When was it that music became a major influence in your life and how
did you go about pursuing that interest back then?
was born into an artistic family, both parents being musicians,
aunts, uncles and grandparents whom were actors, artists and
musicians. Music was always being played in the home, both live and
recorded, every get-together or holiday was an open invitation for a
jam session. So, music was from my earliest childhood memories a
major influence. I was encouraged to grab any instrument I could
produce a favorable sound upon and join in. If I expressed interest
in an instrument that we did not already have around the house or
that was unavailable through the public school band department, my
parents would make an effort to aquire it for me.
What were some of your earliest influences by other artists of the
Mother's taste in music, although a good jazz pianist herself, was
classical music. My father on the other hand, leaned toward jazz and
R&B, so between them, I found influence and enjoyment from the
records they were playing by the likes of Copeland, Ravel,
Stravinsky,Debussy,Bartok, Satie, Barber and others, to, Miles Davis,
John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Duke
Ellington, "Big" Joe Turner and others.
Tell me about your first taste of success as a performing artist?
My first taste of success was in
playing bass in my Mother's nightclub combo. I had a good ear, had
learned alot of "standards" and was beginning to be hired
by other groups in town as a sub. I soon gave up my paper route,
forgot about former summer jobs such as picking fruit and vegetables,
joined the musicians union and was on top of the world at age 15.
Tell me about your time spent as a jazz player. In what ways did it
contribute to the music that you now create?
I came up in learning music through the jazz school. Listen carefully
to everything else that is going on musically around you in an
ensemble setting, go with the flow, or take the lead and re-direct
it, total interplay. A good jazz musician knows what notes will
enhance the other musicians, a great jazz musician knows what notes
the other musicians or soloist they're accompanying may play before
they're actually played! intuitive ESP.
My jazz backround has not contributed much of a
part in most of my solo work. Although I believe that is slowly
changing. Jazz is about being on the edge musically, and by
that I mean feeling completely comfortable in walking the highwire
without a net. Nothing to hide behind. You step out and bare
all. Most of my solo work has focused more on writing and arranging
rather than the improvisation of jazz.
Some folks may or may not be aware of it but you were a member of the
80's group Missing Persons. Did you consider this to be somewhat of a
pinnacle in your career thus far and were you happy with what you
Persons was fun, for the most part, while it lasted, but I didn't
consider it a pinnacle. I don't think any of the band, save for
front-woman Dale, would have. It was more an opportunity to play
music and travel the world with good friends and musicians. Prior to
Missing Persons I had been recording and performing with jazz
musicians Tony Williams, Charles Lloyd, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon
and had spent two and a half years as bassist in Frank Zappa's band
as well as co-founded Group 87 along with Mark Isham and Peter Maunu
in which we had recorded for CBS records. Although Missing Persons
was an excellent band, these other efforts I would have to considered
more a pinnacle, at least from an artistic standpoint.
I'm curious as to what it was like playing with Frank Zappa's band.
What kinds of experiences do you take away from a unique band such as Franks?
I was a member of Frank's Group for 2 1/2 years, and in that time
learned a great deal. Although a taskmaster who knew what he
wanted, Frank was a most open minded man as well. He was perhaps the
last of a breed of composer, and I would cite Duke Ellington as an
example as well, who used a large ensemble of fine musicians as an
instrument. This of course is done today with midi, but if one
has the luxury of having live musicians on hand to interact with and
direct, the developing results are far more intriguing, not to
mention faster, than that from a computer. Frank was an
iconoclast, no doubt about it, and the rich experiences I gained from
that period I'm greatful for. I miss him and his wonderful
sense of humor.
