TONY LEVIN'S ROAD DIARY (Continued)
May 6 - Los Angeles - Rehearsals for SEAL Tour
Production rehearsals for the SEAL TOUR are under way. The meaning of "production rehearsals" is that theyíre to try out the sound and light systems, in addition to the band fine tuning itís act (usually, the band doesnít get to fine tune anything, but I must say this time, weíre actually allowed to work on the music too.) I canít tell how the sound is coming, being on stage all day, but the lighting is very impressive.
There are some notable items backstage as well as on the stage. For the tour, Iíve brought the "Crimson Valet" road case with my trusty Saeco espresso machine. And, an addition this time; Recording with Paula Cole and her band, I was impressed by the "Juice Man" juicer they had in the studio, and carry on the road. So, of course, Iíve now got one, fitting neatly into a drawer in the Crim Valet. Now Iím starting the day shopping for carrots, apples, ginger, and the like. That partís not bad, but Iím finding cleaning the machine at dayís end to be quite a chore. (Didnít think about that part! Could be a long tour if I get dishwater hands.)
On stage, Iíve got something just as exciting: the new Trace Elliot 1000 watt bass amp head, with their new "BFC" cabinet (which, I suspect, stand for "Big F... Cabinet!) As you might imagine, the rig is very powerful - the Ďoverheadí from all that power is very helpful with the heavy low end needed for Sealís music. Trace kindly shipped this one over here from England because, I believe, theyíre not quite available yet in the U.S.Seal Tour Dates (Final Schedule):
May 11, Los Angeles
Finished rehearsing for Seal's tour - now in a few days we'll finally start doing shows. Yay! There have been still more changes in the tour dates (did I ever call them "final tour dates"? I hope not!) I don't even know the changes.
Not much notable happens at rehearsals. One day Seal asked Paul Mabin, one of the singers, if he could play a bass line on "Latest Craze" (I'm busy playing bass synth on that song) and Paul, who's never played bass, is now a bit embarassed about his new job. I, of course, rib him constantly, asking when he'll start making suggestions to me about MY playing. One advantage he has, not having played before, he's not bothered by the fact that Seal's bass, which he's using, is strung backwards for left handed playing.
Played on another "Tribute" recording this week. This one, for music of Van Halen, was also produced by Bob Kulick. (I've had Ďlook alike' photos of him and me here on the page, now relegated to archives.) The track was "Pretty Woman" and musicans on it were Aynsley Dunbar on drums, Albert Lee on guitar, Gunner and Matt Nelson, and me. Bob asked Ansley, Albert, and me, separately, if we'd ever worked with each other -- nobody remembers for sure but I think all three of us did some rehearsing together way way back in the early '70's. I'll have to research what it could have been for. (Arrgh... it's a drag to not remember music you've played on!)
Anyway, on the 'questionaire' for the Van Halen tribute cd liner notes, I mentioned having played with Eddie Van Halen on a Les Paul Tribute show. Eddie wrote an instrumental piece for that, and it was a thrill playing with him. The first time I'd met Eddie, was before that. He was at A&M studios playing bass on Sammy Hagar's album, I was working with Pink Floyd. Sammy told me that Eddie'd been practicing bass, trying to play a part of mine. Eddie Van Halen, TRYING to play a part of mine?? I realized quickly it couldn't be one of my usual, easy-to-play ones... must be "Big Time", at that time a recent Peter Gabriel release, on which Jerry Marotta had drummed (fast, of course) on the bass strings while I merely did the left hand fingering. Eddie was actually playing the thing by himself - amazing. But, since I hadn't met him, the opportunity was there for kidding him. What would I say when he introduced himself to me and said he was trying to learn my bass part? "Hey, kid, us bass players are FAST" or, how about, "Oh, that part, that was nothing - I usually play faster than that. You should stick to the guitar." Alas, I wimped out, and simply told him how it'd been done.
First Seal show is Friday in Las Vegas. Assuming I can find a moment to shoot some photos, I'll finally get some live shots up here on the page, to replace the rehearsal stuff.
May 14 - Las Vegas. The tour has finally begun.
Seal and the band played tonight at the House of Blues here in Las Vegas. I thought I might not get any photos at this first concert, but Seal kindly posed for me just before the curtain went up. During the show, I have lots of logistical moves; getting the synth, basses, upright, and electric cello all ready and plugged in for when theyíre wanted, also managing the wires from my in-ear-monitors - it seemed a wise time to forgo taking photos. (O.k, I shot one of Seal during "Princess," which I donít play.) The opening act, Joan Jones, will be with us for the whole tour. Iím told she has a web site, and weíll link to it (and Iíll send them some photos of the act) when I find their url.
