July 2010Previous page
– Did you have any cultural shock when relocating to America and joining the West Coast music community?
Something had been pulling me to the States for a long time… destiny, perhaps. The music, of course, but also the desire to travel and adventure played a large roll for a freewheeling twenty-one year old. I fell in with Leigh Stephens and his crowd with comparative ease really. I was hanging out with Leigh and his old lady Liz, Micky Waller, Zani Dani, Charlie Osborne – great bunch of characters – going between L.A. and San Francisco. It was the summer of ’69, boiling hot sun, the Pacific Ocean, jamming music all day and night.
The West Coast music scene was a gas! For an anemic, skinny English rocker who was used to rainy old London, it was like I was on a different planet. We’d jam day and night on the pier at Venice Beach, near Los Angeles, but eventually moved north to Marin County near San Francisco, an unbelievably beautiful area: Giant Redwood trees, San Francisco bay, cool music and poetry scene. I wound up calling the area home. Big Sur was a special place to me, too, it reminded me a little of parts of Scotland.
I was living with the band STONEGROUND around that time…that was a good band Then I met my wife, Jeannette, in 1971 at John Cipollina’s house in Marin County. We got together two years later to write songs; Jeannette is a lyricist and writer, and we were eventually married in 1975, one year after we moved back to the U.S. from England, and I joined the original JEFFERSON STARSHIP with Papa John Creach. We have two wonderful children. I’d have to say the United States has been very good to me.
– You not only were friends with John Cipollina but played with him, didn’t you?
I played John Cipollina’s band, COPPERHEAD, for a while and left them around 1971-72, right before they recorded their first album, to go back to England and record on Rod Stewart’s “Never A Dull Moment”. Also, Nicky Hopkins, who had been living near me in Mill Valley, California, with his wife Dolly, wanted me to play bass with him in a new band he was getting together. He also talked about me doing some keyboard work like B3 while he played piano. I found out years later that drummer, Prairie Prince, would also have been in the band… Prairie and I later played together in one of the Steve Kimock bands. Great drummer. Nicky was renting me a house in Mill Valley, so I had to get back and take possession after two weeks of recording with Rod. Nicky was on tour with THE STONES, so I learnt to fly old bi-planes while I waited for him to come back… Unfortunately, mostly due to illness, he’d had enough of touring and never did get his band together. Nicky was a great talent.
– What’s almost never mentioned is your stint with JOURNEY. Were you originally to be their bass player?
Quite a few people have asked me this question lately. In 1972, I formed a band with SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE drummer Greg Errico and Neil Schon, who’d played guitar with Carlos in SANTANA. We called it SEARS, SCHON, ERRICO. We had no vocalist, and did several shows as a sort of power trio thing. It was actually a blast! I remember one New Year’s Eve show at the Diamond Head Crater Festival in Hawaii, when Greg Rolie sat in with us and sang “Black Magic Woman”. That was the closest we came to getting a lead singer. I also vaguely remember the three of us huddling next to a telephone box near Greg’s place while I tried to get through to Stevie Winwood in England to see if he would be interested but I never managed to get him on the line. There was no talk of any band called JOURNEY yet.
Herbie Herbert was our road manager and he, of course, later ran with it and helped form JOURNEY a year or so later. I actually introduced Neil to Aynsley Dunbar, JOURNEY’s original drummer, at a session I was producing for Capital Records in L.A. SEARS, SCHON, ERRICO sort of fizzled out after we couldn’t come up with a decent vocalist, although the music was amazing – nothing at all like JOURNEY. Not that JOURNEY wasn’t good, but we got into some pretty out-on-the-edge instrumental jamming.
Then, as I said, I went on to co-produce and arrange an album for Kathi McDonald called “Insane Asylum”, in San Francisco. That’s where I met Paul [Kantner] and Grace [Slick] through David Freiberg, so it’s a good thing I was at Wally Heider’s doing Kathi’s album. Grace was in an upstairs studio recording her solo project, “Manhole”, and I went up and wrote a song with her called “Better Lying Down” which went on the album. I also hung out with Jorma [Kaukonen] a bit around that time, he was recording his album “Quah” then.
