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Bill Laswell performing at the Moers Festival in 2006
|Birth name||William Otis Laswell|
|Born||February 12, 1955|
Salem, Illinois, U.S.
|Genres||Avant-garde, electronic, jazz, pop, reggae, rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, record producer, label owner|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, guitar, keyboards|
|Associated acts||Method of Defiance, The Golden Palominos, Praxis, Massacre, Material, Last Exit, Painkiller, Ashes, Deadline, Tabla Beat Science, Public Image Ltd|
William Otis Laswell (born February 12, 1955) is an American bass guitarist, record producer, and record label owner. He has been involved in thousands of recordings with many collaborators from all over the world. His music draws from funk, world music, jazz, dub and ambient styles.
According to music critic Chris Brazier, "Laswell's pet concept is 'collision music' which involves bringing together musicians from wildly divergent but complementary spheres and seeing what comes out."The credo of one record label run by Laswell which typifies much of his work is "Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted". Although his bands may be credited under the same name and often feature the same roster of musicians, the styles and themes explored on different albums can vary dramatically. Material began as a noisy dance music band, but later albums concentrated on hip hop, jazz, or spoken word readings by William S. Burroughs. Most versions of the band Praxis have included guitarist Buckethead, but they have explored different permutations on albums.
Laswell got his earliest professional experience as a bass guitarist in R&B and funk bands in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan. He saw shows that combined genres, such as Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, and Funkadelic. He was also influenced by jazz musicians John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and Miles Davis.
In the late 1970s Laswell moved to New York City,immersing himself in the thriving New York music scene. He moved into producer Giorgio Gomelsky's loft and became part of a group of musicians that would become the first version of Material. Material became the backing band for Daevid Allen and New York Gong. The band consisted of Laswell, keyboardist Michael Beinhorn, and drummer Fred Maher. They were usually supplemented by guitarists Cliff Cultreri or Robert Quine.
He worked with Brian Eno, Fred Frith, John Zorn, Daniel Ponce, Ginger Baker, Peter Brötzmann, Kip Hanrahan, Sonny Sharrock, and with musicians in no wave, a genre that combined avant-garde jazz, funk, and punk.
He started a recording studio with Martin Bisi and met Jean Karakos, owner of Celluloid Records. Under the Material name Laswell became the de facto house producer for Celluloid until the label was sold in the 1980s. He recorded music that was experimental, combining jazz, funk, pop, and R&B, by musicians such as Whitney Houston, Sonny Sharrock, Archie Shepp, Henry Threadgill, and the band Massacre with Fred Frith and Fred Maher. His association with Celluloid allowed his first forays into "collision music", a term coined by British writer Chris May of Black Music & Jazz Review. Recordings with the Golden Palominos and production on albums by Shango, Toure Kunda, and Fela Kuti appeared on the label. Celluloid was an early advocate of hip hop, producing albums by Fab 5 Freddy, GrandMixer D.ST, Phase II, and Afrika Bambaataa. The album World Destruction paired John Lydon with Afrika Bambaataa years before Aerosmith and Run–D.M.C. collaborated on their rock/hip hop version of "Walk This Way".
In 1982, Laswell released Baselines, his solo debut album. A year later, he had a breakthrough with "Rockit", a song he co-wrote and produced for Herbie Hancock's album Future Shock .He played bass guitar and co-wrote other songs on the album, leading to collaborations with Hancock through the 2000s. He won a Grammy Award for producing Hancock's next album, Sound-System.
He became a member of the band Last Exit in 1986 with Peter Brötzmann, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Sonny Sharrock.Aside from one album that Laswell cobbled together in the studio, the band was primarily a live one, showing up at gigs with no rehearsal. The first time the four members played together was on stage at their first show.
Laswell produced albums for Sly and Robbie, Mick Jagger, PiL, Motörhead, Ramones, Iggy Pop and Yoko Ono. Many of these bands afforded Laswell the opportunity to hire his working crew to record on more mainstream records. Sly and Robbie hired him to produce their 1985 album Language Barrier and 1987 album Rhythm Killers .
Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, gave him the opportunity to begin a label with the backing of Island, and thus Axiom Records was started in 1990. In addition to albums by Material that included Sly and Robbie, William S. Burroughs, Bootsy Collins, Wayne Shorter, and Bernie Worrell, he produced and released albums by Ginger Baker, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Sonny Sharrock, Nicky Skopelitis, and Umar Bin Hassan. Among the studio-based albums, Palestinian oud and violinist Simon Shaheen recorded an album of music by Egyptian composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab. Gambian virtuoso Foday Musa Suso recorded an album of dance music with his electric Kora, and Turkish saz master Talip Oezkan recorded an album. Master Musicians of Jajouka recorded an album in their village in the Rif Mountains. There were albums by Mandinka and Fulani recorded at Suso's family compound in Gambia and Gnawa music from Morocco.
Praxis featured guitarist Buckethead on Transmutation with Bootsy Collins, Bryan Mantia, Bernie Worrell, and Afrika Baby Bam from the Jungle Brothers. The album blended funk grooves and heavy metal riffs with many tracks co-written by Laswell. The band spawned other releases, never with the same line-up, though consisting of the core trio of Laswell, Buckethead, and Mantia.
Funkcronomicon included previously released tracks by Praxis and Skopelitis and tracks with members of Parliament-Funkadelic. George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and the last recordings of Eddie Hazel are featured prominently. The album includes DXT, Umar Bin Hassan, Abiodun Oyewole and Torture.Laswell remixed the Axiom catalog for Axiom Ambient, blending seemingly disparate tracks, releasing some of the music for Sample Material – International Free Zone, a sample library for other musicians to use as material.
Subharmonic, conceived by Laswell and ex-Celluloid A&R Robert Soares, though not owned by Laswell, was essentially a vehicle for his projects, most in the ambient or ambient-dub categories. The label licensed a few releases from European labels for American re-release, notably Psychonavigation with Pete Namlook and Cymatic Scan with Tetsu Inoue from Pete Namlook's FAX label; Somnific Flux with Mick Harris and Cold Summer by Lull from the Sentrax label. Other collaborators included Jonah Sharp and Terre Thaemlitz. The label also released albums by Painkiller, Praxis, and Divination, an ambient dub project by Laswell. A sub-label called Strata was created with five releases in a more experimental dub/noise/ambient vein. Each of these releases (Death Cube K, Cypher 7, Azonic, and two under his alias Automaton) came in a black jewel case with the name of the project and album title printed on the front.
Three other short-lived labels were created after the demise of the Subharmonic deal. One was Meta, which was intended to be a spoken word label. The second label, Submeta, managed four releases before folding. Meta, formed with Janet Rienstra, released only one album, Baptism of Solitude with novelist Paul Bowles reading excerpts from his work over soundscapes by Laswell. Meta would appear periodically, distributed by other labels, over the next few years until it returned as a spiritual/yogic label run by Rienstra. The third label, Black Arc, was an associated label of Rykodisc focusing on "Black Rock, Cyber Funk, and Future Blues", according to a sampler. The label featured members of P-Funk on most of the albums and released albums by Bootsy Collins (under the name "Zillatron"), Bernie Worrell (Japan-only), Mutiny (Jerome Brailey), and Billy Bass.
Charged (1999) by Eraldo Bernocchi and Toshinori Kondo was released by Laswell's label Innerythmic. After a brief inactive period, the label restarted in 2001, releasing over the next few years and albums by Nicky Skopelitis, Raoul Björkenheim, James Blood Ulmer, Shin Terai, and Gonervill. Innerhythmic also released a live recording by Praxis and reissued Black Arc albums from the 1990, including Zillatron, The Last Poets' Holy Terror and Buddy Miles' Hell & Back.
