Saturday, June 06, 2009

Odds and Sods for Saturday, June 6, 2009

Yeah, yeah, I know, where have I been? It's the damn Twitter. I'm having way too much fun. And now God help me, I have my own Twitter radio station so I can post songs whenever I want and...ugh...I'm hopeless.

Anyway, there's a lot of cool stuff going on which I just can't condense into 140 characters so here I am.

Let's see. Up first, we have Julie, down in Nashville for two weeks, currently uploading Ade's music to iTunes! Hooray! Some very interesting music, both "never heard before" and previously only available on Ade's website will be on iTunes any day and if it happens before I'm ready with a new blogpost, I'll come back here and insert the link.

Also, No Treble Bass Magazine posted this amazing interview with Julie Slick.

Then there's this great article/interview in the Chatanooga Times:

"Adrian Belew Power Trio Takes Bud Light Stage
June 04, 2009

By Casey Phillips, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

Jun. 4--Adrian Belew knows David Bowie's e-mail address. Not many people can claim that, but for Belew, one of rock guitar's brightest stars, that's close to the bottom of a long list of distinctions.

Bowie is just one of the artists with whom Belew has collaborated during a nearly four-decade career. He has also toured and recorded with Frank Zappa, Talking Heads and King Crimson.

Belew's experimental, effects-laden approach to the guitar has led into many musical partnerships, but one of the most rewarding is the power trio he started three years ago, he said.

"Pretty much everything I do now is with the power trio, if at all possible, because it's such a hot and wonderful band," Belew said of his work with band mates Eric Slick (drums) and Julie Slick (bass).

"They just happened to be perfectly in tune with what I do and are so young and energetic and so focused on music that, man, it's just been a dream come true for me," he added.

Wednesday, Belew and the Slick siblings will take to the Bud Light Stage at Riverbend.

Among the songs on the set list are a number of King Crimson songs reimagined for performance by a trio and several movements from a new experimental piece called "e."

"It's very complicated, very thematic. It's kind of a rock symphony," Belew said. "It's a very challenging thing, but our fans are really liking it.

"Usually, when you play a new piece of music, people sit on their thumbs a little bit because they don't recognize it. In the case of 'e,' people go nuts."

In addition to his work with the power trio, Belew is also involved with a number of other groups, including a solo career, a reunited King Crimson and the pop/rock band The Bears.

As much as he's written, there will always be more waiting in the wings, Belew said.

"I wake up every day, and there are things I want to do, music that's just rattling around in my brain," he said. "I'll never get it all finished."


What: Adrian Belew Power Trio at Riverbend.

When:Wednesday, 7:45-9: p.m.

Where: Bud Light Stage.

Admission: $23 one-night admission, $37 pin.

Phone: 756-2211.

Related links at

Chattanooga Times Free Press music reporter Casey Phillips spoke with Adrian Belew, a celebrated session guitarist who has worked with everyone from David Bowie to King Crimson, about his new power trio, what he learned from Frank Zappa and what makes his signature guitar model so great.

CP: At your Riverbend performance, will you be playing solo or with the Power Trio?

AB: It'll be with the Power Trio. Pretty much everything I do now is with the Power Trio, if at all possible because it's such a hot and wonderful band. (Laughs.)

CP: How did the trio come together?

AB: They're both incredible. To go back in time a little bit, I had been writing, say five years ago, material with a power trio attitude in mind. I wanted to spread my wings as a guitarist and be, for once, the only guitarist in the band. (Laughs.) I figured out ways to do looping and things to fill in the gaps.

I was very hot on the idea but couldn't find the right players. I tried a couple different trios that didn't work out. Finally, when I had finally almost given up on the idea, I went to do a professorship at the School of Rock Music in Philadelphia, the original one, which was invented by a man named Paul Green. While I was there, Paul said he wanted me to hear the two best students he had ever graduated and wanted them to come in and play a song with me. That was Eric and Julie, who lived in Philadelphia with their parents at the time.

We played one Zappa song, and that was enough to convince me to have them come down here to Nashville for a weekend. I gave them a list of material to try and learn, and they came down and they burned right through it. Turns out they had grown up on things I had been a part of. Their father and mother had been instrumental in getting them into a huge record collection and setting them up with their bass and drum set in the living room since they were 11 years old. Some of the music they handed them were things I had been a part of, like King Crimson, David Bowie, The Talking Heads, Frank Zappa. It just worked out beautifully that they just happened to be perfectly in tune with what I do and are so young and energetic and so focused on music that, man, it's just been a dream come true for me.

CP: How long ago was that?

AB: That was three years ago. When I started with Eric and Julie, they were 19 years old.

