We interrupt our multi-part rant on ‘Criticism’ for the second snippet from the new album, Progress, called Take A Picture. Famous fretless bass players with two syllable names. Pino. Jaco. Jon Anderson and Olias of Sunhillow. The Roger Dean planet. Unconventional finger picking. Bach. Superbia. Catholic sin. Satan. The usual.
Roger CortonI was going to publish the other parts of our mega-chat on (cough) ‘criticism’ but this site is supposed to be about your music and not ‘Humanities 101’. So I made an executive decision to get this up. ASAP.
JCHWhat’s that old business joke about ‘asap’?
RCIt makes a sap out of you and me. Us oldsters really know how to tell a joke, eh sonny?
JCHNo doubt. Probably nobody under thirty has even heard that knee slapper. But in reaction to your ‘executive decision’, allow me to be a bit more with the youth of America. “What…ehhhhhver, dude.”
RCDon’t worry. We’ll get back to your ranting–whether I like it or not. But obviously the first thing I notice about this new track is the fretless bass you were talking about with the Yes, Onward Cover. Lots of swooping and diving.
JCHWell, like I said, I think it’s got a lot more potential for expressivity than a regular bass. Obviously one can go overboard, but at its best, I think it gives one the ability to play two parts at once.
RCI think I get it. Like Jaco with Joni Mitchell or Pino Palladino with Don Henley. I can imagine their parts arranged for two separate players…
JCHEXACTAMUNDO! That doesn’t work nearly as well with a ‘regular’ bass. I almost think a fretless belongs in with a string quartet. It gives you that cello thing where you can hold down the bottom or and also have a real ‘human’ solo voice at the same time. Whereas a regular bass played up high often sounds like a wimpy guitar to me (laughs).
RCSpeaking of which, I like the guitar finger-picking sound. I tried to figure it out and couldn’t get it. Is there a capo involved? Or is it a synth?
JCHNo. It’s a guitar. But it’s done with this ancient Line 6 Variax Acoustic. Remember those?
RCAcoustic guitars with the ‘modeling’ electronics built in. You’d supposedly be able to flip a switch and sound like twenty different famous guitars. You still have one?
JCHYeah. Only because no one wants them. They’re literally worthless on eBay. They don’t really sound like any real guitar worth a damn. But because they sound so fakey you can actually make it imitate a lot of (cough) ethnic instruments. You know… plunky things like a Tres or an Oud. Or as Donald Fagen might say, ‘Angular Banjos’.
RCWhy that tone?
JCHAs you know, I love Jon Anderson’s Olias Of Sunhillow. The color palette he came up with. It sounds totally organic to me; although not the organic sounds of this world.
RCRight. It’s a fantasy land.
JCHAnd I think he succeeded brilliantly. It really sounds like those are all instruments that you’d hear on a Roger Dean planet, right? Even though almost none of the sounds are ‘natural’ instruments. It drives me nuts when you hear movie soundtracks like ‘Star Wars’ or whatever where they try to give you a sense of music on other worlds. Well, they always sound PATHETIC. But Jon nailed it with total low tech! Anyhoo, that guitar bit, with the synth pad underneath is an effect I really like from that record.
RCI hear that! Gives me an excuse to pull that out and give it a fresh spin.
JCHPlease, pull out, Rog! She said. But to your original comment, the pattern is tough to figure out because it is piano-ish. I mean, that’s one of those things where I’ll show it to you when we’re off the air and you’ll see ‘the trick’ and decide it ain’t worth all the effort (laughs). It’s a complete knuckle-buster, but again, we’re going for that other-worldly quality and one way to sound…
RCOut of this world?
JCH…clever… is to play a pattern that doesn’t sound like what a guitar would play. In other words, if yer arpeggios sound like a piano? Your ear immediately detects that something sounds kinda ‘alien’. On that same technique note, similarly the little piano noodle is also a bit tougher than it sounds. Well, at least for me.
RCIt almost sounds like Bach. Or that Bach meets jazz stuff. Bruce Hornsby, maybe.
JCHI’m glad you hear that. As I age, I’m putting in more time practicing that sort of low-rent contrapuntal junk. I get to dink around with it at church so it’s bleeding into my regular life.
RCAnything that comes out of church probably isn’t a bad thing at all, son.
JCHPerhaps, but beware of Superbia, the root of all evil! It took me so long to be able to play any of this crap with any confidence that I think I overdo it. Delusions of Glenn Gould for… persons of extremely low IQ… er…. Man, being PC really takes the fun out of life sometimes.
RCNow that sounded retarded. ‘Superbia’?
JCHSuperbia? In catholic doctrine it’s ‘pride’. And pride–not money, mind you–is literally the root of all evil, baby!
RCAnd why is that, my Papist pal from Puget Sound?
JCHOooh, nice one. Pride is the precursor of all other sins because you have to be thinking about what you want ahead of what God wants in order to sin! You dig? That was Satan’s crime: PRIDE! He care more for his own thoughts than God’s That’s why Superbia is coming out of that poor sod’s head. Remember that, Roger.
RCOh I’m writing that all down. JC. But I expect the lightning bolt is going to strike you dead in about three… two…
JCHWait! Wait!… I need my ginormous ego… It’s tough out there.
RCRight. Any comments on the words?
JCHThe lyrics? Well not after you just hurt my feelings! Jeeeez.
RCOK, then I guess I’ll have to wait for the record. We’re done.