Laswell moved his studio to West Orange, New Jersey and called it Orange Music Sound Studios. Under Palm's umbrella, though, four albums and a DVD set were released, including a studio album and a live 2-disc set from Tabla Beat Science centered on tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, son of Alla Rakha. The album included Karsh Kale, Trilok Gurtu, Ustad Sultan Khan, and Talvin Singh. This group has performed in the US, Lebanon, and Japan. Laswell, Kale, Kahn, and Hussain are usually supplemented by other musicians, which have included Gigi, DJ Disk, Serj Tankian from System of a Down, Sussan Deyhim, and artist Petulia Mattioli. In 2001 Life Space Death was released with Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, Laswell on bass, guitar, and keyboards, and words by the 14th Dalai Lamainterviewed by Kondo. At the request of Blackwell, Laswell oversaw the debut album by Ethiopian singer Gigi for Palm Pictures with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Laswell. He also produced Abyssinia Infinite and Gold & Wax.
Laswell has stated in interviews that he met with Miles Davis a number of times and discussed working together, but busy schedules kept them from arranging such a recording before Davis' death.He remixed some of Davis's music for Panthalassa: The Music of Miles Davis 1969-1974 (Axiom, 1998).
He signed a contract with Sanctuary Records that led to the creation of his label Nagual. He worked in the drum and bass genre, starting with Brutal Calling credited to Bill Laswell vs. Submerged that was released by Avant in 2004. He and Submerged worked together again on The Only Way to Go is Down (2006) under the name Method of Defiance. After this album, they assembled producers in drum and bass to collaborate with musicians from jazz. Evol Intent, Future Prophecies, and SPL recorded with Buckethead, Herbie Hancock, and Pharoah Sanders.
In 2010, Laswell created the label M.O.D. Technologies. Its first releases were the albums Jahbulon and Incunabula by Method of Defiance and Mesgana Ethiopia by Material with Gigi.
Along with live dates around the world with Massacre, Material, Method of Defiance, and Painkiller, Laswell travels to Japan every year for recordings and live dates, including with Tokyo Rotation.
In November 2018, he performed in Dave Douglas Uplift band at the London Jazz Festival.
Laswell works frequently with a small group of collaborators. These include bassists Jah Wobble, Jonas Hellborg, and Bootsy Collins; guitarists Buckethead and Nicky Skopelitis; keyboardists Jeff Bova and Bernie Worrell; percussionists Aïyb Dieng and Karsh Kale, and musicians from P-Funk. Robert Musso has been his chief engineer for over twenty years. Oz Fritz has occasionally filled the role. Fritz is usually Laswell's live engineer of choice, known for live mixing technique. Remixes have been done for Sting, Nine Inch Nails, Almamegretta, Scorn, Ozzy Osbourne, and Tori Amos. He has done much work for John Zorn's Tzadik Records.
In 2005, Laswell was invited to appear on the PBS series Soundstage. The show featured musicians he has played with over the years, including members of Praxis and Tabla Beat Science, Pharoah Sanders, Foday Musa Suso, Bootsy Collins, and Catfish Collins.
Laswell worked with Sony Creative Software on a box set loop library called The Bill Laswell Collection.
George Bernard "Bernie" Worrell, Jr. was an American keyboardist and composer best known as a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic and for his work with Talking Heads. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, inducted in 1997 with fifteen other members of Parliament-Funkadelic. Worrell was described by Jon Pareles of The New York Times as "the kind of sideman who is as influential as some bandleaders."
William Earl "Bootsy" Collins is an American musician and singer-songwriter.
Praxis was the name of an experimental rock project, led by producer/bassist Bill Laswell and featuring guitarist Buckethead and drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia in nearly every incarnation of the band.
Nicky Skopelitis is an American guitarist and composer of Greek descent, best known as a guitarist. He also has performed on banjo, oud, lute, keyboards and other instruments. Although Skopelitis has recorded few albums as a bandleader, he has appeared on many more recordings, often collaborating with prolific bass guitarist and producer Bill Laswell. Until 1987 or so, he used the spelling "Scopelitis" for his last name.
