In the first part of the interview, we covered pretty much everything up until the late 80's, but we didn't get to your solo stuff, and Tunnels. How did you meet Marc Wagnon?
I was friends with the bass player in Dr. Nerve, Greg Anderson, and Marc was playing in Dr. Nerve. I had seen Dr. Nerve play a couple of times at the Knitting Factory back in the late 80's. When it got to the point where I was looking to put a band together, he came to mind. I think he had told Greg that he liked my stuff, he had heard Cape Catastrophe I think and liked it. I met Frank Katz at the Drummer's Collective, he was teaching there on and off. I was introduced to him by Mike Clarke, and subsequently jammed with him down at the Collective a couple of times. We would sneak into an unused room and play for a while. I was very impressed with him, and it seemed like an obvious choice to get Frank and Marc together as just a bare bones trio.
Didn't you call the group Hex at first?
Originally, yeah. I can't remember why we changed the name... I think we decided that it smacked too much of the occult. Tunnels was the name of a tune on Cape Catastrophe, and I remember we were toying around with names, and somebody said - I can't remember if it was me or not - What about "Tunnels"? It's got connotations of something convoluted, multi-dimensional - it sort of goes with the music, so we decided to call it Tunnels. I had also toyed with the name "Titan's of Chaos" which was a name I had seen burned into some wooden beams in a haunted building in Wales. We ultimately decided to stay clear of that name as well.
So you did some gigs as a trio, and then you got Van Manakas in the band. How did you hook up with him?
Through Marc. Van had played with Marc in another project called "Shadowlines", so that was the connection. Prior to putting Tunnels together I had been doing solo gigs, going out with a 4 track cassette player, a sequencer and an old Casio CD101 synth, some really primitive MIDI stuff. I did a whole bunch of gigs with that format, and it was OK for a while. It was a way to be able to play and try out new material, but I started to miss playing with other people. When the opportunity came up to put a band together to try and do some of the material from Cape Catastrophe, a MIDI vibes player was theoretically a good choice because it doesn't have to sound like a vibraphone all the time. It can do percussion parts, anything. So it potentially could have a big sound just as a trio. We added Van later on because a couple of people thought it was lacking a bit, so we thought a guitar would sort of fill it up a little bit, which it did I think. Van played with us for quite a while before moving to Nashville. We didn't really know of anybody else we could replace him with, so we went back to being a trio.
You were playing with Hex in the early 90's before Brand X reunited for XCommunication. So what was the idea behind getting Brand X back together?
I met Gil Amarillio, who subsequently started Ozone records. I met him through the Paranoise guys actually, because he had been doing a project with them. He asked me if I wanted to do a solo record and he said he could get behind me on that, of course I was enthusiastic about the idea. But he wanted something with a guitar player plus using Frank as the drummer since I had been working with him regularly, so he was the obvious choice since we had a rapport going. So then it was a choice of guitar players, I called up Bill Connors but he didn't want to do it or couldn't do it or something. Then Gil suggested Frank Gambale, so I called him and he was into doing something but he was very busy. He was playing with Chick Corea and didn't have much free time. So then I thought - Goodsall, why didn't I think of that before, Gil was happy with that. So John came to NY from LA and we frantically tried to write some stuff and record it within a really tight schedule with a small budget. We recorded it and got it done, including some stuff that was actually written in the studio. I thought it sounded good considering the time we had available. I thought it sounded like contemporary Brand X, it wasn't like the old stuff, it sounded like we'd moved onto something else.
How do you know Bill Connors?
I went to his house a couple of times and did some playing with him on his stuff. This was in the early 80's when he was looking for a bass player. I probably didn't do a very good job with his material (laughs), since it didn't develop into anything. But when the opportunity to do a recording with Ozone came up he just came to mind. I had originally heard him with "Return to Forever" in London, back in the early 70's.
Were you even thinking that this would be a new Brand X record?
