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Alan Pasqua: Lifetime's Aglow, A (non) Antisocial Interaction

By Published: February 18, 2008
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Back to Electric, Part Two

AAJ: You've done all that, plus you've managed to carve out careers on the acoustic trio type path and the electric band path.

AP: But realistically, the last time I played fusiony electric kind of music full-time was Velvet Darkness.

AAJ: I just assumed you kept doing it all along.

AP: No, you know why? Because fusion, or what they call fusion, took a turn. And it took a turn, for my money, for the worse. It got really misinterpreted by a lot of musicians. It became this really technical bullshit music that was not what it was in the spirit of. Too many chops and "Big Me" type music. I mean, Miles started it with Silent Way and [Filles de]Kiliminjaro (Columbia, 1968)—there's nothing "Big Me" about that—it's all ethereal and cerebral stuff and textural—it's textural not technical. Along the way people like Chick and Mahavishnu put more chops into it but it was still really textural music. All of a sudden, it just got...I don't who started it, but...chops became more important than the content of the music.

Alan Pasqua / Peter Erskine

So when Jeff Gauthier approached me to do a record and said he didn't want it to be acoustic, that's why I was so, like, "Oh!" I was like, "You want me to do an electric record? Listen, man, if we're going to—if I'm going to do an electric record—it is not going to be typewriter music!" I mean, I played "Snake Oil," which I think was about the fastest thing that the Lifetime band ever did. That wasn't about chops, or maybe it was when it was time to solo, but the content, the thematic music, the sound of the band absolutely wasn't that. That's why Miles' music and all that early stuff, Herbie's and Chick's, there was a lot of soul, a great deal of soul in that music, and that kind of all went away. That's why I stopped playing it—I just said, "I don't want to play this shit. This is boring."

AAJ: You continued to appear on Allan Holdsworth's recordings though.

AP: Oh, yeah, he would call me and ask if I'd play on a tune, or some tunes on his records, and of course I would. But the thing I was highlighting was, I wasn't playing that music live or at other sessions. That brings up a funny story. I actually forgot to show one day. Allan called me for a session and I was busy in the studio doing some other stuff, and I had gotten in really late the night before, but I agreed. The next day, I was asleep and the phone rang like at 10 o'clock and I said, "Who the hell is this?" And it was him and I can just hear him now, he said, "Oh, man, I don't blame you. I wouldn't want to play on this shit either." [laughs] And I said, "Oh, I'm so sorry, I totally forgot." And he says, "Oh, no man, this shit is awful. Don't even bother coming down." And that was Atavachron (Relativity, 1987) or Metal Fatigue (Relativity, 1985), which were great records.

AAJ: That seems to be his deal. Putting himself down.

AP: Oh, totally. He's very self-deprecating.

AAJ: You are also on another classic recording that is a very different thing in the jazz world, the Michael Brecker orchestral recording with Claus Ogerman, Claus Ogerman Featuring Michael Brecker (GRP, 1991).

AP: Yeah that was amazing. That started out as just the orchestra. Brecker was an afterthought. It's unbelievable. Claus wanted it to be like piano trio type Bill Evans stuff and then the label made him redirect. It worked out well.

AAJ: In terms of your keyboard stuff, is there somewhere for people to go to check that out—you know the tech end or the harmony end—like something more technical in Keyboard Magazine?

AP: Funny thing—the marketing guy from Crypto checked that out. In the late '80s I was in this rock band called Giant on A&M records. They did a big feature on me back then because I had blond hair and had a B-3 that was painted like an M.C. Escher painting in black and white. They said, you know, it was the coolest thing since French toast. Now, they're not responsive, which really pisses me off because now I feel like I really have something to say. I feel like I could actually make some contribution to their magazine but...[laughs]

AAJ: Our gain. You seem like an expert on not only the obvious harmony and theory, but also sound architecture.

AP: I've had my moments. I attribute a lot of it to the engineers I've worked with in the past. They've taught me a great deal. For me, getting the keyboard sounds is like—hey, I spent thirty years learning how to get a good tone on piano. I just can't spend it getting a good sound on synth. I maybe instinctively know what's good and what isn't. I just move on when something's no good.

AAJ: I went to your website to figure out your rig and didn't find much.

AP: That's because it's really nothing. I'm playing acoustic and the Nord and I had a Korg CX-3 that I was using on the road with Holdsworth, and I've played B-3 on some stuff. It's funny because when I went on the European tour with Allan they got me the wrong CX-3, an old model that sounds awful, so I told them I wasn't going to use Korg and not to even bother getting me another one. I decided I was going to do the whole thing on Nord. I had more fun making sounds from effects, like throwing Leslie on the Rhodes and taking the bottom end off of it and making it distort. All of sudden it sounds like somebody clearing their throat. It's like, man, this isn't even an electric piano. It really morphs so quickly into something so unusual and then it stands up on its own

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