Material is a musical group formed in 1979 and led by bass guitarist Bill Laswell.
Celluloid Records, a French/American record label, founded by Jean Georgakarakos operated from 1976 to 1989 in New York City, and produced a series of eclectic and ground-breaking releases, particularly in the early to late 1980s, largely under the auspices of de facto in-house producer Bill Laswell.
Buckethead is an American musician, predominantly a guitarist. The following is a discography of works by Buckethead, which currently consists of 313 studio albums, 1 live album, 4 special releases, 1 extended play, 5 demo tapes, 3 solo DVD video releases, 2 DVD video releases with Cornbugs, 3 music videos, 3 unreleased albums, 3 solo videography releases, and 16 videography releases with other artists.
Transmutation is the first album by Bill Laswell's ever-changing "supergroup" Praxis. The album was released in 1992 and features Buckethead on guitar, Bootsy Collins on bass and vocals, Brain on drums, Bernie Worrell on keyboards and DJ AF Next Man Flip on turntables and mixer.
Sacrifist is the second album of the Bill Laswell led project Praxis, released in 1993 on Laswell's label Subharmonic.
Shin Terai is a Japanese musician and producer most known for his work with Bill Laswell and Buckethead. On his albums he combines ambient and electronic music with dub and avant-garde jazz.
Lord of the Harvest is a 1993 album by Bootsy Collins under the alias Zillatron and was produced by Collins and Bill Laswell.
Funkcronomicon is a 1995 various artists collection of tracks produced by Bill Laswell under the name Axiom Funk, after Laswell's associated record label. It is a 2-CD set that was released by Island Records. Funkcronomicon features heavy participation from various members of Parliament-Funkadelic, to the degree that Funkcronomicon is widely considered to be a full-fledged P-Funk album. The album features what may be Pedro Bell's last authentic artistic renderings, as well as P-Funk guitarist Eddie Hazel's last recordings before his death in 1992. The album comprises newly recorded tracks, as well as tracks that have been featured on other Bill Laswell productions. Produced and compiled at Greenpoint Studio in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, Funkcronomicon contains songs that were recorded as early as Maceo Parker's For All the Kings Men (1989) period. The album title is a play on Necronomicon, a fictional book.
Blacktronic Science is the third solo album by former Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell. The album was released by Gramavision records in 1993 and was produced by Bill Laswell and Bernie Worrell. The album represents a P-Funk reunion of sorts, as it features guest appearances by George Clinton, bassist Bootsy Collins, trombonist Fred Wesley, saxophonist Maceo Parker and P-Funk vocalist Gary Cooper. It would also be the last album that Bernie Worrell would record for the Gramavision label.
What's Bootsy Doin'? is a 1988 album by Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins. The album was released by Columbia Records and was his first album after a six-year hiatus from the music scene. The album reunites Collins with former P-Funk players Bernie Worrell, Fred Wesley and Gary "Mudd Bone" Cooper, and also features newcomers including Mico Wave and Godmoma.
Jungle Bass is an Extended Play CD by the American Funk band Bootsy's Rubber Band. The disc was released in 1990 by 4th & Broadway Records. Jungle Bass reunites most of the original members of Bootsy's Rubber Band, whose last album was released in 1979. The album represents one of the earliest collaborations between Bootsy and producer Bill Laswell.
Funk of Ages is the second solo album by former Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell. The album was released in 1990 by Gramavision Records. The album includes contributions by numerous guest musicians including David Byrne, Herbie Hancock, Keith Richards, Vernon Reid and Phoebe Snow, as well fellow P-Funk bandmates Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker, Gary Cooper, Doug Duffey and Mike Hampton.
Axiom Collection series of albums are compilations from the Axiom record label released between 1991 and 1996.
The Third Power is a 1991 album by the New York based music group Material. The album mixes reggae. funk, dub and rap music.
Hallucination Engine is a 1994 album by the New York based music group Material. The album mixes jazz, dub, funk and Indian music.
This is the discography of American singer Bootsy Collins.