Hell no!... see this is what happened next. It was originally supposed to be a Percy solo record, but it turned into a collaboration between the three of us, and then Gil Amarillio decided it should be called Brand X. I fought against this saying "I'm not happy with this, because it's a trio, its just me and John out of the original lineup, I'd rather call it something else, get away from the Brand X thing". But they really bent my ear about it, Gil and the business partner he was working with at the time, Doron Scharf.
How did Goodsall feel about using the name?
I don't remember John really getting into a debate over it. It was basically me saying I didn't want to do it, but they were saying it would sell more records with that name. So this went on for hours and eventually I gave in and said OK....... Brand X. Then John came up with the title "XCommunication", which I thought was a great title. John's wife at the time, Naomi, did the artwork which I thought was very nice.
That's her on the cover isn't it? The legs, keeping with past themes...
Right, going back a few years, most of the Brand X covers had some sort of continuity in terms of themes. Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis did the covers in the 70's and I really liked that work, it was inventive and interesting. "Livestock" and "Do They Hurt" with the legs, the venetian blinds on "Unorthodox Behaviour". So we kept the continuity, and Naomi being a photographer, came up with the artwork. Because of this we had some Brand X continuity.
I'm sure it did sell more because it had the name Brand X.
Yeah, well we never knew because we never got any money. Ozone just mysteriously evaporated like some primordial black hole.
One thing about your playing I was curious about, on the first tune on Xcommunication, Xanax Taxi. It caught me right away. There's a couple of spots where it sounds like you were playing through a wah-wah pedal, do you remember that? Maybe you can put it on and give it a listen....
(flipping through CDs) I really have to rearrange these CDs...
mp3 clip of "XANAX TAXI" (wah sound happens about 8 seconds into the tune)
Hear that? Was that a wah-wah?
No, on the Wal bass, there was a parametric EQ for adjusting the mid-range, so you've got lift and cut, and frequency control. So what you do is just turn the frequency pot, and you get that sound.
Did you install that yourself?
No, they made the basses like that. I had suggested it early on when they were designing the basses. I had originally suggested having a fixed filter that you could switch in to lift frequencies around 2.2 KHz, for fretless players that wanted more attack. They took that idea further, they used fixed filters for a while and then they came out with a version that had a mid range parametric, so the player could actually set the frequency and have more latitude over his sound.
Did your 70's Wal basses have this parametric EQ feature?
No, they just had a slide switch, you could switch the fixed filter in or out. Over the years I've had several Wal basses, and I think the first one that had a parametric was the last four string I got from them. Then they gave me a 5 string that also had a parametric. This is the five string on this recording. It's a good idea, because it gives the player more control, everybody has a different taste about which frequency they want to lift.
You never thought about getting your Ibanez basses fitted with something like that?
I might've suggested it.... What they've done, to date anyways, is to use onboard EQ, but it's fixed frequency. One thing you have to do with peizos is to lift the bottom end a little bit because they're lacking in low end, due to the finite input impedance of the fet front end. On this new one, they have a middle control, and a treble control, so you can lift or cut the high end or the mids, but the frequencies are fixed. A parametric for the middle would be cool, something you could swing between say 800 Hz and 2.5KHz would be perfect. You get players who like that slightly more woody, honky, sort of sound, where you have to lift like 900 Hz as opposed to 2k.
I think we recorded and mixed this record in about two weeks or something. There are several tunes where I would've liked to have spent more time mixing, but it got to a certain point where we looked at the dreaded clock and said "thats it, let's move on".
Sometimes its better that way; The more you mess with something the more you can screw it up.
I've heard records that have supposedly taken two years to record, and the bass drum sounds like someone went to the supermarket and got a cardboard box to kick. That's the other extreme I suppose.
I can think of a hundred records like that - you spend so much time recording, over-dubbing, mixing, mastering... they end up sounding like you spent so much time polishing it, and it sounds clinical and sterile.
Thats the danger. For myself, personally I go nuts if I'm in the studio for too long, .......no windows... I can only listen to the same piece of music so many times before I start to get fed up with it. So for me I can't take too long on something, at least without a long break.
