PMAC CEO Russ Graziers continues his conversation with all involved in the Bowie and the Moon project….

Russ:

It’s super exciting to have Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales reuniting for this show. Chris might have some questions for you all as well, but I’m wondering if as many of you as possible might chime in and let us know why you said yes to this particular project – you’re all incredibly busy musicians. And also, what’s your favorite Bowie tune and why? If there’s anything else about this project you’re excited to share, include that in your response. I can’t wait to hear you all again on July 11th!

Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales

Greg Glasson, bassist for Mother Superior and the Sliding Royales:

David Bowie gave us all who were listening, the confidence to just be ourselves and was by far one of the coolest humans to ever walk this earth. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust was the first album I had to replace as a kid from attempting to figure out the guitar line on the end of “Hang On to Yourself”. I still to this day never learned it correctly. That particular song just resonated to me as a youngling. Revisiting his earlier catalog 35 years later it is hard to grasp the diversity of material that came from one mind over a 45 year career. When Russ proposed the idea to get Mother Superior together for a set of Bowie it was an immediate yes from everyone. It’s a privilege to be part of a show celebrating the music of rock’s definitive chameleon.

Mike Walsh, PMAC drum instructor and drummer for Mother Superior, Russ Grazier Quartet, fiveighthirteen, and for this show, the Jim Dozet Band:

This concert provided me with a great opportunity to really divine in and do my homework on Bowie’s music . I’m performing with four different groups for this concert, yet I’m largely unfamiliar with Bowie’s entire catalog of music. I’d say I’m one of the musicians in this concert that is the least familiar with Bowie….well aside from his radio hits.

I have no real good excuse for this other than Bowie is one of those major artists that I just haven’t listened to yet.

By playing with a few groups for this concert I’m getting the opportunity to play music from each era of Bowie’s music. What I admire most of this music is how much it evolves and changes styles drastically through the years yet it is all still uniquely and undeniably David Bowie.

Chris Hislop, music writer for Seacoast Media Group and man about town:

When you all prepare for this kind of show, what kind of “homework” do you do?

Greg:

From a rhythm section perspective I will listen to the whole entire recording of each album to re-familiarize and see what muscle memory remains. Then I typically throw my bass across the room a few times. Once I have an idea of the basic arrangement then I create a moving chart for each section and write down whatever passing notes I can decipher. In this particular case you have Herbie Flowers, Willie Weeks and Emir Ksasan who all have different playing styles. Herbie Flowers playing on Space Oddity is spontaneous and brilliant. To try and play it verbatim would be complete insanity. I will isolate any sub hooks that are a necessary part of the song, add my feel to it and then apply them to the arrangement that our band comes up with. At that point the chart becomes a guide or cheat sheet until I fully remember the sections. Then Effenberger will gather all of my notes and set them on fire.

Chris:

Russ, what was the impetus behind this idea? Do you lie awake at night staring at the glow in the dark constellation affixed to your ceiling thinking up dreamy, utopian events?

Russ:

Like many passion projects, this one originated in my fifteen-year-old self, who listened over and over to a cassette tape of ChangesOneBowie in my knock-off, non-Sony “walkman” each morning while I walked to school in the early 19080s. I’ve been listening to Bowie all my life and was lucky enough to see him perform live three times. In fact, Jon McCormack (who, with Billy Butler, is joining my band for a special guest appearance for this show) and I were at the same Bowie show in 1987 – about 15-20 years before I first saw Jon play in his band Starch. It’s exciting for me that two audience members in that show (more than 30 years ago!), who had no idea their lives would later cross paths in their work as musicians, are now celebrating Bowie’s music together on stage.

In a way I’ve been celebrating Bowie’s music my entire life. The PMAC did a jazz tribute to Bowie in 2016, just a few months after his passing. It was a cathartic experience, but while it was an amazing show, I always wanted to capture the original spirit of Bowie’s music by playing in a band more akin to his original style, rather than jazz interpretations (which I do frequently with my quartet). So there were a few things that sparked the idea of this show:

  • Knowing that the 50th anniversary of Bowie’s first single, “Space Oddity,” was upon us, it seemed a good time for a retrospective show
  • Knowing that Bowie strategically timed the release of Space Oddity to coincide with the first moon landing – meaning we’d be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing the same month – made the opportunity seem even more momentus
  • Having recently performed with Billy Butler and Jon McCormick, it seemed like it would be cool to play some Bowie with them
  • And I’ve always been excited about the idea of multiple bands playing one show, interpreting the music of one composer/musician in a variety of ways.

Thus was born the concept of Bowie and the Moon. While I’ve yet to install glow-in-the-dark constellations on my bedroom ceiling, the idea of utopian moments of musical celebration does appeal to me and I hope this lives up to that ethos.

