Ben Shepherd

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Ben Shepherd
Soundgarden @ McCallum Park (2).jpg
Shepherd performing with Soundgarden in February 2012.
Background information
Birth name Hunter Benedict Shepherd
Also known as HBS
Born (1968-09-20) September 20, 1968 (age 45)
Okinawa, Japan
Origin Seattle, Washington, United States
Genres Alternative metal, grunge, alternative rock, heavy metal
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Bass, guitar, vocals, drums
Years active 1980–present
Labels Sub Pop, A&M, Burn Burn Burn
Associated acts Soundgarden, Hater, Wellwater Conspiracy, The Desert Sessions, Mark Lanegan

Hunter Benedict "Ben" Shepherd (born September 20, 1968) is an American musician best known for playing bass in the rock band Soundgarden since 1990.[1]

Early life[edit]

Shepherd was born on an American military base in Okinawa, Japan. His family moved to Texas, then settled on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where Shepherd grew up, playing in numerous punk-rock bands with friends before he was a teenager. After graduating from high school, he worked as a carpenter and a laborer. He became involved in the grunge scene when he worked as a roadie for Nirvana and played in Tic Dolly Row with Chad Channing. He was being considered for the open guitarist slot (after Jason Everman was fired) in Nirvana when he joined Soundgarden.

He first auditioned for the role of bassist in Soundgarden in 1989, immediately after Hiro Yamamoto left, but was turned down because he could not play the songs well enough. Jason Everman was hired as the band's new bassist, but for unknown reasons, was fired immediately after Soundgarden completed their promotional tour in mid-1990. Shepherd was then hired.

Musical career[edit]

Soundgarden (1990–1997)[edit]

In addition to his role as bass player, Shepherd's role as a singer and songwriter increased during his tenure with Soundgarden. On his first recording with the band, the studio album Badmotorfinger, Shepherd took part in writing the following songs: "Slaves & Bulldozers" (music, co-written), "Jesus Christ Pose" (music, co-written), "Face Pollution" (music), and "Somewhere" (music and lyrics).

In 1993, Shepherd and Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron formed a side-project band called Hater. Shepherd sang vocals and played guitar in Hater, in addition to writing several songs on the band's first release, a self-titled album. A second album called The 2nd was recorded in 1995 after Superunknown tour's end, but was not released until 2005, ten years later. During the lengthy hiatus, Shepherd found time to complete the tracks that would become The 2nd between his collaborations with Wellwater Conspiracy (another side-project with Matt Cameron and John McBain) and several other artists. Shepherd was the lead vocalist on the first Wellwater Conspiracy album, Declaration of Conformity.

In 1994, Soundgarden released Superunknown, which featured Shepherd compositions "Half" and "Head Down". "Head Down" was heavily influenced by The Beatles, while "Half" was marked by an Indian flavor and was the first song on a Soundgarden album for which Shepherd sang lead vocals. Shepherd has said that "Half" was a song he wrote in case his daughter ever wanted to learn guitar.[2]

In 1996, Soundgarden released Down on the Upside, in which six of the sixteen album tracks were lyrically and/or musically composed by Shepherd. The tracks were: "Zero Chance" (music), "Dusty" (music), "Ty Cobb" (music), "Never Named" (music) "Switch Opens" (music) and "An Unkind" (music and lyrics). Shepherd once said he penned the music for "Never Named" at the age of sixteen. "Ty Cobb" was the first song Shepherd wrote that was made a single.

In 1997, soon after the release of Down on the Upside, the band broke up due to a clash of artistic differences between Kim Thayil and Chris Cornell.

Post-Soundgarden (1997–2010)[edit]

In late 1997, Shepherd was part of the first, now rare, Desert Sessions collaboration (Volumes 1 & 2), on which he played bass and guitar.

In 1998, he quit Wellwater Conspiracy for unknown reasons. Matt Cameron took over lead vocals.

In 1999, he played bass on Mark Lanegan's album I'll Take Care of You.

In 2001, he co-wrote the song "Blues For D" [3] on Mark Lanegan's album Field Songs. He was also one of the largest instrumental contributors on this album alongside Mike Johnson.

In 2005, Shepherd formed a new band, Unkmongoni (the band's name was what Tarzan used to yell to the animals to run and be free), but the band no longer appears to be together. In that same year, the second Hater album, The 2nd, was released.[1]

Shepherd has one daughter named Ione. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington and has a house on Bainbridge Island. Shepherd is also the partial owner of an upscale Seattle bar called Hazelwood.[4]

In 2008, following the sale of the warehouse Soundgarden's equipment was being stored in, Shepherd was robbed of all his equipment including guitars, basses, and amplifiers collected and used through Soundgarden's career and 2 records he had completed. Following the incident, a downtrodden Shepherd decided to quit music altogether and became a carpenter's assistant until he was eventually coerced into making his solo record In Deep Owl and reuniting with Soundgarden shortly thereafter.

