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Laurence Cottle

 

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Laurence Cottle is quite simply one of the most incredible bassists I've ever be heard. Most of us remember hearing him on the Black Sabbath record entitled Headless Cross. While some were initially disappointed by the absence of Geezer Butler on the record, we were all very impressed by the undeniable fact that Laurence had stepped into very big shoes, and had performed rather admirably.

Very recently, Laurence sent me his latest solo CD entitled 'Five Seasons'. After listening to it, I was simply amazed. 'Five Seasons' is one of the best bass-oriented recordings I have ever heard. Gorgeous fretless tones, monster technique, and hip compositions. The title track,  'Five Seasons', is a showstopper. What impressed me the most was that with all of his amazing technique, Laurence is able to hold back and simplify his lines when necessary. Very few fusion-oriented bassists are capable (or willing) to do that. 

Sabbathís Tony Iommi has again enlisted the services of Mr. Cottle for his latest effort. The CD is entitled Iommi. Itís a stunning collection of music and riffs from the 'Master of Death, Doom and Destruction'. Original Black Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne makes a guest appearance, along with a host of luminaries from the hard rock world.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurence recently, and learned a lot about the man in the process. I am pleased to bring this interview to Global Bass' readers in its entirety:

 

GB:    Letís begin with the basics. Date of birth, location, etc.

LC:    1961 Swansea, Wales

GB:    Did you study bass privately?

LC:    No. I studied Trombone to a proficient level (for a 10 year old) then translated it to bass.

GB:    Were you parents supportive?

LC:    Totally, My father was a piano player and my mother came from a musical family. My Dad used to do all sorts of gigs; he introduced me into his vaudeville act when I was 2. Heíd carry me on stage in a suitcase and do a ventriloquist sketch, with me as the dummy. It hasnít affected me at aaaaaaaaallllllllll. Later my Dad showed me how chords were built and harmony tips and my Mum encouraged me to practice every day

GB:    Did you study music at a University?

LC:    My main objective in school was to entertain the class and disrupt any learning activities. Consequently I did not have the qualifications to go to University. Ironically, I occasionally teach at the Royal Academy of Music and the kids there have such a wonderful opportunity and are in such a great environment Iím slightly envious.

GB:    Why did you choose bass, what inspired you to embark on a career in Music?

LC:   My Dad put me on Bass when he changed the line-up of his band. I was playing trombone, my older brother, Richard was on Clarinet and the eldest, Dave, played trumpet. We played mainly Traditional Jazz, which was quite popular in Britain in the 60ís and 70ís. To move with the times I went on to bass and Richard went to Sax, More gigs.

GB:    Do you play acoustic bass as well as electric?

LC:    No, Iíve tried a couple of times. I have a hard enough time keeping in shape on my electric, without having to learn another instrument. There are so many incredible upright players here. When my music requires it Iíll get a top-notch-chappy to do it.

GB:    Session work is hard to come by in the US these days. Do you feel that your writing skills have given you an advantage over bassists that arenít composers?

LC:    I have never been a busy session face; I donít have those chops. I am in awe of the guys that can do that. Iím usually asked to do things by people who know my playing and what I can (and canít) do. I  would not have been able to support my family if I relied on my bass playing. Iím dedicated to the instrument, but I had to diversify.

GB:    Tell me about your relationship with Percy Jones.

LC:    My association with Wal basses goes back a long way and in 1980 they had made a new model for Percy. I offered to take it to New York to deliver it.

This was when I first met Percy. He pulled this bass out and played, I couldnít believe that I was the only guy listening to all this incredible stuff. In the evening Mike Clarke from the Headhunters came over, what a thrill hanging out (briefly) with these musicians. Iíve seen Percy off and on in the last twenty years and still try to get hold of any recordings by this unique innovator.

GB: How did you get the call to play on Sabbathís 'Headless Cross'?

