Bill Nelson full transcript

Pete Langman talks to Bill Nelson, 15-9-2011, 10am

As ever, the text here belongs to me. If you would like to feature it, please ask my permission first, and be sure to cite me. Thank you.

Listening to the box set … 150 tracks on seven discs
BN – I think there’s an eighth disc
that didn’t make it to me
BN – well i’ve not got a copy of that yet either – that was held up because there were some negotiations with the bbc to get hold of the david jenson sessions and the peel sessions, and um, I think that’s all been done now and it will be in the final finished thing Continue reading


One of my jobs, if you can call them that, is to interview guitar players for Guitar and Bass magazine, where there’s finally some sort of web presence, though my archive here is somewhat more comprehensive. There are upwards of seventy pieces written by my fair hand, interviews, features, tuition. My days as an active musician are behind me, not least because the PD affects my left hand most of all, so these days I mostly write interviews. These are generally on the phone, though every so often I travel to meet the players in question, Gary Lucas and Denny Whalley, Peter Hammill, Dweezil Zappa and, most recently, Glenn Matlock, Chris Spedding, and Stephen Parsons, who are shortly playing a couple of shows to promote their new album. I prefer this latter format, as there’s more to work with than simply words – you can ask question based on body language, the way that the various member interact. Also you can establish a rapport with the interviewee that allows for far more probing questions, and for far more interesting answers. The phoner is prey to more formulaic workings.

Prior to these interviews, I naturally need to hear what it is these guys are selling. That is, their new album. Most slick US bands stream the album to avoid pirating. This is a pain in the arse, frankly. The sound is dodgy, and you can’t stick it on your ipod to listen to on the train … the UK bands tend to send hard copy. In the case of unreleased albums, they come in the form of hand-ripped cds. Plainly people get a bit arsey if you sell them … which is what I was recently, well, accused of is perhaps a little strong. But a set of one artist’s soon-to-be-released material was seen on Ebay, with the seller being noted as from ‘Brighton’. Considering only five copies had been given out, it was unsurprising that I was singled out as ‘reviewer most likely to’. Naturally, they were in a pile on top of the New Oxford Dictionary of English and my copy of Lewis and Short. I sent documentary evidence that I was not the guilty party, and all were happy. But I digress.

Perhaps the most irritating aspect of these interviews is that often the transcription runs to five or six times the size of the actual interview. Writing for a guitar magazine, one is often conscious of a need to cover certain bases, notably, well, guitars ad amps. ‘Guitar porn’, as one interviewee put it. I was talking about Steve Vai’s philosophy, amongst other things, when he said something along the lines of ‘do you think we should talk so much about philosophy, this is Guitar and Bass Magazine after all’, ‘nah’, said I, ‘this is far more interesting. Don’t you worry – I’ll take care of the guitars …’. Naturally, I ended up forgetting entirely about the small matter of his rig, and had to phone a friend who’d recently worked with him to get this particular detail. Oops.

The problem when you get a 7,000 word interview, and try to fit it into a 1,500 word article, is that a lot of stuff gets left out. I want to write about Steve Vai’s bees, Bill Nelson’s 80s occult leanings, Joe Satriani’s obsessive-compulsive triple-wholetone scales, all that sort of stuff.

Cabbage, so far as I’m aware, is an old tailor’s term for the material left over after a commission. You get given four bolts of cloth with which to make 50 suits. A skilled pattern cutter could leave you with enough material for, say, five more suits. These were the tailor’s property, and could be sold on as they wished. Cabbage was a perk enjoyed by the best tailors.

The stuff I have left over is cabbage. So, from now on, I think I just might just make up a new suit. Parallel interviews. The War and Peace cut, something like that. Cabbage.

I hope you find them interesting.