Billy Sheehan and Eric Martin

I gained a brother-in-law, but totally lost the bus driver …

[the album]

57

(BS) what if dot dot dot, as opposed to what if question mark, that was clarified very early on.

By whom?

I don’t know, some journalist, asked … the title implies that there are limitless possibilities, and it was always about that, we never said never to doing anything, singing along, playing with a drill, playing all kinds of crazy stuff, you know … so we liked that idea, that positive idea of unlimited opportunities and er … anything that has ever occurred in the world has probably started with someone going ‘what if …’ what if people had a computer in their house … things like that [thank god they did, because otherwise we’d all be on like a quest for fire] what a great movie that was …
[is that the way it’s going to be today that’s why you’ve got a gift, you …]

so, what kind of power tools will we see on this album?

Oh, there are no power tools on this one, particularly … [been there done that already … it’s just the four of us standing onstage. No bells and whistles, no curtains or anything. Is that bad?] it’s stripped down, very stripped down … we actually played in a room, we played together in a room, a rare thing these days, when things are pieced together digitally, take by take … [smaller room than this, actually …] yes, quite a bit smaller … we just went there and sang and played, and they recorded it … what a novel weird idea …

hiatus between the last incarnation …

we broke up and went off on our separate ways, and I never really thought of what would happen if Mr big ever got back together again. Sure enough, the winds of fortune were blowing and one thing led to another, we ended up having a dinner and sitting down and saying ‘we’d like to play, and so we did a tour without thinking about an album at all, we weren’t thinking … it’s normally a tour and an album and another tour and album and we just said ‘let’s just play’ … we got all these questions about whether there was going to be a new album and we said ‘let’s play for now we don’t want to deal with that … after we were done with the tour, we had such a great time, we really did, we said ok, we’re ready, let’s do a record, and that’s what brought us here …

so, now album we going to see a tour? Over here (3.50 cacophony about the difficulty of touring here) we talk about it all the time on planet rock,

unfortunately, it’s a little bit of ‘biz’, because if a promoter wants to bring you in, it’s going to be because he’s going to make some money out of it … that’s the harsh reality of it, but fortunately, we are so lucky to have so many of our friends around, they came to shepherd’s bush which was great, so that was a good indicator for those guys, so I think we’ll be I’m’m sure we’ll be back to the UK in some capacity, I hope it’s to play everywhere that will have us, because we love to play live, and much of what we do comes from the british rock thing, so – yardbirds [humble pie] spooky tooth, [free], bad company, ok, you passed the test …

PR q’s …

1. j b from uxbridge wants to know how well do the band get on, you guys are on tour together,

[we get along, better now than we used to … we didn’t really know each other when we first got together … we made our first record in 8 or 9 days, something like that, then went on the road, and we kind of got to know each other on the road. That was a little difficult, back then we were together 24 hours a day, and we were campaigning for ever, and the little things would bug the shit out of you … ] again, like every relationship in the world, what was funny and cool in rehearsals was now starting to get annoying, ‘you drive me crazy’, [ you’ve got to realise that years and years go by and I just kinda went ‘I miss these guys’, I totally respect them as musicians, but I didn’t see it then, people were like ‘do you know who’ve you’ve got … you’ve got billy sheehan and paul gilbert right there as book ends, you know … ‘, and I went ‘so?’, (6.07) I knew that we were a great band, ya know, but I took it for granted, twelve, fourteen years later, through that period of time, I kinda went, wow, miss those guys. I played with a lot of great people but not as great as billy and paul …
I really missed the talent, and I missed the friendship, we had a friendship on fire] the storytelling,
[much as we had butt heads in our time, ok look. Pat and paul, they’re exonerated … they got nothing to do with it … but like me and bill, you know, we were like a big shock … me and billy we butt heads, and I said that to you on a radio show the other day, I guess we’re two perfectionists or something, but there was always, we really meant the same thing when we were arguing, you know, or being silent, all those years, but I really missed … he’s got a great sense of humour. God he could make me laugh, I’d be like, you know, wet pants … I really missed that and he’s a beautiful guy to know … ] takes one to know one … come on, group hug, guys … [to cut a long story short, we love being on the road … it’s like when we first started all that time ago … and we’ve got priorities in life … we’re not haters any more. I don’t have the taste for hate.] that’s good stuff [I hope you’re writing that shit down ….] did he tell you to turn your cellphones off? It’s my new phone, it’s supposed to just vibrate … [story of my life]

