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ROY VOGT 

In releasing his eponymous  'Simplicity', Roy gives a musical speech no one will fall asleep to!

Roy Vogt,  touring and recording bassist for 60's and 70's heart throb Englebert Humperdink, has been putting the finishing touches on his first solo CD, entitled 'SIMPLICITY'. 

An album a long time in the making, SIMPLICITY has in turn been given the room to express a number of influences and styles. One of the distinct advantages to not being under the gun of a record labels demands for 'product', as they call your musical creations, has given Roy the freedom to find or create strong vehicles for his powerful bass style and technique.

While checking out his album, I realized that not once does Roy drop the ball. Every solo fits, every song goes somewhere, says something and when he takes the melodic line usually given to the guitarist or keyboardist, the voices he chooses for his sound are deeply musical. 

Many is the time I have sat down to listen to a bassist I truly admire, only to find that by the time the album is over, I am heartfully glad it is! What is the purpose of an album that you listen to once, maybe twice? Everyone of us has at least 5 albums in our collection that we admire, but never listen to. Much in all as we all admire technique, it has to remain musical.  The ordered mind thrives upon the formula of Intro, Theme (hook), Solo Statement, Restatement of Theme and Resolution. Variations on this are welcome, but if you stray too far, the CD's ultimately just sit on a shelf, admired but unplayed.

To successfully build anything, your foundation has to be able to support the load. In other words, in an album like the ones referred to earlier, (those you listen to once, perhaps twice), the ponderous solos, the desire to impress with technique, often does so at the expense of the foundation, the 'musicality' of the song itself.

What Roy has here , however, is an album that deftly sidesteps these pitfalls. In fact, we came to realize that the album was well worth a follow-up to our interview with Roy a year ago. Roy emailed me to let me know he would be playing with Englebert in May at Hamilton Place in Hamilton, Ontario (of course). Now as much as I wanted to see Roy live, having heard great praise from his peers, Englebert was the music of my parents, so a part of me wondered how a bassist who favored a 7-string CONKLIN bass could find enough holes to play 60's love ballads and still find personal satisfaction.

Hamilton Place is an acoustically wonderful place to play, an indoor concert hall designed for plays and symphonies and very conducive to large musical ensembles like this. I was very pleased to see George Furlanetto, owner and creator of the incredible F Bass at the concert and he was gracious enough to agree to be our guest in next months issue on exotic basses.

As this is an article about Roy and not the band he tours with, I won't go into too much detail about the concert except to say the the music holds up well and has been brought up to date via the skills of Roy and the other musicians. He has also found a way to promote himself as the fine bassist he is but not at the expense of the show's focal point: Englebert. That to me, is the mark of a professional sideman.

More than once though, I couldn't help but wonder what the original touring bassists for Englebert would have thought of Roy. Leaping around the stage, wielding this huge Conklin bass as if it were a Fender Mustang, he was pulling the most from the music. With hands racing deftly across the fretboard, pulling strings, hammer-ons, tapping, harmonics, tons of chordal work and a distinctively percussive sweeping motion he used repeatedly in concert with the drummer, it all added up to a vital and dynamic show. Watching Roy left me with the impression he could carry the role of front man to his own project very easily. Perhaps it is time...

After the show I met with Roy to discuss 'Simplicity' and other aspects of the musical life this bassist from Nashville. As to what label, "It's actually on Bert Gerecht's label, HOTWIRE, which is distributed over in Europe on EFA and over in the US, we have distributed in the past on Rounder Records. I am not sure if it's going to continue with that though, but probably. People will also be able to buy if from the Carvin Catalogue because I used some of the Carvin basses on that. Also from my website, Guitar Now, Amazon.com, a lot of different places. I am actually very active in the sale of the CD over in the U.S. and Canada."

"When you deal with a small label, I feel the more that you can involve yourself with it, the better. Actually being able to make enough money to do another one, that's the ambition.

Building stepping stones in your career...

"Exactly, the whole reason I did the CD in the first place was I had done a whole bunch of instrumental and jazz oriented things with so many other people and it had never been quite what I felt would have been my own expression. What I wanted to do with this project was have something that consisted of some fine playing, but I also wanted people who weren't necessarily guitarists or bassists still like what I was doing. 

Actually I kind of succeeded. There are a lot of people who are NOT musicians who seem to like the material. I wanted it to have enough flash that the players would like it but melodic enough so that it would appeal to people who just wanted to listen to some good music. There's a few things here that could even end up on a Smooth Jazz station. 

It's so funny. I'll show the difference between making a CD for a European label and one for an American label. I made what I thought was the album. A good cohesive 9 track record. When I send it to Germany, the parent company for HotWire said, "It's not intense enough, we need more chops!". I thought, 'Wow, that's the first time I have ever had a record company tell me I had to play more!..   So I added three more tracks, kind of a chop fest. I did those three with Chester Thompson. That was real calculated. I went back into the studio and got the guitar player from the Neville Brothers, basically I cut some things that were in my mind, old school fusion.

Another thing I am looking forward to doing is some shows on the road in the States and Europe, probably in the next year. The last two years I've been at the Frankfurt Music Mesa and this last year I met some really exceptional French musicians I'll probably be using. There's some German drummers that have just really impressed me. I think what I would do is go over with Englebert and just stay a little bit longer and tour with this European band for a couple of weeks."