This House of Blues is, as you might expect in Las Vegas, attached to a casino - that of a new hotel here, the Mandalay Bay. Staying in Vegas is always a strange experience, if you donít like to gamble. There are slot machines and huge garish ads everywhere, starting at the airport baggage return. Most hotels have casinos in their lobbys too, and on the walk to the restaurants. So some of us ending up hiding in our rooms, except for when we play, (as happened with Crimson when the band played and stayed at the "Hard Rock" Hotel.) Weíre staying, though, at a quiet hotel which actually has no slot machines.
Itís always exciting, at the start of a new tour, finding out what the nature of travelling will be like. Every band, and road manager, has itís sense of what kind of hotels and bus will be appropriate for the band. Sometimes the more luxurious hotels arenít much better, and can even make some musicians feel uncomfortable that theyíre not dressed well enough to walk through the lobby. Then, thereís the price of room service at a top notch hotel! Anyway, here at the beginning of what should be a long tour, weíve been put in a very nice hotel - but Iím told the quality will vary during the tour. I think thatís more fun - some variety. After a lot of nights in different hotels, itíll become confusing to remember which room to go back to (the hotel keys are usually unmarked cards nowadays.) Brian (Blade) called my room this evening after soundcheck, lost in the hallways, having forgotten his room number. And, itís only the FIRST day of touring! The band bus wonít join us until Monday, in Portland OR. Then weíll find out some fun stuff: how many of us are in each bus, how new and nice the busses are, everybodyís sleeping habits, listening to music habits, smoking habits.... itís kind of like joining an army platoon.
The show was great. Seal is a terrific performer, and itís exciting being around him on stage. There were the usual first night surpises (I turned around to play one song section on the cello, bow in hand -- found that Dave, my tour tech, had removed it from the stage, preparing for the next song. Had to just listen to that section! Later, I removed the belt amplifier of my in-ear-monitors to leave the stage after the first encore. Suddenly the band started the second encore ("Move On Up") and I had to play it with earpieces in, but un-attached.)
One thing thatís different from the shows I usually do is the audience demographics: itís simple -- there are lots of women in Sealís audience, and they love the music. For the many years Iíve been touring with King Crimson, itís quite a different situation. Almost all male, and the occasional female usually appears to be a girlfriend dragged along by an enthusiastic guitar player or drummer. (First song, heís pointing at Fripp or Bruford, sheís looking bored. Fifth song, heís still going nuts, sheís gazing around the audience. Eighth song, theyíre arguing. After intermission... theyíre gone!) With Peter Gabriel the audience was similar in the early days of his solo career - male Genesis fans. Things changed after Peter had some hit singles. At that time (I think "Shock the Monkey" was the song being played on the radio) we couldnít help notice the appearance of more women in the crowd - and bigger crowds too.
Now we have a second night in the same venue - a chance to smooth out the show. After the show, at about 2am, weíll fly a charter plane to Portland where the next one will be. From there on, itíll be travel by band bus.
May 17 - Portland
We flew from Las Vegas to Portland after our second Vegas show. The charter flight left at 2:45 am. Checked into the hotel here at 6:30 am. So the day off, with production rehearsal at night, wasnít all that restful. I did find time to visit Powellís Bookstore - a must visit in Portland - and even talked them into carrying my book (not a great deal, really, since they're only carrying 2 of them, and I left after buying 5 books!)
Monday's Portland concert was very good, again (seems to be a theme so far on this tour.) And, after the show we boarded the bus that will be our home for much of the U.S. tour.
Tim, our driver, tells me the bus is 1994 vintage. It's 45 feet long, was part of the Stones tour earlier this year. I'm fashioning a "Bus Page" which will be up on the site in a couple of weeks, so I'll save the photos for then.
May 18 - Vancouver .
Arrived at 5:30 am, and with 3pm baggage checkout, there isnít much time to enjoy the great sights here. I did make it to my usual stops: Trees Coffee Co. for an espresso, Lush (a great soap store!) to replenish my seaweed kelp soap, and some clothes shops for much needed stage shirt. Tonight we'll travel after the show to Seattle, where great coffee awaits!
May 19, Seattle - So many cafes, so little time!
We arrived, as usual, in the middle of the night, the after-show bus trip from Vancouver having put us all just a little past the point where you can't stay awake any longer. We knew how rough it is to be wakened after sleeping 10 or 15 minutes, but it happened again. Checked in at about 3:30am, and, probably like the others, I didn't get to sleep till 6:30. (And I'm finding that if reading about html doesn't put you to sleep, nothing will!)
