Then Comes David: The Bass Sound of David Wm. Sims

Fans of the post-hardcore movement that grew and blossomed in Chicago during the late 1980s and early 1990s know the name The Jesus Lizard, but for many outside of this extremely devoted (and minuscule) following they may serve merely as a footnote; the other side of the Nirvana, “Oh, The Guilt” 7-inch single, that band from the Clerks soundtrack. The sound they developed alongside bands such as Big Black, Shellac, Fugazi, and Jawbox among others, however, would come to define a musical movement.

At the heart of this band, and every band, was the punishing rhythm section: David Wm. Sims and Mac McNeilly. David is arguably the quintessential post-hardcore bass player having served not only in The Jesus Lizard, but also in the equally influential Scratch Acid and Rapeman before it. His bass tone is immediately distinguishable for it’s deep, low-end growl that still manages to maintain perfect note clarity through thick distortion.

While David’s first musical instrument was a Fender Squier electric guitar, as many guitar players do he soon purchased a bass in order to join a band; he recounts in the Jesus Lizard’s aptly titled Book┬áthat, “Not knowing anything about basses, and being poor, my plan was to buy the best-looking one I could find for $250 or less. The Memphis had a nice classic look to it and was exactly $250, including the case.” David was initially one of two guitar players for his first band Scratch Acid before a series of events led to David Yow taking over as singer for the band and Sims replacing him on bass.

The Memphis bass that David refers to was a Fender Jazz Bass copy manufactured by the Memphis guitar brand during the 1970s. The brand was a subsidiary of Yamaha and well-known for producing many fine copies of American guitars and basses during the time. The copies proved to be too faithful to Gibson electric guitars in particular, which led to a lawsuit against Yamaha and the Memphis subsidiary and the eventual shuttering of the company altogether.Image

This bass has served as David’s main bass for over thirty years and has been featured at every Scratch Acid and Jesus Lizard show he has ever played, up to and including the reunion shows played from 2008 to 2010. Of the bass Sims had this to say:

You probably couldn’t get $100 for it at a pawnshop. It’s a tool, and I use it to make a living. I’ve replaced the bridge, the tuning keys, and one of the pickups, so it’s not a collector’s item. I like high action, playing with a pick, and single-coil pickups.

David is less particular about his bass amp, having not used the same rig exclusively for thirty years, but relies heavily on Gallien-Krueger amps, specifically the Gallien-Krueger 800RB. He has utilized Ampeg SVT amplifiers, mainly the Ampeg SVT-CL in the past, and used a Traynor TS-200 head during the aforementioned reunion tour.


To achieve the distortion he is associated with he commonly uses a RAT distortion pedal with the distortion set at 11 o’clock, the filter at 3 o’clock, and the volume at 1 o’clock.

rat distortion

David Wm. Sims serves as enduring proof that the key to a unique tone is finding the gear that is right for you. At you can search through thousands of basses, amplifiers, and pedals from across the United States. It has never been this easy to find and buy your next piece of equipment; even those hard to find copies and hand-made one-of-a-kind masterpieces can be found with a click of the button.

Find the gear that will be your best friend for the next thirty years at

By Bill Kurland