M B from london, are many of the mr big songs written and demo’d on the acoustic guitar? On the same note, you released a live album from the hard rock in 1996 and are there any plans to do any future acoustic live …

[for me I’ve written all the songs on acoustic guitar, that’s mainly because I can’t play electric guitar …]

we have a couple of different ways that we write, Eric writes a song he brings it to us, we do our thing to it … put things together myself, pat and paul and send them to Eric, and he does his thing with it, and every permutation beyond that you can imagine … but a lot of songs are written when pat paul and I get together and lay down a beat, a bass and guitar thing and send it of to have Eric martinise it … it comes from many different angles but as far as the live thing goes … actually we’ve done a lot of live records, but the reason we did is because every time we played in japan the label there, who were very cool, very together, always wanted the live record of the show to put out in japan after we’d left … so people wouldn’t forget about us or something like that .. and as a result we had a lot of live records … it wasn’t necessarily always our idea … ‘let’s do another live record, and another one, and … no, not number 7, you know …’ there really is, 6 or 7 I think, raw like sushi was our very first one … and it caught us by surprise because they contacted us while we were in tour in america and they wanted a live record we said we’re on tour what are we going to do … so we had our soundman take a DAT tape, not around any more … to hold the studio door open you use the DAT machine … and we recorded the show, sent them the tape, and that was the record … no overdubs no multitrack no nothing, so the record cost us $7.95.

P C, london. How do you feel about the changes in the industry since the last MB album, and what are you hoping to bring back with the comeback album, if indeed it is a comeback album …

I just think it’s a record, I just think it’s an album, I’m not sure there’s so much comeback it’s just ‘here we are, it’s 2010, and this is what we do now … it’s just a statement in that respect … the music business is constantly changing, I remember when I first started, the guy that started me on bass, Joe hesse, he had the slicked back greasy hair, and played in a kind of rockabilly band, and all the bands were rockabilly, and you know rock and roll, everly brothers, rick nelson, Elvis all that then suddenly these guys came from Liverpool and all the brylcreem got washed out f the hair and the shoes changed the hair changed and everybody … there was a whole changing of the guard, not too … different than in the early 90s when grunge the seattle scene came in and all the other bands went away, so it’s happened zillions of times throughout history when a whole new kind of style comes in, the old goes away, and I think it’s a good thing, the changing of the guard … I’m glad that things change – we don’t change much, we just stay consistent … we just pursue our own path and hopefully the pendulum will swing back to us someday, in some manner, we’ll see … I rest my case your honour.

A C from swindon, PR gets regular guest djs from the world of music, I see billy doing a breakfast slot, and Eric doing a chilled-out late sunday show … have you guys ever considered doing some radio work?

[there’s a lot of celebrities doing the dj thing – joe eliot, alice, rick, looking around I can totally see billy doing it … listen to that voice, man … ] FM 97 … [I’m a little intimidated by bill, i’m pretty quiet when it comes to … I mainly do my mr big mouth when it comes to singing … sunday chill-out show ] get closer to the mic there … give us a blast give us hey, you’re listening to … [take y ???, and chill out]

song one …

we’ve never done this before, myself and Eric, just bass and guitar, so bear with us while there are a few train wrecks… there’s bound to be … it’s ok [don’t make an excuse, we’re fine] we’ll be fine – anyway we’re going to start out with a song from a record that some of you may not know as well as some of our earlier stuff, but it was a song from get over it, and it’s called electrified … [and you’ll probably never hear it again!] to 23.00

drill shit …

N E from st albans says what’s the greatest venue you’ve played, and why?

