Log of The Artist Shop IRC Chat with bassist Gary Willis of Tribal Tech on Juanuary 22, 1997


Session Start: Wed Jan 22 01:17:21 1997
<GaryD> Ok, folks things will be underway shortly.  Well folks, welcome to another Artist Shop chat.  Our guest tonight is Alchemy solo artist and bassist, Gary Willis, also a member of the jazz ensemble Tribal Tech.
<Willis> OK, I'm set.
<AnilP> hmm, this is intimate..
<Willis> Hey Anil.
<AnilP> yo gary
<Pancho> That's an independent artist!
<Willis> Hey, I'm a complete chat newbie so take it easy on me.
<Pancho> I am too!
<AnilP> what kind of batteries do you use in your pick-ups?
<Pancho> hahahehehihihi
<Willis> Serious?  sorry...
<AnilP> duracel or energizer. people wanna know dammit.
<Willis> I've heard there's a functional difference. If you really want to know.
<AnilP> okay, a real one -- do you have any "superstitions" you adhere to before or during a gig?
<Willis> Absolutely not. We do our own gear so that's too much of a luxury. No time for that.
<GaryD> Let's talk a little about "No Sweat"....
<Pancho> Yeah!
<Willis> Yes?
<GaryD> From listening to the album, the thing that hits me right off the bat is the interaction between you and Dennis Chambers.  I could listen to a whole album of just the two of you.....
<Willis> Thanks.
<Pancho> How did you hook up with Dennis?
<GaryD> And tell us about working with him....the chemistry seems so tight.
<Willis> We shared some of the same stages opening up for Mike Stern or vice-versa. Got to know him that way.  In rehearsal, and recording, there was never hardly a discussion about how to play one way or another. He's got great instincts so it just clicked.
<Pancho> He's got the FONK!
<Willis> Definitely!!
<Pancho> So do you!
<Willis> Gracias.
<Pancho> I was just listening to Stoopid, and that's righteous FONK!
<Willis> That was fun, thanks.
<AnilP> What made you decide on the quartet format you took for the disc?
<Willis> I'd done some playing/jamming with Tav over the years and he seemed natural fit with Kinsey.  Also the music needed some melody sounds that didn't come from me or keyboards (or guitar).
<AnilP> What were some of the challenges you faced in the role of "leader?"
<Willis> Actually, it's easier than being a "co-leader". Not a power trip, just less of a hassle all around. Logistics, rehearsals, studios were the only possible hangups, but not really.
<Pancho> Are you touring with this band ?
<Willis> There's a possibilty of Europe this summer.
<Pancho> I'm movin' to Europe, then!  I think Tavaglione is really underrated!
<Willis> Way!  Extremely, versatile, musical etc.!
<GaryD> The approach on your album seems very subtle.  Not that the musicianship isn't immediately evident.  But the album seems to avoid flash in favor of some very tasteful playing.  It's a true ensemble feel as opposed to a group backing someone up.  Could you comment on that?
<Willis> Well, I guess it comes from using simple tunes and structures so that you have to listen and base what you play on interaction instead of the wall of notes thing.
<Pancho> He's quite hot, I just got his 'Blue Tav'!
<Willis> Is Blue Tav the latest? Within the last month or so?
<Pancho> It's a japanese album from 94.  Don't you know it?
<Willis> I've heard parts of that one.
<lm> I am the one who is rather new to all this. I logged on earlier as a "test" and was surprised at getting an anwer from Gary Willis Thank you so much for the day brightner!
<Pancho> What are your expectation in terms of sales? (Sorry to be so cold, but I'm curious)
<Willis> No problem. I have to keep "No Sweat" from my vocabulary in order so seem modest.
<Pancho> Was that title your idea?
<Willis> Yeah, after going through all the stupider sounding ones.
<lm> Although it is obvious that the music of 'None Too Soon' had a lot of musical planning to it, was some of it improvisational?
<Willis> It was. But more like we had to imagine Allan playing since he didn't track with us. (studio size problems mostly)
<Pancho> Were you familiar with the original versions of the Joe Henderson tunes you did?  (Inner Urge, 1964)
<GaryD> You mean you did your tracks and he dubbed his later
<Willis> That's it.  Gordon Beck did some playing with Joe H. so he was the most familiar with those versions.
<Pancho> I didn't know that.. Beck is another underrated guy!  Jeez, you're all underrated !!  You should do an album: 'Underrated Jazz'
<lm> lmiller again: When are any tours planned?
