. Kirk Hammet had taken up surfing around the year 2001.
Additionally one of the Metallica crew members and Kirk were on the hunt for new surf spots and decided to give likeminded surfer Robert a call. Furthermore, they asked if Rob could show them some cool surf spots down in Southern California. Rob then spent a week surfing with the pair and cheered
“We really connected and it wasn’t like we were connecting musically. We actually were connecting as surfers, first. “
Then, when the time came for Metallica to audition new bassists, guess who’s name came up. Rob was perplexed.
“I’m in Tahiti on this surf trip and I check my voicemail and it’s Lars and Kirk saying, “Hey man, come down! Come down and jam with us!” And I was like “Oh, man this is cool!” So I actually had gotten the call”.
By the time Rob raced up to Metallica HQ not long after, he joined the band in the studio to watch the process unfold around him. The following day, the day where he was meant to play, he was nursing a thundering hangover thanks to Lars Ulrich. It was time for him to audition.
Robert Trujillo Bass Rig in Metallica – Part 2
Comiinngg up in part 2. We continue the story of Robert Trujillo and Metallica .
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