CP: Given that they grew up listening to you, was there any degree of star struck-ness to their relationship with you?

AB: I didn't detect any from them. I'm an easy-going character myself, so I didn't demand that they pay any attention to me other than that I'm the guitar player/singer. That was one of the good things about the School of Rock -- it truly prepared them for a career in music, a professional career. I later found out that they were big fans, but you couldn't tell it at first.

CP: You mentioned Frank Zappa earlier. He discovered you in Nashville. What happened there?

AB: What actually happened was that Frank had played a concert here in Nashville. I was in a little band that was local favorite. It was a cover band, but we covered interesting music like Steely Dan, not your typical fare. Frank wanted something to do after his concert, which is normal. He had a limousine, and he asked the driver where to go. The limousine driver said, "My favorite band is Sweet Heart, and they're playing at this club called Fanny's." So he drove Frank and his entourage there. They came in and watched the band for 40 minutes. Frank came up to me and reached his hand out onto the stage while I was playing and said, "Gimme shelter." He said he would get my name and number from the chauffeur and that he would like to audition me. Then he left, and I didn't hear from him for six months. Then, one day, I got the call, flew out to California, auditioned in his studio and got the job.

CP: Given his reputation, he must have been a very demanding man to work for in terms of his expectations of you as a musician. What kind of an education did you receive playing underneath him?

AB: I look at it as that I went to the School of Zappa, not the School of Rock. It was a crash course in all the things I'd never been taught, in particular how to manage your life as a recording artist in a touring international band. He was full of stories and little things you could pick up from him every day. It wasn't just musical things.

We had to learn five hours of his material is extremely difficult, and I was the only one in the band who didn't read music. I had to take all my instruction personally from him on the weekends. That gave me a very close personal relationship with him. I basically lived at his house over the weekends. That meant that I was kind of like the brown nose, and I soaked up everything I could.

What Frank mainly taught me was the way he worked and saw things was very disciplined. He worked really hard and made smart business decisions. He pretty much tried to control every aspect of what he did. I've modeled my career on those same principles. More than musical, it was a personal crash course.

CP: You couldn't read music? Did you have any prior musical education going in to work with him?

AB: I joined the junior high school band as a drummer. We marched around at concerts and football games and stuff, but I never truly learned to play music. I abandoned that when the Beatles came out, and I got in my first rock'n'roll band playing Beatles music as a drummer and singer. I never had any instruction from that point on. I've taught myself everything I've learned mainly from listening to other people and other records, studying what they do and trying to figure it out as best I can. I'm an autodidact, completely self-taught, and I don't necessarily recommend that. It just happened to be the right thing for me; I didn't really have a choice.

I asked Frank at one point if I should learn to read music, and he said, "No, you learned it your own way. You know how to do it; you just don't know the technicalities of it. You know what it is you're doing with dynamics and harmonization and rhythms and things. You just don't know the terminology. Don't bother." (Laughs.)

I was one of the very few out of the 200 musicians he worked with who didn't know how to read. There is only a handful of us.

CP: Did the other musicians in Frank's band accept your method of learning like he did? Did it affect your relationship with them?

AB: I think it did adversely affect my relationship with the other guys in the band. They didn't see my value as much. Frank did, and years later, they all do and have said so to me. No, I was eschewed from the band dynamic. I just hung out with Frank, which was good enough for me.

CP: Do you still play drums?

AB: I do still play drums. I wish I could play drums like Eric Slick. If I could play drums the way I'd like to, that's how I'd want to play. It's the same with Julie (Slick's) bass playing. I have three drum kits in home at my studio.

I love drums. I think it's an excellent basis to work from in music, even if you don't go on to become just a drummer. I don't know how I would write the stuff I write now or that I have written with King Crimson if I didn't have such a great rhythmic understanding and background. I still play, but mostly just for the fun of it. Every once and a while, I'll record something of mine, but mostly, I'm leaving it to the pros. (Laughs.)

CP: Back in 2005, you signed an endorsement deal with Parker Guitars, and now you have your own signature model with them. What does it feel like to have your name attached to a design?

AB: Wow, it's a huge honor because it's the only one that Parker has done at this point. It's the only signature model. It was four years in the making, actually. The design things I wanted it to do were electronically very challenging to do, especially in such a thin-body guitar. The guitar weighs four pounds, so there's not a lot of wood to work with.

I love how Parker guitars are designed. Ken Parker took 20 years to correct all the mistakes everyone else still makes. What he ended up with is a perfect guitar that was perfectly balance, perfect resonating, perfectly in tune and never has to be refretted.

