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Re: Ultra lo tech looping

On Mon, 29 Sep 1997, Dave Stagner wrote:

> Mick Karn, who often plays bass with David Torn, uses a very similar
> technique on fretless bass.  Wonderful lines.  It starts with just a
> couple of notes, and eventually grows into a blur of slides, pops, and
> snorts.  

Yes, indeed, this is very much how he comes up with some
of those irresistable bass lines.  I wish i could relate
to you folks what it was like witnessing Karn, Torn, and
Bozzio warming up during the Polytown recordings with
45-minute jam sessions.  For many of those pieces on the
album, Bozzio already had a solid idea what the drum
parts were going to be.  I remember the first night they
had everything set up and were finally going to get to
play together, with Bruce Calder (the engineer) tweaking
here and there.  Bozzio put on this CD of Senegalese 
drummers in the control room, to which everyone listened
intently.  Then they went out and jammed.

Like i said, Bozzio already had pretty set ideas of the
ostinato patterns he was going to use in the drum parts,
leaving room for improvisation.  But it was up to Karn and
Torn to lift these patterns and take them to a different
place (a city populated in three weeks?).

Dave, i thank you for nailing it right on the head.  I was
not that familiar with Karn's playing before those sessions,
only what Torn had said about him, that there was no other
bass player like him.  He would start out simple, fitting
in comfortably with what Bozzio was doing.  At first i 
thought, Nice groove, great tone, but nothing all that out
of the ordinary.  The dude's got chops.

Then Torn would come in, soaring in, above, underneath, and
around the "rhythm section".  The chemistry of all three
was instantly apparent, yet very unique, like nothing i had
ever heard.  I would try to keep my attention on the whole,
but it would drift from musician to musician, often to the
relation between two of them.

I realized then that Karn's simple little bass line groove
wasn't so simple any more.  He had added really hard thumps
in between Bozzio's kick drum beats, and pops and slides 
would seem thrown in at random to accentuate this or that,
but they kept coming back with some sick and twisted--yet
consistent--pattern.  It was as if he had a looping device,
but his "looping" was all happening in his head.  All the
little textural nuances building up, some even fading away
into the distance as more came in.  And though Bozzio had
developed his ostinato into something a little more, well,
Bozzio, and Torn was now playing flames with his guitar and 
creating loopage and sonic havoc everywhere, Karn's "loop"
was right there with it all, and it worked beautifully.
A true testament to Karn's incredible ear and his ability
to use it to his advantage in the most precarious of musical
situations.  He can hear and listen very, very well, and
this allows him to take chances with his playing.  These
risks lead to some of the most unique, innovative musicianship
i have ever seen or heard.

Pete Koniuto

Music Library
Boston University