– The band you stayed with the longest were JEFFERSON STARSHIP / STARSHIP. What was so special about them that you preferred it to many other options there presumably were?
In 1972, while I was recording on “Manhole” for Grace Slick, Paul Kantner asked me if I’d be interested in playing bass and keyboards as an equal member in a new band he was forming, called JEFFERSON STARSHIP. It was never meant to be an extension of the AIRPLANE, but rather a way for Paul and Grace to play their new music live… although they asked the rest of us to provide material also. I mostly wrote with Grace during the mid to late Seventies. I had to go back to England to record on Rod Stewart’s “Smiler”, which took longer than expected. This was the first year Jeannette and I lived together. I flew her over to England from San Francisco and we lived in the village of Westerham, in the county of Kent. I was playing in a band with guitarist, Martin Quittenton, who played acoustic guitar on most of Rod’s British solo albums. The drummer was John Lingwood from MANFRED MANN. We had no vocalist, and did a bit of recording with Max Middleton on piano. It was a very good band, but we never got out of the rehearsal studio in London, although I heard Island Records was interested in signing us.
– Did the band have a name? And why did it fail?
We didn’t come up with a name, but we did work out some cool material. It’s a pity we didn’t play any shows really, as we were working up to it. To be recording with Max Middleton was nice – he’s a great player. We also had a violinist, which worked our very well when we played some of our jazzed-up classical pieces. John Lingwood and I enjoyed playing together as a rhythm section; we still like to get together when I visit England. Martin used to work out these wonderful instrumental arrangements on guitar. It was a very cool band, but nothing came of it. I went back to San Francisco to join up with JEFFERSON STARSHIP. Last I heard, Martin had retired to an ancient Celtic island off the coast of Wales to plant trees – he is an amazing musician!
During this time I talked to various possible bands, including Stevie Winwood, who was thinking about getting TRAFFIC together again. Paul had called me several times from the States, and they had done one tour with Jorma’s brother, Peter Kaukonen, on bass. Jeannette and I ended up flying to San Francisco, and after a very cool meeting with Paul and Grace at their incredible house overlooking the San Francisco Bay I decided to join. Grace and I immediately wrote “Hyperdrive” together, which ended up on JEFFERSON STARSHIP’s first album, “Dragonfly”. There was a wonderful spontaneity to the band, and we’d play these mammoth three-hour sets with lots of jamming. Everyone would leave the stage, and I’d inflict this ten minute bass solo on the audience… they seemed to like it most of the time, I guess! This was before the slap bass style came along. We were young and riding high, and once drew 100 thousand people to a concert in Central Park. We thought it would last forever. Grace and I also did “Better Lying Down” from “Manhole” – just blues piano and Grace singing her raunchy lyrics. Grace used to actually sing the blues really well. Papa John Creach was an amazing violinist. I’d played on one of his solo albums a couple of years earlier, along with Joey Covington.
I became firmly entrenched in the band and time just slipped away, as it does when you’re having fun. Jeannette and I were also happily bringing up our two children, Dylan and Natalie. Then we had the riot at the Lorelei Festival in Germany. Grace was too sick to play, and the band asked the promoter to tell the audience we would give them back their money and come back and play later. Well, certain parts somehow didn’t make it into the translation, and people went nuts. They basically bombarded the stage with beer bottles and rocks, threw amplifiers over the cliffs into the Rhine River, stole equipment, and finally set fire to the entire stage with gasoline! I lost all my equipment that day. Our guitar tech somehow lost track of our instruments and I lost my ’63 Sunburst Jazz bass, which I had had for many years. You grow quite attached to your instruments when you’ve had them a long time. Apart from my B3, Wurlitzer piano, mini-Moog, and David Freiberg’s Prophet 5, I lost my brand new, one of a kind, custom-made bass. It’s very identifiable and is probably sitting in someone’s closet near Wiesbaden gathering dust or something. It’s made of Koka Boa wood and has a silver inlaid dragon with LED eyes that light up. I’m thinking of putting a “No Questions Asked” reward in some music magazines, or asking German music stores if it’s surfaced anytime in the last thirty years… not holding my breath though. I have photographs of it; there are a lot of memories attached to that instrument.