On finally arising, I skipped my usual workout to get some Seattle coffee. Right across the street from our hotel I tried a local cafe - it's amazing how in this town, seemingly any person walking down the street knows more about tamping the coffee down for a perfect cup of espresso, than most workers in cafes across the rest of the country. And here they understand that by "short" or "solo" you mean not to fill a big cup full of brew. When I order an espresso in most places, especially unknown ones, I ask for "A short, solo espresso. Please, make it as small as possible." Typically, the response is "Do you want a double?" I reply, "No, a single, but make it as small, with as little in the cup as you can." Then, 3 out of 4 times, I watch the coffee machine dump about a quart of water through that scoopfull of coffee, and am given a brimming full cup of weak, diluted stuff they want to call espresso. Though always tempted to ask "What would you have made me if I asked for a full cup?" I always keep the sarcasm to myself, take a sip, and usually leave the rest. But, not in Seattle! The first one was excellent. With friends to meet, and soundcheck, I'll wait for tomorrow to hit "Espresso Vivace", my favorite spot, and as obsessive a cup of coffee as you can find anywhere.
Last night in Vancouver, Jon Anderson and Steve Howe, of YES, came by the show. They're finishing up the new album with the group and seemed remarkably rested and energetic after months of studio work. They tell me the tour will start in the Fall. We only had minutes to reminisce about the 1990 tour I was on with them (in an incarnation called "Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe.) Sadly the studio owner, Bruce Fairbairn, had just died this week, in a sudden and unexpected tragedy.
I spend my bus time working on learning html so I can make my own page. This page, as well as the rest of the site, is prepared by Dan Beach, a very professional web master who gets my ramblings, bulky sized graphics, and other ideas onto the web pages. Perhaps unwisely, I'm getting the itch to try a page, off of this page, completely on my own. Probably that will be like giving the pigs control of the farm (hey, maybe there's a good "Animal Farm" analogy to be found in the Rock touring biz... I'll work on it.) but anyway, it's keeping me busy in my spare time.
Now it's the morning before leaving, the band turned down an offer from Microsoft to come very early to their facility and see a screening of the new "Star Wars." But I did finally hit "Espresso Vivace" for a sublime caffe latte. I took along Gary Catona, the vocal trainer who's along on the tour. He was duly impressed.
May 29 - Phoenix.
Tour is progressing as you might expect. The shows are fun, audience loves dancing to the up tempo tunes, and Seal's singing on the ballads. Tonight's show was a very warm one, over 90 degrees in Phoenix at the outdoor venue. A few of us, looking for the concert catering after soundcheck, mistakenly wandered into the wrong dining room. The people eating there didn't seem to be the venue workers or crew, but we left without asking, since many of them were wearing guns. Turned out to be the eating room of the "Arizona Guns and Arms show and sale."
Back in L.A, on a day off I took my daughter Maggie to the "Hollywood Rock Walk" to see her dad's handprints in the sidewalk. My intention was, of course, to photograph her with her hands in the prints. A musician walking out to of the store (Guitar Center) thought he recognized me, and asked if I wasn't Tony Levin. How embarassing was that: caught not only looking at my own handprints in the sidewalk, but taking photos of them. The guy probably thinks I come there all the time to look at the sidewalk.
I've been doing some html writing on the bus, and have finally put together a page on my own (as opposed to the other pages on this site, in which my ideas are put to fruition by Dan Beach, the very able web designer.) What more appropriate to do a page on than the tour bus itself. If you don't mind some quirky web design, take a look at the bus page.
June 2, Houston.
HOT... that's what it's been lately. Of course, the show itself it 'hot', and still fun to play, but the SouthWest has been broiling this week, and there we are, playing outdoor shows in Phoenix, Austin, Dallas, and tonight Houston.
I've had more social life than usual on the road: my daughter Maggie joined me for the L.A. and Phoenix week, enjoying the bus as she usually does (she was first on a bus tour at age 1, when she briefly joined the Tim Finn tour I did that year.) Then she flew home and my wife Andi joined me in Austin, for our first anniversary (!) and for a few weeks of bus touring (!!!) In Phoenix I visited my cousins Sandii and Don. Then in Austin, I hooked up with King Crimson's Pat Mastelotto, (we discussed the band, but there's no definite news of Crimson plans.) Pat helped us find a much needed Scrabble game for the bus. Between lunch and after the show, it was probably more time Pat and I have had to hang out than in the last year.
Dallas is the home of Andy Moore, who was on the road with me for years as bass tech with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. Andy's also a main component in the invention and manufacture of Funk Fingers. It was him I turned to, at a sound check long ago, when Peter had suggested putting drumsticks on my fingers, and I said, "Can we do that Andy?" (Meaning, of course, 'can YOU do that?') Anyway, Andy was happy to see me use the Funk Fingers on one of Seals songs in the show. He works at ShowCo now, putting together p.a. systems for tours. It was great to see him, and fortunately we didn't have enough time to bore everyone else with our old road stories!