LC: I played with Keyboard player Don Airey in a tiny pub near Cambridge and he asked me to play on his 'Album K2'. This is where I met Cozy Powell. We had some good jams, Iíve got a tape of the three of us playing 'Giant Steps'. I worked with Cozy on many projects around that time including his solo album, with Gary Moore and Jan Akkerman. When Cozy was producing 'Headless Cross' he asked me to go to Birmingham for Tony to hear me play (I think) and I did the record.

GB:  Your work on Tony Iommi`s latest CD is brilliant. What equipment did you use?

LC:   I used my Wal five string fretted bass, I did try fretless on one track but it was after we came back from the pub, so there were tuning problems! (no change there). If anyone hears that Iíll be finished.

GB:   Were you able to use an amplifier, or did you just DI into the console?

LC:   Both. Bob Marlette knew what he needed from me (musically) and he got a great sound. I took my SVT but Bob had his eye on the B15 that was lying around the studio, so we tried that first and it sounded just right. We also took the D.I. from my bass into the console.

GB:    Are you a capable recording engineer?

LC:    I donít think so. When I record at home I just get everything on to tape at a good level with no EQ. I leave all the tricky stuff up to the mix engineer. 

GB:    Can you describe your home studio?

LC:    I have two Tascam DA88 digital tape machines and a Yamaha 01 mixer. I have recorded tracks that have ended up on CDs but I use this set-up mostly for demoís. Iíve a piano and a guitar and lots of brass instruments dotted about. I donít use sequencers, I like to get ideas down quick and when SYMPTE and computers get involved everything grinds to a halt.

GB:   Why are WAL basses your bass of choice?

LC:    Over the years Iíve had a great relationship with Wal basses. I just feel at home with the basses, they feel great, the EQ system has so much scope and is easy to use, the craftsmanship is wonderful, and bloody nice guys to boot.

GB:    Playing with a great drummer is a bassists greatest joy. Who are your favorite drummers, and who would you like to work with that you haven't yet?

LC:   It was a big thrill for me to appear on record with Peter Erskine a few years ago. Recently I was playing a club in London and Bernard Purdie walked in, so we got him to come and sit-in, that was brilliant. Itís so exciting to play with chaps Iíve heard and admired on record. I would love to jam with the new guys that have a great groove, jazz feel and odd-meter chops.

GB:   Your solo CDs are fantastic, are they all currently available in the USA?

LC:   There is something on the Web-site.

GB:   Are you embarking on any major tours this year?

LC:   It doesnít look like it. Iíve just finished recording some commercial tracks for EMI, so the rest of the year will be spent writing new material for my own project.

GB:   Past and present, what bassists do you admire?

LC:   When I first started playing I was inspired by Jack Bruce and John Entwistle, the solo on 'My Generation' knocked me out. Percy Jonesí work with Brand X was groundbreaking. I listened to Stanley Clarke and when I heard Jacoís solo album I thought he had everything, soul, taste, chops, great writing and arranging skills and supreme groove.

Jeff Berlin is phenomenal. I love Anthony Jacksonís playing, Jimmy Johnson, Steve Swallow, Gary Willis. Some time ago I spent some time playing with Dominic Dupiazza which was wonderful. Recently, I was very lucky to be asked to fill in for two amazing British guys. I was sent a CD to learn the parts played by Pino Palladino, and trying to cop his feel was daunting, but a great learning experience. Mike Mondesir couldnít make a gig with the Django Bates band (Delightful Precipice) and I stood in for him. Wonderful music and a great challenge.

GB:   Thank you, Laurence, for taking the time to answer a few questions.

 

Laurence Cottle is in my opinion among the top 10 greatest bassists in the world. I urge you to visit his website, and inquire about purchasing any and all of his CDs. After hearing him play, you'll be impressed and totally inspired, as I was. His web address is: http://www.laurencecottle.com/

 Tony Senatore, July 2001.

 

Tony S. is presently and happily on vacation and will be back with us for our October issue. Tony is also heavily down the path of creating his first solo album. Having spent 20 successful years as a studio musician he felt it was finally time to draw a line in the sand. Much more later... .

                 Tony can be reached at tonysenatore AT gmail DOT com

His website is http://www.senny.com/

 

 

                                  

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