TONY LEVIN'S ROAD DIARY
WITH SEAL
February 20, 1999 - March 23, 1999

Seal (guitar,vocal), David Sancious (keyboards), Mike Landau (guitar), Brian Blade (drummer), Tony Levin (bass).
Paul Mabin and Mike Harvey (singers)

WITH SEAL - Rehearsing/LA - February 1999
(Click on thumbnails for larger photos)

Brian Blade  David Sancious  Mike Landau  Paul, Seal, Dorian  Max the dog, who's a major presence at rehearsals 

February 23. Los Angeles.. That hectic NAMM week entailed so many letters and photos, I thought I'd leave it up here for a while. Having gone home afterwards and re-packed my suitcase, I'm now back in Los Angeles, this time to rehearse for the upcoming Seal tour.

Cast of characters: On keyboards, David Sancious, with whom I've toured many times in the Peter Gabriel band. On guitar (in addition to Seal himself) Mike Landau - a great, L.A. based player who's been heard on many records. Our drummer is Brian Blade, having played with, among others, Joni Mitchell and Dan Lanois. Brian and I hadn't played together, though we were both residents of the small town of Woodstock for some time -- funny we didn't meet at a local jam there! The two backup vocalists are Paul Mabin and Dorian Holly, who have also done many tours with well known singers. The plan is for quite a long tour, so these are the guys I'll be spending my time with for the forseeable future. We're promised a full list of dates and venues, which of course I'll post right here, but so far all I know is that the first show should be on April 30th. (not much info there!) Seal will be singing at the Grammy show tonight, but without the backup band. There will also be an appearance, with us all, at the NARM convention in Las Vegas, on March 11th. More details will be forthcoming - with many weeks to rehearse, there isn't the rush of schedules and new information that usually accompanies the beginning of a tour.

Seal with B.B. King  Seal with B.B. King  Seal with B.B. King  Seal onstages 

February 26, Los Angeles

REHEARSALS with Seal are continuing, but we've finally done a show. Tonight we taped three songs on "Motown Live," a tv show, to be aired sometime in the future (I'll notify, of course.) Much fun finally playing some of the material live, and an added bonus: B.B. KING was also on the show, and performed a blues number along with Seal and the band. (I'd played with B.B. once before, on a televised special, a tribute to Les Paul, but, no, I didn't bother reminding him of that date - one of thousands he's played with different musicians!)

TOUR DATES: we've just been given some of the dates and cities, though not venues yet. The list will appear on this page, after the letter. (As with all tours, subject to change!) The tour will open in Vancouver on May 4th, and continue... for quite some time.

Last night I went to a local club to see my friend Rick Marotta play, and Sherman must've set the Way-Back Machine to warp speed, because I ran into Richard Adelman, the drummer in the first band I'd ever been in. I last remember seeing Richard in... are you ready for this... 1959. (Though I must admit he recalled our meeting briefly a mere 20 years ago.) I still remember what a good player he was back then. Subsequently, he played around a lot, but our paths never crossed. Anyway, that band, the Cavaliers(!) broke up as we entered high school, and happens to be the subject of one of the stories in my book, Beyond the Bass Clef. So, of course, we're replacing our recent web excerpt from the book with that story, titled, "Can You Bounce The Bass?"

Brian Blade's cymbal Bob Kulick studies his Arrowsmith book Bob Kulick and Eric Singer Seal's Bass Proof that Tony Levin & Bob Kulick are not the same person The mystery backup singer

March 7 - Los Angeles

The SEAL TOUR (still rehearsals, actually) continues. After taping Motown Live, we’ve had nothing but more rehearsals. This coming week there will be a short show at the NARM Convention in Las Vegas. (National Assoc. of Record Manufacturers -- HEY, I'm one of them, how come Papa Bear Records didn't get an invitation?) Anyway, then sometime in the following week, we'll play the Tonight Show.

In some unrelated events, a friend of mine, Jeff Cherun, who writes for Home Theater Magazine, had me over to his apartment to do an article about the King Crimson DVD (DEJA VROOOM.) He noted my impressions as I listened and played with the DVD for the first time (excepting the press night when I heard a little of it.) I finally got to see the "Tony's Home Movies" section, with my super-8 films of the band on the road, accompanied by what sounded to me like Project Two music. A fitting soundtrack, especially for the parts in a wild Tokyo arcade, with the whole band racing virtual cars against each other. In the "21st Century Schizoid Man" feature, I tried fitting the 1969 rhythm section with Adrian Belew's 1996 vocal and guitar. Quite a trip! Probably the most exciting part for me was hearing the music in surround sound - which makes the dense Crimson music much clearer - easier to distinguish the players. Jeff's sound system, by Linn, is so high quality, I ended up playing some of my Classical cd's on it, just for the sonic experience. Closest I've been to mastering studio quality without being in one - I hadn't realized that a home system could be that good.

Friday night I did some recording for an ARROWSMITH TRIBUTE cd. Put together by Bob Kulick, there are different players on each track. (the project includes, among others, Albert Lee, Steve Lukather, Yngwie Malmsteen, Skunk Baxter, Edgar Winter, Gregg Bissonette, Vinnie Colaiuta, Stu Hamm, Ronnie James Dio ... whew.) This session involved drummer Eric Singer and me - (Eric's played drums with Kiss, Alice Cooper and others) playing "Draw the Line." I played the Stick to avoid sounding like the original (by the way, in my opinion, that band ROCKS!) I don't know who will end up on guitar on the track, but we had a great time -- many jokes between me and Kulick - so many people have mistaken each of us for the other, though the years, that it was a good opportunity to finally take a photo to show that we're not the same person. (Even my brother Pete, who's bald and moustached himself, on seeing Bob Kulick playing guitar on tv with Diana Ross, once called me to tell me he saw me on tv, and hadn't realized I played guitar!) Anyway, that album should be out by Summer, and will be on the Cleopatra label. (Sounds like a designer toga maker.)

