John McLaughlin: On The Road, Part 1: The Interview
“ You cannot get more personal than with music. But I've a personal philosophy that the more personal you get the more universal it actually becomes. ”
It's been nearly a decade since legendary guitarist John McLaughlin toured North America with an electric fusion band. With a new group, The 4th Dimension, and a new label, Abstract Logix, McLaughlin will be hitting the road in September, 2007 for a series of dates that will take him coast-to-coast in the United States, with a handful of Canadian dates also booked.
All About Jazz Senior Editor John Kelman will follow McLaughlin and his outstanding groupkeyboardist/drummer Gary Husband, young bassist Hadrien Feraud and drummer Mark Mondesiras they converge for a series of rehearsals and their first gig at the Carolina Theater in Durham, North Carolina on September 13, 2007. AAJ's multi-part series will also include coverage of the final three dates of the tour, in Canada, beginning October 2 in Montreal. AAJ's extensive coverage will provide unprecedented insight into how a tour evolves, from inception to completion.
To set the stage for what's to come, John Kelman spoke at length with McLaughlin about the tour, the group, his relationship with Abstract Logix and the changing face of music and the music industry.
- Leaving The Majors Behind
- On The State Of Music Today
- The Rigors Of Touring
- Finding The 4th Dimension
- What To Expect
- On Becoming Repertory
- The Future
- On The State Of Music Today
A changing landscapewhere artists working in marginalized genres now receive little, if any, support from major labelshas caused many to rethink their approach to getting their music out to the public. McLaughlin, an intrepid explorer of new technologies as early as the mid-1970s, when he worked with one of the earliest guitar synthesizers, views this as an opportunity, rather than a challenge. "I'm a big fan of technology, I must admit," McLaughlin explains. "It's part of society. I can understand people who don't want to be tied up to the internet, don't want a mobile phone, and I admire that even. But personally, I think these inventions, these discoveries are wonderful. Of course they can be abused, but nevertheless it's part of the world, it's part of the way we communicate, and it's been radical in the transformation of the music industry, the music world.
"This is the birth of the small label, the new phenomenon, the marginal music. The big labels are going the way of the dodo as far as people like me are concerned, because I'm in the marginal side too, a little more known only because I've been around for a long time. But, nevertheless, the big record companies, they're dying. The writing was on the wall in the '70s, when blank cassettes passed seven billion dollars in one year; they [the record labels] should have known it was another aspect to how people could access music. And it was just as inevitable with the CD. Once Sony agreed to music being copied that opened the floodgates.
"But there are good sides and bad sides. On the bad side, for example, I left Universal in February, 2006, in the sense that I did not resign with them and my contract finally expired in February 2007, a year later. But I'm very happy not to be with this label anymore, and it's a shame, because I'm going to have to put records out my own way, but I'd much rather do it, because the labels are like my 360 guitar synthesizer system in the '70s, with six Minimoogs, one for each stringthey're like an unwieldy elephant. It's like we're back to E.F. Schumacher, you know, 'Small is Beautiful.' You have to be fluid and spontaneous."
Abstract Logix began life as an online storefront for all things fusion and more in 2003. In the past couple of years, however, Abstract Logix's founder/president Souvik Dutta has begun transforming it into a bonafide record label, releasing two of 2006's best fusion discsguitarist Alex Machacek's [sic] and keyboardist Scott Kinsey's Kinesthetics. Abstract Logix may be small, but it's remarkably ambitious, and did more to get the word out about Machacek and Kinsey than Universal did for McLaughlin's last record, the superb and stylistically assimilated Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006).
McLaughlin's relationship with Dutta goes back a few years. "It started a few years ago," says McLaughlin, "he came over [to Europe] about seven years ago on a Shakti tour, and he was selling records here in Europe, so I got to meet him. And then we [Shakti] did an American tour, must have been four years ago, and he was there. And I got to see how he worked and what kind of attitude he had.
"Four years ago we were planning the instructional DVD, This Is The Way I Do It (Mediastarz, 2004), and so we made some inquiries, because it's a box setthree DVDs, minimum five years work for your average guitarist. We contacted some distributors and they said 'Yeah, we'll distribute it and you'll get 40% and we'll take 60%,' and I said, 'Wait a minute, we just spent $175,000 on this production, what did you give? Nothing.' 'Yeah, well that's the way it is.' No it isn't. So we said 'No, we don't believe that, sorry, we'll see you later.'