Then along came the Eighties. We didn’t have Grace on one album – she had to go into rehab, and we auditioned some guys to replace Marty [Balin], who had decided to pursue a solo career. Aynsley Dunbar joined us on drums after John Barbata had a very bad car accident. Paul found a hot L.A. rock producer to replace Larry Cox, which I thought was a mistake, and we gradually morphed into something unrecognizable from the Seventies version of the band. The band changed the name to just STARSHIP after Paul left; then David left soon after. It ended up with the band and producer not wanting any political lyrics or anything that could possibly be controversial – one hundred and eighty degrees from the old band philosophy. Jeannette and I had started writing songs together when Grace went into rehab. We were heavily involved with the human rights problems in Central America, and had written several songs to try and get the message out. They weren’t preachy or anything, but the producer, the record label, and one of the singers – not Grace, she liked the songs – only wanted outside pop writer’s more commercial material… which is fine, but it had little to do with the old way of doing things. Grace played less and less of a role in the band, onstage and off. I feel we alienated our old audience by taking this tack. The label was trying to make us sound like JOURNEY or something, which as good as they are, it wasn’t us. I left after “We Built This City On Rock ‘n’ Roll, which was actually not a bad song for that era, but the album “Knee Deep In The Hoopla” was way over the top. I felt a great relief after I left the band in 1987, after thirteen years, and plunged into playing blues in smoky night clubs with Nick Gravenites. Frank Marino of MAHOGANY RUSH, Aynsley Dunbar, and I started getting something together that showed promise, but we never got out of the gate. Post-STARSHIP resulted in some relatively lean years financially, but they were good for the soul. Fortunately, Jorma and Jack [Casady] asked me to join HOT TUNA soon after that, resulting in ten very happy years of touring through the Nineties.
– For you, was HOT TUNA a continuation of JEFFERSON STARSHIP or something different altogether?
HOT TUNA was an entirely different experience from JEFFERSON STARSHIP; TUNA is far more folk blues based. I left JEFFERSON STARSHIP in 1987 and didn’t join up with HOT TUNA until 1992. Jorma and Jack left the AIRPLANE to go full-time with TUNA in 1972, two years before the JEFFERSON STARSHIP formed, which was the year I joined them. As I said, I hung out with Jorma in 1972 when he was recording his solo project “Quah”, and I was in the next studio producing Kathi McDonald. Then, I didn’t see Jorma again until 1992, long after I left STARSHIP, when he and Jack invited me down to sit in on piano on a CD they were recording at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, California. I ended up sitting in on all three nights, and stayed with them for ten years. They were very happy years. Sometimes Jorma, Michael Falzarano and I would go out as the JORMA KAUKONEN TRIO. I still occasionally teach at Jorma’s “Fur Peace Guitar Camp” in Ohio, and I sometimes sit in with TUNA on accordion.
– You wanted to bring Jess Roden into the STARSHIP. Did you know him from BRONCO back in England?
I saw Jess sing back in the Sixties in England, when the band I toured with would share the bill with the ALAN BOWN SET. I always loved his vocals. He was living in New York, so we flew him out to try out for JEFFERSON STARSHIP after Marty left. He sounded wonderful, of course, but the rest of the band wanted a singer with a high voice to cover the harmonies. Jess was more of a raspy blues and soul vocalist, he sang with a lot of feeling. I voted for him, although Mickey [Thomas], who we ended up with, was a very good vocalist also.