I’m excited to hear that Beth and her team at 3S are considering including Tang as one of the many refreshments at the big show. They are a creative crew and the idea has grown and flourished with the addition of their energy. In our early conversations we did talk a lot about the culture shift 50 years ago, in many ways led by the mind-expanding event of the moon landing. At that moment, innovation in the arts, technology, and even in culture seemed to kick into overdrive and I’m not sure it’s slowed a bit to this day. That’s part of what makes this collaboration so exciting. It’s so much more than the music that’s being celebrated.

Since I’ve pulled Billy and Jon into the conversation, I’m curious about why they jumped on board and what the music of Bowie means to them. What’s this all mean to the two of you?

Jon McCormack, guest guitarist and vocalist for the Russ Grazier Quartet on this gig:

It’s very difficult to say anything about Bowie that hasn’t been said already. To me he was a pure artist in the sense that his expression and taste transcended genre or instrumentation. That’s why he was able to completely reinvent himself over and over while still managing to be instantly recognizable as David Bowie. I was moved to chills when I saw the video for Lazarus. I think we’d all like to be in control of our own passing when it comes and the way he turned his own demise into one final act of artistic expression was truly an amazing end to an incredible career and really summed up his ability to point a mirror at all aspects of life…including its inevitable end.

Billy Butler, guest vocalist and keys for the Russ Grazier Quartet on this gig:

The best I can add to the conversation is the song I wrote the day he died. I only have a cellphone demo recording of it but here are the lyrics:

~Don’t Go, Love~

Paula kissed me awake for a moment
Knew she was there but I was still on Mars
“Here is someone who still doesn’t know,
That the Starman returned to the stars”
Oh, no love
Oh, you pretty thing
The world went mad and said,
“The Goblin King is dead”
The man with the face of lightning flash,
The thin white duke, the rock star, the nazz
Oh, no, love
Oh, oh, please don’t go love

I spent Monday spinning records and internet-ing interviews
In and out of crying
Your face still fill my feed with the news
I never cared to much for dying
Oh, no love
Oh, you pretty thing
You blasted off to space
With such beauty and grace
The man with the face of lightning flash,
The thin white duke, the rock star, the nazz
Oh, no, love
Oh, oh, please don’t go love

You were my first crush on a man
A space pirate in high heels
Floating ‘round your tin can
Never got a chance to see the pink monkey bird
Nearly understood every word
Oh, no love
Oh, you pretty thing
Born before your time
As a vessel for the divine
The man with the face of lightning flash,
The thin white duke, the rock star, the nazz
Oh, no, love
Oh, please don’t go love

Russ:

Jim and Nick – I’m also interested in how you’re approaching Bowie’s music for this show. You were assigned the 1980s era, which has the music that received the most radio play, especially the Let’s Dance album. Given the limitation of only picking tunes from the 1980s, how are you approaching your set?

Nick Phaneuf, bassist in the Jim Dozet Band and Russ Grazier Quartet, and member of fiveighthirteen:

As soon as I knew our era I had only one thought: Labyrinth. From there Jim and I just wanted to arranged the music to play off of our strengths and aesthetics. Bowie himself would rework the presentation of his own material based on the current touring band so I felt that gave us a great deal of latitude to make them our own.

Jim Dozet, PMAC guitar instructor and leader of the Jim Dozet Band:

Initially after Russ proposed the concept and invited my band to take part I was just excited about the prospect and challenge of arranging Bowie tunes in interesting ways to fit the mold of our particular sound. After Nick brought to my attention that we had the ‘Labyrinth’ era I was especially excited, as was Nick. I grew up watching that movie over and over with my sister. Nick came up with a couple great arrangements of songs from the soundtrack.

After that it was a matter of sifting through all of Bowie’s music from the 80’s to find the perfect songs to both showcase the era and our strengths as an ensemble. We tend to exist in the ‘Americana’ realm musically. I wanted to find songs that the audience could relate to and recognize and arrange them completely different still maintaining the overall essence and hook of the original. I think we pulled it off and I am excited to present the fruits of our efforts on July 11th.

Russ:

Also – Nick, (Mike) Effenberger – Without giving away all the surprises, how is fiveighthirteen doing Bowie? Are there specific eras/albums in Bowie’s output that have influence any of, inside or outside of your fiveighthirteen work?

Nick:

The period we have encompasses Bowie’s time with Brian Eno. Eno’s influence on those records is pretty obvious but it’s not as though anyone could take the Bowie out of Bowie. Eno is an influence on Effe and I. So that’s probably the strongest connection between this band and Bowie. As for how does fiveighthirteen do Bowie? One word: irreverently.

Mike Effenberger, member of fiveighthirteen and Mother Superior:

To echo Nick: Brian Eno was my inroad to David Bowie’s music. The studio is an instrument, and both Eno and Bowie did some killer playing of it in their collaboration while managing to avoid the innumerable pitfalls of that particular decade of pop music. They made texture a focal point rather than simply a vehicle for other elements, and seem to have had a blast with the idea of song form, and form in general.

Russ:

I’m incredibly thrilled about this show and all of the amazing musicians who will be performing on it. Check back for a final blog post AFTER the show.

 

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