We recently had the immense pleasure of spending some time with Tony Levin, a true legend in the world of bass (and the Chapman Stick). Tony visited Source Audio headquarters while he was in the area visiting friends and enjoying some downtime just before Christmas. He actually grew in the town of Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston about 20 minutes away from Source Audio's home in Woburn, MA - he's a fellow New Englander!!! We had a blast talking music and music gear with this pioneering master of low-end.
Unfortunately, we weren't rolling cameras or recording any of the sounds we explored with the Atlas Compressor or the Ultrawave Multiband Bass Processor, but hearing Tony play through our gear was truly inspiring. He found the Ultrawave and its non-traditional approach to bass overdrive and fuzz particularly intriguing. The Ultrawave's multiband approach, which splits the bass signal into as many a 10 discrete frequency bands and provides independent control of each band's drive level was something that interested Mr. Levin quite a bit. As I mentioned, we weren't able to record with Tony (it wasn't really that kind of a visit), but if your interested in hearing the Ultrawave with bass, we highly recommend listening to what our old friend Nathan Navarro did with it in our official demo (LINK TO THE ULTRAWAVE DEMO).
Tony also spent a little bit of time with our Atlas Compressor. The Atlas and its spot-on models of the smooth and gentle LA2A Optical compression, snappy 1176 solid state FET style compression, and highly flexible Dual Band compression, which gives you independent control of high and low frequencies, inspired him to say, "Oh, I know I can use that."
And of course the culmination of our magnificent hang came when Tony joined the likes of Leland Sklar, Victor Wooten, Reeves Gabrels, Bryan Bellar, Blackbird McKnight, Dick Dale, and many more, and signed the legendary Source Audio Cricket Bat. Yes, we've considered shipping this piece of history to Cleveland and the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, but it is still living document, so we're going to hold onto it for the time being. ;-)
Since we're all here, we thought it might be fun to take the opportunity to embark on a brief Tony Levin listening party. Just a pleasant stroll through some of the amazing recordings that feature Mr. Levin's unmistakable approach to low-end groovy-ness.
King Crimson - Elephant Talk: You may have noticed my avoidance of using the term "bassist" when describing Tony Levin as a musician. Though he IS a monster in the world of bass guitar, he is not solely a bass player. Mr. Levin is just as likely to reach for his Chapman Stick when the opportunity arises. Elephant Talk by King Crimson is an epic example of his Chapman Stick prowess. Discipline was King Crimson's eighth full-length release, but it marked a new beginning as it introduced the band's most celebrated line-up of Levin, Robert Fripp, Bill Buford, and Adrian Belew. Even in the extremely musically proficient genre of progressive rock, this collection of musicians is draw-dropping. Check out Tony's incredible introduction to the song - it sets the tone for the mind-blowing, avant garde virtuosity that follows.
Peter Gabriel - I Don't Remember: Yet another Chapman Stick performance. Tony has been with the amazing Peter Gabriel since the very beginning of his post Genesis solo career. It's impossible to over-state the impact of this body of work, and picking a single tune to represent it all is not easy, but we're going make an executive decision and focus on the song I Don't Remember, off of Gabriel's third solo record (often referred to as "Melt") - one of my absolute favorites. This 1978 performance is something I hadn't seen before. It was recorded two years prior to the release of Melt. It is an early version of the song with some alternate lyrics, but the performance is pure fire (if you've never heard the recording from the album, we highly recommend checking it out - here is a link).
Yes, I realize I said we were only going to focus on a single Peter Gabriel song, but the new song Panoticom, released just a couple of weeks ago, can't be ignored. Tony told us how excited he was about the forthcoming Gabriel record, but WOW! Anybody who calls themselves a Peter Gabriel fan has to be out-of-their-head over this sneak peek from the soon-to-be-released full-length record. A world tour is also in the works, so we all have something truly special coming our way. I also came across this great video of Peter talking about the song Panoticom and the recording process.
The Stick Men - Level V: One of my most intense live music experiences was seeing Tony's band Stick Men when they opened for Adrian Belew at The Royale in Boston a few years back. This band puts the Chapman Stick front and center along with the touch guitar playing of Markus Reuter and drums of Pat Mastelotto, we are talking some unbelievable musicianship. This excellent rendition of King Crimson's Level V off of their 2003 record, The Power To Believe, is an instrumental tour-de-force.
John Lennon - Watching the Wheels: Now we could go on all day talking about the countless great recordings in which Tony was involved, but we're going to wrap things up with this gem. It's a more traditional approach to bass guitar than much of Tony's work, but my Lord... it's a banger. The guy played with a Beatle, what more do you need to say? John Lennon's incredible 1980 comeback record with Yoko is one of his finest and most inspired works.
That is all for now. Huge THANKS to Tony Levin for swinging by the Source Audio headquarters and reminding us that creating tools that help musicians to create great music is why we got into effects pedals in the first place.
All the blogs are written by the Source Audio staff.