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Black Light Syndrome

by Bozzio Levin Stevens

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Well . . . How did this wonderful project happen anyway?

Funnily enough it started off as a sort of business idea of my manager, Pete Morticelli, to enable me to make money over the winter (as my typical drum seminar seasons are spring and fall and I’m always running out of funds by late winter and summer). It was my dear wife, EV, who suggested Steve Stevens to me (as this was initially to be a sort of “name rock” instrumental collaboration, he certainly met that criteria). But aside from Billy Idol/Michael Jackson and The Atomic Playboys, I knew nothing abut him personally.

Steve and I first met at a solo drum performance I did for Drum Workshop at “House Of Blues” November 11, 1996. Steve loved my compositions and playing. For me, it was very important for him to hear this aspect of me which, more than any recording I have made, gives insight to the potential of my contribution to any collaborative musical venture.

The next day I went to Steve’s home and he played me a few solo project tracks he had completed including one in a flamenco style, and he expressed a serious desire to explore this direction which is so close to his heart. When I heard this music I was impressed, overjoyed and excited. Not only did he have the “rock name” but demonstrated a profound sense of melody, harmony, virtuoso technique, stylistic sensibility and philosophical tendencies which immediately revealed to me that this was going to be much more than a throw-together project “to make money over the winter.”

This, in turn, created the problem of finding a very special bass player (not just a “rock name”) but someone who would bring the same creative, individualistic expression to the project that Steve and I could bring.

In making a “dream” list for Pete to research, Tony Levin was put at the top almost half-heartily because we never thought he would be interested and if by remote chance he was - he probably would be so busy with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, solo projects and or session work that he wouldn’t be able to do it anyway.

Well, guess what? He not only was very interested but he could squeeze four days out of his busy schedule January 26-30 to do the record!

Steve and I had spoken about the process of this project - unconditional acceptance of all members ideas - to spontaneously compose in an improvisational manner and use editing or overdubbing to flesh out the basic tracks - we even got together and jammed at my home in Austin to make sure the playing chemistry between us was going to happen (and in the process we structured the forms and sections of the five or six jams we did just to have something to fall back on if we got in trouble improvising in the studio). But four days?!!? I had done a Lonely Bears album in 10 days. But only after a week of rehearsals and a live gig under our belts. And I did a Polytown album with no preconceived ideas in three weeks. But four days, with three guys who’ve never played together before was dangerous at the very least (if not suicidal).

So the big day comes. We go in the studio, deal with set-up equipment problems etc., sat down or assumed the position, rolled tape and played. “The Sun Road” was the first piece to surface by the grace of the archetypes of our collective unconscious. The second take was “it” and when we listened back we knew we had shared something very special.

The rest of the tracks came one of two ways: either mapping out a few sections as signposts or with very little discussion and then allowing the muses to use us as they would. “Duende” and “Book Of Hours” fall into the latter category, the other titles following the methodology of the former.

In any case, no track was recorded in more than one or two takes - live - no punch ins - as it happened in the moment.

Tony overdubbed a few parts to make use of the bowed NS Upright, Stick, or Guild Ashbory basses in order to have these wonderful varieties of color, got on a plane and went back home to Woodstock on January 31.

Steve took the tapes to his studio after the initial four days and overdubbed some of the beautiful melodies with effected guitar, Coral Electric Sitar, Ramirez Acoustic and Roland Synth Guitar. We also flew in a few tape loops, field recording samples and spoken word effects. As soon as he was finished with our project, Steve started working non-stop on a film score.

This leaves me alone with my old buddy Wyn Davis, who I insisted engineer this project. We’re down at Total Access studios where we have a hardly generous five days to mix. Despite meticulous notes and track sheets and instructions from Steve and Tony, I’m nervous! Neither guy can be here and “OK” the mixes. If I put the guitar loud Steve will like it; if I put the bass loud Tony will like it. Hmmm! If I want to hear my drums I may end up just playing solo again!

So, I defer to Wyn’s judgment and seasoned ears. I think he represented the spirit of the trio excellently: warm, live, natural and well balanced. Appropriately strong and, yet, dynamically sensitive when it’s called for. The epitome of good taste. Wyn’s always been there for me (since I met him back in the old Missing Persons/Ken Scott days).

Well, I’m tired. I miss my family. I’ve been in L.A. about three weeks now working every day on some facet of this project. I’m thinking back about how this all fell together as if guided by synchronicity or fate. On the afternoon on the fourth day of recording photographer friends, Robert Knight and Maryanne Bilham, came by the studio and painlessly took great album and publicity shots. They accomplished this feat in only one hour, with minimal distraction to our pressured recording situation. Also, before we started overdubs Tony had already announced the band on his web page, complete with digital photos he took of us during the recording. How supportive my drum tech, Wayne Wilburn, and Steve and Tony’s tech, Gavin Menzies, were in keeping our confidence levels up and keeping the humor factor high to valve off the pressure, anxiety and seriousness extant throughout the recording. And then how Robert and Maryanne were kind enough to accommodate Wayne. Marlene & Steve Stevens and Gail Zappa accommodated me to help keep our little budget from going through the roof. And, finally, to all our friends who, at dinner parties or visits, put on the music, ceased conversing, sat down, closed their eyes and listened . . . allowing the music to take them away on a journey I can’t or wouldn’t want to begin to explain.

Terry Bozzio
in L.A.; February, 1997


released July 15, 1997

Terry Bozzio - Drums and Electronic Tape Loops
Tony Levin - Basses and Stick
Steve Stevens - All Guitars

All compositions spontaneously composed by Terry Bozzio, Steve Stevens and Tony Levin.

Co-produced by Terry Bozzio, Tony Levin, Steve Stevens and Wyn Davis
Engineered and mixed by Wyn Davis


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Bozzio Levin Stevens Los Angeles, California

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