TIR 30: Funk, Electronic Renegade Bill Laswell Rocks It


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on the One: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in this two-part series: Visionary bassist-producer Bill Laswell, who since the late 1970s has been one of the most prolific artists of the recorded music era. As a sound conceptualist who has always been a step ahead of the curve, Laswell has put his inimitable stamp on nearly 3,000 recording projects by artists like Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Bootsy Collins, Nine Inch Nails, Motorhead, Peter Gabriel, Blur, The Ramones, George Clinton, Pharaoh Sanders, Sting, The Last Poets, Afrika Bambaataa, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti, Bernie Worrell, Buckethead and most notably Herbie Hancock, who collaborated with Laswell for the pivotal 1983 smash-hit single “Rock-It.” His radical remixes (a.k.a. reconstructions) of works by Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Bob Marley and a vast array of dub-related and atmospheric ambient projects have further defined Laswell as a revolutionary iconoclast.

Setting up base in New York, Laswell helped generate several innovative recording labels like Celluloid, Subharmonic, Black Arc and Innerhythmic. Along with Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, he established the AXIOM label in 1989. M.O.D. Technologies, his most recent imprint, includes projects by Method of Defiance, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Praxis, Garrison Hawk with Sly & Robbie, The Process (with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer Chad Smith and pianist Jon Baptiste) and progressive/futuristic music from Ethiopia.

As a player, Laswell’s bass lines resound with rare authority on groundbreaking projects by Tabla Beat Science, his avant-funk band Material, the apocalyptic assault of Last Exit (with Sonny Sharrock) and the throbbingly intense power trios, Massacre (with Fred Frith and Charles Hayward), Painkiller (with John Zorn and Mick Harris), Blixt and Bladerunner (with again John Zorn and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo).

Laswell’s artistic reach has consistently extended to the continent of Africa, creating evolutionary and controversial recording projects in Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Gambia and most recently, Ethiopia, where he has established a base for developing artists — just as he did in the South Bronx nearly 40 years ago. An eternal musical renegade, the enigmatic Bill Laswell has always played by his own rules. That includes remaining off-camera for this edition of TRUTH IN RHYTHM, perhaps the most in-depth interview the reclusive innovator he has ever done.

Recorded November 2017