Yeah, you start to become numb to it, you can't tell if it's good or not.
Yeah, and I'd rather use a take thats got some cockups on it, as long as they're not too bad but has some good energy and expression, over a take that's sonically perfect but dull performance wise. Also, I like to play tunes out on the road before recording them. That's what we did on the last Tunnels record. The previous one, "Progressivity" was a good record, but on some of the tunes I went in there and played them cold, having never heard them before. Later on we went out and played them on the road, I started finding more interesting bass lines and began to experiment with them. I prefer "The Art of Living Dangerously" to "Progressivity" personally, its just got more of that stuff, that energy which makes it more exciting.
This is one of your tunes (on the CD playing now)...
Kluzinski Period... there's an interesting story behind this. Ms Kluzinski was a U.S. immigration officer back in '78 when I first moved here, I was here on a work visa to tour with Brand X. I was married and everything and I stayed on to get a green card. So I went downtown and applied for the green card and Ms. Kluzinski was the officer I had to deal with and she wasn't nice at all. I was down there numerous times, Joyce went down there with me once and gave Ms. Kluzinksi some lip, which didn't help. Anyway, it ended up, after like several weeks of wrangling with Kluzinski saying "you have to leave the country!" whilst loudly stamping my passport. She said "you have to be out by Thursday, if you're not out, you'll be arrested". She was just an unpleasant character, chain smoking all the time, just nasty and negative. So she literally kicked me out. I went back to England, Joyce came as well. I then applied at the US embassy in London. They interviewed both of us, very polite, and OK'd me for a green card. Then we came back. Marc Wagnon also dealt with Kluzinski when he got his green card, which was a pretty weird coincidence.
So that's the background of the name of the tune.
So, back to the early 90's... Right after XCommunication, you did the first Tunnels record, with Marc, Frank, and Van.
Yeah, I cant remember how long afterwards, but I think it was within a year.
And that was at the urging of Ozone records?
Yeah, well we had wanted to do a record with Tunnels, and they gave us the opportunity. You know, doing this sort of music, it's really hard to find record companies that are interested.
They're not breaking down your door to give you a record deal...
No... and I think now it's even worse. It's almost impossible to get a record deal doing this sort of stuff, unless you're really well known.
So at least with Ozone, we got those two records out, although we never got paid anything, and they went out of print. Although Buckyball has re-released both of them.
I guess you weren't worried about copyright issues with Ozone...
No, and legally it was cool, because we wrote to them, telling them what we were going to do and we never got a response.
So did you think about contacting Lumley or any of the old Brand X guys, and ask them about using the name Brand X? Was there anyone that had the right to the name?
I think Hit & Run music did, and there was some concern about that, but subsequently nothing happened. We just did it, and nobody bothered us about it.
If they had, some issues might've come up that could've been bad for them. They might owe us money etc. I'm sure they know about this stuff, but figure it's not worth the bother.
Moving through the 90's, Manifest Destiny was next.
Again, another opportunity came up to do a record, and that was from Shawn Ahearn who was living in LA, and he knew John. So there was a proposition to do a Brand X record and we jumped on it. Like I said, it's difficult, and opportunities don't come along like that often. That record has an interesting twist again, because Shawn Ahearn originally hooked us up with Lipstick, which is a German label. They came up with a budget to do a record. We recorded it in LA. Again, it was kind of a tight budget, tight schedule, again we were writing some stuff in the studio; it was kind of difficult. On that we used Frank Katz again, and this time Marc Wagnon, so it was kind of like Tunnels plus John. John also brought in Franz Pusch, for some keyboard parts.
So you suggested using Marc?
Yeah. I suggested Marc since I'd been working with him, and John was OK with that. So we did the record in LA, recorded it, mixed it, finished it. Lipstick heard it and said, "this is not Brand X, it doesn't sound like Brand X, so we're not going to put it out". So we were like.... Wow!!!
How did David Hentschel get involved in producing it, he's fairly well known.