In my estimation, it's the best guitar on the planet. So what did I want to change about it? Mainly the electronics. I wanted it to do things like MIDI, so I could continue to doing my guitar synthesizer stuff. I was used for years and years to using something called the Sustainiac, which gave you sustain whenever you turned it on.

Last, I was given the Veriact system that Line Six had come out with that was brand new at the time. That models the sound of 25 vintage instruments, including 12 strings, a sitar, banjo. You name it, it's all in this one knob on my guitar. The modeling of the guitars is so perfect that they react and sound in every way like the real thing.

Those three electronic milestones all in one guitar have never been done before. That's what makes it my guitar. Other than that, it's a Parker Fly, which is, in my estimation, the best guitar you can get. It's an expensive guitar, but once you get it, you probably won't need another one. (Laughs.)

With this guitar, you truly don't need another. I never break a string with it either, so you don't really need a back up guitar. Everything about the guitar was rethought. It's just remarkable. It's just a perfect instrument. I can't explain it.

Here's the bottom line, it actually makes you play better. That's the selling point to me. I play better, smoother, faster, more fluidly. Once I got used to the Parker Fly guitar neck, which is unbelievably balanced and thin, I couldn't go back to another guitar. I have 50 of them on the wall downstairs, and I play them just because they're fun and all have their own characteristics, but none of them can compete with the Parker Fly.

There's my endorsement. I'm thrilled to have it, not just because my name is on it but because it's made my guitar playing take a giant leap.

CP: What will you be playing at your Riverbend show?

AB: We play a lot of solo material, and it starts way back with my first song on my first solo album. We've picked through that giant catalog to find things that would be interesting for a trio to play. We also play six King Crimson songs that have never been played as a trio before now. We've challenged ourselves musically with what we do.

We've turned many of these songs into vehicles from improvisation. That's one of the places this band shines. We'll start playing these songs and then go somewhere else entirely and then come back. We'll also be playing some of the brand new material of mine which will be coming soon.

Tomorrow, I'm flying out to San Francisco to do four days of mixing on this record. The next record is called "e," and it's a 45-minute piece of music that's taken me the last three years to right. It's in five-sections, "a," "b," "c," "d" and "e." It's entirely done, almost entirely live, in fact, by the Power Trio.

It's very complicated, very thematic. It's kind of a rock symphony. We'll play some of that in Chattanooga. I think we play, "a," and I know we'll play, "e." Sometimes we play "b," but we're still not able to play "c" and "d," yet. (Laughs.) In that piece of music, in 45-minutes time, I make 16 loops the band has to follow. They have to be absolutely correct each time.

It's a very challenging thing, but our fans are really liking it. I've never seen anyone react to new music like they're reacting to "e." Usually, when you play a new piece of music, people sit on their thumbs a little bit because they don't recognize it. In the case of "e," people go nuts. A lot of people say it's their favorite thing of the night. The record comes out in July. We'll play some of it for you.

CP: Do you typically have a set list for a performance well structured this far in advance? (The interview was conducted on May 27.)

AB:Well, what we have is a choice of material, and we put it together in different ways at different times. It depends on the venue and what we think is going to go on. In a small club, for example, where we know it's going to be hot and people are shouting, we play different stuff than at a theater where people are sitting there. There, you might be more prone to play the more complex stuff that people want to listen to more. We change it up all the time. We have enough material to play for two hours.

CP: There are a lot of your fans online who think you're a truly influential guitarist whose work has been un- or underappreciated. Do you feel like your legacy on the guitar is underappreciated?

AB: I feel like I've been treated well. I've been given a lot of press, and the manufacturing community has always supported what I've done and given me enough rope to hang myself. (Laughs.) I appreciate that my fans think I should be more popular, but frankly, I don't really want to be. (Laughs.) It's already enough for me to handle what I have. It's a full time job to be Adrian Belew and to do what I do. The fame is part of it, but I lost touch with that a long time ago. Of course, when you start out and you're younger, that's a big part of it; that's important. But as you get out there and start working and traveling the world and playing for people who appreciate what you do, you realize that that's the payback, not the fame. I think, in the end, I'll have a nice body of work that I can be proud of. People can learn about it or not; I don't really care. You never know what's going to happen now with the Internet. It's such a different world. Overnight, people know so much more than they used to.

CP: It seems like you were really early boarding the online train. Your Web site has been up now for almost 15 years.

AB: Without blowing my own horn, I saw all this stuff coming, and I was one of the early proponents of doing everything yourself as I mentioned earlier, as was Frank Zappa. I started my own record label in 1992. I knew that record labels couldn't figure out what to do with me. They had no idea how to market what I do because it's never the same thing twice, really. (Laughs.) So I figured, "Well, I'll do like Frank did and start my own label." You have to be happy with fewer sales, but you get all the money.