"So, after having a number of these experiences I thought of Souvik and I said, 'Wait a minute, let's talk to Souvik, because he loves music so much, he's so into getting music out there, let's see if we can do it.' And we did, we made a deal with Souvik, and we haven't looked back and it's amazing, how well it continues to sell, and only on the internet."
Dutta and Abstract Logix are not only representing McLaughlin for his North American tour, they'll be releasing two new McLaughlin titles in the coming months. First, another instructional DVD called The Gateway To Rhythm, which explores Indian Konokol, a universal system of mastering rhythm without drums. McLaughlin has advocated this system since he formed Shakti over thirty years ago. The DVD, made in collaboration with Indian Konokol master/percussionist S. Ganesh Vinayakram, finds McLaughlin explaining and demonstrating, on guitar, the benefit of Konokol on his own work, in both composition and improvisation.
The Gateway To Rhythm will be followed, in early 2008, with a new album featuring The 4th Dimension and other players, McLaughlin's follow-up to Industrial Zen. Dutta has been working overtime to promote his new, formalized relationship with McLaughlin and the fruits of his efforts are already being seen, with significantly more interest in McLaughlin in North America than he's seen in many years. It's about time.
McLaughlin has always been an artist looking to break down boundaries in music. From early innovations like the jazz/rock fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Indo/jazz fusion of Shakti through to the stylistically integrated Industrial Zen, he's cut a broad swath across contemporary music since his first album as a leader, Extrapolation (Polydor, 1969). He was a key member of Miles Davis' first forays into electric music, from In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) and Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969) to A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970) and On The Corner (Columbia, 1972).
He's found a nexus point where high energy electric music and symphony orchestra can meet, translated the music of Bill Evans into repertory for himself and a quartet of classical guitarists, expanded the guitar/organ/drums trio numerous times, and explored new approaches to flamenco music with Paco de Lucia. And that's only a small sampling of his view that music is a large continuum where everything and anything can and should coexist.
In response to the countless genres and subgenres of music that seem to be endlessly searching for ways to categorize the unclassifiable, McLaughlin says, "I think compartmentalized styles were an invention of the record industry, they're really for marketing. Of course there are people who don't want to listen to jazzfusion or bebop or neo-bebop or free jazz, whichever you choosebut there are people who don't want to listen to Beethoven or Bach or Mozart. But I believe, particularly with what's been going on for more than a few years now with what they call world music, that people have embraced music in a global sense and they tend to discriminate more simply between what's good and what's not good. Or not so good, as all music is good in a sense, though there is some badly performed music.
"The lines are being blurred, certainly from the classical point of view. I have many classical musician friends and they all just want to improvise and, of course, they've never had the opportunity to, or they don't have the training. But they would give their back teeth to improvise, it's amazing.
"Over the last fifteen years I've been somewhat disenchanted with what's coming out of the jazz world. I know we don't like to make comparisons, but nevertheless I have to, the comparisons are there all the time. When I think of the '60s, I think of the fabulous innovations that came outthose shining, brilliant minds and hearts and souls coming out and expressing themselves in music. If you ask me, pure jazz was crystallized with Kind Of Blue (Columbia, 1959).
"I'm not a big fan of what they call smooth jazz, simply because it seems too plastic for me. So I found myself, twelve or thirteen years ago, looking into the underground, and a lot of what you hear with these young guys, what they're doing with these underground records, is basically noise, but it's very interesting. Because what is noise? In a way, if you have the right perspective everything is musical. People don't walk, they dance; and they don't speak, they sing, depending on what state of mind they're in.
"What you can call the art of noise is, I think, an aspect of music that I began to explore with Industrial Zen, but I would like to continue looking at. Certain sounds that you would not normally call musical sounds, when used in a particular way, evoke a reaction that can only be called musical. A kind of emotive reaction, and this is really interesting for me as a musician and as a composer. I write tunes, but it's the concept of tunes. One of the things I learned from Miles and Wayne [Shorter] about the conception of form, and this is something that's always fascinated me, is that to arrive at a particular concept is really, really interesting. It's like a painter who suddenly discovers a new kind of way.