In an August 2010 interview with Spin Magazine, Shepherd stated that he was "totally broke" and was sleeping on friends' couches.[5] Shepherd has since downplayed the statement.

Soundgarden reunion (2010-present)[edit]

On January 1, 2010, Chris Cornell confirmed that Soundgarden would reunite, with Shepherd playing as their bassist again. The band played it's first in 13 years on April 16, 2010 at Seattle's Showbox theater under the anagram Nudedragons.

The group released the compilation album Telephantasm in September 2010, followed by King Animal in November 2012, their first studio album since 1996. Shepherd wrote the music to the songs "Been Away Too Long", "Taree", and "Attrition", co-wrote the songs "Been Away Too Long" and "Rowing" with Chris Cornell on the new album.

The band continues to tour frequently, arranging time around Matt Cameron's schedule in Pearl Jam, and Chris Cornell's acoustic tours.

Solo project[edit]

In the summer of 2010, Ben finished recording his latest solo project. He began writing the record in 2009. It started out as an acoustic project, before morphing into a very electrified concept album in the end. Shepherd originally intended for the songs to be just voice and acoustic guitar, but soon Matt Cameron and Matt Chamberlain offered up their services on drums. The album was recorded by Dave French, at a few different studios including CHAOS in (Georgetown), The Studio With No Name (Interbay). The album was finished, mixed/mastered at Robert Lang Studios by Adam Kasper and contains a recording of frog ribbits.[6]

On June 25, 2013, Shepherd announced he would be releasing the solo album entitled In Deep Owl on August 27, 2013 under the name HBS. Shepherd premiered the first single "Baron Robber" on Spin.[7] The drummer on "Baron Robber" is Joseph Braley who also drums for Seattle based band The Mother's Anger and the band Reignwolf.[8][9] Featured musicians include:

Musical equipment[edit]

Shepherd uses GHS Bass Boomers Heavy gauge (50-115), and likes them to be as worn as possible. Shepherd has used Leo Quan Badass Bass II bridges and continues to use them on almost all his Fenders. Most of the time Ben plays fingerstyle, but does not limit himself to not playing with a pick and has been seen doing so on songs like "Limo Wreck", "Blind Dogs", "Never the Machine Forever", "Ty Cobb", "Birth Ritual", and various older Soundgarden songs written with Hiro Yamamoto on bass, who himself played with a pick. Most Soundgarden songs Ben tunes to standard (EADG) or Drop D (DADG) tunings, even on songs where the guitars are tuned differently, but other notable tunings include EEBB ("My Wave", "Been Away Too Long",) Drop DG ("Fell On Black Days", "Fresh Tendrils", "Superunknown,") Drop CG ("Maiman,") CGCG ("Burden In My Hand, "Head Down"), and Drop CFCG ("Fourth of July").

Pre gear theft[edit]