What followed on the heels of that was the Internet because that was a natural for that. That was a natural way to sell and market that music. We've been really fortunate in that way. We have a lot of good fans who spread the word and look after me.

CP: With all the side projects you're involved in outside of the Trio and your solo work, how do you find time for all of it?

AB: Well, I'm a very busy person. I'm a workaholic, which is better than being most of the other "aholics" I can think of. The key to it is that I'm very focused. Once it's time to do King Crimson, I put away all the other stuff away and I'm just thinking King Crimson.

I wake up every day, and there are things I want to do, music that's just rattling around in my brain. I'll never get it all finished. What I've done is divide it into different segments, like, "OK, this seems to belong to the Bears, and this piece seems like it should be King Crimson." Right now, it seems like all of my focus is going into the solo career. King Crimson is on sabbatical. The Bears need to write another record, which takes a couple of years. I'm so thrilled with the Power Trio that I could almost do this full-time, which is really what I'm doing now.

CP: And your fans seem to be supporting the Trio as strongly as they did the other groups and projects you're involved with?

AB: I think so, absolutely. I get a lot of comments, but almost all of them are "We like what you're doing. When it's time for you to do something else with King Crimson, we'll welcome that, too, but it's not a prerequisite anymore." What we're doing, in a way, fills the gap that way. It's like a younger version of King Crimson -- not for my part, the other two. (Laughs.)

CP: What kind of relationship do you maintain with the people you've done session work with in the past?

AB: I wouldn't say we're close. I would say the door is always open. With all the relationships I've had, you never know when you might get called back on something, and I do get called back. I'll do a record with Trent Reznor, and then I won't see him for a year or two, and then he'll call. The same has been true with most of my relationships. The thing is, when you're not working together, there's really not the time or the cause to do much together. If I want to, I could e-mail David Bowie right now, but what about? I don't want to bother the guy. I know he's probably like me -- he's got a million things to do and is probably thinking, "If I need to talk to Adrian, I'll call him." (Laughs.)

Those relationships to me are like frozen-in-time friendships. They resume when you start again together as if nothing has happened in between. It's a great thing. In some ways, it's sad because I make a lot of great friends I don't get to see all the time, but in other ways it's very fortunate. They're scattered all around the world, and I've probably had probably two lifetimes worth of friends.

In answer to your question, yes, of course I wish I were going to that show but there are high hopes for an east coast swing in August which includes Philadelphia and New York...shhh...

Here's the tour schedule so far, though:

Fri 17 Jul 09
Canal Street Tavern
Dayton, OH

Doors: 8:00/ Show9:30 / Performance:10:00

Sat 18 Jul 09
Indianapolis IN 46220
Radio Radio

Doors: 8:00/ Show9:00 / Performance:10:00

Mon 20 Jul 09
Ann Arbor, MI
The Ark

Doors: 7:30/ Show8:00 / Performance:8:00

Tue 21 Jul 09
Cleveland, OH
The Grog Shop

Doors: 7:00/ Show8:00 / Performance:9:00

Wed 22 Jul 09
Chicago IL 60610

Doors: 7:00/ Show8:00 / Performance:9:00

Fri 24 Jul 09
Kansas City, MO
The Beaumont

Doors: 7:30/ Show8:30 / Performance:9:30

Tonight, you can catch @mrericslick playing, good freaking lord, with yet another band, Norwegian Arms at 7:00 PM at Big Mama’s Warehouse 1310 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and on Monday, I can't believe that I'm saying this but he'll be playing with yet yet yet another another band, Ottokar, at the Tritone in Philadelphia and if you click on that link, it will give you all of the details.

After playing that gig on Monday night, Eric heads down to Casa Belew for a day of rehearsals, then the trio will play the Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga on the 10th, next Eric plays four straight days of Bonnaroo and let me see if I can find a link for, I can't, because their website isn't working but I'll plug it in here later or in another post before the festival.

And July 15 will mark the debut of the Eric Slick/Julie Slick Duo at John and Peters in New Hope and yep, they will have some surprise guests. Details here.

Hey, remember in my last post where I told you I went to New York to see my friends Susan Henderson and Ellen Meister read from their six word memoirs? Here's the You have to watch's absolutely fabulous...and Kimberly, if you are reading this, notice your memoir gets a special mention right here. You guys have to watch the video to understand...

So that's about it, really. Oh yeah, if anyone is in the mood for a good beach read, I have just the novel for you!