Gee we might have to differ once more [the coolest venue … we played this gig, this makeshift gig on santos beach in sao paulo brazil, and it was amazing it was like 100 thousand people, we were the headliner, I mean there was us, henry rollins, lemonheads, all these other groups and stuff, it was really dark but the moon was out, you could see everybody and we had like a gigantic catwalk, really long catwalk, I mean like a mile, practically, and i’m walking down the catwalk and i’m looking at all these people and like, they ll got their clothes off … everybody’s nekkid, and I was so excited, man, I mean I was a fan and hanging out being the singer here, and I go walking out, and there’s this huge jungleotron, I mean these huge tv screens, and I was going like this with my microphone, like, “i can’t believe it’ like such a buffoon … that was amazing, I had such a great time … santos beach ….] ….] I would have said he same thing … before we went on, henry Rollins went on, he’s a really eclectic, amazing personality, he went to go up onstage and the first thing he did was he jumped up and brought his knee up, and smashed himself in the nose … horribly, and he was bleeding all over the place, so if you see a photo of henry rollins live bleeding it’s probably from that show … (I think there’s a youtube video of that, I think I’ve seen that … ) there could very well be, I think … he didn’t do it on purpose, he was dazed and confused up there for sure … but it was so big up there and we didn’t know it but on brazilian TV they were playing a whole bunch of mr big songs, to be with you, we had no idea all those people were there to see us … we were clueless, so at night, it started getting out of control, there were bonfires and literally 100,000 people on the beach … an amazing amount of people to be in one place for anything, so in order to shut the show down, the police laughed, and actually brought the military in … the army all came in with trucks and stopped the whole thing. Amazing …
[we played a lot of great places, obviously budokan, everyone says cheap trick! We played there …]

L G T, london. Rock and roll is associated with fast cars, drugs and sex. It it possible for rock and roll to be culturally relevant if it’s played by musicians who are no longer exclusively driven by those pursuits or in other words has rock grown up?

no. thank god. Next question. Rock covers everything. I really think that music is the greatest artform, it really is – you can prove that, and many philosophers have … and it really does make a difference in the world, historians point out that one of the beginning cracks of the wall in the soviet empire was the beatles, because the russian kids would listen to the beatles’ records and it was illegal even to have them, and get together these little bands of confidants and as they got older they got more radical and changed things, you know … the Vietnam war in america, no matter what your politics are undoutedly ended becausse of cultural pressure, and that was primarily started off by musicians I think, so … it’s a big force for change, hopefully all positive, sometimes it’s negative, but we try to be positive in mr big, not to be goodie goodie by any means, try to put a positive spin on things … because it’s an amazing thing to be in a band playing music, I find it hrd to get negative about that ever, you go, you play at 8, they carry your luggage you stay in a nice hotel, you play in front of all your friends and backstage there’s free drinks and they pay you! Crazy …

second – as a player known for your technical chops, how do you rate yourself as a player and musician and what do you think your strengths are as a player …

I rate myself as still learning, and I will never stop, it’s an adventure that never ends and there’s always something more to do, always something to improve, and I … I’m continually in a state where I think I suck … because i’m always … whatever I may have done i’m past that now, now i’m up against the thing I can’t do … the thing i’m trying to do, the thing i’m working on … which is kinda a good state to be in because you’re always pushing yourself farther … always trying to be better, so I don’t look at it like that at all, I just look at it like his continuous adventure that i’m just beginning, actually … mcCartney, jaco, john entwhistle, jack bruce, tim bogart … the list is long, terribly long, and will probably … continue to grow.

C K 2942 – which albums and songs are you most proud of, either mr big or solo…

lean into it for me, [I don’t know, man … like hey man is one of my favourites … ] it;s like choosing when you’re a kid what’s your favourite cake … [this new album is completely different .. all the rest of those have tons of (???) on them and this one doesn’t … this one is like four on the floor rock and roll, it’s true, live, there were no overdubs for me, I mean, I begged to do overdubs but our producer kevin shirley said NO … billy, er … ] about 45 seconds [it’s a really cool record and it’s different than the other guys, amen for me, it’s my favourite] cool.

G McC from shepherd’s bush – you play in a rock band, but what sort of music do you enjoy listening to when you’re off duty

anything. Sinatra, johnny cash, debussey, fear, I like everything, I mean [what i’ve been into lately is john meyer’s battlestation, i’m really enamoured of that music ] – don’t you need to be cocky to do what you guys do?

[no] I don’t think so [a swagger maybe, but cocky … and get conned ] just asking for it

A S, bloomsbury – do you change the set depending on which country you’re in, or how long you can be onstage … surely each country has different tastes,

[I wish we would – we have a really long setlist, we play almost two hours, hardly any breaks, sometimes there’s like … last year, B, P&P cae up with this thing, where this beatles song … (32.22) I would like to free up the set list a little bit …] maybe one song we can switch around, no problem … the reason why the set list is like that is because it’s predictable, for the sound people and the light people and they kinda know what’s going on, what’s coming next … but we can do anything. We’re free, we can play anything we like in any order … [we get along gret now.