  • 1977 Fender Jazz Bass - Given to Ben by the Wood brothers Kevin, Brian, and Andy, "Tree" as named by Ben because of it's heavy weight and thick neck, was Ben's go-to instrument for his entire stint in Soundgarden before the band's break up in 1997. Featuring black paint, a black pickguard and a pearl block inlay and bound maple fretboard, it was used throughout the bulk of recording Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, and Down on the Upside, and saw heavy touring during the Badmotorfinger era and later tours. Ben also had an identical late 70s Jazz Bass used for alternate tunings distinguishable by 4 strips of white tape above the pickguard resembling "the bars" as adopted by Black Flag. Both had Badass II bridges.
  • 1967-1970 Fender Jazz Bass - Black with a matching headstock and a "block & bound" rosewood fretboard, used as Ben's main bass during the Superunknown tour. Featured prominently in the "Fell On Black Days" and "My Wave" videos.
  • 1967-1974 Fender Precision Bass - Olympic white, rosewood fretboard and a Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge, with a Leo Quan Badass II bridge, as used with most of Ben's Fenders. Used early on and featured in the "Rusty Cage" video.
  • 1981 Fender Precision Bass - Finished in "Capri Orange", part of a limited edition of colors Fender only did in 1981 known as the "International Colors". It had a maple fretboard and kept it's bridge and pickup covers on. Used during the Superunknown tour and seen in the "Black Hole Sun" video.
  • 1963-1965 Fender Jazz Bass - Finished in extremely rare custom color "Sherwood Green", featured a matching headstock and stock metal covers. Used on MTV Live and Loud, filmed in London in 1996.
  • Fender Telecaster Bass - Possible Japanese '51 re-issue modified with a "PJ" pickup arrangement. Used on the Lollapalloza '96 tour.
  • Music Man StingRay - Black model with maple fretboard used in 1996.
  • Mosrite Ventures Bass - 2 pickup model finished in a rare silver color. Used on Soundgarden's performance on Saturday Night Live, Lollapalooza '96, and early Down on the Upside dates.
  • Rickenbacker 4001 - Black model used toward the end of Lollapalooza '92.
  • Rickenbacker 3001 - Sunburst model used around the Superunknown recording period.
  • Fender American Standard Jazz Bass - Ben used a couple of these from '94 to '97, including Black and Olympic White models with rosewood or maple fretboards.
  • Fender Mexican Standard Jazz Bass - Red model used early in the Superunknown tour and various white with white pickguard models destroyed out of frustration during the last months of Soundgarden's final tour.
  • Mosrite Joe Maphis/Combo Bass - Used with Mark Lanegan Band.
  • Hofner Violin Bass - Used in the second version of the "Pretty Noose" video among other places.
  • Vox Cougar Bass
  • Micro Frets Stage II Bass
  • Gretsch Country Gentleman - Late 60's model, with Hi Lo 'Tron pickups.
  • Gibson L-50 - Used to write "Head Down" among other things.
  • Gibson Les Paul Custom - 3 pickup Bigsby model re-issue. Used in Hater.
  • Ampeg SVT
  • Ampeg 8x10 Cab (x2)
  • Mesa Boogie 400+
  • Mesa Boogie Big Block 750
  • Mesa Boogie 1x15 Diesel Cabs (x2-4)
  • Mesa Boogie Road Ready Cabs (multiple 8x10's, 4x10's, or 2x15's)

Ben kept a mixture of Ampeg and Mesa, but led more to the Mesa's toward the end of Soundgarden and almost used them exclusively on Down On the Upside.

Post gear theft[edit]

  • Fender 50s Precision Bass - Made in Mexico, Black, gold anodized pickguard, 1 piece maple neck with a Leo Quan Badass II bridge and a stereo input jack for durability. Ben owns two of these and also owns and uses a "Road Worn" version in Sunburst. His main Black P is called "Baron" and it's twin backup is named "Mulo". The Sunburst is named "Wolfgang."
  • Fender American Vintage 62 Precision Bass - "Lena" Olympic White, tort guard and as before, Badass II bridge and stereo jack.
  • Fender American Vintage 65 Precison Bass - Olympic White, mint guard, Badass II, stereo jack.
  • Fender Japan 51 Precision Bass - Blonde finish, named "Blood". Same modifications.
  • Fender American Standard Jazz Bass - Ben owns two of these, both in Charcoal Frost Metallic, and both featuring the same mods as his other basses. Mostly used during performances with Chris Cornell on Acoustic. His favored is named "Echo", with his #2 named "Ivan".
  • Rickenbacker 4001 - Named "Balderdash" and used infrequently.
  • Fender Telecaster Bass - 70s model, black on black featuring Fender's Wide Range "Mudbucker" in the neck.
  • Gibson RD Artist Bass
  • Fender FSR Deluxe Precision Bass Special - Limited edition PJ setup P Bass, with a black block inlay and bound Jazz Bass neck and finished in Seafoam Green Metallic. Features "the bars" sticker.
  • Music Man StingRay - Black model with a maple fretboard, possibly the same "Lollapalooza '96" bass.
  • Trussart Steelcaster Bass - An all-metal bass. Built by James Trussart in France and features a PJ pickup setup.
  • Airline Map Bass - Wooden re-issue of the fiberglass guitars of the '60s.
  • Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass - Used at the Nudedragons show.
  • Hofner Violin Bass - Appears to be a bass saved from the gear theft in 2008.
  • Harmony Sovereign - Acoustic given to Ben by the owners of the OK Hotel in Seattle, shortly after their live music venue there was destroyed following an earthquake. Used throughout HBS In Deep Owl.
  • Ampeg SVT VR w/SVT 8x10's (x2)
  • Mesa Boogie M6 Carbine
  • Mesa Boogie Standard Powerhouse 1000



  • In Deep Owl (2013)

600 School[edit]

  • Live recording (circa 1982)

March of Crimes[edit]

  • Fairweather Friend demo (recorded circa 1984)

Tic Dolly Row[edit]

  • Live recording (1987)



Wellwater Conspiracy[edit]

With Mark Lanegan[edit]

Acoustic & Electric Guitar, Bass, Piano, Vocals, Lap Steel Guitar (Wrote track 10: "Blues for D") (2001)