<Willis> Allan's touring Europe this spring with a trio. Dave Carpenter and a drummer TBA.
<lm> lmiller: Imeant,when is "youself" and band touring?
<Willis> Tribal Tech is going to Europe in April and Austrailia in June.
<lm> lmiller:Ah... I can't afford to go to Europe to see Allan or yourself nor to Austrila!(sigh)
<Willis> We ususally do the states every fall so the closest we get to College Station is Austin.
<lm> lmiller:alright! That's not far Will make "Tenative " plans !
<xXCOOLXx> What type of bass do u use?
<Willis> A custom Ibanez fretless based on the 885 body shape.
<xXCOOLXx> So I would assume it is active electronics true?
<Willis> It's a Bartolini wound with fewer turns hard wired to the jack so no internal electronics at all.
<Pancho> Allan should tour with Peter Erskine!  Are you playing new material?
<Willis> Allan just played the NAMM show with Peter but I missed it.
<Pancho> That must have been something!
<GaryD> As a bassist, which bassists would you say influence you the most?
<Willis> Rocco Prestia, Paul Jackson, Anthony Jackson and of course Pastorious.
<Pancho> Are you still touring in support of Reality Check?
<Willis> Since we haven't recorded anything since, I guess so.
<Pancho> I bought a Tower of Power CD because everybody digs Rocco .. I was not dissapointed ! He's got style!
<GaryD> What label is Tribal Tech on?
<Willis> Currently none. But we have a couple of labels that are interested so something will happen soon.
<lm> lmiller:Some may know this but I don't What are your musical influences and general faves?
<Pancho> Was Jeff Berlin an influence?
<Willis> That's a hard one to keep short. How about, TOP, Herbie, Miles, Joe Z, Wayne, Marvin Gaye, War, Aretha, Aaron Copeland, I could go on.  'Can't say that Jeff was an influence.
<Pancho> What do you think of be-bop?
<Willis> I learned the most about the instrument from playing be-bop.
<numbr6> Any particular bebop a favorite?
<Willis> Well, Bill Evans was be-bop and post-be-bop. I probably learned the most from listening to him.
<Pancho> I notice that your solos are quite pentatonic sometimes !
<Willis> I probably use them to a fault, but they can be  energetic without sounding like a formula.
<lm> When did you begin playing?
<Willis> I got a bass when I was 13. Victor probably started before that.
<AnilP> Gary, a number of people say the electric bass is still very much in its evolutionary stages. Do you agree? And if so, at what "point" do you think it's at right now?
<Willis> It is a relatively "young" instrument. I've never really compared it to other instruments. 'wouldn't know.
<AnilP> Okay, where do you think *you* are in your ability to manipulate the instrument to your ends.
<Willis> I've been able to say what I want to so far on the instrument to a certain extent. But, the bigger challenge to me is writing the music that presents what I have to say in a band context or otherwise.
<Pancho> Don't you think that playing over bebop-style changes limits the melodic possibilities? Do you like to play over a two.chord vamp, for example?
<Willis> If you develop you're vocabulary the right way then changes or no changes shouldn't affect what you have to say. Coltrane wrote Giant Steps and Impressions.
<lm> lmillerI am new to your music but I checked out snippetts from "No Sweat" Very "Inticing!"
<AnilP> No Sweat was a bit a 'Giant Step' for you. Where do you want to take your solo career from here?  Did you compose the initial threads of the pieces on 'No Sweat' on bass? Or do you write on other instruments too?
<Willis> I pretty much stay with my computer/keyboards and rarely use the bass to compose.
<Pancho> Hi tech guy!
<numbr6> Please forgive if common knowledge - you're pictured with a fretless bass in the "None Too Soon" booklet - do you play fretless exclusively?
<Willis> Yeah, I used a fretted for some parts of my solo CD  but otherwise its all fretless.
<Pancho> Gary, do you remember your first gig?
<Willis> I got a bass when I was 13 on a Thursday and I was playing in church that Sunday. My first paying gig was at a restuarant when I was 20.
<Pancho> Fast boy!
<AnilP> Now that you've completed your first solo outing, how will that change what you bring to Tribal Tech next time around?
<Willis> Henderson and I plan to bring zero to TT on the next CD. It will be completely improvised in the studio.
<Pancho> Wild!
<AnilP> Is that a new approach for the band?
<lm> lmiller completely improvised! Alright!