S W from gillingham – billy is there any riff brought to the band by paul or ritchie that you simply couldn’t get the hang of.

Please! Some things are tough – on this album there’s a song called around the world I tore myself to pieces on, because paul’s riffs, and as a guitarist he’s got these skinny little tiny little thin strings, but the bass has got these big manly giant strings, so i’m trying to pull these things off with these manly strings while paul’s gotthese thn strings and it was a challenge, but I get him back sometimes, I throw a few his way that make him think about it a little bit … but generally we play a lot alike, all of us, so we’re generally in the same stylistic head, so if one guy plays something the other guy kind knows where he’s going and can figure it out, but so far no … but there’s been some close calls.

Part 2 for eric – any bands that lost or sacked its front man and you thought ‘I’d be up for that’

[there’s a couple actually, years ago steve lukather with toto – the whole band came to see me play, this is like in he 80s, and they all loved me, and I was basically in the band for about a week, and jeff didn’t dig me, he thought I was too green, said I had to kidsit a rookie, but I had a great time, that was a great week, singing hold the line, georgie porgy, and I went out, and bought a wheel for my car. I’ve made it baby!]

what is it with americans and rims?

I wouldn’t touch that line with a fork

[this is a new one from the album, it’s about a warrior, it’s called stranger in my life]

44.52 – 50.34
44.53

Billy Sheehan Alone (VN550010.WMA)

interesting show no idea what was going on.

We didn’t either, we’ve never played togther like that before, and eric isn’t always the guitar player, so it was a little bit precarious, but in a good way. Sometimes when everything’s mapped out and you’ve got everything perfectly planned and plotted and rehearsed it’s kinda like going through th motions … sometimes there’s an unprdictability to it, I do enjoy it, in all aspects of performance … a small amount, if there’s too much unpredictability it’s a disaster, but having some unpredictability is a really cool thing.

Questions during the show … joe hesse …

he was the coolest guy in the neighbourhood, and he had the coolest hair, and a hot babe girlfriend, a Triumph motorcycle, great guy, still my dear friend to this day … and I wanted to be like joe and he was a bass player – I thought ‘if I play bass maybe i’ll be more like joe’. I was a little kid and there were bands everywhere at that time, very neighbourhood had two or three bands rehearsing, so i’d sit outside the basement window and they wouldn’t let me in because I was a little kid, you know, they were older kids, and i’d go home early and would hear the bass travelling, bcause bass travels, and then i’d see them carry thir gear in, this big huge bass amp, and i’d think ‘that’s joe’s amp, how cool’, so, he let me in one time and I actually picked the thing up and plucked and had a little blister on my finger and that was ‘cool!’, and also it was just big and massive and awesome and the amp was huge and I could hear it. You know the drums and guitars would get drowned out by the trees and houses but bass carries always, instantly I had an affinity for it. And joe was the catalyst for that … and joe actually taught me the most singular important piece of information, the one ‘senior datum’, to all bass playing, before I even owned a bass. I went over to his house, and he was there with the drummer tommy [2.25] coile, and it was just them, bass and drums, and this is 62 or 3, way back, and I said Joe, where’s the rest of the band, he goes well, it’s just me and the drummer, you see, when the drummer hits the bass drum, I gotta hit a bass note at the same time, so I practice with just the drummer to work that out. So ever since then i’ve done that, and I always say when I do my clinics if you keep that one piece of information in mind, you hit a bass note when the bass drum hits a note, you’ve got 90% of bassplaying down – ensemble bass playing you’ve got to figure out. I wish that a lot more bass players would – it’s funny how many young bass players don’t know that. Because of course, it’s chiselled in stone, that the bass drum hits a note, and you play note at the same time. That’s how that works.

Do you think you’re responsible for that?

