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Situation Dangerous

by Bozzio Levin Stevens

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Bozzio Levin Stevens is: Terry Bozzio - drums and percussion, Tony Levin -
basses, Steve Stevens - guitars.

There is an awe-inspiring yet refreshingly playful chemistry that transpires
when these three complex souls get together. Stevens and Bozzio share a love
for the hot passionate rhythms of flamenco. Levin and Bozzio can, and do
quite often, attack their chosen weapons with a rapid delicacy that exposes
a like-mindedness that is deep, abstract and rare within recorded music. And
completing the trinity of graphic connections, Levin and Stevens both share
a far-flung sense of exploration when it comes to the technological
advancements made beyond the traditional restraints of stringed instruments.

All this "stuff", be it intellectual, emotional, strategic or instantly
improvised, converge to form "Situation Dangerous", the second and very
different offering from Bozzio Levin Stevens. "Situation Dangerous" may take
a few (dozen!) plays to digest, but thankfully, even for the novice not used
to the shock of exploded boundaries and expanded possibilities, noted
favorites will leap instantly to the hook centers of the mind. It is an
accessibility that has been achieved somewhat obtusely, the long way around,
unintentionally, serendipitously.

Percussion legend Terry Bozzio explains, in response to a question asking
how this album might have differed from the effusively received "Black Light
Syndrome" debut. "That's really simple. We had more time. Specifically,
Steve had more time with which to bring in and build his ideas, so the whole
album has more of a cohesiveness than the first one which is more about
jamming and making something happen on the fly. So I think there is more
structure which might possibly lead one to think that it is more accessible.
There's some beautiful music, there's still a lot of burning playing and
everybody is featured really well. There is definitely a style that carries
through and has been expanded upon, in the area of some flamenco pieces, as
well as the rock-ish and fusion-y stuff. The biggest difference is that we
had a week to rehearse. It's still very eclectic. There's a wide variety of
feels and styles and influences. But instead of there being long periods of
'everything goes' which we had on the first album, it's more mapped-out.
It's not as extended or jam-oriented."

Such deliberation is definitely discernible within the joyous grooves of
this effortlessly enjoyable collection of exotic flavors, Bozzio, Levin and
Stevens able to codify and unify their vast repertoire of ideas into sound
sculptures which overlay and underscore distinct moods one by one, while
containing an undercurrent of fierce, legendary yet restrained chops.

Yet, how does one explain the record's recurring flamenco theme. Bozzio
answers, "Well, Steve just has an affinity for that music and so have I.
It's this completely undocumented art form. For me it's a rich, passionate,
rhythmically and emotionally dark expression. There's a real macho thing to
it and a sense of drama and pathos, all the emotions I relate to in my
music. I don't play funny, I don't play happy, I don't play that way. I
relate to the darker emotions and reflect those. In a sense it's a
compensation and I can be a nice guy in my real life, very approachable
(laughs). But in my music it's this other thing that takes over and all the
anger and frustration and sadness come through."

But the record kicks off on a resoundingly un-flamenco note. 'Dangerous' is
a mad scientist dash of schizoid Crimson that might remind you of another
well-known band as well. "Steve had this lick, similar to Led Zeppelin's
'Immigrant Song'. We went after that kind of beat and when we went to the
bridge, Steve started playing this thing and I started playing in five
across it. Then the half time section is very dark and dangerous."

The acoustic work on "Situation Dangerous" is positively breathtaking,
culminating in a piece called 'Spiral'. "That's one of my favorite harmonic
pieces on the record. When Steve started playing that rhythmic thing that he
set up on the guitar . . . harmonically, the way he was working with the
finger picking was so amazing to me that I had to sit him down next to me at
the piano and say, 'OK, what is it that you are doing here?' And I learned
how to play it on the piano so I could take it away with me. It's just a
gorgeous piece."

And a favorite drum performance? "There's not a spot on there that I'm not
proud of, but I think the highlight for me is probably a piece called
'Tziganne', which is French for gypsy, a flamenco-ish piece. There's a
piccolo tom drum solo which is highly melodic and is some of the best
piccolo stuff I'd ever recorded. It lets me do something almost on the level
of a guitar player on the drums. So that's something I'm very proud of."

Elsewhere a coterie of sounds leaps from undisclosed locales, mostly from
Steve's Midi rig, but often from contraptions brought in by the
ever-resourceful Levin. "Tony brings an entourage of computer and
photographic equipment as well as a great collection of basses. He did have
a new axe, an electric cello. And he also has the big brother of that which
he plays with a bow or he plucks it. On one of the pieces, 'Endless', he
does this melody that is just gorgeous, a perfect fit to the melodic
structure. It was just beautiful."