"For me, it's about musical influences plus cultural influences. For me, you could say that includes R&B, funk, hard rock and heavy metal, because I grew up with all of it, they're all inside me, they're all buzzing around. And this is something that I would hope never to lose. We become not obsessed, but as a musician I find myself exploring particular mines, like say a harmonic mine, and I'll spend timeand I don't know how much time, sometimes it can be a year, sometimes it can be three yearsexploring a particular kind of harmonic, which I'm trying to express in a melodic way.
"To improvise while moving out into harmonic extensions is part of my life, it's part of my way, and I would do it even with Shakti, I would really take it out sometimes. But nevertheless I'd like to do it with keyboards and drums and bass guitar because this is my tradition.
"I think this process of recapitulation is an ongoing process, as far as I'm concerned anyway, because I'm continually going backwards, not just to Mahavishnu days, but to the first record I heard from Miles, Milestones (Columbia, 1957). I've got that on my iPod and I listened to it today, it's outstanding, I mean wonderful. This is part of my tradition, part of my school, it's the way I think, the way I articulate; it's part of it. And the Hispanic side is a part of it too, the Indian side of it; the heavy metal is part of it too, rhythm and blues is a part of it. This is the integral part of it that is most accurately represented on Industrial Zen, which is a summation or synthesis of elements or influences from over the years.
"I think this is probably what goes on, not just on a conscious level but a subconscious level, because the things that have been influencing my musical directions to a high degree are quite numerousthere's a big handful. But the ideal, of course, is that, for example, when I listen to someone like Ravel and can hear the Hispanic influence, it's integrated, it's inside. It's not like he's putting some kind of pastiche on top of a Western chord, you can see that there's real love behind his integration of that particular aspect, that particular color in music. It's really the ideal for all musicians, myself included."
One of the defining characteristics of music in the 1960s and 1970s was that anything seemed possible, and there seemed to be a large audience for artists who were looking to find new ways to bring together what, at the time, appeared to be completely disparate styles. Punk in the late 1970s and the emergence of the neo-bop "young lions" movement sounded the death knell for styles like fusion, but in recent years it seems as though it's no longer a dirty word.
"In the New York Times," McLaughlin says, "sixteen or seventeen years ago, the opening statement from a NY Times jazz critic was, 'Thank God that pestilence known as fusion jazz is dead.' What a moron!
"I've been a little out of touch with what's been going on, especially because I just spent the last seven months in Indiawhich was wonderful. But I was, in a way, cut off from the mainstream. Which is not so bad, I kind of enjoyed that, just to be in another place. What amazes me, whether it's west or east, are the young musicians coming up who are really outstanding. This makes my heart warm, as they say, because on a recording I did in India, for example, I used all Indian musicians, but there was a rhythm section, all Indian musicians playing western instruments, who were just killing. But each piece featured one of the new young lions of India, playing a traditional instrument, but in a very western environment. Not western like 'Giant Steps,' they don't have the training; but I know how to set up some harmony where they can just go on their ragas and everything works out fine. Some of these young players are amazing, truly amazing, and are only in their early twenties.
"And back here it's the same, these young players. This bassist who's coming out with me, Hadrien Feraud, and this kid Ryan Cavanaugha banjo player I hooked up with [saxophonist] Bill [Evans]. An outstanding player, wonderful, yeah!
"Why did Miles love Europe so much? Because people recognized him for who he wasa great, great artist, not just a great musician. But traditionally Europe supports culturejazz or pop or fusion or other alternative forms of music are accepted as valid cultural currencies and are supported as such by the state, by the city, by the governments. Which is something that never really happened in the US. Even the symphony orchestras were supported to a large extent by GM or Ford, but there are quite a number of symphony orchestras that have gone bankrupt over the past fifteen to twenty years. The US government, in particular, does not deem it relevant to support cultural aspects, which I think is an error. But it's like every country, there's good and bad, you just have to go with the flow."
With the challenges of travel costs, visas, heightened security and baggage restrictions, it's sometimes amazing that musicians go on tour at all. "About seven or eight years ago I began to slow down tour-wise," McLaughlin explains, "and with the situation in the US particularly. Canada is really less of a problem, but it's difficult to tour in the US. It's a hassle; you have to be at the airport two-and-a-half hours before [the flight]. I go back to the '70s, when we used to pull up five minutes before take-off with three tons of equipment, drive the truck right up onto the field next to the plane, having given the sky cab twenty bucks, load the instruments on the plane and there would be no delaywe'd run to the airport, run to the plane and take off.