Van halen’s a great rhythm player [3.43] a lot of them will get a rude awakening when they go out and try for a band and they go ‘no way’, some bass players go to audition with a band and think they’re going to impress them with all those hammer-ons … but c’mon, we need some bass here … I think the analogy to a cake is good, you see a cake, but you don’t see the cake you see the frosting, and sometimes people concentrate on the froting way too much, when the thing that’s holding the frosting up … Is the cake. [what kinda cake are you?] chocolate cake, big chocolate cake …

sound … [4.34] bunch of albums, one thing that always gets me about your sound is that you can hear strings … a lot of bassplayers I can just hear bass notes

I know exactly what you’re talking about … cool … I think … I get asked so often ‘how do I get a tone?, at seminars and clinics, and it makes me think, because I don’t really know the answer … I gotta figure it out on the spot sometimes, it forces me to inspect, what actually happened to me … that got me to the point where somebody’s asking me a question about it … in the early days, I look back and you know I was never really looking for a tone, I just wanted to hear the notes. I wanted to hear the notes that I was playing, because the notes that I’m playing are what’s important so when I hear the pitch of the note, the attack, decay, I want to hear the note because it’s in context with the ensemble of the band. So I would always go for the tone that would allow me to hear … and that depends how my ears were, some people are a little bit treble deaf, some a little bass deaf, so for my ears midrange, the woodytone has always been the secret tone, the tonality … that’s why I love when i’m playing a bass acoustically a lot of the time, I don’t plug it in … the tone of the wood on the bass, for me that’s the essential tone of that instrument, and I try to get as much of that out of an amp as possible, not always easy, because amps do alter what’s going on to a large degree, I was always going for a tone where I could hear the note, so I guess then as years go by, and sometimes the tone you get by setting things, treble, middle, bass, volume, proximity to the amp, it always affects how your fingers hit it, because … if you turn an amp way up, if you took a direct line off your bass, just recorded it, played through a little quiet amp for a little while, then through a fuckin’ totally deaf, loud amp and played through it, now let’s go back and listen to the line level that was just coming out of the bass, and you’ll see you’re attacking it completely different, i’m sure i’m not telling you something you don’t already know. So it’s a kind of symbiotic relationship between the tone you’re hearing off the amp and you adjust your hands to it which changes the tone again and makes you adjust again … it’s just a constant way things weave together to eventually form your own tone.

Back to unpredictability … how much do you like things to be stable, and how much do you like to be the feel of the night?

Good question, yeah. I keep somethings absolutely the same all the time … even in the old days, the same amp, same cord same speakers, same speaker cord, same strings, same kind of strings, pick-up heights and everything … nothing moved … same bass every night … night after night after night after night, so I knew that any thing that was changing was right here, was my hands … so if I have a shitty night it’s me. Same gear, same cords, same everything … pickups same distance, that’s why it drives me crazy when sometimes I see players who’ll go one night on one bass, next thing they’ve changed the pick-ups, the next thing they’ve got different strngs, then there’s a different amp, it would drive me out of my mind … so I leave all that stuff really predictable. But what you’re surrounded with on each different gig is always different, even though everything you have is the same. One stage to another stage is completely diferent … they soundchecks for live shows are completely different – that’s why some people have given up on soundchecks … when you get up onstage for the show and all the shit we worked on was a waste of time because nothing sounds the same – by trying to on purpose keep everything really exactly the same, my settings, maybe a little tweak here and there to adjust for what you’re hearing in the room … I let the unpredictability to be i’m in a different room, it’s a different crowd, it’s a different night, it’s a different vibe, and it’s a different moment so … those things can add a lot of unpredictability …

bass the same as ever …

almost the sam since about ’71. it’s the same … I put the EBO pickup in my fender bass in about 1971, and i’ve still got that bass – it’s actually on the cover of vintge guitar magazine, that was pretty cool – a few months back they did it, I didn’t know … I knew it was going to be in the magazine and I went to the store to pick up vintage guitar, I’m not sre if you get it here, it’s a big format magazine … and there was my bass on the cover. it was pretty cool. So everything’s pretty much modelled from that, and er, the yamaha bass, the neck is modelled after that neck, all the positions where the olume control and everything is exactly like that, which is why a lot of p-bass players pick it up and they like it, automatically comfortable, but it does have a few advantages over a p-bass, though … the p-bass is the standard by which all others are judged. But the pickup height … the pick-ups are in really solidly so to change the heght you need a really sharp screwdriver, and turn them a quarter turn at a time, there’s surgical tubing underneath the screws to hold those pckups solidly they don’t move at all ever … sometimes … well, I did a show last summer in the pouring rain with the re bass I have the sister bass of this one, and the next couple of days that bass … it was literally like it had been dipped into a pool, so I had to do quite a bit of tweaking to get it back … but generally it stays the same