Oh yeah, glad you reminded me. Shawn Ahearn had suggested him, and I knew David Hentschel since he had worked with Genesis. I actually worked on some film music with him, back in the 70's. There was a film with David Hemmings in it, called "The Squeeze". It was a cops and robbers type thing, a crime story. Hentschel wrote the score. He called in myself, Phil Collins, and Dave Mason of Traffic to play on it. On this particular day I screwed up big time - I woke up that morning, and realized I had no money, no cash at all, and I was supposed to be at the studio by 10am in central London. So by the time I had walked to the bank, which was about a two mile walk, got some cash, got on the train to the studio, I was about an hour late. So I got there and Hentschel's manager, I've forgotten his name, got right in my face with this big grin and said "You're fired". (laughs) So I was standing there, kind of wondering if I should just pick my bass up and leave. And I looked at Hentschel, and he was just kind of smirking. So I stuck around. I think the guy was pissed off, but he was just messing with me. I realized I was still on the job so we started working. It was union scale, good pay. Luckily, we got through the music really quickly, it just went flawlessly, despite Dave Mason coming in totally drunk (laughs). We just whizzed through it, and it sounded pretty cool. So everything worked out, and I was off the hook.
When the movie came out, did you like it? Did you even see it?
I don't think I ever saw it in it's entirety. I think it was a flop, despite David Hemmings at the time being a big star. Through the late 60's and 70's, he was part of the sort of rat-pack of England as it were. The last thing I saw him in, was "Gladiator", with Russell Crowe. He died fairly recently, about a year ago I think.
Is that the only film score you've worked on?
Yeah. I'd love to actually do a film score, but the opportunity has never come up.
You mentioned once that you like David Lynch.
Yeah, a friend of mine once sent him a copy of Cape Catastrophe, but there was never any reply. I really like his films. Eraserhead, Blue Velvet...
Talk about abstract...
Yeah... I'd have fun doing music for something like that.
So Hentschel, he's also worked with Elton John, and I think he mentioned doing something with the Yellowjackets. He's really good, he's got great ears, he knows how to make everything sound good. And I think he did it for probably less money that he's used to getting. So we finished the record, and the Lipstick guys just said "this isn't Brand X" and didn't want to touch it. So Shawn somehow raised some cash to buy the master from Lipstick and he put it out. It was quite interesting since I started getting cold feet before we even finished it, because of the way the Lipstick guys were acting. At one point there was a journalist there, hanging out in the studio, and he was going to do an article on the band. We started wondering if he was a German spy (laughs).
Did he interview you?
Yeah, and I think he subsequently did an article for a German magazine. Anyways, they hated the record. But where we were coming from, we didn't want to do a record that sounded like early Brand X, we were trying to move on, and explore some different territory.
Did they want something that sounded 70's?
Presumably. We definitely wanted to avoid something that sounded like generic fusion, you know, music for washing dishes, we didn't want to go that route. The record did see the light of day, fortunately, and I was really happy with it for the most part. It showed another side of the band that hadn't been heard before, and again, with the amount of time that we had to do it, it came out well.
How would you describe the difference between XCommunication and Manifest Destiny? The progression, the overall sound of them, because they are pretty different.
XCommunication was a darker record, and a bit more... loose. There was a lot of improv going on within structures. It definitely has a dark edge to it. Manifest has brighter stuff, and it's sonically different somehow. Also I think that's because of the personnel involved, that always affects how it's going to sound. Also the time period you do it in is going to affect how it sounds. People often say to me, "why don't you guys have a reunion, get the original guys together". Practically it wouldn't have happened because the guys are all scattered around the world, and even if you get the same guys together playing the same stuff, it would still sound different than it did back then. Everybody's playing has changed, recording technology has changed, things just don't sound the way they did 25 years ago. So I think any recording is kind of locked into the period that it was recorded in, there's a connection there.
So you never had any interest of getting Pert, Lumley, all those guys together for another Brand X record?
