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Guillermo Cides

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Toni Levin
by Guillermo Cides







Tony Levin has been (and it is) for many bassists and stickists, an inevitable reference. Possibly, his charisma like musician is leaned on the way he sees and lives his own music. This musical " energy " that comes off of him is, to my way of seeing, so permeable towards out, that arrives to the audience in a simple and direct way. If you have had the luck to see this musician in action (I had it, in the first concert that King Crimson offered in Buenos Aires in its return), you find Levin absolutely concentrated in his task, precise and sure in its action.
It is difficult to imagine Tony with another instrument. However, as the he tells us in our chat, their beginnings were with the piano:

Guillermo Cides: With regard to your musical intention, what was what you really wished at the beginning, when you began to discover your first instrument?
Tony Levin: When I was young I played piano (my parents insisted on it.) After a few years they asked if I might prefer another instrument - I chose the bass,
for no reason I know of except that I liked it. A lucky choice because now, after so many years, I still enjoy just playing the bass.
As for the Stick, when it came out in the '70's, I heard about it from a lot of musicians who thought it would be right for me (since I had been playing with a tapping technique on the bass.) So I got one, and started playing it
on the first Peter Gabriel tour, and some records soon after .
I especially liked the sound of the bass end, and the different tuning, which helped inspire me to come up with unusual bass parts.
Mr. Levin has explored the music through diverse roads. Both his way of investigate and his adaptation to the musical styles, began very early and from the origin, as he tell us:

G.C.: Did the inspiration arrive before than the technique or did the technique allow you to arrive to the inspiration?
T. L.: Again going back to my youth as a bass player, I took lessons and practiced Classical music for many years before joining any bands or playing any other kind of music.
His musical curiosity has carried him to play with musicians so diverse as Paul Simon, James Taylor, Peter Frampton, Paula Cole, Peter Gabriel, Jhon Lennon, King Crimson, among others. Their list impresses at first sight. Possibly we are speaking of one of the key bassists of this time.

G.C.: You are playing with the biggest artists of this time. I wonder: Have you discovered some point in common in all of them,
something that is a necessary constant?
T. L.: There are differences in most of the great players and artists I work with. Some work very hard at their craft - others just rely on their talent. With some the talent comes from intelligence, direction, and work - with others it's just natural. I've been inspired by many of these musicians and artist, and try to let some of that special aspect of theirs rub off on me. Whether that's happened or not, it's a great thrill to be onstage with Peter Gabriel
when he's doing his performance, or Robert Fripp when he's solo-ing, or Paul Simon in the studio creating a song. Regarding his attitude towards the music, Toni says:

G.C.: Today I see Tony Levin like a musician that enjoys the music without concerns, with a simple and happy attitude toward it. Is this attitude the result of your reflections about the music or the result of your years of experience?
T. L.: I think that my attitude toward playing comes from my love of music.
After so many years playing, I'm quite clear about myself - I love good music and being a part of it. What my function is in that music isn't too important -
so I try to fashion a bass part that best helps the music, whether it's a
simple song or a complex King Crimson composition. Then, the best part, playing live. I especially enjoy the energy and appreciation that comes from audiences, so touring, even though it can be gruelling, is quite rewarding each night when we finally play our music. It's no wonder I'm enjoying myself
when playing - I think anyone who is able to make a lifetime of playing music is lucky indeed.

Tony Levin has diverse published albums. From some years ago to this time, he has been recording and editing a series of works that, year after year, have been seeing the light. His last work is "Pieces of the sun", with Jerry Marotta on drums (and vocals, percussion, some sax, and a little Omnichord), Jesse Gress on electric and acoustic guitars (and some vocals), Larry Fast on synthesizer, The California Guitar Trio on acoustic guitars, and Tony Levin on basses and Stick.
Levin has created a "small record company", like he likes to call to his Papabear Records. (This name arose of its daughter. She calls in this way to her father...). From there, he dedicates time to bringing up to date his web site, always renovating his newspaper of tours (The Road Diary).

G.C.: The musicians are fighting immersed in a difficult system of production. Which is your advice for those that try to survive in this environment without sacrificing its own music?
T. L.: I don't have any advice about how to deal with the music industry - it's a hard time for that and I have no particular insight into what works.
I do think, though, that sticking to ones own ideas about what music you want to play is usually better, in the long run, than trying to change your music to suit the business or audience.
I've often seen it happen that a singer changes course when making an album, to try to sell more records - then if they don't sell many records, they've got nothing - not even having made the music of their heart.
Better to try to keep to what makes you unique, and if it fails commercially at least you'll always have that special music that you made.

G.C.: Thank you Toni.

Toni Levin
por Guillermo Cides

Version en castellano
Tony Levin ha sido (y es) para muchos bajistas y stickistas, una referencia inevitable. Posiblemente, su carisma como musico este apoyada en una manera de ver y vivir su propia musica. Este "energia" musical que de el se desprende es, a mi manera de ver, tan permeable hacia afuera, que llega a la audiencia de una manera simple y directa. Si has tenido la suerte de ver a este musico en accion (yo la tuve, en el primer concierto que ofrecio King Crimson en Buenos Aires en su regreso), encuentras a un Levin absolutamente concentrado en su tarea, preciso y seguro en su accion.
Es dificil imaginar a Tony en otro instrumento. Sin embargo, como el nos dice en nuestra charla, sus inicios fueron con el piano:

Guillermo Cides: En relacion a tu intencion musical, ¿que fue lo que realmente deseaste cuando descubriste tu primer instrumento?
Tony Levin: Cuando era joven tocaba el piano (mis padres insistieron en ello) Luego de unos pocos años elos me preguntaron si yo preferia algun otro instrumento. Yo elegi el bajo por ninguna razon en especial excepto que me gustaba. Fue una eleccion comn suerte, porque hoy despues de muchos años, aun disfruto solo de tocar el bajo.
Con respecto al Stick, cuando entramos en la decada de los '70, escuche acerca de el a muchos musicos quienes pensaban que seria bueno para mi. (Habia estado tocando con la tecnica Tapping sobre mi bajo). Entonces consegui uno, y lo comence a tocar en la primer gira con Peter Gabriel; y posteriormente en algunas grabaciones.
Especialmente a mi me gusta su sonido de bajo profundo, y las diferentes afinaciones, que me ayudan a inspirarme con inusuales partes de bajo.
Mr. Levin ha explorado por caminos diversos de la musica. Su manera de investigacion y adaptacion a los estilos musicales comenzaron desde muy temprano y desde fuentes, como el nos cuenta:
Arribo la inspiracion junto con la tecnica en tu instrumento?
T. L.: Regresando otra vez a mi juventud como bajista, practique y tome lecciones de musica Clasica por muchos años sntes de formar alguna banda o tocar algun otro tipo de musica.
Esta curiosidad musical le ha llevado a tocar con musicos tan diversos como Paul Simon, James Taylor, Peter Frampton, Paula Cole, Peter Gabriel, Jhon Lennon, King Crimson, entre otros. Su lista impresiona a primera vista. Posiblemente estemos hablando de uno de los bajistas claves de esta epoca.

Tu has tocado con los musicos mas grandes de esta epoca. ¿Has descubierto algun punto en comun en ellos, algo que sea una necesaria constante?
T. L.: Existen diferencias en muchos de los grandes artistas con los que trabaje. Algunos trabajan muy duro con su propio arte; otros apenas confian en su talento. En algunos el talento viene de la inteligencia, de la dirección, y del trabajo; en otros el talento es algo natural. Yo he sido inspirado por muchos de estos musicos y artistas e intento que algo del especial aspecto de estos musicos se quede en mi.
Y aunque esto suceda o no, es una gran emocion estar con Peter Gabriel cuando el esta haciendo su performance, o con Robert Fripp cuando el esta haciendo su solo, o con Paul Simon cuando esta creando una cancion en el estudio.
Respecto a su actitud hacia la musica, Toni dice:

G.C.: Hoy veo a Tony Levin como a un musico que disfruta de la musica sin preocupaciones, con una simple y feliz acitud hacia ella. ¿Esta actitud es el resultado de tu reflexion hacia esta o de tus años de experiencia?
T. L.: Creo que mi actitud respecto a tocar proviene de mi amor a la musica. Despues de muchos años tocando musica, tengo claro acerca de mi mismo que amo a la musica y que soy parte de ella. Que mi funcion en la musica no es demasiado importante, por lo que intento armar una linea de bajo que ayude a la musica sea esta una simple cancion o una compleja composicion de King Crimson. Entonces la mejor parte es tocar en directo. Especialmente, disfruto de la energia y el aprecio que viene de la audiencia, de los tours, aun cuando estos pueden llegar a ser cansadores, esta recompensado cada noche cuando nosotros tocamos finalmente nuestra musica. No es ninguna maravilla que esté disfrutando yo mismo al tocar - pienso que cualquiera que puede hacer una vida de tocar música es verdaderamente afortunado. Yo creo que cualquier persona que puede tocar musica en su vida es afortunado de hacerlo.

Tony Levin tiene diversos albumes editados. Desde hace unos años a esta epoca, comenzo la grabacion y edicion de una serie de grabaciones que año tras año van viendo la luz. Su ultimo trabajo es "Pieces of the sun" junto a JerryMarotta on drums (and vocals, percussion, some sax, and a little Omnichord) Jesse Gress on electric and acoustic guitars (and some vocals) Larry Fast on synthesizer , The California Guitar Trio on acoustic guitars, and Tony Levin on basses and Stick.
Levin a crado una "small record company" como a el le gusta llamar a su Papabear Records. (Este nombre surgio de su hija. Asi llama ella a su padre...). Desde alli, dedica tiempo a la actualizacion de su pagina web renovando siempre su diario de giras (The Road Diary).

Muchos musicos estan inmersos en un sistema de produccion musical dificil . ¿Cual es tu consejo apara aquellos que intentan sobrevivir en ese medio sin sacrificar su propia musica?
T. L.: No tengo ningun consejo acerca de como insertarse en la industria de la musica. Esto implica un tiempo duro y no tengo una determinada entrada e este campo. De todas maneras, yo pienso que pegandote a tus propias ideas acerca de que musica tu quieres tocar es usualmente mejo, a largo plazo, que intentar cambiar tu música para satisfacer al negocio o a las audiencias. He visto suceder a menudo que un cantante cambia el curso al hacer un álbum, para intentar vender más discos. Ocurre entonces que si ellos no venden mas discos, entonces no tienen nada y no estan haciendo la musica de su corazon.
Mejor intentar mantener lo que te hace unico, y si falla comercialmente, al menos siempre tendras la musica especial que tu hiciste.

G.C.: Gracias Toni.

Toni Levin official Web Page

The Stick Center thanks Toni Levinl's collaboration for this interview.
Traducción:Matias Betti.

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