October 9-10, 2017

The original record cover for Traveler - 1987

The original record cover for Traveler - 1987

The Great Divide  

Natural vs Electronic Instruments was like a religious chasm... like Classical vs Rock, PC vs Apple, Giants vs Dodgers
Paul Horn

Paul Horn

I was reminded of a great bass player the other day, Joe Holiday. "Bass player" sounds a little small... this is an artist, sculptor, sound designer.

The future will remember these days as when the great fires in Sonoma, Napa Valley and Glen Ellen caused so much loss. That's where Joe is from and I can only hope that his home is spared.

I worked with Joe several times in my young career and, most notably, when I was writing "Traveler" with Paul Horn. This was the first of many records with Paul and I was really into the idea of the whole studio being an instrument rather than a tool.

At the time, people thought of traditional instruments to be "real" and studio machines and technology to be "fake".  Never mind that the same was once said about the harpsichord and piano and that saxophones, guitars and violins have always been marvels of technology. I was always fascinated with electronic music, tape decks that could be played like a piano and composers like Cage, Subotnik and crazy things I had heard as a kid on Beatles records (number nine... number nine). 

But... I never thought that you had to have one kind of music at the expense of the other. 

I also liked the idea that a recorded improvisation by a great musician could become the first layer in a "composition of compositions", an instrument in itself to be played. So... this experiment happened.

 I created the tone center and rhythmic bed for this song with my tape loops, Linn Drum machine and NED Synclavier synthesizer plus a few hand percussions. Next, I invited Joe Holiday-Bass, Lisa Haley-Violin, and Dimitri Vandellos-Guitar to play individually over the top. Each did this without hearing what the other players had done. Paul ended up doing the same.

I started weaving the soloists together with a very early automated mixer called a "Compu-Editor" that would frequently lose it's little mind and make me start over. The disconnected threads created a stream of consciousness of it's own and we just went along for the ride. The final mix was done with the great Fred Catero who helped create the "San Francisco sound". 

It resulted in the song "Metropolis" which, together with the rest of the record, garnered a Grammy nomination in 1987. 

I still record this way today and when anyone asks me 'what do I play?'... expecting piano, guitar or some single thing made of wood, I quote Paul Horn. "This cat plays studio".