stranger to my life … prefer acoustic to album version …

the marking out of rhythms is a bit more important … strumming to keep that time obvious to the audience … and dynamics to, I pull way back … I try to spell things out a little more chordally, but I try to hold bass there too … luckily I grew up in a three piece where I get to keep bass together while we did other things, sang and played other nonsense so … that was really good training for me erly on that I had to do that so playing this stuff … like I said we had no idea, we’ve never done anything like this before – it came of really well, but we did soundcheck and a tiny rehearsal last night, it was still precarious but like I said earlier, the pressure of when people are here

it was precarious, but it was really nice to hear … it wasn’t super-slick [we rehearsed songs that w didn’t actually play today we were playing b kis and stuff like that and I really liked, we were both really tired last night and were sort of going through it real quick. But the dynamics … we could never do that if we actually rehearsed it a million times … it would be bad] we didn’t plan it … I forget what sound it waa butall of a sudden we pulled way back let’s you do yur vocal thing and … we did it on a couple of tunes – dynamics the lost art … (your working with a thre piece) … yeah, we used to do carry on my wayward son by kansas… with three guys and no keyboard we had to add all the shit in there and sing it, you know … [remember that band open skies that used to tour with us and the they played that it was probably great when talas played carry on my wayward son, but as a lark and kind of as a cool thing to do as an encore but when those guys did it as an enciore and they were like pushing their first record … hmm …] yeah, we did a lot of songs we sang, we played , drummer paul, great voice … paul sang high speed on ice …

philosophers …

schopenhauer got into it pretty heavily, I was reading some schopenhauer and he waas talking about music being the senior art form, architecture is frozen rhythm I believe is one of his quotes (actually goethe), a couple of other philosophers too, I can’t remember names offhand but i’ve seen those philosophial points making music … and I think the reason is, because music is … to the listener, nothing’s there. You don’t see it, you don’t smell it, you see somebody playing it, but it comes through the air invisible. And when it’s in your mind, you are actually deciding and contributing to the art. A sad song affects you in a different way to anybody else because what’s sad to you …

the tempo … muics movse..

I guess the original tempo, aside from a planet going around the sun at a given rate, would be the heartbeat. A very closely tuned into humankind …i’m not trying to be self-aggrandising as a musician, but I really do feel that’s the case … other artists have said the same thing .. now I come from los angeles and a lot of actors and actresses .. no offence, well, some offence may be taken, I understand it … basically they’re speaking words someone else wrote, standing in a position someone else told them to wearing something someone else told them to put on, and the look an make-up was put up by someone else, they’ll do a thousand takes of it, and it’ll get edited together later … they really don’t have a lot to do with that, but having said that, there certainly are some great actors …

playing music you’ve composed yourself?

To me not that important, because I’m a firm believer in the copy band, the cover band, as a means to an end … I think er … the better other people are able to mimic … and it’s funny, because a lot of other artists, even painters, even some abstract painters learned from the masters … they could do regular realist painting, but they decided to go off … they knew their stuff, so when the time came and they decided to go abstract, there was a depth to it that someone simply throwing paint over a canvas isn;t going to have. I believe in learning from the maasters until you get your legs and are able to do it for yourselves … but these days artists and musicians are so intimately involved in every aspect of what is presented to the public … you write the songs, you recod them, you’re generally ther for the mix if youre not mixing it yourself or at least havinga say in it … i’m there for the recording, the mixing, the mastering … you decide the cover art, similarly an actor in a movie has nothing to do, imean the credits at the and run for twenty minutes of all the people that worked on that film … not to negate their artistic contribution, sean penn, de niro … so many great great actors … spectaculer, but it’s just an interesting comparison

do you find it’s changed the way you play … because you have so much to do with the album …

for me i’ve gotta have an engineer there, I can’t do the stop and start, punch myself in … some guys can do that, sit there all day and do that. [19.55] usually all this stuff happens after the fact … for me I really like to be unaffected by anything other than me playing the music. Some guys are real good at that … they can get into that, into the minutiae of the moment and all the little things and mic placement, whereas somebody asks me what mics do you use in the studio, and I say I don’t know, whatever they put up … so in some ways I think it can affect you … I’m not sure how it affects me, but on the new mr big record, we were utterly removed from [pause] much of that process … we went in and checked mixes, and had points of view on mixes, and checked the mastering and stuff like that, but I was involved less than ever on this record (by choice?) aaah, it wasn’t exactly by choice, my choice. The producer wanted to do it … the way he wanted to it … so at that point I said ‘you know what? I’m going to let him.’ it might be a mistake, it might be fantastic … but I said you know what, I trust his judgement, i’m going to let him do his thing. And I think it’s important to do it, because sometimes you have to delegate … you can’t necessarily micro-manage every aspect of everything … sometimes you’ve got to delegate … do your thing … you’ve done it, you kow what you’re doing, do your thing …

