Porno for Pyros – Martyn Lenoble

For the sake of completeness I thought I would tag this on to yesterdays offering.

Porno for Pyros were the band Perry Farrell and Stephen Perkins formed after Jane’s Addiction broke up in the early 90’s.  This post would probably make more sense in the context – if you didn’t already I encourage you to back and check that posting out first.

I first saw this next song live on “Later with Jools Holland”.  For those of you unfamiliar it’s probably the best music show on television… 11pm on a Friday night on BBC2 (perfect after-pub watching) with a hugely diverse and divergent range of guests.  Radiohead premiered Paranoid Android on there but that’s a different story for another time.

Packin .25

Martyn Lenoble was the founding bassist of the group, his lines are definitely worth checking out – a sophisticated concept that pairs beautifully with Perkins’ tribal style and the spacious, textural guitar from Peter DiStefano.  This particular track features a full-bodied tone, some fierce funk, some nice textures and touches in unusual places – and a nasty heavy post-chorus section that SLAYS!!!

I couldn’t find that particular song on that particular show but I did come across this nugget.

Orgasm

It actually reminds me a lot of a group I was with in Boston and NYC called Copal – you can link to their bandcamp to listen.  We had tribal beats, belly dancers, hypnotic bass and ambient pads –  P4P were there a decade earlier.

Janes Addiction started the Lollapolooza festival – and those of you that read yestersdays JA post and saw the live video at the end – you can almost see how pivotal a character Perry Farrell really is in the wider context now – looking at Burning Man as well what’s happening in the underground scene in the NE.  Interesting hindsight….

One more before I call it a night.  This next track, Pets, has one of the only effective uses of a delay on a bass-line – for that alone Mr Lenoble should go down in the annuls of bass history.  1/4 note delay + simple line = great vibe.

Pets

(The only thing that bothers me a little is how ridiculously good looking the band members all are.)

Thanks for reading, comments welcome.

Til next time.

CB

Jane’s Addiction – Eric Avery

Eric Avery – bassist for Jane’s Addiction shown above and in the bottom left of the photo to the right.

The “Ritual de lo Habitual” album is today’s time-travel prescription. Released in 1990 it blends Dave Navarro’s screaming guitar, Eric A’s hypnotic snarling bass with the pounding tribal drumming of Stephen Perkins and the pure erotic insanity of Perry Farrell.

Track 1 – STOP

“Senores y Senoras,” — Ladies and Gentlemen,
“nosotros tenemos mas influencia” — we have more influence
“con sus hijos que tu tiene,” — over your children than you do,
“pero los queremos…” — but we love them…
“creado y regalo” — created and a gift (bred and spread)
“de los angeles” — of the angels (from Los Angeles)
“Jauna’s Addiction” — Jane’s Addiction.

Pure sex.  Sorry for the poor audio quality.  Blame Youtube (whose pimping of crappy versions of ‘user uploaded’ music so they can advertise at us and cheapen all that is good and true) and their terrible compression algorhythms.  And the inability of most people to really tell the difference.  And my sh%tty grammar (twice ;o)

 Cut Shallow Radio has the great blog posting about the band and this particular record.  You can read the full track listing, search and listen online.   If you like it, buy, beg or steal a real copy – the mix and production are both really quite nice on this record.  I implore you to teach yourself the difference!  On an aside from an aside I once heard George Massenburg talk about how ‘there’s something missing in an MP3, we don’t know what it is yet but the difference is real.’  I was actually reading a mastering engineers website today who has proprietary software to fill in the gaps between the samples, creating an unaliased waveform that no longer saps a persons energy.  On an aside from an aside from an aside, if this makes no sense you can find a decent explanation of how digital audio works here and an explanation of audio aliasing here.

Rant and meta-rant over …..     Moving along deftly ….

Track 5 – Been Caught Stealing

This was the first song of Jane’s Addiction that I heard, probably even saw the video on MTV at Simon Beach’s house one saturday afternoon.  The image of that cross dresser sticking pineapples up his dress is worth the price of admission alone.  The bassline, in the unusual key of G#/Ab is actaully pretty tricky to make sit well.  Three notes played in a swung sixteenth feel that may be a hair staighter than the drums…. also some great funky note choices on the contrasting section, surprising angles.  Great video, great song.

One of my favourite things about albums is those delightful moments of contrast between unlikely bedfellows.

Click here now!! – Track 6 – Three Days

(The joke used to be that the song is three days long – but stay with it – it’s absolutely worth it.)