– You wrote half of the tracks on “Winds Of Change”, more than on any other band’s album. Did it have anything to do with Grace Slick’s return into the fold?
I contributed four songs for “Winds Of Change” which came out in 1982 when the band was still JEFFERSON STARSHIP, just one more song than usual. That’s four out of the album’s nine tracks, just under half. From “Dragonfly”, which was JEFFERSON STARSHIP’s first album as a band in 1974, until “Knee Deep In The Hoopla” in 1985, I usually contributed one to three songs per album with either Grace or Jeannette as my lyricist. I had an instrumental track called “Sandalphon” on “Red Octopus” in 1975. The extra song on “Winds Of Change” didn’t really have anything to do with Grace’s return, it’s just the way the cards fell, I suppose. Grace had already been back in the band for some time and had recorded “Modern Times” with us in 1981.
“Knee Deep In The Hoopla” was the last album I did with the band, which by 1985 was going exclusively under the name STARSHIP. It bore zero resemblance to our original band, as I said. We used mostly outside material. I’d had about all I could take of the new direction and was completely at odds with how things were going. It all gets very confusing… and very Spinal Tappish.
– Was it the disillusion with “The Hoopla” that made you go solo?
My discontent with being a member of STARSHIP had been growing for some time before I left the band in 1987. The original version of JEFFERSON STARSHIP broke up in 1978, after we lost all our equipment during a riot in Germany, and Grace Slick left the band – for one album; she came back after “Freedom At Point Zero”. Although the band’s sound changed to a harder rock, the first few years were still pretty good. We at least recorded basic tracks with drums, bass, keyboards and rhythm guitar – it was still a real band in the studio, unlike later when another producer recorded drums and bass on a sequencer. We were still a good live band in the early Eighties. But gradually things morphed into a more contrived pop sound, thanks to record company A&R pressure, and the band’s growing mindset in that direction. It got so bad that members of the band would sit around with A&R men and listen to cassette tapes of potential hit songs. A decision was made to only record outside material suited for AM radio play, which was a major departure from the way the band usually worked.
For better or worse, since JEFFERSON STARSHIP’s first album in1974, the Seventies version of the band had always been a platform for writers to pretty much say anything they wanted in their song lyrics. I believe that was partially the attraction of the band back in those days – nobody tried to shape the band’s image or control its music. During the mid- to late Eighties STARSHIP received a lot of radio airplay, but the sales didn’t really match the exposure, unlike the Seventies when we reached the top of the charts with “Red Octopus” and the single “Miracles”, and we could draw 100 thousand people in New York City. The irony is that we had actually alienated our audience by adopting this contrived approach to song selection… Record sales and audience attendance had gradually diminished by the late Eighties. but I was long gone at that point.
As I said, Jeannette and I had been involved in helping refugees of the civil wars in Central America, and we felt a need to help spread awareness, so we’d written a song called “One More Innocent Dies” – not for everyone I’m sure, it’s certainly not commercial or escapism, and it had a sort of reggae rhythm to it. In fact, it has since been recorded by Ernesto Brown, a reggae artist. The band liked the music, but felt the lyrics were too much of a bring-down. They wanted the lyricist, Jeannette Sears, to rewrite the words into a love song. Of course, this approach is perfectly valid, even necessary for certain bands, but it had never been associated with the music of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE or JEFFERSON STARSHIP. Anyway, Jeannette and I held firm, and the song didn’t make it on the album, “Knee Deep In The Hoopla”, which spawned the radio hit and MTV video “We Built This City”. Grace said she liked Jeannette’s lyrics, but her support wasn’t enough.
I left the band in 1987, just before the next album. I plunged in and made a solo album called “Watchfire”. All the songs were about human rights and environmental issues. The music was really a reaction to the way STARSHIP recorded. We tracked much of the music live in the studio with interesting acoustic and electric instruments and few overdubs. I had a twenty piece Russian choir on one tune, highland bagpipes on another, and guest artists. It was a concept album, really. That’s a very long winded answer to your question, a simple “Yes” would probably have sufficed.