Through all of these events, I was short of disks for my digital camera, (and busy taking new shots of the tour bus) so I have no photos of recent events. We'll put up, instead, a shot of Max the dog, who was a major presence in production rehearsals, and is missed on the tour (by us all - but especially "Geez," his owner - who's one of our production mgrs.)
A note about the tour venue list; Raleigh NC has been removed from the schedule - I don't know why.
June 5 - Atlanta.
Whew, I'm trying to maintain two diaries now. This one, and the Bus Page, in which I do the page design and code myself. Take a peek at it - it's sublimely useless! So, here's the deal; I won't mention any BUS stuff here, or any SHOW stuff on that page!
We just came from "Nawlins" (i.e. New Orleans) - a town where I must, as in Seattle, put aside my preference for espresso and go with the local brew (chicory laced good ol American coffee.) The show, in House of Blues, was a hummer. It's so much better for us musicians to have the audience up close to the stage (and hanging down from the balcony) it's a shame all shows can't be in such intimate surroundings. I really feel that those who get to experience Seal's performance up close like that are getting a very special treat. As with the early Peter Gabriel solo tours, they will be something to remember in future years, when an arena becomes the common venue for Seal.
I finally got an audience photo, my first of this tour. I haven't had time at the end of the show because: the last note rings out -- we're expected to put down our instruments, bow quickly and leave the stage. I, however, have "in ear" monitors in my ears, with a wire running from them down the inside of my shirt, to the back of my belt. There the wire is attached to a small amplifier, which has cables running to the floor, thence joining many other cables spaghetti-ing across the stage. (I think I've invented a new word!) I need to detach the earphone wire from the amp on my belt, detach the amp clip and unwind it's cable from the belt, put it carefully on my keyboard, grab the now-dangling earphone wire, and exit stage. Is it clear now why I haven't had a chance to pick up my camera and shoot pictures during this crisis? Ironically, some nights by the time I get into the wings, it's time to come back for an encore. Guess what: I have to hook it all up again, put on a bass, and come in on the first note of "Get It On." Some nights I don't get it on in time. (In which case, you could say, I don't really get it on for "Get It On" because I don't have it on.)
Where was I? Oh yes, in Nawlins. Though the band bus left for Atlanta right after the show, my wife and I stayed, mostly so we could hit Cafe du Monde after midnight, for a chickory coffee and some beignets. Delicious. It was worth having to fly the next morning and catch up with the tour. A couple of fans in the cafe said hi to me - I enlisted them to shoot a photo of me and Andi. She's cute, isn't she. (That pile of sugar covered beignets disappeared soon after, mostly into your bass playing, diary writing, up all night sugar-caffeine buzzing journalist.)
June 8 - Myrtle Beach.
We've done the Atlanta and Nashville shows, with much bus travel after shows. From here on, the distances become larger and I see on the itinerary there are 9 and 12 hour trips coming up - should be productive for the bus page!
In Atlanta we played Chastain Park, a very nice venue, with a curious difference; people have tables and are picnicking up to the concert. Could make for a gloomy night for the musicians on stage - we imagined looking out and seeing people eating instead of listening - but that wasn't the case this time, it was a very nice audience.
In Nashville, I was hoping to meet up with fellow Crimsonite ('fellow Crim?) Adrian Belew, but couldn't connect with him in time. Only had a little time at the hotel in Nashville, and anyway my favorite cafe there was closed for Sunday. At the show, our singers, Mike Harvey and Paul Mavin, had a sort of reunion with many college friends - I was there to be photographer, as usual!
In a few days we'll be taping a show for "Hard Rock Live" ('taping' ... what does 'live' mean anymore?) and hopefully I'll be able to get some good shots of the show with tv lighting.
June 12, Toronto.
Yesterday in NY City, we played an hour-long set for "Hard Rock Live." I'm told it will air on VH1 on September 25th. (And I've got the producer's phone number to check up on whether that gets changed.) The show, with a live audience, was going along fine, until Seal decided to add an un-planned song. That went well, but then as we began the last piece, the production mgr of the show had to run onto stage and stop the band, saying that they only had an hour of tape loaded, and needed to reload tape before we could play the last song. Kind of funny, though the audience was less than thrilled. I, of course, took a photo of the event.
Driving to Toronto last night, we arrived at the Canadian border at 6am, and had to stagger off the bus to go through customs. (More on this in my bus diary on the bus page.) So, it's good that today's an off day - we're all pretty tired.