Eric has been quoted as saying that his style is very influenced by his acoustic guitar playing.  All these songs have grinding, hypnotic lines with this incredible swinging drive, great examples of why you SHOULD learn to play bass with a pick (It was over 15 years til I did).  The bass part here has a little bit of everything – I’m listening for the second time and hearing incredible ideas executed with passion and commitment.  In here you can the Chili Peppers, Led Zeppelin in abundance and I will send a prize to whoever points out the Joy Division derived bass interlude….

Track 7 – And then she did – Live in NYC

Transcendant music unconstrained by the modern curse of the ❤ minute attention span.  Also look who’s on bass… what a wonderfully small world it really is.

Track 9 – Classic Girl

Sadly Eric (and Dave) left the band after the 13 month tour that accompanied this record.  Eric’s been involved in all sorts of musical projects (and Dave joined the Chili Peppers after John Frusciante swam out to sea through the sewers to record “One Hot Minute”).  Perry and Stephen went on to form Porno for Pyros with Martyn Lenoble and Peter DiStefano – the first record has some really cool things going on, maybe I’ll dig around and see if I can find it..

Thanks for joining me on this trip. Thanks for enduring my rants. Thanks for being interested.  Til next time..

C

Muzz Skillings / Living Colour

(Muzz is on the far right)

oh My GOD LIVING COLOUR ARE AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Read the wiki at the link, it’ll do a better job than I could of the history of the group.

(Notice the English / real spelling of Colour – stick that in yer pipe Webster!!)

Funk, rawk, metal, free jazz, humor, insane chops, great writing combined with backflips and outlandish garb.  Pimpin hair naturally.  Four guys that could play their asses off and meant every note.  That transcends race and culture, you can just feel it, I was 15 when I first started hearing this stuff and I completely got it.

Their first record was called ‘Vivid’,  I got a bootleg tape of a gig at Brixton Academy that was just slamming.  It’s hard to find early video but this one is a treat. Listen to the crowd at 3:43.  Real heartfelt, amazing music about something real.  In my own way I could completely relate to their feelings about where they grew up.

This version of Broken Hearts is also great.  Killer groove, a great pop song, strong performances including an interesting bass solo (check out the Jaco influence?) and some interesting volume pedal skullduggery at the very end.

Here’s a live version of the first hit – Cult of Personality on Arsenio.  Corey Glover takes it out into the crowd and the host loses his sh@t at the end.  Watching Vernon Reid play that insane static solo reminds of the sound of my old ZX Spectrum loading games from tape…

The rest of the record is a smorgasbord of funk metal, dashes of electronica, caribbean sounds…. it’s just a giant mash-up of everything they felt and thought expressed with incredible articulation.  It works.  As I write this I realise there’s really inventive ideas from everybody, not just Muzz, and that I was influenced as much by their willingness to embrace and combine concepts and styles.  Perhaps even more so than the licks I stole 😉

(While on the subject of stolen licks, apart from all the chords, harmonics, slapping and all that the main thing that blew away about that live tape was how many different ways the bass could move in half steps from the major 3rd of the chord to the 5th. Every bass player knows this as meat and potatoes bass but this was the first time I really heard it clearly and with so much variation.  All of a sudden the bass wove in, and out, of the chord – there was a new freedom in the notes that could work – and the rhythms fitted with how Will Calhoun was improvising in that bar.  We’ll thank James Jamerson another day though…)

The next record, “Times Up”, was unfortunately Muzz’s last (Internet rumors suggest that he trained to be a fire fighter in New York) before Doug Wimbish (Sugarhill Gang) took up the slack.  The hit from this record was “Love Rears it’s Ugly Head”. (There are a lot of videos of them looking really ‘not into it’ playing this live).  I spent 9 hours in one sitting figuring out how to play this song.  While rewinding and rewinding the tape to pick out the notes the sun had gone down and my room was completely dark.

Times Up will F you up but the uber creative Ology is my favourite cut of Muzz’s – and a nice way to end a night’s trawling and writing.

I look forward to your comments and thoughts, if you got something from this, drop me a line and let me know.

Cheers

C

Flea finally (part 2).

Some words of wisdom – Flea talks about making the transition from being a ‘badass bassplayer’ to playing what’s right for the song.  We can all use this reminder every once in a while, or more.

Mellowship Slinky in B Major – Make something this funky out of a B7 arpeggio – I dare you.  John Frusciante’s guitar playing is among his most sublime, but maybe that’s beside the point today.

For me the Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the finest RHCP record, the perfect mix of stripped down funk, melody and attitude.  This cut has it all.  Listen for the greasy smears and inflections and the subtle variations and fills.  Perfect Musicman tone, possibly this choice of bass influenced by Louis Johnson, one of the fathers of slapping – we’ll get to him in time….