"A lot of airlines only allow you one handbag, so we're learning to travel more lightly by necessity, in spite of the fact that the Musicians Union in the United States made an agreement with the airlines some years ago. The airlines, god bless them, they're going through their problems. We were in Chicago two weeks ago [July, 2007] for the Crossroads Festival with Eric [Clapton], and we were coming back to New York for a few days before returning to Europe and they just cancelled the flight. It was a five o'clock flight, we would have been in LaGuardia around 7:30 or 8:00, we arrived in Newark at 2:00 AM without our bagsit was a major upheaval at the airport. And they don't even talk to you anymore; they refuse to speak to you."
The rigors of the road, especially criss-crossing across multiple time zones, are something that can wear out even the most seasoned traveler. Still, McLaughlin says, "traveling is a habitwhen you've been doing it all your life, you don't think about time zones, you just think about when you can eat, when you can sleep and is it time to play, or can you grab another hour. I should point out, though, that being a musician is not quite the same as being a non-musician in the sense that when you play music, even if you're jet-lagged, something, some psycho-physical thing happens to your body and it's very, very benevolent. I've noticed it my whole life. One of the best anti-jet lag treatments there can be is playing music."
McLaughlin's known and/or worked with some of the members of the new group before, although this is the first time they've come together as a unit. "I've done gigs with Mark and Gary," explains McLaughlin, "and Mark's brother [Mike] was on bass, a great bassist, and we did gigs before I met Hadrien, before we recorded Industrial Zen. This is going back two or three years, and we did some quartet gigs which were wonderful because Mark goes way back with me to The Promise (Verve, 1995). And he's such a great drummerand Gary, of course, he's another great drummer. In fact Gary's going to have a little jungle kit on stage. We're going to have Mark and Gary together. They were together on Industrial Zen on two pieces, so I want them playing together. They love each other and have such admiration for each other that it's really special what they do, and I think with those two, me and Hadrien, we're going to be tearing it up on some music.
"A lot of people over there [North America] won't even know them, other than Gary, maybe, with Level 42 and Allan Holdsworth. I met Gary, it must have been the very early '90s'91 or '92and of course I'd been to see him and Allan whenever they were in town or when I was in their town. Allan, he's just an amazing guitarist, he's special. Every time I see him I tell him 'Allan, if I only knew what you were doing I would steal everything you do, but I haven't the faintest idea how you do what you do.'
"So I'd been listening to Gary on drums for some time, and then we started to hang here and there when I was with Dennis [Chambers], because they've been tight for a while. We were hanging out one day and Gary said, 'I want to send you a CD,' and he sent me a piano CD which was the one of Allan Holdsworth music, which is wonderful. [The Things I See: Interpretations Of The Music Of Allan Holdsworth (Angel Air, 2004)]. He's really an outstanding player. So we've done gigs with him on keyboards, and of course on Industrial Zen he was doing keyboards and drums. Gary's wonderful, so that's how I met him.
"Mark would go back even further because, before I knew Mark, I'd heard rumors. Mark was at a gig, and Tony [Williams] was there and Tony wouldn't stop for any drummer, but he stopped for Mark and he listened to him. Because I knew Tony very well, when I heard about that I said 'I've gotta hear this guy,' so I basically hunted him down until I got to hear him. It must be fifteen years ago or so that I heard him for the first time, playing with this French saxophonist from Martinique. A nice tenor player. So Mark was playing and I went to see him, and really liked it.
"The next chance I had was thirteen years ago, when I did The Promise and I called told him, 'Listen I'm doing a tune with Jeff [Beck], but you know with Jeff it's gonna be a little...,' and he said, 'Don't worry,' and I said, 'I'm not worried, I just want you to put it down,' and he said, 'I'll put it down!' And he did. And, in fact, from that recording he got the gig with Jeff for a while, he joined Jeff's band. That must have been 1995.