No, I really haven't had any interest in doing that, plus it would take a pretty big budget to do that, because you'd have to get all these people together from all around the world.
Are you in touch with any of those old Brand X guys?
Sort of. Robin Lumley is in Australia, I've had some communication with him. Morris Pert is in Scotland, I wrote to him but he hasn't replied, so I don't know if he's pissed off or something. Apparently he's being very productive, he's got a studio up in the Highlands. Phil is living in Switzerland, I haven't seen him in years and years. He was invited to a recent gig we did in Switzerland, but he didn't come. Peter Robinson is in LA, doing mostly film music. I haven't heard from him now in a few years, but as far as I know he's still there. John is in Minnesota now.
Why'd he move there?
I don't know. His current lady is from there, I think, she has a house there, and it was a convenient place for him to be.
Are you still in touch with him?
No... he doesn't have email. He's not a computer sort of guy (laughs). He had a computer for a while, and he said that everytime he switched it on, it said "invalid systems disk". So I said to him, you didn't leave a floppy in the drive did you?, and he said "Oh yeah... my fractals disk...". He had some program for making fractals. So the last time I saw John was when we played at Nearfest, which must've been around June of 2003.
I saw Patrick Moraz recently in Switzerland, and he's worked with John recently, but he hadn't talked to him in a while either.
Yeah, he's in NY, but I haven't seen him in the flesh for a couple of years, but I talked to him on the phone about 6 months ago. Out of everybody, he's the one I bump into the most.
What about Kenwood.
I haven't seen him in a few years. His mother lives almost right across the street from here, she has a music school. I think she's had that going for years. A lot of kids around here study music there. Joyce saw him over Christmas at a restaurant across the street. He's teaching at Berklee in Boston.
Haven't seen or heard from him in... 20 years. Last time I saw him was at an MTV New Years Eve party that somehow we got tickets for and went. I don't know what the hell I was doing there actually... but we bumped into him there. That's everybody I think...
What about John Giblin, who played on some of the studio recordings?
Right... I don't know what he's doing now. I heard he played with Simple Minds for a while, but don't know what he's doing now. The last time I talked to him was when we were recording, in '79, or '80. The only people I've actually seen in the flesh since 1980 or so, are Mike Clarke, Peter Robinson briefly in LA, Kenwood, when he's in the neighborhood visiting his mother, and John of course. I bumped into Phil around 1981 at a party in NYC.
So back to the mid-90's, you guys toured in support of Manifest Destiny.
Yeah, we toured Japan and Europe, with Pierre Moerlen on drums.
How did you hook up with him?
Frank bailed out... he had some problem with his passport. To make a long story short, he had no passport, and no means to get one on short notice, so he couldn't go anywhere. I think it was Shawn Ahearn who suggested Pierre so we said OK, we've got to get somebody. And that was really stressful because Pierrre had to fly from France to LA and then started rehearsing immediately after a long flight so he was struggling a bit. We had these fast and stressful rehearsals, and then we went off to Japan to do some gigs.
Did you know Pierre from Gong in the 70's?
Vaguely. I auditioned for Gong years ago, in the 70's, and failed (laughs). I rehearsed with them, and they kept pulling out all this notation which to me looked like fly shit, and I was like, well I can't read this... so we played on some stuff for about half an hour and they said... "let's go to the pub for half an hour" (laughs). So we went around the corner to a pub. I thought we were going to go back and play some more, but after a few pints, they said "that's it, we're not going to play anymore"so I went home. But that's when I first met Pierre, they were very nice people, but I wasn't much use to the music. He remembered that audition because he said - and this was years later, something like "sorry about that, not working out..." (laughs).
On that '97 tour, while we were in London, we did some tracks with Jack Bruce's son, Malcolm. He was doing a record, Pierre and I played on about 4 tracks. I like Malcolm's singing and songwriting.
There's a track from that session on the "X Files" compilation...
Oh... I haven't heard that... that makes sense, that Shawn Ahearn would put something from that session, just to get it out...
So how were the tours in Europe and Japan?
