INTERVIEW: HENRY STARZYNSKI (SHALLOW TEETH)

Photo: Lee Hoffman*

Henry’s unique bass style, and AWESOME tone first attracted me to him for this issue, you know, aside from his luscious beard. Shallow Teeth are Buffalo’s current post hardcore authorities, whom we proudly featured on the cover of our April 2022 issue: Lessons in Dissonance. This time, however, we’re taking a hard look at Henry’s bass playing history, his gear, and his views on Shallow Teeth’s emergence onto the Buffalo heavy music scene. Let’s get into it.

1. How long have you been with Shallow Teeth and how did you first come to join the band?

I had taken a break from music after the last project I was involved in (Makhai) had dissolved the previous year, I believe I joined around March of 2020.

2. How did you get your start playing bass and what made you gravitate toward bass over other instruments?

I started playing bass when I was 14, in high school, and very eager to play music with my friends. I initially started playing guitar when I was 12, and immediately became obsessed. After a few failed attempts at starting a band with friends, and being totally unable to find a bass player locally, I decided to purchase a bass to play in the band, and put my lead guitarist dreams to the side. Little did I know at the time how deeply I would connect with the instrument over time, and how bass would fit me much better than guitar ever could.

3. Talk about the first bass you ever owned, along with your first amp, even if it was just a little practice amp or something.

My first bass was a 4 string fender Mexican jazz bass in sunburst. Still my favorite bass to this day. It has somewhat began falling apart, so sadly I’ve had to retire it from any playing out of the house. My first bass amp was actually a peavy guitar amp, but I was (and still am not) fond of practicing by myself through an amp. I eventually moved to a Fender 15” Rumble 100 which served me very well for many many years of beginning to perform in a live setting.

4. Talk about the gear you love, specific brands, makes, models, etc.

I have a deep love for fender 4 string basses than I can’t fully explain. I’ve never been opposed to 5-string basses, but have never felt as “at home” playing a 5 string as I do playing a 4. I’ve always been drawn to fender basses, and specifically jazz basses for the most part, although I’ve begun to stray away from specifically jazz basses as of recently. Ampeg, Tech 21 and darkglass are the first names that come to mind when thinking about tone, and effects. D’addario steel wound strings and overly heavy guitar picks also play a big part in my tone, and how I aim for my tone to sound.

5. Discuss the ways your bass setup for live gigs has evolved over the years. Specifically, I’d love to hear about that ADAM pedal you’re sporting. You have one of the sickest bass tones I’ve heard locally, especially with your being in a post hardcore band.

I would say around 2010 was when I started becoming seriously interested in the hobby side of bass gear, around when Sheltered by Skies began to gain local popularity. I got the cheapest 8×10 I could find, and broke my back trying to get it in and out of every venue we played for the next few years. Eventually, Nick Borgosz of Black Rock EPS (formerly World of Noise) pushed me to get an Ampeg Svt-3, and through trying multiple other amplifier heads over the last decade, I haven’t found anything I enjoy more than the trusty svt-3 overall, and have no plans to upgrade. As of recently, I moved from rack mounted compression/ effects, to an “all in one” darkglass drive effect called the A.D.A.M., or Aggressively Distorting Advanced Machine, along with a pedalboard to replace my other rack mounted tools/ effects. The A.D.A.M. has been interesting to get used to, but has simplified my set up for live sound immensely, as it includes multiple channels, eq, compression, noise gate, di with optional cab sim’s along with wet and dry, leaving endless tonal possibilities, and very consistent reliability for live sound.

6. List off every active band (has played at least one live show at an established venue) you’ve ever been a part of in chronological order.

– our final breath

– Epiphany in Florida

– I the Siren

– Sheltered by Skies

– Makhai

– Constructing the Titan

– Shallow Teeth

7. Discuss the most memorable local shows of your career. When thinking back, which local gigs stick out the most and why?

– There are a few that come to mind over the last almost 18 years. Back in high school, a local church in the town of Angola used to hold shows called “godstock”, I guess you just had to be there to understand the pure energy from those events.

Xwheelz will always hold a special place in my heart like many other local buffalo musicians, as well as the Waiting Room, and Broadway Joes.

8. Discuss your most memorable out-of-town experiences performing with Shallow Teeth or any other band you’ve been a part of. What made these road experiences so unique, or noteworthy?

We have had the opportunity in Shallow Teeth to play some really fun venues, but my personal favorite “out of town” experience has been playing at Lake Erie Speedway for a Matserie 3 day drifting event. The combination of loud cars, talented drivers, loud music, and huge circle pits/ mosh pits was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced playing music. Keep an eye out, we plan to return to Lake Erie Speedway next year for another rowdy night of jams with awesome friends!

9. List off, or promote any and all upcoming shows you have in the works that you’re allowed to talk about.

– September 17 we are playing a show in Centerville, New York, but we have decided to take a break from live performances for a few months, and redirect our focus to writing. We will also possibly be work with some new member(s), and experimenting with our sound a significant amount, so I guess this is where I’m supposed to say “big things are coming” (lol)

We are very excited to create some new material, and hope to be releasing a few new songs in the next year.

10. Looking back at your career, talk about the drummers you’ve jammed with going back to your very beginnings as a musician. Discuss the drummers that you feel pushed you to enhance your playing, or who just had a great dynamic with you in a band setting.

I’ve had the opportunity to play with many different drummers, stemming all the way from high school brass/ jazz band, to some very skilled metal drummers, and almost everything in between. Damone Jackson comes to mind immediately when I think of situations that enhanced me as a musician. I had the opportunity to play bass at a memorial service for the late, great, Jim Kurzdorfer, and it was an unforgettable experience that completely changed the way I focus while I perform.

Joelle Brzozowiec is also someone who has greatly pushed me out of my comfort zone as a bassist, and keeps pushing me to approach part writing in ways that I typically wouldn’t, and I love the music that is created by doing so.

Thanks for reading! To purchase a physical copy of this interview in our September ’22 ALL-RHYTHM edition, click here.

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