the guitarists …

well they’re all very very different, very unique, as people as well as players, I think once you get to a certain level it’s hard to say who’s better or not, and I know you know better, because their really is no answer. It’s probably about all their personalities affecting how they play and how they approach the instrument … paul’s a seat of the pants player, a rock player, knows a million songs … he’s more of a traditional rock band playing singing guy. Steve is a composer, composer/conductor kind of guy, who also plays guitar, so he composes music but he’s not so much of a songwriter … oh he’s written songs, and paul composes as well, there’s no definitive line here between any of them … Yng is, yng is the king, yng is pretty awesome yngwie came up and blew everybody’s mind … he was a phenomenon of nature when he first came out, I mean, when he came around, everybody thought oh, ok, van halen, I guess this is as far as you can go … uh oh … woo! Everybody … and then later on everybody piled on him and gave him shit and gave him a hard time and said terrible things about him and maybe he misbehaved as well … but in fact, if you remove all the human emotional reaction from it and that first moment back in 1983/4, the first time we heard that record with rising force … wow! That was amazing … plus yngwie, we were talking before about knowing the basics first … he is a master at that stuff … he’ll take a strat, which is tuned a little more than a half step out of tune all the way across the strings, and grab it and go 1,2,3,4,5,6 DONE! Tuned, with the stock fender vibrato which is impossible to tune … it’s in … little things like that show depth of understanding of the instrument …

what makes you think a guy sucks/rocks?

Um, with drummers, there’s kind of a coolness to their approach, just the way they sit at the the kit sometimes … and generally, this happened … well guitar players, this happened back in the club days, when I was still back in buffalo, we would meet so many musicians, some of them we knew, some of them we didn’t, and it became a funny thing, and we talked about it amongst ourselves in the band that we could tell how good of a player somebody was by talking to em … we’d never have to hear them play ever. I’m glad that you concur with me on that, it’s an odd phenomenon, so I talk with a guy, blah, blah … no, this guy’s not happenning, then one time I met a guy, new york, after the show … talking about the band, talking and I thought uh-oh, this guy is dangerous … this guy’s pretty awesome, and I knew it right away and this guy was a big freak on john mclaughlin, and he had his phd in analytical philosophy, swear to god! I don’t know how you do that … and he knew his stuff, he wasn’t just a college guy, he knew the depth – I was at his house and there was this big, thick book and I opened it up at random and read a sentence and he says, ‘that sounds like thomas aquinas’, that was a chapter on thomas aquinas … he knew his stuff, but he was dangerous, he was awesome … and he taught me some great, great things about guitar and about music, fretboards … so to prove it’s out there too … but usually you can tell just by talking to somebody right away, it’s a funny thing …

there’s a one-ness a person has with his instrument … drummers too … sit down and it’s the same thing … there can be widely varying characteristics of that oneness … but the oneness itself, I think it’s evident, there are a million abstractions of it, but it’s very evident … when dennis chambers sits behind a drum kit, you know you’re about to get your ass kicked, people right away start to back up a little bit, ‘cos they know (who’s the best drummer you’ve ever played with?) Dennis. No hesitation. He’s the best musician (does that make a difference) I think sometimes it’s a characteristic of the drummer and the way he sits, it makes it a musical instrument, whereas some guys are just baashing away, which is a good thing too and a very musical thing too … I don’t have anything particular that must be one way or the other, one style over another … but drums are very musical, they’re musical things … some guys are more musical about them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re that great … dennis changed my life.

What is that box?

This is the jangle box … I tried it for the first time on bass tonight, it is a really extreme compressor, and it’s designed to makea twelve-string guitar sound like roger McGuinn, from the Byrds, the jangly, jangly (sings tambourine man) that’s the tine … and he uses one of these too, now … on bass it’s really cool, if you pull I back quite a bit – you don’t want it quite that jangly – it’s a real interesting and cool tone. I just brought it for the first time ever because I knew I’d be playing quiet through a small amp, so we brought the jangle box.