– Is it true that Jerry Garcia wanted Grateful Dead Records to re-release your “Watchfire” album to give it more attention?
Yes, he did put it out on Grateful Dead Records – it was advertised in the [Dead official newsletter] “Almanac”. Jerry had played quite a few benefits I was involved with through the years; he was always ready to come down and play. He was a very generous soul. “Watchfire” first came out in 1988 on Redwood Records, and Jerry had played on a few tracks, along with David Grisman and Mickey Hart, although Greg Errico played most of the drums on the record. Mickey also helped me get Baba Olatunji and his African drummers, including Sikaru on one of the tracks. All the songs were about environmental and human rights issues.
Jeannette and I also formed a non-profit video production company called Watchfire Productions, and Jerry helped fund a video we built around the song “Guatemala”. We shot the band stuff in a studio with David Grisman on Mandolin and Enrique ‘Quique’ Cruz on the quena flute. Jerry wasn’t on that track; else he would have come down also. We used shots of actual human rights abuses we’d managed to gather from Guatemala, and we sent out thousands of copies to human rights organizations around the world. The Canadian Rock TV music video station, Much Music, put it into rotation, but it was way too political for MTV in the U.S.A, although they did come within three hours of playing it on their news segment. The news director really wanted to show it, but the powers that be pulled the plug at the last minute. We really wanted to get the message out concerning U.S. support of the right wing dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador. Thousands of Mayas were being slaughtered by the Guatemalan army. It was incredibly frustrating. I was down there in the Lake Atitlan area in 1979 when things were beginning to heat up, machine guns everywhere, and the post office was blown up. Emmy award winner, Ray Telles, directed the video. It was recently played again after many years, by Amnesty International, at an event on the East Coast.
I also just had more copies of “Watchfire” pressed up with a bonus track added, a never before heard guitar solo by John Cipollina. He’d come by to jam with us when I was making the record. I recently came across a cassette of a take I did with John playing the ride-out solo – it’s classic John, so co-producer Paul Stubblebine and I stuck it on the end. I’ll probably put the new “Watchfire” up for sale on my website soon.
– Does your charity work come from the same humanitarian roots as your music?
Yes, I suppose you could put it that way. These days I am much more hopeful about U.S. policy and its intentions as a whole. It was a big break through when this country elected Obama. Many of the problems we’ve been writing about for decades are already starting to be addressed.
Jeannette and I became involved with environmental work in the Eighties, we had connections with organizations like Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Native Forest Network, Earth Island Institute, Guatemalan Human Rights. “Guatemala” was a track from my “Watchfire” album, which was all about environmental and human rights issues. Musically, it was a sort of rebellion against the way much of the music was recorded in that decade, the obsession with machine-like perfection. I suppose I was reacting musically to what STARSHIP had become, really. I went in with a bunch of friends and recorded most of the instruments live in the studio – for better or worse, it was certainly different than most of the music out there at the time. Paul Stubblebine engineered and co-produced the album; he learnt his craft at the old CBS and Automat studios, and had made a study of miking acoustic and electric instruments.
The U.S. involvement in Central America during the Eighties was very frustrating. Most people in the States had no idea of the horrors being committed against the Mayas of Guatemala and the people of El Salvador in the name of fighting Communism, which is ridiculous in a country like Guatemala where, far from being communists, the Mayas are Catholic and they make up 80 per cent of the population. Entire villages of men, women and children were slaughtered in an attempt to cut off public support for the rebel armies who lived in the mountains. People weren’t able to hold even small community meetings without it being viewed as subversive by the government; most of Guatemala was very poor with little safe access to medical help in rural areas. Mayas were a source of cheap labor, and unions became non-existent. The U.S. even supplied weapons to the government armies. Right-wing death squads would travel around in Jeeps and drag innocent people out of their houses – many were never seen again, and the ones that were, showed up dead on the side of the road with signs of severe torture.