March 10 - Los Angeles

Heading for Vegas tomorrow for a quick show. Next week, Tuesday, March 16, we'll be playing with Seal on the Tonight Show. Till then, all I've got that's new is some cute photos from rehearsals.

Las Vegas and Tonight Show - March 1999
(Click on thumbnails for larger photos)

Seal in Vegas Sound Check in Vegas  Tonight Show dressing room door  Seal on Tonight Show  The last picture before they made me stop.  Just before Jay takes the fall.  T.L with Jason Bonham 

March 12 - Las Vegas

"Lost Wages" is how this city is often referred to, but as far as I know, we came in, played our show, and are escaping without too much damage from the slot machines which are everywhere. I grabbed an mpeg (short video) of the band on the bus from airport to hotel, and we’ve got it up here.

They say that bad soundchecks lead to good shows - that was the case here, with difficult sound in the convention style room, but a successful show for the NARM crowd. It sure felt good to the band, to be playing a show, not rehearsing. Now the weekend off, then the Leno show on Tuesday.

March 17 - Los Angeles

We spent the day at NBC studios in Burbank, setting up and practicing, to play Seal's new single, "Lost My Faith" on the Tonight Show. Eight hours at the studio, to play four minutes! But I learned some new things:
    1) You're not allowed to shoot photos from the stage of the Tonight Show. And they're very serious about this -- didn't like it at all when I pulled out my dig. camera! So, I have a couple of shots from the rehearsal, and had to get the performance off my hotel tv screen later at night.
    2) Cellular phones have some wierd emanations. There was a clicking sound in the bass amp at soundcheck - sounded like a drum machine: a regular rhythm that drove the engineers crazy. 5 techs, from both the band and the tv show, hovered around my rig, switching all my effects on and off, unable to trace the problem for 15 minutes. Turned out to be, as you guessed, the cell phone in my breast pocket, feeding it's silent signals into the bass pickup. Made me wonder how unhealthy it is, anyway, to have that happening so near your vital organs. I'm going to carry it in a bag from now on.
    3) Floor pedals are a menace. We're always tripping over them anyway, (at least I am,) but strangers to the stage never know to look out for them. After a few tv engineers tripped over them at soundcheck, I though we were safe from more disaster. But at the show itself, after Seal's song, Jay Leno came over to shake the musicians' hands. As he reached for mine, he caught his foot on my floor unit, and over he went. Friends in the live audience told me the camera caught it all, so later at night, I watched the show, camera in hand, ready to capture Jay's adventure for this page. Alas, it'd been edited out. I guess that's one reason why live broadcasts are rare!

Tomorrow, back to rehearsals. Later this week, I've been asked to record on another "tribute" project. This one is music of Ozzie! Whee!

March 20 - Los Angeles

KING CRIMSON news: there are some plans afoot. The good news is that some touring is planned for October this year, and a new album release next year - all with the name King Crimson, rather than the “projects” and “fractals” we’ve been doing these last few years. The bad news, at least for some, is that neither Bill Bruford nor I are available for that period. Robert has wisely decided to go ahead anyway, with the invitiation to Bill and me that we can come back for the next incarnation. I agree that it’s time for a Crimson release and tour - if we wait for everyone to be available, it could take years. So, like the group’s followers, next Fall I’ll eagerly await hearing the new material.

Last night I recorded on another Tribute project, this one to the music of Ozzie Ozborne. With Bob Kulick playing a scratch guitar track (don’t know yet who the guitarist will be on the final,) the drummer was Jason Bonham. (Not often I get the chance to mis-spell three names in one paragraph - I’m not sure about the spelling on any of those!) The song we played together was "Crazy Train."

March 23 - Los Angeles

COFFEE update: I found myself in this long rehearsal period without my trusty "Cafe Crim" touring espresso case - so, after a few days of anguish, I purchased yet another espresso machine. I like the Saecos I’ve been touring with, so I got another, this time a "super automatica" with automatic brewing (for the others in the band - I prefer fiddling with the blend myself!) and it's been churning out espressos at rehearsals ever since. SHANKAR, my violin playing friend from former Peter Gabriel tours (and my "World Diary" cd) asked me to add some bass to his new tracks, so last night found me at a tiny studio in North Hollywood. I grabbed some photos of Kelly, the engineer, as well as Shanks.

REHEARSALS are ending this week, and the band will travel to our various homes for a while before re-convening to tour with Seal (I'm told that there are changes to the itinerary below - I will correct it as I'm given new info.) Packing up to leave is a big job for me - I'd really moved into the apartment in L.A - especially my painting equipment is all over the place. I'd spent a lot of mornings painting - now my biggest problem is that if the canvasses don't dry in time, I can't transport them. Maybe I should hang them on the walls here, and leave them as hotel art!

COMING UP in the next few weeks; diaries and photos from sessions with Peter Gabriel, Paula Cole, Kevin Killan, Leah Zicari and more. (Or less -- it's rock 'n roll -- you never know!)

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