Physical shit?

I tear my hands to pieces, (do you prevent injuries or just play through it?) just play through it …
i’m just blessed with this thing, with this love of playing, and music, that pushes me beyond my normal limits … so when things physically … it’s funny, I can be sick as a dog and weak and shaky and the flu and 2 3 4 … and bang, I’m right up to normal … I remember I did a show in new york opeing for aerosmith years ago and i’d just flown back from england and I had some kind of flu, think it was my first time over to england … so I was exposed to germs I had never been around before … and I was shaky and weird I remember afterwards a paramedic … I was laying in the dressing room and I opened my eyes and I was surrounded by paramedics … that’s how bad I was … no. i’m ok … and when I got onstage there was nothing wrong, nothing wrong … and there’s been times when I’m bleeding onstage and you don’t know it … it’s an incredible rush and it’s not diminished one micron to me after over forty years …

jaded? I still do love to play and I love to listen and i-tunes is a passion of mine,

three songs of yours … three songs a bassplayer should listen

i’d pick songs people have brought upto me, because i’m too close to them … yankee rose off DLR, another would be promise her the moon, which is a beautiful ballad Mr Big did, should’ve been a hit … and it’s delicate, sweet kinda playing … and then there’s addicted to that rush, which is the first mr big song off the first record which is kind of all hell breaking loose …

a seat of the pants vibe.

I think ATTR was a first take, there were some second and third takes, but that was a first take … of course we were going direct to tape, there was no protools then. I remember that one of the songs, I think it was ATTR, we used the first take … we did fixes … on the new record I overdubbed about 45 seconds of bass … in total that was it …

audiohijack pro … but don’t tell anyone else at all …

playing with paul …

sometimes I have to pull off playing bass notes with the kick drum, and that becomes a dynamic, suddenly we’re off the standard bass thing, into a whoe other world so then when we come back in, it actually gives it more impact … like getting quieter and getting loud again … like in ATTR, that line I can’t follow the bass drum while I’m playing that, we get back to a (goes didle-de-dee) there’s a dynamic to it as well. Supreme importance to play with the bass drum but like every rule it’s extremely malleable it can be fluxxed around a little bit, so we can play with it to some degree … but the essential component of the licks and the fancy shmancy stuff is it’s got to be in time … it’s gotta be locked in,

paul’s a drmmer also, and i’m a drum groupie from the beginning … the first instrument I ever played was the drum … a set of drums, a drum kit … and I get modern drummer, the magazine … I keep up on drums and drumming … supremely important

played with mike mangini, the two drummers on the eddie jobson thing … did 5 shows, 2 in japan, 3 in the us … a guy called TJ Hemerich and marc Benio. Mangini and miniman on drums … myself on bass … I wasn’t familiar with much of anything of his but I just know he was associated with a lot of music and bands that I love … like red by king crimson … one of the greatest records ever made … period bass tone, forget it … so we did starless, and I had to play the dung, dung … and i’ve heard it a million times … I never actually played it … so learning it, and playing it …

why is that? Songs you have too much respect for?

I don’t know why I never played it, we did red in niacin, we did, um, one more red nightmare and a couple of other songs … but had never ventured into that … into starless.

Who do you want to play with that you haven’t …

paco de lucia … it would be awesome … he’s a living master at his craft .. I met him briefly backstage years ago … but i’ve been a fan of his … not an intense fan, but i’ve recognised him as being one of the grand masters, and when those guys are around, you just want to et in there … Oscar peterson also … for whie he had a little arthritic thing which broke my heart and any remaining beatle, too …

around the world … some wild riffage there between me an paul … (fast lane) … that actually came from a bass riff. And I showed it to paul and he cam eup with … and part of the riff requires you to barre – play the two notespulling off onto the lower one … which on bass is fucking tough … on guitar strings it’s no problem … I could do it all day … but bass strings it was tough … we just pound at it … the ay we had to record that, because we were doing takes without any overdubs … we started recording around 1 o’clock each ay so paul and I got there around ten … went over it a billion times … we pulled it off, which surprised me, because I didn’t think we could do it without overdubbing the line … but it came out ok, who’d have thunk it?

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