Many Guatemalans fled to the U.S. and refugee camps across the Mexican border. U.S. immigration would pick them up and send them back to Guatemala; which was extremely dangerous for them, and they were rarely seen again. Many in the U.S. who weren’t aware of the genocide in Guatemala, resented these people crossing the border for financial reasons, and felt they were taking money from American workers. In fact, they were refugees from a war-torn country. The mountains surrounding Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala, is one of the most stunningly beautiful areas on Earth, but during the eighties was one of the most dangerous. Jeannette and I were in Santiago, Atitlan in 1978, and things were getting bad then as I mentioned before – the post office was blown up, government troops walking the streets with machine guns. And things got worse fast.
I remember Mimi Farina and myself playing for a group of activists outside the Navy base in Concord, California. We were protesting the shipment of arms and ammunition to the government of El Salvador. The Navy knew we were coming and had put barbed wire all around the grassy area outside the base entrance where we had originally meant to play. So we found a small, bare patch of grass by some old abandoned railroad tracks just outside the fence. The military police were busily buzzing around all over the place with their lights flashing, and I saw a navy fellow in a tower behind the fence videotaping us. Brian Wilson, not of THE BEACH BOYS, but a Vietnam Veteran, later lost his legs when one of the trains carrying weapons to be shipped to El Salvador ran over him. We later held a benefit concert for him in San Francisco. Jackson Browne played, Ed Asner came down, and I played a set on piano with Nick Gravenites. I had asked Jerry Garcia if he’d like to come down and sit in with us. He showed up at the last minute with Steve Parish and proceeded to play the blues. He told me he didn’t want to sing, just play blues guitar in the background. He played great that day. Nick was wonderful as usual. You do what you can, but it’s never really enough.
– Everyone in MOONALICE, your current band, uses a pseudonym: is it for the sense of unity and anonymity, as it was TRAVELING WILBURYS, or simply for a laugh?
Well, this is a relatively new band of old guys who’ve been around the block. About a year and a half ago we sat around for a week trying to come up with a name everyone liked which is surprisingly difficult. We finally came up with MOONALICE which most of us liked – and like any name, we sort of grew into it. Roger [McNamee] came up with this idea of weaving a legend around the band, which he ties into every venue we play. He researches facts about each city on the way to the show and comes up with some entertaining ways to weave the band’s and the town’s history into one. He reads this to the audience between songs a couple of times a night, and people seem to really enjoy it. It’s certainly different. I don’t know of anybody else doing it with as much humor as Roger gives it. Roger came up with everyone’s pseudonyms for fun. We try not to take ourselves too seriously in this band… most of the time anyway.
– You mentioned a band of yours called DAWN PATROL?
I had just left HOT TUNA around 2002, and recorded “The Long Haul”, so I gathered some friends together to take on the road with the idea of playing some of the songs live. I had Davey Pattison from Robin Trower’s band on vocals, Rich Kirch from John Lee Hooker’s COAST TO COAST BLUES BAND on guitar, Ernest Carter from Bruce Springsteen’s E STREET BAND on drums, and alternating bass players. We used Bobby Vega from Etta James, David Hayes from Van Morrison, and sometimes Ron Perry from John Lee Hooker. I had a lot of fun playing with those guys. I got to choose some of my favorite songs for the band to play, and Davey had such a vast repertoire of songs that we never fell short on material. We kept it going for about a year.
– After all these years, do you think of yourself as a British or American musician?