Sir Psycho Sexy   …. A perfect combination of aggressive filtered funk and subtle melodic playing on the epic outro.  Listen to how each time around the chord sequence he develops the line without drawing attention to it.  Great interplay between bass and each of the drums and guitar.  Flea is not typically known for this style of playing, although it is where he spends his time now.

Speaking of which – a few records later John Frusciante rejoined the group for the ‘Californication’ album.  Reputedly at the end of recording Blood Sugar he “swam down the toilet bowl, through the sewers to the open ocean and freedom” – this album marks somewhat of a return to form after Dave Navarro’s valiant efforts to fill his shoes on ‘Warped’.  On this album ‘Aeroplane’ is a wonderful example of self -confessed trashy white boy funk.

The title cut features lovely interplay again, Flea also employs a masterful command of the simple power of register changes.  Listen to how he dives down for the low notes for emotional impact in various sections.  Also there’s some lovely accompaniment to the guitar solo.

I wanted to let the music speak before I tried to.  For me Flea is the fusion of Louis Johnson’s thumping, the energy and emotion of punk rock channeling a simple earthy sexuality through a love of musics as different as Led Zeppelin, Sly and Family Stone and Miles Davis.  While some critics have panned their live shows and perhaps there are some albums that stand out above the crowd the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a fun band and Flea will always have a place in the bass pantheon.

Flea interviewed by River Phoenix

“Cocaine is a hell of a drug!” – Rick James

Laziness

Laziness is relative.  Relative to how we perceive those who work harder, longer better hours than we do; relative to our own ideals and goals; relative to our own desire to sleep as long as humanly possible even….

Three months in Shanghai – thirteen weeks of 6 nights a week performing three hours a night.  Helping people dance, supporting the soloists, playing leads and solos myself (more than I ever have) running sound, recording and documenting the shows, being nice to people, solving problems, making sure I don’t look scruffy…. adds up to a lot but is compressed into only 5/6 hours a day. So what happens to the other 18?

Sleep hopefully.  Sometimes 12 hours, sometimes barely 4 … for some reason each of the group has been on some wacky, evolving sleep cycle.  I myself became fully nocturnal for 6 weeks, waking up at 6/7pm and going to bed at between 7am and 2pm.  Sleep can be wonderful, especially a consistent 8 hours (a distant memory!)  We each started to have very vivid dreams (maybe from not being exposed to TV, constant advertising and all that crap??) which have been the subject of many hilarious discussions.  Sleep is truly important.

Eating.  Daily.  After a little adventurousness we all really settled into some favourite haunts – the 24 hour Hot-pot restaurant, complete with muddy toddlers begging outside (wearing fabulously clean, new clothes mind you), is always a win.  Element Fresh has been my drug of choice, great chinese food, western/american fare and fantastic breakfasts til 330pm on the weekends.  My point?  After our initial excitement we became lazy to an extent – unadventurous once we found our comforts.

Hobbies/projects.  I think we all had other goals we wanted to accomplish while we were here.  I wanted to re-write the musical examples from my bass books (so I could publish in the US without breaching copyright law there); work on my own compositions and productions; practice a lot and write this blog.  I got about half way through demos for a solo album (you can hear them on my soundcloud page) and this blog writing stopped and started a couple of times… more on that later.

So…. laziness happened!  Hours spent reading. re-charging, reflecting.  Looking at bbc.co.uk (through a proxy server to bypass the chinese firewall) and keeping with the political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa or the natural disasters in New Zealand, Thailand and Japan.

Chinese traditional massage happened – and quickly became my favourite way to spend a day off – tiny chinese elbows probing into my sore muscles, stretching out tendons I didn’t know existed and leaving me feeling like a new Chris.

We had a phrase in Peru – “being busy in my hammock” – just being, sitting, slowing down and enjoying the moment.  While I got a lot out of being at Berklee it took months afterwards to be able to just sit and be with myself… rather than constantly working, creating, being on the move and cramming as much as possible into every hour of the day.

We, or I certainly, have found the optimum ways to maintain ourselves physically and mentally so that we could deliver our best in those few hours each night here at the House of Blues & Jazz.  While I may still not be working to my fullest capacity (compared to my own imagination of what I can achieve or what I imagine other people put in) we have almost made it through this marathon without casualty – maybe that’s no small thing in itself.

