THE WHOLE STORY: My musical history begins with my earliest memories; listening to and being fascinated by our neighbour's bluegrass band, my parents always singing funny little songs to me, and the car radio, perhaps most of all. I enjoyed bouncing on the seat and listening, sort of in a happy childhood trance, and at home I began to bounce on the couch or sit in a rocking chair and trip out to my parents' Elvis records. In fact my greatest pleasure until well into my teens was to put a chair in front of the stereo and bounce to loud music, but it had to be done in private, excepting my brother and sister who were used to it. I only stopped because I felt that it was just 'not right' for a sixteen year old to be caught bouncing. The reason this seems significant to me is that what I really seek in music today is an unconscious mind, responding without thinking, as here one finds endless creativity and great relaxation, along with good hearted fun. The trick is being able to access this as often and readily as possible, which requires technique, concentration, like minded musicians, good music, and a bit of good luck. For myself this is a group process, synergistic, and I am basically a supportive role, facilitating the best flow possible, and thereby the best music in the big picture. This sometimes means following creative ideas and taking a lead melodic role, something the bass does in jazz ensembles, especially trios. In any case this is my perspective in a nut shell, but I would like to describe a bit more of my history and influences, because every musician has their heroes and people who have influenced them profoundly, and I most certainly have.
As a teen I was totally into rock music, and wanted to play guitar in a band, spending hours playing on tennis racquets or hockey sticks along with Kiss albums with my friends, and man it was fun, because we had no limitations- but it was not so easy once I tried the real thing. My friends got guitars before I did, which meant I was supposed to play bass, which is when my Uncle Ross came in, one of my biggest influences since childhood. Ross is a bassist, and I saw his Contrabass and 1962 jazz bass as a kid (though I didn't associate them with the heavy rock I was into), and he played John Coltrane and Dave Holland albums for me, which I thought was very strange stuff indeed, but almost actually enjoyed it. I played his jazz bass for a few months, tried acoustic guitar after this (at my parents' insistence ), but it didn't interest me like the bass did, so I became a bass player of sorts, and started playing in the school stage band, and to take lessons with uncle Ross. In these lessons I didn't learn heavy metal, but rather bits of Bach, Coltrane, some blues and improvising, as well as exposure to a real hippy life, meeting other musicians and artists- quite a contrast to the TV reality of small town Canada I was otherwise exposed to. At the same time I received a bunch of original 10 inch jazz albums from my Aunt Gloria, and began listening to them after school instead of the rock stuff, and I also spent more time with the school stage band, and hanging out with other jazz guys. Eventually all my rock n' roll friends quit school, I was afraid to go that far (thinking of my poor mom), and the dream of rock stardom evaporated, although it resurfaced in a groovier format years later in a band called Loose, but I'll get to that. In the long run I chose jazz, and while at a summer music camp when I was 16 I heard Paul Ruhland play My 'Funny Valentine' with the bow on a contrabass and I fell for it, so I spent my last year of high school practicing like crazy, and started to get into classical music as well, studying with David Brown of the Vancouver Symphony, and joining the Youth Orchestra. I also read a book by Nat Hentoff called 'Jazz Is', which influenced me profoundly, and led me to buy my first jazz albums; Charlie Parker, and what was to make an unbelievable impression on me - Charles Mingus 'Stormy Weather'. So I left home after high school and found myself at the University of Victoria studying classical music at the tender age of 17, and loved it, especially playing jazz which I began to do more and more, and so I quit after one year to study jazz and travel.
The next thing I knew I was studying at the Banff Centre, an intensive master-class with Dave Holland, and another with Joel Quarrington (a classical virtuoso) and was greatly influenced by the realisation that I had a long way to go. Man, hearing Dave Holland perform solo every day for two weeks was truly inspiring. I also met and played with Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler and Don Thompson (a Canadian legend) in further studies, then ended up back in Haney BC, serving bad food in a small town restaurant for 9 months. During this time my younger brother would hang out in my room and use my stereo. He was really into PinkFloyd and the Doors, and I found myself appreciating rock in a way I never had, a more organic, rootsy, and somehow psychedelic way. In the end I fell in love and moved to Montreal, where I had the good fortune to attend McGill university and study with perhaps Canada's best jazz bassist, Michel Donato. I also met and formed a band 'Fourth Stream' with Ken Vandermark, an extraordinary saxophonist who has gone on to considerable free jazz fame, my first real jazz trio playing mostly improvised music originals- we even made a vinyl album. During this time I visited New York, and through a series of accidents found a great bass for sale in a weird music shop, which hadn't been played in 20 years but was a gem. Now I finally had a decent instrument, and continued to practice a lot, mostly etudes and technique, slowly but surely, every day. But there was something about studying jazz at an institution which struck me as absurd- all the best players were gigging and never bothered with the institution routine, and to this day I don't think jazz survives well in sterile environments, since you should play a lot, with feeling, and follow intuition based on absorbing the tradition, not academic concepts. I had also had a remarkable experience playing guitar for some mentally handicapped teenagers a few years before, and had volunteered at a horrible old institution in Montreal, but found the 'inmates' inspiring, and they responded to music like I had never seen before. All this led me to choose to study Music Therapy, which meant moving back to the west coast, and embarking on another musical journey.
After another 3 years of school I was working as a Music Therapist, loving it, and also playing jazz and practicing as much as I could fit in, and since I didn't have to play music for money, I played whatever music I really wanted to, and ended up in the Vancouver free jazz scene playing with Claude Ranger, Rob Frayne, Ron Samworth, Kate Hammet Vaughn, and a lot of salsa bands. After a few years of be-bop and free jazz I met up with a fiddler named Calvin Cairns - next thing I knew I was touring the Canadian prairies in an ethno-fusion/gypsy-swing band, "The Romaniacs" - sporting funny costumes. We toured Canada, Australia, and a lot of the U.S., and after living on the road I decided to move to Victoria again, which I still call home. Here I met up with another bunch of musicians, including a great Rumanian folk player, Lece Cercel, which led to meeting up with Bibs Ekkel, a marvelous balalaika player, and off I went touring Canada again, but this time on Contrabass Balalaika, playing traditional Russian folk music. After this I started to get into a bit of Celtic music, and formed a band with a great Canadian fiddler Daniel Lapp, and a guitarist with whom I would form a very strong musical bond lasting until today, Marc Atkinson. We called the band Loose Gypsies and when Dan left, Marc, drummer James McCrae and I formed Loose- which was my total focus for about 5 years. We wrote our own tunes, played jazz gigs 4 nights a week under another name, and we rocked our butts off, playing whatever gigs we could get, often driving all night just to play for a few dollars in Seattle or Edmonton.
During this time I also did Music Therapy in the daytime, worked in the garden and played hockey for my non musical kicks, as well as continued to enjoy all the great music I made with my friends in Victoria, including a folk band called The Bill Hilly Band in which I played the violin. Then after my wife and I decided to somehow move to Europe, Calvin (again) offered me a chance to work with Cirque du Soleil in Hamburg, so we said goodbye to friends and family and have been in Europe ever since. Calvin went back home and I somehow became band leader of this crazy Cabaret/dinner theater/Circus here in Germany (Pomp Duck). Right before I left home I met this Sitarist, Ed Powell, and we a great time playing together but were headed to different parts of the world, until we met up In Prague a year or two later and decided to start a project, which led up to Fried Sitar, and the cd Fresh. After performing for almost one million people in the biggest gathering in Germany since the Wall fell I decided to end my career as a Kabaret bandleader and pursue other musical interests, which leaves us at the present here in Berlin, and in Canada sometimes.