They were OK... but they weren't great because we never really had time to rehearse properly. Japan, in reality, was an extension of the rehearsals, everybody was still trying to learn their stuff. By the time we got to Europe we got much better, Pierre was worked in.
The crowds in Japan were very good. England was horrendous. We were there for like three weeks or something. The first gig was at the Jazz Cafe in London, a nice venue. It was great, the place was full up, or almost full. I was feeling really happy, you know, people are coming, this is going to be fun. It's always better when people show up (laughs). The next night we played in Oxford, and the promoter wanted to pull the gig. He said they hadn't sold any tickets. So anyway, we talked him into not pulling the gig, so we played and there was hardly anybody there. All the subsequent gigs, like Manchester, Leeds, Bristol... there were like 50 people max.
That's too bad, that's your home country.
Yeah - I hadn't played in England for 20 years so it was pretty disappointing, to go back to your home turf and nobody's interested. Then we did some gigs in Italy, Switzerland and Germany and things were OK again, decent turnouts.
I want to go in another direction, and bring up a few other names. When I think of somebody that might sound sort of similar to you, I think of Mick Karn. Do you know Mick?
Yeah, I met him in Japan some years ago. He and Richard Barbieri were in Japan (the band) together. Yeah, I can hear some similarities. He even came out and said I was an influence on him, which was very flattering. But what he's done is taken something and turned it into a whole thing of his own. He's distinctive. I mean everybody takes something, influences from other people. I was influenced by Mingus and took things from him. You use other people for inspiration, and they're usually a bit older than you. You tend to go through that in your younger years. You take in all this stuff, and turn it into something that is more "you", and I think that's what he's done. I like a lot of his work, what I've heard.
There was a Japan record called "Tin Drum", which was pretty much pop music, but it was good work; different. I thought the rhythm section stuff was interesting, and Richard Barbieri's sonic approach was interesting. Very advanced at the time, which was 20 years ago. I also heard a track from one of Mick Karn's solo records, just in passing, somebody played it for me. I can't remember exactly what it was, but I liked it. I think it might've been from "Dali's Car".
I really like the stuff he's done with David Torn.
Yeah, David really loves Mick's playing, I know he's used him a lot.
Is there any other player that you think sounds similar to you?
I can't think of anybody. I've actually gotten accused of being a Jaco Pastorius clone...
I don't hear it at all. I know alot of other big Jaco fans, and I know they don't hear it either. Did you ever meet Jaco?
Yeah, I met him briefly two or three times when I was teaching at Drummers Collective. The first time, I had just taught a lesson and I took a break and went out to get some coffee. I came back into the building and I could hear somebody playing my bass... I was like.... wow, this guy is really good, I wonder who it is... So I went in, and there he was playing my bass, and he says "is this yours?". And I said, yeah, and he says "nice axe man". Then he wandered off. A couple of days later he came in again, and he was looking a bit frazzled... and he said "I have to go to Belgium tonight, and I haven't been able to sleep". So I said, there's a health store up the street, why don't you go buy some chamomile herb tea or something. He was very complimentary, he said that Kenwood had told him about me. He was very polite. I saw him a few weeks after that, when Kenwood was doing a solo gig, where he was playing everything by himself. I went down to help him with his gear; he had a mixer, some MIDI stuff. Anthony Jackson was there, recording it, on some sort of early digital recorder. Jaco just showed up and was being kind of obnoxious. He was walking around the stage as Kenwood was playing. he was a different personality from when I previously met him, when he was very pleasant and mellow.
I assume you had heard some of his stuff at that time?
Yeah. I can't remember what I heard first, either his first solo record, or the first one he did with Weather Report. In England all the bass players knew of him and were impressed with what he was doing. I can't think of anybody who had a bad word to say about him.
Who are some of your favorite players? Just sticking to electric bass.