A key unifying factor of the album is its sparkly, crackly live feel, a
choice that allowed each component to breathe and burn for the good of the
collective. "There's sort of a natural compensation that happens when you
play from an orchestrational standpoint. If somebody is playing a bunch of
heavy metal power chords, there is only so much you can do that fits. If I'm
playing more of a bass drum, tom tom-oriented ostennato kind of thing, then
maybe Tony or Steve might play more sparsely or melodically rather than
playing busier, low things that might conflict with those frequencies.. I
have fifteen toms that I play with and four bass drums and a host of cymbals
and stuff. So we went more with an ambient thing where we miked the drums
from overhead with a stereo pair and a few under the toms to capture some of
that low end."

Ultimately though, each track, no matter what hue, colour, speed, volume or
anxiety level, is the product of three legendary music minds converging and
imparting the vast musical knowledge this particular and deliberate
collective owns. "I look at these things as three distinct personalities and
the chemistry of putting these three people in a collaborative situation,"
reflects Bozzio. "It just turns out that you can't do certain things with
Steve or you can't do certain things with Tony that I might do with David
Torn or Mick Karn or somebody else. It's like the flavor of a certain spice
in a soup, it's going to give you a certain taste. That's how you work and
complement each other to make the whole thing happen. But I can tell you my
own influences in fusion come from Miles Davis and Weather Report,
Mahavishnu, Chick Corea, those were the cream of the crop and I don't think
much has gone beyond what those people have done since then. And in rock 'n'
roll, I don't think anybody has ever gone past what Jimi Hendrix did, or
Zappa had done in his way, blending classical, jazz and rock. And then there
are the obvious comparisons to King Crimson and Peter Gabriel when you hear

"His spectrum of sound is incredible," continues Bozzio. "He's a thoroughly
schooled musician from Eastman School Of Music. He's played classical music,
string bass, orchestra, he can read, he can write, he's played under
Stravinsky and he's done all the big, highest paid session gigs in America.
He's probably America's premiere highest paid bass player (laughs). And he's
really easy to get along with, incredibly flexible, very professional in his
attitude. He's incredibly creative with his scope of sounds and his approach
to the instrument. When he plays normal fretted bass he has a very unique
style. Maybe he'll use Funk Fingers (an invention of Tony's which are drum
sticks which he wears on the fingers of his right hand) and get something
different out of it. When he plays fretless, in two notes you know it's him,
and he plays a completely unique Stick. There's this contrapuntal
polyrhythmic event on one piece where he's got three or four things going on
at once. It's this Stick bass part where you can distinctly hear four
different parts. There's a low bass part and then there is a high guitar
part and then there is some other things in the middle and it's just really
amazing that it's all coming out of one guy at one time. It sounds like four
things going on at once. One guy playing the whole rhythm track (laughs)."

"Same with Steve and his guitar playing," offers Bozzio on the
ever-versatile Stevens. "There is a very distinctive style about the guy in
his sounds and his arrangement capabilities, and his way of approaching
music. You see the thread from something as simple as the Billy Idol pop
stuff to the sophistication of what we're doing now. It has a similar
stylistic thread that runs through it all. And his influences, you can hear
the Robert Fripp, Pink Floyd, a lot of these interesting English progressive
rock bands, Yes, Genesis, Gentle Giant. Steve really knows a lot about
progressive rock, English pop music, and music in general. He knows a lot of
styles and he may chose to or not chose to go in those directions at any
given time."

An intimidating display of firepower indeed. Yet "Situation Dangerous" is
the product of three minds who are musicmakers first. Despite the volumes of
study buried within for the aspiring music theorist, mathematician and/or
practitioner, a refreshing level of pure joy leaps from these compositions
that is exuberantly Crimson-ian at times, occasionally Dregs-ish, and above
all, as Bozzio underscores, inescapably the product of these three prog
disciples at this point in time with exactly these things on their minds. If
instrumental music has often intimidated you, look and listen no further
than "Situation Dangerous", a record of soaring songful sound accessible and
useful to all denomination of discerning, music-loving humanity.


released July 25, 2000

Terry Bozzio – Drums
Tony Levin – Basses and Stick
Steve Stevens – Guitars

Written, Performed and Produced by Bozzio Levin Stevens

Co-produced and Recorded by R. Chris Murphy at Stagg Street Studios

Mixed by Terry Brown at Town Music Studios
Digital Editing by Dave Townson

Mastered by Ken Lee at Kenneth Lee Mastering

Additional Recording by Steve Stevens at The Purple Room
Additional Flamenco Guitar on “tziganne” by Marcus Nand

2nd Engineers: Annette Cisneros and Erich Gobel


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