Whether I view myself as a British or American musician is difficult to say. I started out firmly ensconced in the British rock scene of the Sixties, made it to the U.S.A in 1969, went back and forth with different bands for a few years, and finally settled in Marin County, near San Francisco, after I joined JEFFERSON STARSHIP in 1974. Even though I started out touring all over the British Isles with the SONS OF FRED in 1964, the music I listened to was mostly from the U.S.A, with the exception of British folk and Celtic music, which influenced many early British bands from the sixties. Bands like TRAFFIC or FAIRPORT CONVENTION, who consciously or unconsciously mixed rhythm-and-blues from the U.S.A with more homegrown folk and Celtic influences. British and American musicians were largely influenced by each other anyway – it flew both ways across the Atlantic. I’ve played with so many British and American bands that I don’t feel musically tied to either really.
Although I have been happily married since 1975 to Jeannette, who grew up in Los Angeles, and have two wonderful children who are both U.S. citizens, I pretty much feel like a first generation immigrant… I feel English in my core, it never really leaves. Both my kids want me to get them UK European Union Passports, of course. When you live in the U.S. for any period of time, you begin to break down the sort of stereotypes Europeans tend to build up about Americans. You come to realize, especially when you travel as much as I do, that it’s a very large land with an enormous population, and you find many wonderful people you can relate to, but of course, you also find those whose ideologies are 180 degrees from yours. But you get that anywhere in the world.
With the kind of weaponry humankind now possesses, educating each other, breaking down blind ignorance, and avoiding extreme fundamentalist thinking is perhaps our only chance of survival as a species. Basically, I feel music strikes a universal chord, it has the power to break down cultural boundaries, bring people together, make us realize that most of us want the same things in life: to be left alone in peace and to live our lives as we see fit, to make international friends instead of killing each other in senseless bloody wars, and to have our most basic needs, like health care and transportation, taken care of, especially when we fall on hard times. The arts are always a threat to totalitarian regimes, it makes people think, makes them too independent and difficult to control. Of course, it’s going to take a bit more than just music to accomplish all this, but it certainly can be part of the solution. Whether we realize it or not, regardless of what country we happen to play music in, we are all one body really: musicians of planet Earth.
– What do you think were the highest and lowest points of your career?
If I had to only name the five highest points of my career I suppose they would be SAM GOPAL DREAM in the Sixties, making “Every Picture Tells A Story” with Rod, playing with the original JEFFERSON STARSHIP, and working with HOT TUNA and John Lee Hooker. I’m currently enjoying working with MOONALICE a lot. I’ve been doing this a long time, there are many good things – I wish I could mention them all!
Low points? Hmm… There fortunately haven’t been too many musical low points over the years. I try to find qualities in many forms of music, even if I perhaps don’t relate to them at first… Understanding where the musicians and audience are coming from helps. However, the later STARSHIP, 1984 to 1987, was perhaps the lowest point in my career for me, even though we had a couple of hits. I didn’t like them at that point, and I was at odds with the band and where the music was going. It was unrecognizable from the early JEFFERSON STARSHIP. I was more old school, I guess. Still, it’s all valid really, perhaps my life wouldn’t be where it is today if all that stuff hadn’t happened and I left the band – my beautiful family, and all the wonderful musicians and people I’ve met since. But I assume you only want me to talk about the musical high and low points, so I’ll stop there.
– What does the near future hold for Pete Sears?
Just to keep playing live shows as long as I can and somebody wants to hear it. Continuing to play and develop the music of MOONALICE. I also enjoy playing bass with THE DAVID NELSON BAND once in a while; we have some very high musical moments, especially during the improvisational instrumental sections. Jerry Garcia introduced me to David many years ago, he’s the real deal. I still love to play the blues with old friends like Harvey Mandel, or Nick Gravenites once in a while… Vernon Black and Zigaboo Modeliste and I are thinking of getting together sometime. I’ve also just finished a ten-year project, writing and recording these out-on-the-edge pieces of experimental music. Twelve, twenty minute instrumental pieces to go with visual artist Andreas Nottebohm’s work. We have been bouncing off each other’s work for inspiration. We plan on presenting it to the art world soon. No idea how it will be received! I’m also planning something with Stanley “Mouse” Miller. And then, watching my family grow is the most wonderful thing of all, of course!Back to the Interviews page