I'm told that the new Liquid Tension cd will be out on June 25th. To remind readers from last year, that's a group I'm in with Dream Theater members John Petrucci, Mike Portnoy, and Jordan Rudess. This is the second release, and as happened last year, we'll probably look for a week or two when we could do some live playing - but it won't be easy to schedule.
June 15 - Washington DC
Swung through Canada in two days - the Toronto gig was a beautiful venue on a beautiful Summer evening. (Baby swans actually swam up to our backstage area.) Joni Mitchell was there, visiting our drummer Brian, who used to tour with her. It's great to see how a group of musicians like ours gets really excited about a visit from someone as talented and respected as Joni. After that show, an unfortunate speeding ticket on the way to Montreal, then another fine hotel - this one a bit odd. First of all, it was the first hotel of the tour with a metal room key. Remember them? They're getting scarce in hotels. A pretty luxurious room (though we hardly cared at 6am) but when I saw the sign: "excersize room is on second floor - room 210" I couldn't resist. Turned out to be a completely empty room. They never said there'd be anything there - I guess I was free to excersize all I wanted in that empty room. In a similar vein, in my hotel room the desk lamp had a phone jack labelled "for computers only." I plugged my modem into it, and after finding no dial tone, followed it's wire through the lamp, down to the floor behind the desk, where it dangled, no phone jack being anywhere near it or anywhere on the wall. I guess they never promised that you could DO anything with that computer once you plugged it in.
I've been given a few new "booked" tour dates for July -- not quite what I'd mentioned as possibilities - they're all in the MidWest. (We've listed them below, and as usual, I can't guarantee they won't be changed again, but I'll notify if I find they are.)
In a day or two, I'll have a very unusual... convergence, I guess you would call it, that will affect three of the pages on this site. Sherlock the dog will be visiting the tour and the bus. I don't know how I'll divide up the photos and news about it between this road diary, the bus page, and Sherlock's page. But it should provide some diversion.
June 18 - Washington DC
(Lots of links in this diary entry - keep your mouse handy!) The show here, at the former Wolf Trap venue, was sold out - the biggest of the tour so far, and a big success. A major event, though, was the visit of Sherlock the dog. My wife Andi drove down with him from New York, and we all got to share his point of view about the hotel, the bus, and backstage at the show. (No, I didn't take him onstage!) Before going further, let me point out that there are diary entries about the same subject, both on the bus page, and on Sherlock's own page. To get the full story, you might want to visit those pages too.
It's been relatively quiet on the tour, so there was considerable welcome for a little shaggy white dog, scrambling around on the bus, running up to all the crew with his inimitable tail wag that wiggles his whole rear end back and forth. Everyone also enjoyed Sherlock's inspector act; he loves to sniff around a room, looking for odd little items in corners, which he'll then present to people. (That's how he got dubbed Inspector Sherlock.) After one of the security guards had some doubt about admitting Sherlock backstage, the production office quickly whipped up a laminated tour pass for him. The fit was a bit big, but you could tell he was mighty proud of it. In no time he was considering the backstage and the bus his own. (And he got to watch the playoff's on the bus tv while we played the show.)
In other news, next Tuesday (June 22nd) Seal will play a song on the Conan O'Brian show. From what I've heard it's to be only one song, most likely "Latest Craze." Of course, these things sometimes get changed at the last minute! I've played the show before, with Crimson, and it's nice that they take some time and effort to get the band segments sounding right. We'll spend much of the day there, running it down in great detail for the short 4 minutes that'll actually be on the air.
The new Liquid Tension cd is just released. I've heard that a new-ish category of music has been named - progressive metal, and that this falls in it. (Go figure -- I'm always baffled by categories of music, cause most of the musicians I work with are trying to make music that won't fit into a category.) Anyway, Magna Carta records is the label the cd is on, and there's also a Liquid Tension page. Though we did a bit of touring last year, it's looking like that won't be possible for this release, with the other guys busy in Dream Theater, and me on the road with Seal.
June 23 - New York City.
We're close to wrapping up this first - six week - leg of the Seal tour. Then we'll have a couple of weeks off before heading out again. Since my last diary update, we've played good shows in Baltimore, Atlantic City, Pittsburgh, and the Conan O'Brian show in New York. Back when we did the Leno show in L.A, I recall Jay Leno coming over to the band after the music, to shake our hands, and tripping over my pedals. Well, after the piece last night, there came Conan, first shaking Seal's hand, then heading toward me... deja vu struck me, and I was worried, but he negotiated the pedalboard o.k. As I removed my Funk Fingers to shake hands, he quipped, "Those things were SCARING me!"
