Interview with me on all things Gong in the current edition of Blackmoon magazine . . .














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Interview with Ian Fairholme – lots of interesting questions – covers Jade Warrior, Gong, Dreams & Absurdities and much more.

Eppy Gibbon pic


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Interview with Stuart Macdonald on Resonance FM (alongwith Kieth Bailey, chocolate from Cocoa Runners, the sculptor Michael Sandle and Persian poetry)

Resonance FM


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Interview with Cliff Pearson at Progzilla radio.

My Top Ten + tunes from my past & present chosen by Cliff.


progzilla ad


01 Cipher – The Sea Flows
02 Back Door – Folksong
03 Carla Bley & Paul Haines – Hotel Overture
04 XTC – No Language In Our Lungs
05 Jade Warrior – Fool And His Bride
06 Gavin Bryars – Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet
07 Chris Wood – Spitfires
08 Gong – Syllabub
09 Daevid Allen – Why Do We Treat Ourselves Like We Do
10 Steve Hillage – Aftaglid
11 Bill Nelson And The Gentlemen Rocketeers – Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape
12 Bill Nelson – Furniture Music
13 Zakir Hussain – Making Music
14 Bill Frisell – Rob Roy
15 Dave Sturt – Bouncing Like Gagarin

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I have the great pleasure of interviewing Dave Sturt, one of those bassists who are characterised by such a recognizable and peculiar sound, as well as a complete and refined musician who has enriched the british musical scene for a very long time.
I found out Dave Sturt’s records when I was working for an import record store; I happened to listen to Jade Warrior’s “Breathing The Storm” and I was impressed with the warm and deep sound of his fretless.
After that, I could go further in Dave’s music both with Jade Warrior and the most sophisticated Cipher, crossing “The Other Side” project with fabulous artists as the guitarist Hugh Burns and the saxophonist Theo Travis.
Dave Sturt is a remarkable bassist who was able to distinguish himself within a consistent and exciting career path, which still goes on.
LDP: Dave, would you like to tell us how did you start your career and why did you choose to play electric bass?
S.D.: Initially I wanted to be a drummer – I was into Ian Paice from Deep Purple and Carl Palmer – but drums weren’t allowed in my house. I never felt comfortable with a guitar and I knew too many guitarists, so I found the middle ground! I built my first bass and learned the basics – then moved onto a Fender Precision.
My career started like everyone else’s – playing in bands in my local area. I seemed to develop a good reputation pretty quickly – and after three years I moved to London. Soon after that I met Pink Floyd sound engineer Andy Jackson and, through him, gained valuable experience playing on various sessions.
LDP: You got a recognizable and powerful sound, thus your approach to the fretless is very intense. In this regard, what kind of music do you usually listen to, which mostly has influenced you?
D.S.: The expressive and melodic side of fretless bass was my main inspiration but I have also developed a more aggressive style – especially over the last 5 years with Gong.
Early influences were Weather Report, Brand X, The Headhunters, David Bowie – then XTC, Talking Heads, Bill Nelson, Peter Gabriel and many ECM records.
I am drawn to music that affects me emotionally in some way. It’s not about technique or the number of notes per second it’s about painting pictures in sound.
LDP: Do you prefer fretless bass or the fretted one? Listening to your music, one has the feeling that you are able to tailor the fretless to diversified contexts, without changing the power of sound. What do you think about this point?
D.S.: You are very perceptive Luca! This is something I have thought about a lot. Fretless bass is usually considered to be a melodic instrument – and I love the emotional impact that it can have. But when I joined the Gong collective Steve Hillage particularly wanted a strong and solid bass sound which forced me to concentrate on that side of my playing.
I do also play fretted bass when required which I also enjoy but the Vigier delta metal fretless is always my ‘go to’ instrument.
LDP: For years I’ve expected a soloist album, since I’m convinced that it would be great if you make it. Have you got any projects in your mind or is there anything currently in construction? Do we still have to wait for it?
D.S.: Yes – I have been working on ideas for a solo album for many years – and I am very pleased with the tracks I have recorded. I am keen for it not to be just a ‘bass’ album and I want it to have a particular mood – so I have to sort through ideas to find the tracks that fit the mood.
Steve Hillage and Bill Nelson have both agreed to play on it – and I hope to be able to record them soon and have the album finished early 2015.
There are a couple of examples of tracks in progress here –
LDP: I mention you some names: Jack Bruce, Jaco Pastorius, Percy Jones, Paul McCartney. Who did you mostly love among them?
D.S.: They have all had a big influence on me. I remember my older brother playing me ‘Harmony Row’ – and then I really got into Escalator over the Hill by Carla Bley with Jack’s fabulous playing and singing.
Jaco was, of course, the true genius of bass. A whole world opened up for me when I heard him. I discovered him first with Joni Mitchel and then Weather Report. His impact is incalculable.
Percy Jones in Brand X and with Brian Eno was fascinating – I remember struggling to work out how he bent harmonics. I also loved his rhythmical approach.
Paul McCartney was never a big influence from a bass playing perspective but I am in awe of his musicality. ‘All my Loving’ was one of the first tracks I learned to play.
Other people that also need to be mentioned are Eberhard Weber (especially with Jan Garbarek), John Giblin (with Brand X, John Martin, Kate Bush etc etc) and the great Colin Hodgkinson. Colin used to play a lot in the North East of England with the jazz trio Back Door. My older brother recorded gigs for me to listen to (I was too young to go to gigs) and I found their music strangely captivating. I later played with Back Door’s drummer Tony Hicks (with American guitarist Isaac Guillory) – another unique musician!