<Pancho> You did something similar in Illicit, didn't you?
<Willis> We've included a few jams on previous CD's but mostly we've been trying to jam in concert.
<Willis> Riot & Aftermath.
<Pancho> Yeah
<GaryD> I think it's about time for our ritual trivia question.  Gary's going to give away an autographed copy of "No Sweat"  Whoever's the first to answer the question gets it.  What question have you got for us, Gary?
<Willis> OK, name the year, model, make and color of the official Tribal Tech US tour vehicle.
<GaryD> Holy Cow!!!
<lm> lmillerawww shucks!
<AnilP> '78 Pinto, baby blue, Ford
<Pancho> 1962, Ford Pinto, Cherry Red with white spots!
<Willis> anything close?
<GaryD> It's your call, Gary.
<Pancho> VW bug, 1947, plaid
<GaryD> I'd suggest you put in a guess numbr6.  You're as likely to get this one as anyone else :-)
<Willis> How about in order of importance, Make, Color, model and year.
<AnilP> how about another question? :-)
<Pancho> lamborghini Countach, 1997, black
<lm> lmiller 1956, green with Dave Brubeck blasting from the speakers in the van
<Pancho> Yes, yes!
<Willis> OK, what was the name of the restuarant of my first gig, (mentioned in this month's Bass Frontiers mag).
<Pancho> Van Halen, not Brubeck!
<Pancho> Joe's
<Pancho> Dante's
<Willis> We actually blast the Simpsons (we got a TV)
<Pancho> The Golden Arches
<lm> lm try again here Wendys
<Pancho> This is too difficult!
<Willis> It is a "chain" but not fast-food
<numbr6> The Russian Tea Room
<numbr6> it's a new chain    :^)
<Willis> another question?
<Pancho> yeah!
<GaryD> i think so
<lm> lm yes please!
<Willis> What's the name of the first record label Tribal Tech recorded 'Spears and Dr. Hee on?
<lm> lm
<Pancho> Jet
<Pancho> Passport jazz
<AnilP> Jambalaya Music
<Willis> Pancho is correct!!
<Pancho> I win, I rule
<Pancho> hahahehehihihuhuhu!
<winner> Passport sucked!
<Willis> tell me about it.
<AnilP> What's up with Spears and Hee anyway Gary? Are we ever gonna see 'em again?
<winner> They went bankrupt!  They had some goo records though!  good
<Willis> We put out Primal Tracks with some of those cuts but as far as I know it's only available on import.
<winner> I still got 'The Players' with Scotty and Jeff Berlin ! It rules!
<AnilP>  why not just reissue the originals?  players! i've been looking for those discs for years.
<Willis> That's an investment that our previous 3 labels didn't want to make.
<AnilP> are you guys still on bluegoon?
<Willis> Henderson still is recording his blues oriented thing for them but no TT.
<AnilP> so where is TT gonna land?
<winner> The mothership!
<Willis> We've been able to do 7+ records with no interference from "executives" so I don't look at it as a curse. Probably a European label since we work more over there.
<winner> Is the scene dead in the US?
<AnilP> winner, we're talking about a country that puts John Tesh and Kenny G in its jazz sections...
<Willis> Well, due to the size and distance between gigs we've had to cut back the US tour part. We have some dedicated fans so I can't say it's "dead"
<winner> Here's one!
<Willis> Anil> OK it's dead.
<winner> So Europeans are gonna save good american music again! Just as they did in the fifties and sixties!
<winner> Viva Europa and their good taste!
<Willis> "A prophet is without honor in his own land"?
<GaryD> With the way the internet is constantly expanding and developing, do you see a point where the internet can offer the touring artist the option of inexpensive to produce, live pay per views?
<Willis> Whew, I wouldn't want to bet on it considering tonite's participation, my fault, of course.
<AnilP> Gary, what's your theory on why America doesn't support jazz in the mainstream? It seems very much a fringe music except for heavies like The Marsalis Mafia.
<Willis> It's a very industry driven machine, MTV, advertising, it's all based on the lower denominators so the exposure isn't there for people tochoose.
<GaryD> Yes, the corporate mentality is all geared to the lowest common denominator to achieve the highest financial gain.  What they want is homogeny in order to achieve the greatest sales.
<winner> Gary, what are your memories of 'Minor Elegance' with Diorio and Ford ?. I think some of your best playing is there !  You and Peter swinnnnnng!