"In '97 I was finishing up with the Heart Of Things and just moving into Shakti mode again. With Shakti you don't need a drummerwith Zakir Hussain around and Selvaganesh, those two, what a couple of monsters. But in between times I organized these concerts, because this electric thing, it's in my blood. It's undeniable; it's like a compulsion that I have to play it. It's wonderful with Shakti, don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic group, but I'm a western musician, and I don't want to be an Indian musician and I'm not [an Indian musician] with Shakti; I'm bending rules. I know the Indian system, I know the Indian ragas, and I know how to bend the rulessimply because I know the rules, I know how to bend them. At the same time, I'm a western player and I want to express myself with my form, which has something to do with Shakti, because Shakti will be in it, there's no doubt about it. But from a harmonic point of view I'm a harmonic musician, a western musician and this is the element that I've been trying to incorporate in Shakti."
But perhaps the real find of The 4th Dimension is bassist Hadrien Feraud. Still only twenty-two, his playing on "For Jaco," the opening track on Industrial Zen, is nothing short of remarkable. "I heard Hadrien on a demo CD," McLaughlin says. "My manager, he's based in Paris, and I used to hang out there years and years ago. It's a nice city to hang out in, and since I grew up with French it's not a problem for me, because if you don't speak French [laughs] it's a real problem in Paris, believe me.
"So, anyway, my manager had heard about this kid and we were speaking one day and he said, 'You know I've heard this bassist,' and my antenna went up, and I said, 'Let me hear him, whatever he's got,' and he played me something that was just rough, a demo. I called him right away and said, 'Listen, come down here, I'm in the middle of recording, and there's this tune you have to play on.' I'd already written 'For Jaco,' and I didn't even know who was gonna play on it, I really didn't. But this tune was so much for Jaco and it couldn't have been more timely. I heard this kid play, I couldn't believe it, so I got him down, and we played and we recorded and, for me, he's the new Jaco [Pastorius]. He's twenty-two now, it's terrible! And he doesn't even read music, but he's got amazing ears. Harmonically, I say, 'Do you know this chord?' and he says, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,' or 'Let me hear it,' and boom! he's got it. Amazing, like Wes Montgomery. Incredible.
"Then Industrial Zen came out and the next week Chick [Corea] called me and he said, 'Damn, this record is beautiful,' he loves Industrial Zen. And he said, 'This bassist, can I borrow this bassist?' [laughs]. I said 'Yeah, of course, we're going on tour in September but hey, he's a free agent,' and so he's toured with him already. I just saw Chick last week in New York, and we might do something together next year, we're talking about it. We'll see how that works out. But Hadrien is already buzzing around the planet."
While Industrial Zen is a heavily technological recordMcLaughlin's most assured synthesis of live performance and programming to date, in facthis tour is going to be considerably rawer, partly out of design and partly out of necessity. For the past seven years or so, McLaughlin has been touring with a Godin guitar and a laptop with all his processing software. "You may not see that in North America," says McLaughlin, "simply because we have these pressures about carrying things [on airplanes]. I am a little concerned about what I can carry.
"But in the last nine months I've been playing more with an amp. Not really in concert, although there were a couple where I did play with amps, and it made me very happy. I'm not able to schlep an amp around because of the horrific travel costs, but I think it's very likely that you'll see me with an amp this time. A small one, but nevertheless I will be doing that. However, that said, the last seven years have been spent really working very deeply with the new technology, audio and midithough I think that part of this research and work began before that. I've been running a Mac since they first came out in '84, which was the death knell of the Synclavier [the first digital synthesizer] unfortunately. But I think Industrial Zen reflects the research that I've been doing in sound.
"On the road I think we'll be a little more rough and ready. Gary will be playing synthsanother reason I'm not too crazy about playing synth guitar, because Gary's playing synthesizers, and I think just to have the contrast between electric guitar and the synth from him, it's enough, we don't need another synth.
"So more or less straight sound, an amp and a guitar, though that remains to be seen. I just got back from America [the Crossroads Festival] and played straight amp with the quartet with Vinnie [Colaiuta], Matt [Garrison] and Gary. I brought Gary over but to keep the costs down, I wanted to play with Vinnie, Vinnie is on the recording [Industrial Zen], so I wanted to jam with him again; and Matthew, of course, goes back to The Heart Of Things (Verve, 1997). So that was just straight in the amp, boom! Play. I'm working very hard right now, because we've got the DVD and the CD, so there's a lot on my plate in addition to getting ready for the tour. But at the same time, because of the demands of touring, particularly in the US, we're gonna have to think more light than heavy, so it means less technology. So we'll be more rough and ready, I think."
