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Terry Bozzio Interview: Rhythm & Sketch

Iconic drummer Terry Bozzio took time during his hugely successful world tour to talk to Local Band about his new music and his new art. Bozzio incorporates  his new interpretive art which is appropriately named: [RHYTHM] + [SKETCH] into the visuals of his world” tour de force”  to create electrifying and highly personalized impressions of sound and art.  Terry is probably best know for his work with Frank Zappa, Missing Persons and the progressive rock revival group, UK.  However,  the artists credits extend much further than that.  Starting in the early 70′s the ambitious drummer  made appearances with some of the most well known and respected artists in the industry and is perhaps one of the most sought after percussionist around.   For tour dates, artist information and some great video promos visit Terry’s site: TerryBozzioArt .com & Terry Bozzio.com.

Please enjoy a conversation with Terry!

LBFH:  Terry, Your rig has grown into what has to be one of the most sophisticated in use today.  Is this a self creation or have you collaborated with others to bring this “sound sculpture” to life?
TB: It’s my ideas and a lot of personal labor! But of course it’s possible because of the generous support of DW Drums, Sabian Cymbals & my other sponsors.
LBFH: Your performances now incorporate a lot of electronic, computer and visual technologies, Is this tricky to work with live?
TB: It’s all pretty fail safe. I spend a lot of time making things easy for me & my techs who set up and move it. Any ambient music loops are in an iPod & the Roland midi system w/ Pintech triggers is probably the most complex signal chain. But it’s very reliable.
LBFH: Your current solo tour incorporates some of the same artwork sound-sketches that are found on Terrybozzioart.com.  Music and visuals combined, is this tour a very personal experience for you?
TB: Yes, it’s the 50th anniversary of my first drum lesson this year. & I have been doing artwork since Captain Beefheart got me into it back in the ’70′s while w/Zappa. This is the first time I’ve been able to put the two together.
LBFH: What elements of your performance do you feel make the most immediate connection with the audience?
TB: Music is just magic that’s all. I seemed to have inherited the ability to take people inside & on a journey from my father.
LBFH: Is making an audience connection something that you give a lot of thought to?
TB: I used to, but over the last 25 years or so I just do what I do and am grateful that people like it.
LBFH: What can an audience expect to experience from this show?
TB: That’s up to them. It’s a very subjective experience. But simply it’s music on drums & percussion.
LBFH: What do you enjoy the most about performing?
TB: When it flows & goes right it’s wonderful. Things just happen and take you places you didn’t know you were going. Like exciting surprises.
LBFH: What do you enjoy the least about performing?
TB: The traveling & logistics involved are getting more difficult for us musicians.
LBFH: How do you think musical careers differ today from the early days of rock, like in the 70’s and 80’s?
TB: For me I’m totally independent but aside from a record co. so was missing persons back in the 80′s. It’s not an easy business at the best of times. That’s why you just have to look at it as something you love and need to do. Not as a way to make money. I’m happy just to get to be able to play, write or paint so I’m ok withjust getting by financially.
LBFH: Is there anyone out of musical history that you have not met that you wish you could have?
TB: Well sure. Stravinsky. Debussy. Joe Zawinul. So many great artists.
LBFH: There is such an impressive list of collaborations that can be
referenced on your TerryBozzio.com. What are some of the most memorable experiences for you and why?
TB: Well obviously Zappa, I learned so much & got so much recognition from working w/ him. He’s the deepest guy I’ve ever met. Beck & Robbie Robertson, Polytown & Levin, Mastelotto & Holdsworth were my other meaningful collaborations.
LBFH: What bands/artists were among your earliest influences?
TB: Surf drum music, the Beatles, the Stones. The San Francisco groups in the 60′s, then Hendrix, Cream, the blues like Albert King & Paul Butterfield. When I got to college it was jazz & classical. Miles, Coltrane, Weather Report.
LBFH: Who have been the most powerful teachers in your life?
TB: Musically speaking, my drum teacher Chuck Brown, college teachers, Slonimsky, Zappa, Miles & Joe Zawinul.
LBFH: How do you think people view you as an artist?
TB: I don’t know. That’s their business!
LBFH: What do you hope to leave behind you?
TB: Something beautiful.
LBFH: Sometimes ideas come easily and sometimes not.  Where does the music come from within you and how do you see it?  Do you see images, Colors or patterns for example?  Or is it more of an emotional process?
TB: It just comes and it’s an action process. You just have to do and not judge it.
LBFH: How do you approach composition?  Do you write your ideas in notes, record tracks, or does your creative process morph around in a freer way?
TB: All of the above & by practicing new things that you don’t know how to do.
LBFH:  How did you make the shift from a band player to a solo player?
TB: It just developed as the result of doing drum clinic solo performances.
LBFH: I liked very much some things that I’ve read about your approach to music and percussion.  You see it more as full range musical experience.  This puts a very different face on the role of a percussionist. How has this concept evolved?
TB: Naturally. I just hear drumming in a musical or compositional way. So I followed that into expanding my kit to include pitches & a wider orchestration pallet.
LBFH: Has your fuller approach to drumming always been understood in past work with others?

TB: Usually it’s appreciated. It depends on what’s called for in the music you are asked to play.
LBFH: Percussion is usually regarded as a driving element in music, but your approach seems to be bringing drumming back to its roots as a more complete and universal form of music.  What do you feel is the most significant contribution that you make to this music form?
TB: Well I’m out here doing it! Gotta give me credit for that! Otherwise that’s an area best left to historians.
LBFH: We try to present our readers with inspirational profiles of artists who have made very unique careers in music. Can you tell me, what was your biggest inspiration to pursue a career in music?
TB: It changes with experience & age. Probably just seeking attention from others or your peers at first! Then with better motives we want to express a quality of craft and an authentic expression of ourselves.
LBFH: Do you feel that the “business” side of being a musician cuts into the “creative” side of the musician?
TB: Time wise, yes! But I try to keep it to a minimum!
LBFH: Given your long successful career as a professional musician, what advice would you give to someone who was looking to get into the music business?
TB: As Zappa said “get a real estate license”! Real musicians & artists just keep doing music or art. The word “career” scares me!
LBFH: What’s the next big thing for you?
TB: I don’t look at anything I do as a big thing. I have these solo tours of the US & Japan til the end of this year. I’ll do Europe again next year. And I’m planning on doing more artwork releases.
LBFH: Composer, performer, teacher, artist and on goes the list.  When does Terry get “down-time”?
TB: Every night!
LBFH: What are some of the things you enjoy when you are not musically engaged?
TB: My wife, family, friends, nature.
LBFH: What are some of the most important things in life to you?
TB: I try to make every moment important.
LBFH: Many Thanks, Terry.  We wish you the very best success with your tour!
TB: Thank you & best!
***end Interview

About the interviewer:

Thomas Mangano is a composer and a performer living on Long Island, NY.  He is the owner of a production services company that provides music, soundscapes and effects to  professionals in  film and media industries.  He is  also the founding member of the  Boutcher/Mangano Jazz Trio and currently serves as the Music Director for the Custer Observatory.

To learn more about Thomas, Please visit hi website: Thomasmangano.com

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About Thomas Mangano

Musician, Composer, Columnist

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