Now that Sherlock (the dog) isn't at shows, the crew is begging me to bring him again. (I think they're missing their own dogs from home.) So, at this weekends show in Conn. I'll try to bring him, for a little excitement backstage.
July 10 - New York City
This week - a big surprise to me, and to all involved: the Seal tour I've been out on has just been cancelled! Or at least, his backup band has been cancelled. At this time, I'm not sure whether or not Seal himself will be continuing on the dates, but he's told us that the tour can't afford the current band and production anymore. Of course, it's very disappointing. Surely there some lessons to be learned here - since nobody's telling me what they are, I'll try to figure them out myself and pass them on:
The tour was to have been 'downsized' due to slow ticket sales. We expected to possibly play some smaller venues in July. What's happened, though, is that a few venues were cancelled, and that made playing the remaining ones too expensive. (or at least that's what I think happened.) It's all very sad because it was such a good show - great rapport among the musicians, and a great positive energy from Seal himself. As I've mentioned before, I think those who saw it were given something special, because Seal performs so well, and I think he's destined to play very large venues some day (I guess maybe not this year, though.)
One lesson here, vis a vis Seal, is that there are no guarantees nowadays, either of high record sales, or of decent ticket sales for large venues. I don't know if the management misjudged it all, or the record company failed to support the tour as they could have (I certainly didn't see them at many shows, but that happens with some tours.) Maybe it was the lower than expected cd sales that lost the impetus for concert advertising. Anyway, Seal is re-grouping, making his plans for what will come next. He's so talented, this is only a temporary setback. But I am impressed how tough survival in the music business has become in these '90's.
For us musicians in the band, this is also a tough situation. We'd expected and hoped to have this tour go on for another year or so. After a long career in music, I've learned not to count too much on tours or albums to happen exactly as I'd like -- in fact I and most of my musician friends have lots of stories about disappointments through the years. So I'm not completely surprised by the sudden news. And I guess being a freelance musician is not the job for anyone who can't adjust to some severe changes in plans - pehaps there's a lesson here for other players, closer to the beginning of their music careers than I am - these setbacks will happen at times to all players, both in the early stages of building a career, and at a more "successful" level - you've got to not take it personally, and try to make the best of it. I'm going to try to do that myself - enjoy some time off, call back those people whom I told I was busy, get writing, and get to work on that next book (yes, another book is in the works - this one, tentatively titled "Vrooom Vrooom; 19 Years of Photos and Computer Journals from on the Road with King Crimson") And, of course, I now have LOTS of time to work on improving my web page!July 23, Woodstock
It's funny, sometimes I'm very busy, with good stuff to share on the page. Sometimes, I'm not busy at all (typical life for a musician.) And sometimes, like now, I'm quite busy, but the work isn't at a stage where it's worth taking photos of or talking about on the web page. Much of my day I'm writing music for a solo recording that may or may not materialize. I'm speaking to Terry Bozzio and Steve Stevens about trying to schedule a much-desired reunion of that trio. (First release, Black Light Syndrome, was a really good album - we wanted to tour but couldn't get it together. This time if we can work it out, we'll plan both recording and touring.) But we don't know whether that can be scheduled. I'm also trying to put together a new book, featuring my photos and journals of 20 years in King Crimson. Should be easy because the photos are taken, journals written -- but of course it's not that easy. Where do those hours in the day go? Then... there's been more and more demand for the BLUE Live cd - I've got wonderful tapes of all our live shows -- all that's needed is to listen to them all (did I mention the word "hours"? There are LOTS of those tapes!) mix them, design the package...
All of this would be about five day's work, if I were still consuming a dozen nuclear powered espressos each day - but I've chosen biking instead of caffeine - at least for the time being. (As I reached the Buddhist Monastery atop Mead's Mtn, near Woodstock, I again thanked my stars that I'd stopped, as my old heart was pounding at maximum tempo.) So I'm moving at a more human speed.
Gee, I said these projects were too tentative to write about, and then I wrote all about them anyway!
I'm getting a lot of mail asking if I'll be included in the next Crimson recording. At this date I haven't heard from the others in the band yet, so I don't know. I don't even have info on when the writing and touring will happen.
I've mentioned that I played some bass for the theme of an upcoming Canadian tv show, Peter Benchley's Amazon. Now I've heard (through the web, of course,) that it's to be a U.S. show too. And has it's own web site.
Sorry the page has been static lately - alas, so have I! I'm mostly busy writing material for a new solo album. I've got my studio (really it's a garage) set up pretty well for recording my basses - it'll take some imagination to see any other instruments fitting in there though. (Some photos are below - my pedal rack, squeezed in front of the bicycles that usually live in that part of the garage. The ubiquitous Lava Lamp that, I reckon, makes it an official studio, and what was a wall of old posters and stuff, now turning into a bulletin board for song lists and progress.)