Like most musicians who have been around for more than a few years, McLaughlin views hitting the road differently than in years past, where tours were very much about promoting a new album. "The days of making a record and touring are over," McLaughlin explains. "It's not just that Industrial Zen came out a year or more ago, which is a long time for me, I've done another record since then. But there will be pieces that go back thirty years. Basically music that I want to play. I think there'll even be a piece from Mahavishnu Orchestra. There are a lot of great tunes from that period.
"But at the same time, when you've been making music as long as I have you've got to start making some choices. Ninety or a hundred minutes to play and we've got to make a show, as they say. But I'm very excited to do this from a musical point of view as a quartet. Invariably I've been playing with another front line [instrument], whether it's Heart Of Things or with Shakti with Shrinivas, but I feel very happy that we're just a quartet; there's something very nice about that.
"There's certainly a lot of room for spontaneity, for this wonderful thing that happens live that is so unpredictable. And I've already let it be known to the musicians that they have to be ready to move in a very spontaneous manner during the concerts, and they're really going to have to be on their toesas will I, because these are great players. So they know what concept I'm looking at in terms of the music.
"I think the set list will vary from night to night because of the amount of music we do have. There will probably be some standard pieces that we'll play every night. Some pieces lend themselves to continuous evolution, and some are meant to be played with more sobriety. And so, with the pieces with sobriety there will be less evolution in any kind of flamboyant way, they'll be more discrete, more interior. But then there are pieces, particularly where you have harmonic possibilities of extensions, rhythmic possibilities of extensions. These are ones that I'll really exploit to the maximum. So you might hear a piece that will be played in one particular rhythmical expression, it will be the same form, but it will be transformed into a different extension one night, and on another it may be entirely different.
"I think this is how it should be for me. I don't want to predict and say, 'We're going to do it like this.' Yes, the melodies and the basic structures we start with, but then it's not just playing notes, and trying to get in touch with your soul, getting to the level where you have true freedom. It's also the interaction between spirits you have in the band, because they're all aware, all alive, so how do we interact and which way do we interact? So it's not just the playing of the notes, it's the playing of the people; and the minute you start playing with the people on the stage you start playing with the people in the audience and with their minds also, which I think is a wonderful thing.
"Spontaneity is the key word here. Of course, to get to that point, it's hard work, which is why we spend our entire lives dedicated to music. To get to the unknown, which is where spontaneity exists, you have to go through the known. Sometimes you'll spend a whole night getting through the known and never getting to the unknown [laughs]. Them's the breaks."
Over his forty-year plus career McLaughlin has had plenty of opportunity to view where music is going from a macro perspective. "I would hesitate to say we're playing jazz music," McLaughlin explains, "because, as Miles said, 'Jazz is a white man's word,' and I don't know anybody who could tell me today what true jazz is. Because it's undergone such a mutation over the past thirty years.
"You cannot get more personal than with music. But I've a personal philosophy that the more personal you get the more universal it actually becomes."
A relatively recent phenomenon is how material, once associated very directly with the band that originally made it, is now being considered open for reinterpretation. McLaughlin, in particular, has seen his music brought into new and unexpected contexts. Drummer Greg Bendian's Mahavishnu Project performs reverential yet deeply personal versions of Mahavishnu Orchestra material, including Return To The Emerald Beyond (Cuneiform, 2007), which documents the first-ever live performances of Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (Columbia, 1975). Even more surprising is Celebrating The Mahavishnu Orchestra, which translates the electrified energy of McLaughlin's groundbreaking group into a classical string quartet, while Gary Husband's solo piano effort, A Meeting Of Spirits: Interpretations Of The Music Of John McLaughlin takes the music to more abstract territory.
"At the Crossroads Festival," McLaughlin says, "Jeff Beck, one of my old cohorts, opened up his set with two tunes from Mahavishnuit was wonderful. He did 'Resolution' and 'Eternity's Breath,' one after the other, and he really played it too. He's such a great guitarist, and to hear that, it was very moving. We go back, we used to tour a lot in the '70s, and jam every nighttwo bands on stage, that was some high energy.