LDP: How do you look at the contemporary electric bass’s scene? Once slept off that ’80s and ’90s fusion’s “hangover”, what’s, in your opinion, the role of electric bass within the rock scene, including all the sub-generes? Do you think that the emancipation of bass just stopped or have we entered a new phase of the instrument development?
D.S.: I don’t think I am particularly in touch with the contemporary scene. I remember the angst that I used to feel when I thought I had to learn every new bass style and I had to try to be as good as a particular virtuoso. It took me a while to learn to believe in myself and to follow my own path.
I believe that playing an instrument is just a way of accessing inner thoughts and emotions – it just so happens that I feel most comfortable with a bass guitar in my hands. As my career has progressed I seem to be playing less and less notes! In general I feel that my role is to support the vocals and other instruments so I now really love the discipline of keeping a solid groove while knowing that I can always play more if required.
The music is the most important thing!
LDP: There’s a piece from Dangerous Days, “Everything I feared”, that I find extremely suggestive and your bass conveys such an expressive power, really fascinating too. Your music is characterized by a very long and dense phrasing, you could define it as an “expressionist” way of performing on bass. Do you usually draw inspiration from anyother arts for your works?
D.S: Luca – you really do get it! It’s all about expression – I hope this doesn’t sound too ‘naff’ but whenever I play I aim to be completely absorbed by the music – to be completely ‘in the moment’. I often have no idea what I am going to play next and just get inspired by a drum fill or a sax phrase or whatever.
As for inspiration from other art – I do feel a real connection with abstract artists like Kandinsky, Miro and Barbara Hepworth.
LDP: Would you like to tell us something about your gear?
D.S.: My main bass is a Vigier Passion Delta metal fretless.
I was involved with session work in London in the eighties. I was hired to work with a Canadian band, Strange Advance, at Brittania Row studios and I had an Aria fretless that wasn’t really good enough. The Vigier distributor brought along this bass for me to try and I was amazed. It is the perfect instrument for me. I’ve owned it now for about 30 years. It is looking a bit battered but still plays beautifully.
I also have a fretted Vigier Arpege, a Hohner ‘Steinberger’ 5 string, a fabulous Eko acoustic fretless and an Azola electric upright. I usually use my macbook pro laptop as an effects unit and sound processor – running Ableton Live software, controlled by a Softstep MIDI controller with an . . . audio interface and I use the fabulous Markbass amplification – I have a Mini Mark 800W valve head and two NY 604 cabs.
LDP: In addition to a potential soloist album, what can you say about your projects for the next future? How’s your experience with The Gong going on?
D.S.My time is currently taken up mostly by Gong and also my Past Lives Project with Theo Travis – which works with home movie cinefilm. It involves composing soundtracks and performing them live with the film. Theo and I have been composing soundtracks for 1920s silent films for many years and this project is an extension of that idea.
The new album by Gong – I See You – has just been released. I have co-composed several tracks, co-produced and, of course play the bass! I am extremely pleased with the album and it captures many aspects of my playing. We are currently playing gigs in France and the UK to launch the album.
Other projects will include some work with Bill Nelson (Be Bop Deluxe etc) – I have really respected Bill’s approach to music since I began playing and I am extremely proud to now play alongside him.
There is a new Jade Warrior album that needs to be finished, more work on the Past Lives Project and several ‘remote’ sessions to be recorded.
I also get called to compose music for film/TV soundtracks occasionally and I am also getting a reputation for mixing and engineering – I recently mixed the recent Travis/Fripp album Discretion.
LDP: The last question, as usual on this column,regards the most celebrated (maybe overused) “desert island records”. Can you pick out ten albums from your probably huge personal list of favourite records?
D.S.: It’s very hard to choose – so these are albums that I’ve enjoyed revisiting over the last year:
  1. Zakir Hussein – Making Music
  2. Jan Garbarek – Twelve Moons
  3. Joni Mitchell – Shadows and Light
  4. Esbjorn Svensson Trio – Seven Days of Falling
  5. XTC – Black Sea
  6. David Byrne/Brian Eno – Life in the Bush of Ghosts
  7. Bill Frisell – Where in the World
  8. Steve Jansen – Slope
  9. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life,
  10. Nine Horses – Snow Borne Sorrow
Bill Nelson – Maid in Heaven –
Cipher – Elemental Forces –
Gong – Syllabub (from I See You)
Gong – Flute salad/Oily Way etc – Live in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2013
Past Lives Project –
Cipher – No Ordinary Man 1996
Cipher – One Who Whispers 2002
Cipher – Elemental Forces 2006
The Other Side – Dangerous Days 1994
Jade Warrior – Breathing The Storm 1992
Jade Warrior – Distant Echoes 1993
Jade Warrior – Now 2008
Theo Travis – Secret Island 1995
The Crack – To Wake The Stone 1997
Bill Nelson – Classic Rock Legends DVD 2011
Gong – I See You 2014
“Dave Sturt is one of the most accomplished and inventive musicians I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with. His taste is impeccable, his technique faultless, his approach always appropriate to whatever musical situation he finds himself in. And Dave has the rare ability to go that extra mile: He quietly inspires, encourages and supports his fellow musicians in a natural and selfless way.With Dave it’s all about the art of music, and in my book, he’s an artist of the highest caliber” 
Bill Nelson
“I have known & worked with Dave Sturt for more years than I care to count. He is a superb bass player, a great musician and a wizard at all things technical. Very capable in all styles of music. I have no hesitation in recommending him”.
Andy Jackson (producer, engineer)
(c) Luca de Pasquale

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