I've still had no news about what will be coming up with King Crimson, or about the possible re-union of Bozzio Levin Stevens. We'll see.
And as for progress on the book I hope to finish this year (of Crimson photos and journals,) I'm still collecting the bits and pieces I've got all over the place. Some of them are pretty funny (especially the bad reviews, and my many quotes from Robert Fripp's interviews.) I will speak to Robert's Discipline label about possibly co-releasing the book with my Papa Bear label.
Aug. 19, New York
I've been hard at work on a number of projects. Mixing tapes of the tours last year with Bruford Levin Upper Extremities. That release will come out in Japan late this year, probably titled "BLUE Live." My hope is to release it on Papa Bear Records about a year from now, as a double cd.
A new book, b&w photos and diaries of my 19 years (so far) in King Crimson is in the works. Diaries are easy to assemble, since I wrote them in my computer. But choosing the photos, from the thousands I've taken (and mis-filed) since 1980 is a large job. I'll use many of the shots that were previously published in "Road Photos" - a book I self-published in 1984, with images from the road with many groups I'd toured with. Unfortunately I've long since run out of copies of Road Photos, and have lost the plates and many of the negatives, so that book won't be coming back. A good time to utilize some of those great Crimson photos again.
I'm writing material for a solo cd - this one not for Papa Bear Records, but a "normal" record company. (i.e. it may appear in some record stores - a sales technique I've never tried with Papa Bear!) I'm going to feature the bass on this cd (unlike my previous ones) - mostly fretless. And I hope to re-unite some Gabriel Band alumni: Larry Fast and Jerry Marotta, to play on it. I hope to have that done by November, for a Spring release.
Since there are no new photos to illustrate the diary this week, we've put up some interesting shots I came across in my "road bin" while looking for Crimson material. They're of odd places I came across in Europe: in Madrid, a museum of ham(!) In Germany, a virus cafe. And in France.. well, they're here to look at.
Sept. 7, Woodstock
BLUE Live cd is coming along well. We're mixing the best of the shows from last year's tours. Hardest thing is choosing which versions to use - they're mostly different - it's not a band to play the same way twice! For the booklet artwork, I'm going to use the photos that I put up here on the site during the tour. Possibly the web diaries too. It's looking now like the Japanese release will be a double cd. I'll follow, hopefully next Summer, with Papa Bear Records releasing the same double cd. (Ideally I'll be able to add some of my video footage from the tour, and make the U.S. version 'enhanced' cd's.) I'm also working on a solo cd of my own. A bit schizophrenic, going from studying the wild live playing of BLUE, to writing my more mellow fretless bass melodies. Then, in those spare moments late at night, I'm trying to compile King Crimson photos for the upcoming book. Not for the first time, I'm wishing I had been more organized in the filing of my photos and negatives. Mixed up, all over the place, are all kinds of tour photos - some color prints, color slides, digital, and black & white shots (whose negatives have sometimes wandered elsewhere.) In the next few months I hope to have all the good shots in black & white form, ready to go to print.
In hunting for these photos, I've come across some recent cd releases I've played on, some of which I'd never mentioned here on the site. Here's a list:
Jeff Golub "Out of the Blue" Bluemoon/Atlantic
September 18, Woodstock
They say that what makes God laugh is hearing men make their plans for the future. Here in Woodstock we've been visited by a hurricane which, among other things, did some re-scheduling of the projects I've been working on! With power lines fallen all over the my house and studio, phone lines down, and no power in the whole area, I guess it's time to admit that I'm going to miss next Wednesday's deadline for sending the BLUE Live mixes and packaging artwork to Japan. No progress will be made on writing for my solo cd either - in fact I've had to come into New York City to upload this letter and send e-mails.
The good news... well, let's see... I'll be getting more sunlight on the house with those big trees gone from my yard.... I'm getting some time away from the BLUE music, to refresh my outlook on it... I'm learning to appreciate things like running water and phone lines... I guess that's all the good news about this development.
I'm not sure what the schedule will be for the BLUE Live cd - with the delay it may be that I'll miss the December Japan release - perhaps it will come out on Papa Bear earlier than my prediction of next Summer. Maybe late this year. At any rate, it's now got a title: BLUE Nights - Bruford Levin Upper Extremities Live featuring Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, Chris Botti, David Torn in concert.
Speaking of 'in concert', I've been asked to play in concert with my friends, the California Guitar Trio. There's an upcoming show in Boulder, Colorado - though it's not official yet, I think I'll be joining them for that show and perhaps some more later in October. We became friends years ago, when their group was the opening act for King Crimson - and it'll be a lot of fun joining in their music which, like my roots, is a combination of many styles of music. I'll update here with the details of any shows.