<Willis> Thanks, stylistically it was more of a traditional walking role that I dig as well.
<winner> I've turned 6 friends into TT and they love it! That's the only way!
<Willis> Winner, That's how we've stayed alive, thanks.
<winner> You're welcome! And this is only the beginning....
<AnilP> Are you able to maintain a decent lifestyle at the level you're at?
<winner> Yeah, good question! (As always)
<Willis> We've always known that financially this music wouldn't be very rewarding but as long as you are aware of it you don't set yourself up for dissapointment.
<GaryD> Seems to me I just heard today someone claim that the problem with the music industry was that it used to be run by people who were in it for the music, many of them musicians themselves.  Those people are gone and in there place are McDonald's executives.
<winner> A friend of mine is an exec at PolyGram and he's the only one in the staff who plays an instrument or even knows about good music !
<GaryD> And who is your friend?
<AnilP> :-)
<winner> But, good music can sell, what about Weather Report?
<AnilP> welcome to 1997 winner
<GaryD> If good music receives no support, good music can fail, too.
<Willis> True, they had a "hit" that wouldn't probably survive the machinery in place today.
<winner> Yeah !
<AnilP> name one "fusion" band that sells like weather report ever did... hell, even the fuzak boys (eg; Yellowjackets, Spyro Gyra, even Chick Corea) seem to be having a tough time.
<winner> Isn't it a matter of education?
<AnilP> It's interesting, I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. We were talking about how the "current generation" seems to be the least culturally and artistically motivated one ever...
<Willis> Since our fans are mostly musicians you could say that education is it. but there are some complete non-musician fans as well, I think it's more of having an open mind.
<AnilP> Maybe we're way off base though.
<GaryD> Funding for arts and arts education has been drastically cut.  At least in the US.  How is it in Canada and Chile?
<winner> I remember going to see The Spider play in a school (Los Alamitos) in California (1990) and I was impressed by two things: The place wasn't even half full ???!!  And the school had a jazz bigband that was better than any Chilean pro jazz band!
<AnilP> Funding has decreased dramatically in Canada, but it hasn't plunged to the ridiculous level of the united states.  Old Newty and his "let's cut the endowment fund and NPR" really scare the crap out of me.
<GaryD> I think it's a Republican plot to make more Republican's in the next generation.  I can see them behind closed doors saying "All them damn artists are liberals!  We can't have all these liberals.  Let's cut the arts funding and more of those kids will grow up to be Republicans."
<winner> The situation in Chile is even worse, the democratic government has done nothing of real value to make it better! MTV rules here too!
<AnilP> it was nice to see newty take a HARD one to the chin recently.
<GaryD> Not hard enough
<AnilP> uh... this politico talk isn't gonna be in the transcript is it?
<winner> Hey GaryD, remember that Kenny G played for Clinton, not for Bush!
<Willis> Maybe I should start looking for a day gig. A chapeau salesman perhaps.
<AnilP> ball caps!
<winner> hahahehehuhuhihiho
<GaryD> You could probably sell a few Chapeau to Mike Keneally.
<winner> Hey Gary, If you had to put D'Addario strings on your bass, what would you do?
<GaryD> BTW, we'll be chatting with Mike at the end of February.
<Willis> Hey, I've become more open mined recently. maybe not That much.
<winner> I personally would become Vinnie Colaiuta, or Kirk Covington!
<AnilP> gary, how many beers did you guys go through during bassfest in Montreal in '95? :-)
<Willis> I guess you could call them "musicians" what's the chat symbol for "kidding"
<Willis> Actually, I only drink beer in Canada. They say it's more potent. I don't ever drink it any other time so I don't know.
<winner> Mr Willis, do you have a traditional family?
<Willis> I have a wife and 2 Labrador retrievers. No kids except for the dogs. They're family though.
<winner> Dog Party!
<AnilP> don't even start with that man... :-)
<winner> So TT is a dog lovin band!
<Willis> Kirk recently got a puppy and Kinsey's roommate has a Lab so we're hooked.
<winner> Shit!
<AnilP> i was wondering what the hell was up with henderson at the second to last l'air du temps stint
<winner> You can start a kennel!
<AnilP> he kept yelling "where's my dog!?" there were more than a few people in the crowd wondering what he was on. :-)
<GaryD> Well, this has been great fun, folks.  Everyone keep in touch and we'll do this again, soon.

Session Close: Wed Jan 22 1997

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