"And it's not just like The Mahavishnu Project, which itself is very moving. I saw them in New York, it must have been four or five years ago, and I had to go onstage and say something. I was so moved, really, and they played with such a passion, that was wonderful. And that string quartet [radio.string.quartet], how about that? When they sent me the demo and I said, 'Yes, I'll do your liner notes,' then they went through terrible traumas, lost two of the quartet, and everything was put on the back burner for about eighteen months. But they got back to me, the two who stayed faithful, and they brought another couple of people in and went ahead with the record. I was just so impressed when I listened to it."
As the landscape of music distribution changes, so too does McLaughlin envision a change in the way he'll be putting his music out. "To tell you the truth," he says, "I don't know if I'll ever make a CD again. I made a CD in India, but we did a DVD, The Making Of, that's very interesting, I think, from a musical point of view and especially from an east-west point of view, and how the cultures are really melding together. In view of the way CD sales arewhich is pretty lamentableand that people are much more visually and audio oriented, I think that to be able to see what's going on while you have great sound, I think that is a much more interesting proposition. I think we'll probably just go with DVDs from now on."
As McLaughlin readies himself for the coming tour, the next year is going to be a treasure trove for his fans. Along with the CD and DVD coming out on Abstract Logix, Eagle Vision will be releasing a two-DVD set featuring two different Mahavishnu Orchestra performances at the Montreux Jazz Festivalone from 1974 featuring the eleven-piece MO that would go on to record Visions Of The Emerald Beyond, the other a 1984 performance from the tour in support of Mahavishnu (Warner Bros., 1984), both currently available in audio format only in the seventeen-CD box set, John McLaughlin Montreux Concerts (Warner Music, 2003).
"On the '74 show the sound is a little rocky," McLaughlin explains. "We did the best we could, with only two-track analogue with some drop-outs and some gaps. But the '84 was multi-track, and with my engineer we were able to do a really good joband it's probably the only example of where the Synclavier guitar is really exposed. It was a great night and it was a good mix and everybody was playing really well. I'm very happy that it's finally coming out."
A great night, a good mix and everybody playing really well. Sounds like the perfect description of what McLaughlin fans can expect when he hits the road with The 4th Dimension, beginning September 13, 2007.
John McLaughlin/S. Ganesh Vinayakram, The Gateway To Rhythm (Abstract Logix, 2007) (DVD)
John McLaughlin/Jaco Pastorius/Tony Williams, Trio Of Doom (Legacy, 2007)
John McLaughlin, Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006)
John McLaughlin/Remember Shakti, The Way Of Beauty (Universal France, 2006) (DVD)
John McLaughlin, This Is The Way I Do It (Mediastarz, 2004) (DVD)
John McLaughlin, Thieves And Poets (Verve, 2003)
John McLaughlin/Remember Shakti, Saturday Night In Bombay (Verve, 2001)
John McLaughlin/Remember Shakti, The Believer (Verve, 2000)
John McLaughlin/The Heart Of Things, Live In Paris (Verve, 2000)
John McLaughlin, The Heart Of Things (Verve, 1997)
John McLaughlin, The Promise (Verve, 1995)
John McLaughlin/The Free Spirits, Tokyo Live (Verve, 1993)
John McLaughlin Trio, Live At The Royal Festival Hall (JMT, 1989)
John McLaughlin, Belo Horizonte (Warner Bros., 1981)
John McLaughlin, Electric Guitarist (Columbia, 1978)
John McLaughlin/Shakti, Shakti With John McLaughlin (Columbia, 1976)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions Of The Emerald Beyond (Columbia, 1975)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Apocalypse (Columbia, 1974)
Miles Davis, On The Corner (Columbia, 1972)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds Of Fire (Columbia, 1972)
John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia, 1971)
John McLaughlin, My Goal's Beyond (Ryko, 1970)
Larry Coryell, Spaces (Vanguard, 1970)
Miles Davis, A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970)
John McLaughlin, Extrapolation (Polydor, 1969)
The Tony Williams Lifetime, Emergency! (Polydor, 1969)
Wayne Shorter, Super Nova (Blue Note, 1969)
Miroslav Vitous, Infinite Search (Atlantic, 1969)
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969)
Miles Davis, In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969)