So in many ways, working with Englebert is the ultimate gig? There is enough room in the touring schedule to live a semi normal life.

"Exactly, it's about 2 weeks on and then 2 weeks off. It's, great, it's pretty much year round."

So even with this loose schedule, it still is regimented enough to ask, when do you find the time to write your own music?

"I take a four track and a drum machine out on the road with and I just write on the road. I think this year I just got a Q-Bass endorsement and I'll probably upgrade to a laptop. I'll take a small midi keyboard and the computer out with me. A lot of the stuff written on 'SIMPLICITY' was written in hotel rooms!"

You have one serious list of 'who's who' on your list of sidemen for this project!

"Chester Thompson played drums, he's heading out with Phil Collins at the end of this year. A bunch of really hot Nashville session guys are on there. The guitar player with the Neville Band is on there, one of the people from the Dixie Dregs is there, Victor Wooten of course on 'Victorius, a duet, which was originally on the Hotwire Compilation BassTalk 6. He's also on there on another tune that's kind of a Gato Barbieri song, it's kind of a Gato meets Carlos Santana. So it's called 'Carlos and el Gato.' I made one of my dear friends, Jeff Kirk, who's just an amazing alto player, I made him play tenor and do the whole 'Gato Growl' thing. Victor is on that one playing a tenor bass solo, it's really nice. I'm doing a lead fretless bass through an amp simulator."

What fretless basses do you favor these days?

"I've got three of them that I use at home. I've got a Modulus 6 string, also a Carvin 6 string and then I have one that a guy from Germany built for me. Magnus Krempel. He's building basses for Bert Gerecht's HotWire Basses. He's a second generation violin and guitar maker. He's really a wizard with wood. 

I feel like I'm a walking anti-trust suit because I'm playing these basses and the label I am using for distribution is owned by the same guys. The fretless he made for me is amazing. It has a Bartolini near the bridge and a hollow chamber. It has Piezo's in the hollow resonating chamber. It can sound very close to an upright bass."  

Now if this new release takes off, and it could, what will you do?

"Then I'll have to juggle that. If there were a way I could get out playing with some instrumentalists, in an instrumentally intensive band, that would be great. I've got my list of dream gigs, like everybody."

So you always got the antennae up there, always looking?

"Well, you never know. It's a great gig (Englebert) and he really takes care of us, musically there's a lot of variety, so I'm never bored. I was talking with Bill Dickens, explaining the whole thing of this gig and he was saying 'Man, that sounds like the ideal situations.' You wouldn't expect it from him (Englebert), but when I am over there doing my solo, he's over there moving around playing 'air bass'.

I'll tell you the interesting thing, I was talking to Eric (Johnson) about this, his favorite guitar player is Jimi Hendrix. the reason why is because for a while Hendrix was his opening act. There was one night when his guitar player couldn't show up and Jimi says, "Man, I'll just sit behind the curtain and play the show." Englebert said, "That's the best guitar player I have ever had!". So as much as we do the ballads and the love songs, Englebert really loves a rock and roll band.

So how did you tie in Victor Wooten for the sessions?

"Well basically, I've been friends with Bela (Bela Fleck of the Flecktones~Victor Wootens other other project), since 1983. When Victor moved into town he just gave me a call and we just got together and played. We just started hanging out more as just friends actually. I had the distinction of having hired him for one of his first solo bass gigs right after he'd moved here. Obviously he was gracious enough to play on the CD, but we're more 'hanging out' buddies than musical buddies.

When I think of Nashville and bass players, the first person I tend to think of is Glen Worf.

"Glen is a wonderful player, he's a different flavor of bassist.

So why are Victor Wooten, Roy Vogt and even Adrian Belew calling Nashville 'home'?

"The reason why is because it is a relatively inexpensive place for a musician to live. I was just talking to my wife about this last night. We were talking about relative success in record sales and all that. I'd read an interview with Stuart Hamm. Stuart was like "Well, I'm having a pretty good year, I might actually be able to afford a house this year!". That's not even a problem out here. You could make a reasonable living here. Stu makes a lot of money, but he is living in the Bay area (San Francisco), so he's paying out a lot of money. Probably my house payment is one half of what his apartment payment is... . 

A lot of the players we're talking about are not in their 20's. They've got families and they're looking for a place where they can kick back. Enjoy playing and enjoy living in a nice place.

So what is it you hope to achieve with this record. It is a stepping stone, but one of many perhaps?

"Well, promotion is really critical for a player in my situation. I'm a realist. I don't think I will be able to retire from my other playing gigs on the strength of this albums sales. Although I think that I might be able top generate enough income to where I can afford to put a band together again and go out and play."

That's a goal then, correct?

"That's really the next step for me, once this gets out, to put together a touring band. Then go out and play, some places in the U.S. and some in Europe with different sets of musicians in the European band. The only way I could afford to get to Europe is with my other touring gig (Englebert Humperdink), and then I would stay over there a couple of weeks later.

Do you see yourself staying as a sideman for Englebert for the foreseeable future?

"I think so, he's happy with what I do. But once you put out an instrumental CD, though, there's always the desire to be in that type of band. A band that will allow you reach more people who will buy what you have to offer."

Visit his website for more information on his new album, his basses and his touring schedule. It's located at:   

                 http://www.royvogt.com

 

 

 

                                  

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