How does someone go from doing 80's pop to ambient music? What were
some of the reactions that you got from fellow artists and fans of
your pop work to your new musical direction?
music I was playing in Missing Persons had a very direct effect on
the music I begin to compose on the side and which would be the
beginning of my solo career. In 1984 the band was straining from
internal tension, primarily the crumbling relationship of then wife
and husband team, Dale and drummer Terry Bozzio. Rehearsals, which
were nightly, became very stressful and I would return home afterward
to my apartment where I had a small project studio, and would begin
improvising and recording musical ideas that were deliberatley far
afield from what I had been doing earlier with the band. Reaction to
this material from other musicians was very favorable, although some
fans may have been taken aback at first by this very different sound
from what they generally associated me with.
What was your first release in this new phase of your career and how
was it received by fans and industry alike?
Ancient Dreams was my first solo album, recorded in late '84 and
released in mid '85. When I recorded it, I wasn't sure anyone would
care for it. My musican friends enjoyed it, but would anyone else?
The beauty of those days was that I could have cared less. I loved it
and that was all that mattered! A healthy artistic perspective that
I'm now proud to say I've regained.
As it turned out, it was very well received by
fans and industry alike. The times were ripe for new innovation in
radio format as well, and Ancient Dreams got alot of airplay
considering it's different sound and all instrumental tracks. The
album also benefited sales-wise from it's exclusive Compact Disc
release, as not alot of music was then available in that new medium.
There are quite a number of names floating around for the types of
music that you do, what do you call your music and how do you
personally define the genre of music that you make?
Categorizing of my music has been a major problem since the late
1970's Group 87 days I mentioned earlier. If you're a versatile
musician/composer, comfortable in many cross genres and whom draws
influence from a broad pallet, you've got trouble when it comes to
classification. "Contemporary Instrumental"?.....what
happens when you add voice? "New Age"?....that brings a
whole metaphysical philosophy into play.
"Ambient"?....perhaps the closest and indeed an area of
music near to my heart. I personally gave up trying to type it years
ago. I'm currently listing the files I upload to mp3.com as
"mood" music. Sounds funny and a bit retro, but it just may
be ambiguous enough to fit the bill.
Could you give me the names of the ambient artists that have most
influenced the work that you do and why they are important to your music?
can give you a list of ambient/experimental musicians whom I have
very much enjoyed listening to over the years. However, I would not
venture to say to what extent they may or may not have directly
influenced my own work. These fine fellows would be, Brian Eno, Jon
Hassell, Daniel Lanois, Mark Isham, David Torn, Peter Maunu, Steve
Roach, Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana, Jeff Pearce and Michael Stearns.
Then there is all the interesting electronic music that has come out
of England in the past 6 years, not to mention the wealth of
experimental music which flourished in Germany in the 70's &
early 80's. But for me, the afore mentioned chaps continue to knock
me out with their creative work. I'm sure I could well extend the
list of names given enough thought. But again, it's not that these
people have so much influenced my work, but that they continue to
feed the pool of available recorded music that we can all enjoy.
With each new CD does it get easier or harder to create the next one?
PO: It's always different.
How does the creative process work for you as you go from initial
idea of a new project to finished CD?
process itself is usually simple and sometimes swift. I will get an
idea or theme, grab hold of it and within 2 months the final
selection of material will be evident and the album complete.
However, this is not always the case and some albums will take
longer, sometimes alot longer to formulate and take on shape. It can
even become frustrating at times especially if the subjective sphere
of ones mind decides to leap "center stage" into the
act. The trick there is to make every effort to help the creative
muse of intuition prevail. Otherwise, it's the dreaded "paralysis
from analysis", a hamster wheel, or darken alley that most
all artists fear and hope to avoid.
Sometimes, making electronic oriented music
itself can become a laborious process. Taking great care to sculpt
sounds just so can require alot of time. But, eventually you know
when the project is complete and that it's time to let go and move on.
When you reach a road block in the creative flow what do you do to
break the block and get back to work?
Move on to another composition, or if it's severe, tend to other
details that need attention, play with the kids, go for a long walk
in the woods or some peaceful place. If it's critical,..cut a
load of firewood with a chainsaw, split and stack it..that'll do it