I like Alphonso Johnson. I think he doesn't get anywhere near as much credit as he deserves. He's technically really good and he's really expressive, when he's playing it's like he's talking to you, he's very lyrical. And Anthony Jackson I like. I like the sound he gets, and he's very, sort of agile... he's bouncing around, but the bass is still there, if you know what I mean. He functions as a bass player by keeping the bottom end going, but he's jumping around, musically and sonically.
Do you remember the first time you heard him?
First time I heard Anthony? On record it was probably with Steely Dan, which doesn't really show him off that much I suppose. But after I was living here, I heard him at this place called McKell's, a bar on the west side. He was playing with Michel Camilo, and Dave Weckl. And I was like wow, he's fucking good, great player. I talked to him after, and said something like, "great stuff Anthony". I'd met him before at Fodera's factory, I worked with them briefly. They were making basses for Anthony. I met him at their place one day, we happened to be out there at the same time and he drove me back into Manhattan. Soon after that is when I heard him at McKell's. Anyways after the gig I said something like, "good stuff Anthony, good sound". And he was like - "Nope. My sound was fucked, the subwoofer blew up". (laughs)
The last time I saw him was with Wayne Krantz, pretty recently. I enjoyed that.
Yeah, I noticed Anthony's setup at Wayne's gigs. It looks like he's got a bi-amp setup, with a sub and a full range cabinet, sort of like a mini-PA. He's got a very full range sound.
Yeah, there's a lot of bottom, but all the notes have an edge to them, very defined.
And he's there like an hour and a half before the gig, setting up.
Yeah, he's methodical. And he's a very nice guy too, every time I meet him he's very polite and friendly.
Anthony, Alphonso, anybody else you like?
There's quite a few players that I like.... Michael Henderson, on those Miles records, I like his stuff. You could argue it's not as technically advanced as Jaco, or Alphonso, or whatever, but it's good stuff, every note counts. Funky in a sort of spatial way. Very important stuff those Miles electric records. Dave Holland, I like his electric playing, even though he's primarily an upright player. And Steve Swallow, he was one of the first electric players to do more advanced stuff. In England there was a guy called Cliff Barton, he played with Georgie Fame briefly. He died at about 24 or 25. Had he lived he probably would've gone on to be well known. I remember hearing him with Georgie in Liverpool one night, and he made a big impression. He was more advanced than most of the electric players at the time, I'm talking about the late 60s now.
There was a period in bass playing, in the late 80's when everybody was doing that slap stuff, and that was driving me crazy. I went to Germany once to do some gigs, and I was hearing all the guys over there and almost every last one of them was slapping. In the end I couldn't take it anymore, I was slapped out (laughs). Bass playing seemed to go though a phase then where it almost became like a guitar, you know, even if they weren't slapping, but playing pizzicato. They all had this high-end sort of sound. Stylistically it sounded more like a guitar player than a bass player to me, and I didn't care for that at all. A lot of those styles are predictable. I'm not trying to say there's anything wrong with having some high-end on your sound, but personally, I like to hear bass playing with some low end and some low parts in there. When stuff becomes predictable there's a problem. Generally in music, I love stuff that's unpredictable, whether it's in the composition, or soloing, or just sonically.
Even Buckethead, I did some solo gigs on the same bill with him a few years ago in Japan. At one point he pulled out a bass and started playing it instead of guitar. He started playing some open strings and he had this sound.... some pedal notes - I don't know if he was making it feedback or if he had a fuzz box. I don't know what the hell he was doing, but he was doing something with the sound, and it was like - wow.... this is fucking cool!
But soloing on a bass can be a disaster - if you take a solo and you've got nothing to say (laughs), then it's better to not take a solo at all. It can be a difficult instrument to solo on. All instruments are challenging, but bass is particularly challenging in that respect. Some players feel like they have to prove something, like, this is my chance to show everybody that I can do something, but pulling it off is another story.
What about upright players that you like?