So I had taken a break from writing here after starting to talk about Flea.  The question in my mind was how to balance making something readable for folks who aren’t necessarily bass players while still getting to the heart of what’s important – in this case why I value Flea’s influence so much in my musical life.  I think I’ve come around to carrying on… unless I feel like not writing it down, which can be fine too.

Flea (RHCP)

Blood Sugar Sex Magic changed my life. High school English Literature class with Mr Martin Richards (my favorite teacher – bless his departed soul) and I sit next to Louise Fulwell. We became friendly after the entire french class got seated boy/girl… something to do with a sticky note appearing on a potted plant saying “Cannabis plant – Do not smoke”… okay maybe it was me 🙂

We would talk about music, books and life, what little we knew of them aged 15 anyway and one day she presented me with a brightly colored cassette tape (copy of course) that she had made of the album.

It was (and still is) fantastic. At the time I was still (just?) a drummer but the way that the drums and bass moved together got to me. Flea would place these greasy slides and pops in the gaps, the bass lines WERE the songs in many regards (many folks have said this about Paul McCartney and the Beatles) and I loved air-drumming to this tape, over and over again.

If you are only familiar with their later works I wholeheartedly encourage you to go back and get a copy. Really well recorded, raw emotion and groove. They all sound fantastic, Mr John Frusciante is in top form also. There is a documentary about the making of the album called “Funky Monks”, while not being for the squeamish or fainthearted, is great viewing. Watching Rick Rubin (producer, massive beard) bond with Chad Smith listening to Zeppelin or sitting with Flea urging him to play “less notes” on the cut of Give it Away are both highlights for me. Sex, drugs, madness, ghosts … it’s all there kids.

Onto the music. Every cut on this album has an inventive, hooky bassline so it’s hard to choose between them. One track that stands out for me, looking back, is Naked in the Rain.

The bass and the drums move as one. (Drop D tuning for the bass-nerds). The solo (2:25) is the first one I remember trying to learn note for note. As well some thumping, some funky horn-like lines and serious attitude the last section is just so raw. Flea described it as (and I paraphrase) ‘just going weeeeeeeeee!!!! all up and down the neck”. Works for me.

The other records are great too, don’t get me wrong, just that this is my favorite. I learned every note from Mother’s Milk through Californication and I can’t help but recommend you do the same.

If you love it, buy it.
Don’t fake the funk.
CB

Les Claypool

It’s 1991/2 and I’m playing drums in the school orchestra, after roughly a year of weekly half hour group lessons with another 5 students.  That puts me at 15 or 16 years old.  Listening to all the new Seattle music, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains – all about the drums and the drummers.

Everything I am playing in school orchestra sounds like I’m trying to be John Bonham, because all the drummers from these bands that I’m listening to were all so heavily influenced by him…. Bonham’s from my town incidentally so it’s fitting that I’m channeling second generation Bonzo – even if the conductor wishes I weren’t .. Then one day the first chair violin hands me a grotty tape of a tape of a tape – it’s Primus.  Frizzle Fry on one side – Sailing the Seas of Cheese on the other.  Thanks Austin Poll.

It was so distorted and cool sounding (I was later to hear them on cd and realise that was the number of generations the tape had been copied – handed from musician to musician through school and regional orchestra’s and rock bands) – this wild band from San Fransisco, veritably the other side of the planet – with a sound I had never heard before. My favourite three cuts…

John the Fisherman (Frizzle Fry) Drum groove followed by …. Les hitting all the strings with distortion and whammy bar…. YES!!! And it’s a great song with an amusing home-made vibe video.  Still seeing new things on each view, most of them a bit wrong.

Tommy the Cat features Tom Waits as the Cat.  Great video and story, lovely recording, slamming drums, amazing thump and pluck bass line, insane guitar lines – I was in heaven.

The bass fill (at 1:58) had me rolling on the floor – tears in my eyes.

The bass solo at 3:06 is still one of the greatest moments on the instrument.  In tune it most definitely isn’t, inspired it definitely is.

Jerry was a Racecar Driver

“Nachos? Steamy…”

So after seeing Mark King and hearing  Les Claypool I kidnapped the schools bass guitar ( a CAT bass with P/J pickups) and ‘amp’ for the summer holiday and set about learning  all the songs from these two albums.  That’s how I thought bass was, and should be played and with the little I knew about guitar and drums already I went for it.

Many of my attempts made it onto the first few albums by Touch Bellini, my second ever band (same members as the first – Electric Russell).  These exist only on tapes with homemade sleeves in various parts of the UK.  Thanks to Simon Bellini for tea, inspiration and pressing the play and record buttons on the hifi simultaneously.

Primus Suck.  Especially these first few albums. Check it out.