Update, September 22:
I have a few appearances coming up. (A welcome change from mixing and writing at home.) Bass Day '99 is an event presented by Bass Player magazine and the Bass Collective - October 10 at NY Manhattan Center. I won't be speaking there, but Trace Elliot will be selling my books at their booth, and I'll be there for the day, autographing them.
The California Guitar Trio has asked me to appear as a guest in some of their shows - probably joining in for 4 or 5 songs. We're good friends from back when they toured with King Crimson as the opening act. I'm scheduled to be with them at the following, and perhaps more later:
Update, September 28
Met in New York with Manu Katche and Chris Botti, two pals from the road. They're in town with Sting. Manu was the drummer on many of the Peter Gabriel tours I've been on, and Chris toured with the "Bruford Levin Upper Extremities" group whose live tapes I'm currently mixing. Of course we reminisced over old tour stories, and of course Manu and I wondered what Peter's up to (no, we don't know!) While we talked, into the cafe walked Brian Blade (drummer from the Seal tour I finished in June) who's in town doing his own record. Small world!
Tomorrow, Oct. 10 I'll be appearing at Bass Day '99 - at the Manhattan Center in New York City. The event, presented by Bass Player magazine and the Bass Collective, has clinics by bass players - but I'll just be there at the Trace Elliot booth, autographing my books, and hanging out with the Trace Elliot folks, finding what new amps they'll be coming out with.
Monday, Oct. 11 I've been asked to join with the California Guitar Trio at their NY show at the Bottom Line. I'll be a guest on four of their pieces, and they're learning one or two of my songs from the new album I'm working on. They say we might try "Discipline" from King Crimson, but we won't be sure we can manage that piece until sound check, when we finally get to rehearse together.
Next Friday, Oct 15th, I'll be on live Internet radio from 7 to 9pm (E.S.T.) It's at eyada.com which hosts broadcasts all the time, some with guest musicians. I'm told that listeners can call in. Check it out!
Coming up: a few more shows with the California Guitar Trio:
I've finished mixing and mastering the double CD "BLUE Nights." Robert Frazza, the engineer who recorded the shows live, did the mixing on his new "Logic" computer system. Then David Torn, our guitar player - who's an expert at using the Logic system - did some tweaks on the mix, and mastered it right at his home studio. The music came out great - and there's LOTS of it. We were able to include 4 of the band's improvs (They're completely different from each other, and some sound like written pieces. Some of the titles we gave them for the CD: "Dentures of the Gods" "Bent Taqasim" and "Picnic on Vesuvius") The release will be in December or January in Japan, and soon after that, by my Papa Bear Records, here on the web. I've got till January to try to get some of my home videos from the tour onto the CD's to make it an enhanced release.
Aside from the above dates, I'll be working on writing my solo CD for the next months. I'm hoping to have it ready for April release. Deadlines are slipping by for the photo/journals book of King Crimson that I'd hoped to have out by December. I'm still trying, but maybe it's time to admit I won't have it ready till about February.
Oh yes, there are also plans to assemble "B.L.S." (Bozzio Levin Stevens) to record another album - probably in December.
I'll have updates and photos from all these projects right here on the page, as they occur.
Nov. 18, Woodstock
A few of my photos are included in an exhibition at the Center for Photography at Woodstock: "Woodstock Music & Art" featuring photography of and by musicians in this area. It runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 19.
I've been continuing work on my "Passionate Bass" cd. It's great how many musicians live in this little town. To do the drums, I've been taking my tracks over to Jerry Marotta's home studio ("Jersville.") Then some keyboards at David Sancious' home studio. Larry Fast is visiting from time to time, to do his synth parts at David Torn's home studio ( the "Loop Pool," where David will later put on some electric oud!)
Because we're recording digitally to hard drive, I've had some concerns about sound quality, and have arranged to bring in a super high quality Linn audio system to check rough mixes every few days. (I'm putting together a page for the site, devoted only to the photos and stories of the making of this CD -- alas, right now I'm too busy recording it to find time to make that page!) When we mix, we'll be using that Linn system for playback daily - and I'm considering re-mastering the BLUE NIGHTS cd's with it, for the U.S. release. (That double CD is due out in Japan in December. We're aiming at a March release for U.S. and Europe.)
For those who remember "B.L.S" (Bozzio Levin Stevens - Black Light Syndrome) we're going to record another album, next month. The first release, a couple of years ago, on Magna Carta Records, was really good musically, and we've been wanting to do a followup. Alas, schedules get difficult! Assuming we get it done in December, that release should come out mid-year 2000.