Well, Charles Mingus of course, he's a big influence. There's quite a few that I've listened to, like Richard Davis, Jim Garrison, Scott LaFaro, Paul Chambers... I had a particular affection for Mingus. There was something really spontaneous about his stuff, and kind of crazy in a way. You know, sort a wild quality in his recordings. You can hear him shouting at the band, glasses rattling, etc. There's just something magical about his stuff. I love a lot of his compositions as well, "Fables of Faubus", stuff like that. I also like Miroslav on upright.
Are you familiar with Squarepusher? When I listen to Cape Catastrophe, it seems that some of the things you were doing in the late 80s, conceptually, with just a bass and machines, is similar to what he started doing in the 90s.
Oh yeah. The first thing I heard of his - I don't have the record, and can't remember where I heard it - but I remember thinking, wow, this is interesting. It sounded like fusion... like 70's fusion, but it was techno-ish. The programming was impressive too, the way he put the drum sounds together reminded me of Cobham in places. And he had some Rhodes type sounds in there. I have a copy of one of his recordings here, "Budakhan Mindphone", and that's some wild stuff; but there was some effect that he was using which repeats a lot and it was a bit fatiguing on the ears after a while.
He's a bass player as well...
Yeah, although there wasn't any bass playing on that one. I really like the first stuff of his that I heard. I should get some more and listen to it.
I give alot of credit to the techno community. A lot of musicians my age completely trash that stuff... "that fucking computer nonsense", but I don't feel that way at all. I had an interesting experience about 12 years ago in Wales. Three of us had gone camping for the weekend, it was me, my son, who was about 12 at the time, and a good friend of mine from Wales who is a techie. So we set up a tent on the top of a 1500 foot hill in central Wales, miles away from anywhere. We just wanted to get away for the weekend. We had a HF transceiver and a VHF transceiver and some antennas strung up so we could keep in touch with the world. Anyways, it was a Saturday night, we cooked some dinner and had a campfire going, it was a really clear night, with a lot of stars out. After some beers we turned in, got in the tent, got to bed in some sleeping bags. Just as I was falling asleep I heard this sound.... then I realized it was techno music. I was thinking, what the fucks going on... The other guy woke up, he was listening as well. What it was, a rave had started up in a clearing in a forest about 2 miles from where we were. My first reaction was total annoyance, but after a while I started really getting into it. We found out later that there were about 2000 kids there, in this very remote area. I was sort of interested in the social side of it as well. Apparently they post the location on the internet just like an hour or so before it happens, and everybody drives out there. The raves go on all night, or until the cops get there. After that I started listening to some techno music, the rave that night started it off.
The techno guys do interesting things. They don't necessarily syncopate the bass with the kick drum for example. So they get away from what has almost become a religion in rock music; that the bass player always has to syncopate with the bass drum. If you were doing a studio job, and you didn't stick to this, they'd think that you couldn't play. Sometimes the engineer would say, "what's up with your time?" I'm serious, it became that much of a style... and it's still going on to a degree. But the techno people will change it around, put the bass on the upbeat. Sonically I think there is some really interesting stuff going on there. I'm into all of that. I'd actually like to do something like that with Tunnels.
Any projects of late?
No, just trying to write some new material for Tunnels, and possibly a solo thing. Did I mention Richard Barbieri's record, "Things Buried"?
I'm not sure if it's out yet. You wanna hear a little bit of it?
They mixed the bass really well.
So you recorded this in Wales?
Yeah. I was going over to visit my family, but I told Richard ahead of time when I would be there and he arranged some studio time at Brynderwen studios in Snowdonia. He also used Andy Gangadeen (Massive Attack) on drums. We spent a couple of days recording and I played on 4 tracks, it was an enjoyable project. I think Richard will be selling the CD through his website.
I've also recorded quite a bit of bass for singer Clodagh Simonds from Dublin over the past couple of years. Brian Eno has been helping her to get the project together. I'm not sure when my contributions to it might come out since I think it's coming out on a succession of EP's. Also, there is a new Tunnels record in the can waiting to be mixed, John O'Reilly is playing drums on this one. I also want to do a new solo record since I haven't done one in 15 years, I just have to get off the pot and get motivated and try and come up with something interesting.
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