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Lucas Pickford

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Warning: This first part hasn’t got a whole lot to do with bass playing, but hang in there, it all ties together! Honest!


When first viewing Lucas’ website, you might be struck with the impression that you have happened across yet another New Age guru espousing just one more take on tea leaves, tarot cards and ear candling (I have yet to figure that one out!). You see the clip art of the Walking Zen Master and a few other things and unless you are into this kind of thing, you might just be tempted to move on.

But this guy comes highly recommended, so I head to his Sounds page right away. Downloading a track, I find myself thoroughly immersed in a wash of jazz fusion, full of lush chord phrases, quick articulate bass soloing and a drummer with a sound like Lenny White of fusion band Return to Forever.

This ain’t no New Age recording of waves on a beach, fruitbats chirping, paint drying. This has fire and ice. Fast, clean bass playing that pulls and tugs back and forth into crystalline solos, songs breathing furiously and then arcing with the joy of life.

Hey wait a minute! This is balance, this is the Dance of Opposites, this is Zen and the Art of Bassplaying. That’s what he means!!

So I head back to the front page of the website and take a more concerted look at the choices he has given us. I notice Transcriptions, hmmmm. Pop onto the page and you find dozens upon dozens of songs you’d never find anywhere else. All hand written and then scanned onto the page, there is a enthusiasm to the rushed hand writing that gives the impression that he just can’t transcribe fast enough for his own liking. It’s as if he is eating this up like manna for the manic.

Next, deciding to take the plunge and give this guy a chance on what might be just ‘right out there’, I notice something that just about knocks me out of my seat.

First of all though, let’s travel back, waaaay back in time. Okay, picture this, it’s the early `70’s and there I was, an angst filled 20-ish poem-writing supposedly super-deep pseudo-bass-playin` geek thoroughly into Metaphysics. Always looking for books that would re-enforce the belief that I was a victim being impinged upon by the Universe, I happen across one of the coolest books I have ever seen, even up until now. The authors name is Fritjof Capra, (hey, I didn’t name him!) and the book is called The Tao of Physics. Now zip back to the year 2000 and there on Lucas’ front page is the title for a page on the site called The Tao of Physics. Could it be… ?

Sure enough, there nestled amongst a bunch of books on Alan Watts and other things Zen, is Fritjof’s book. First time I’ve seen it referred to in over 25 years.

Now why is this book so cool? It talks about some hard science, about studies looking at molecular particles so small and moving so fast that they achieve the seemingly impossible…they succeed in being at no measurable place at any given time (sounds like my last business partner!). It also talks about the fact that these particles and their reactions can be affected just by observing them. (Sounds like a gaggle of teenage girls). Now that is seriously cool and Lucas knows about it! This could be something we could both rant about for a while! So I call him up humming ‘Let’s Get Metaphysical’ to myself.

Lucas, were you maybe a bit nervous that you might be shooting yourself in the foot with what might be thought of as new age connotations on your web page?

Lucas Pickford (nice guy incidentally, not crazy like me): “Its really is a musicians sort of site. First thing that you see is a bio and then info about my time at Berklee and stuff like that. There’s some stuff on my equipment, some MP3’s and then as you get down in there, there’s the Tao of Physics thing.”

“I tried to make the site so that you weren’t hit over the head one way or another. If you click on that section then you get the full dose of whatever I was trying to say about Metaphysics. But just as well, I have a whole tribute page on William Burroughs. He could be construed as very much not ‘new-age’. I just did it purely out of my own interests. I just thought, ‘well, I have different interests and I’m gonna put em out there’. People are gonna see it and maybe they’ll dig it.”

In interviewing another artist recently, the artist caught himself referring to how God has figured into his life as a musician. He ended up asking to delete that part because he was afraid of being dismissed as just a flake and in turn not being taken seriously as a musician and as a bassist.

Lucas: “I think I took a couple steps towards that and I don’t know how subtle they were or weren’t. So on the first page of the Metaphysics section sandwiched between Paramahansa Yogananda and Confucius, I have Albert Einstein where he’s saying that “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.’ My interest is in the straight physics, the hard physics, where deep deep down in the world of subatomic particles they run into the Tao of Metaphysics, but I don’t try to just brush the hard science out of the way, to me the interesting part of it all wasn’t one or the other in and of themselves, but their relationship to each other. So I tried to send out that sort of message with the Einstein reference. I also have quite a few straight science links on the web site too.

It lends credibility or validity to the critically minded person. For the science buffs amongst us, (and I know there at least 7 of you!), just this past week (July 2000) scientists, have been experimenting with firing a laser through a container filled with Cesium gas. Using careful camera work and a computer probably a bit brighter than the usual home PC, they were able to establish that before the laser actually entered the Cesium filed chamber, it was shown exiting the other side. Summary: The effect happened at the same time as the cause, all in null time. In effect faster than light (FTL) was achieved and observed. ‘Warp Speed, Captain!’

Lucas: Through each little ‘bag’ of the book, whether it be Zen, Buddhism, you get in the middle of the book where he starts talking about the fact that you can’t measure an electron as to where it is exactly without disturbing it.

The notion that your mind causes the world takes on a whole new meaning. In Particle Physics there is a growing contention that the observer can’t even look at the observed without affecting the outcome. It’s cutting edge, it’s the future of the science of the mind.

One can’t help but be surprised that you are into all of this, being a creative person. In talking about the Observed being affected by the Observer, in the end result your creations will be shaped by all these ideas and discoveries.

You have a lot of transcriptions on your site that you e-mail all over, to anyone that asks for them…all without charging a cent! Why? Is it you that’s doing all the transcriptions, scanning them and then firing them off?

Lucas: You have to understand, I graduated from Berklee in `91 and for the past 10 to 12 years I have transcribed regularly. It’s really how I learned to improvise. Now there are so many books out now that you don’t really need to transcribe, there are transcription books out by everybody. I collect them however, if I find someone who has them I will trade or exchange with them. I have them in a huge folder here.

I have so may Michael Brecker transcriptions and so many different bass lines that I want to put out there. These are for tunes that I never see. I was never a kid who could read tablature. I wasn’t interested in it and I would come across things that I had to take the time to write out. Things like Marcus Miller bass lines that I’d find on some one else’s site, I copy them, say where I got them from and send it out to other bassists.

You don’t seem to be charging people for this service.

Lucas: There’s no price for it.

Remarkable, most people would be saying “Send me a dollar and I’ll send you… .”

Lucas: No, because to me I have a sort of viewpoint on the Internet as well, when I did this website I thought, “What the hell do I have to offer anybody except to say ‘Hi look at me!’ ”. Because I am a musician, transcriptions can prove to be wonderful things because they convey ideas from the Masters directly. I put them up there not saying they are without mistakes or without flaws. For example if you look at my transcription of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Reharmonization of Around Midnight’ I openly ask people to send corrections. Or even if they find a different chord, because he’s so sublime in his chord voicings. My father was a musician and he placed a big emphasis on being able to transcribe, for ear training…

Do you have Perfect Pitch?

Lucas: I don’t have perfect pitch, but I have pretty good ears, man. I have really nice relative pitch. My Dad was always transcribing, and I would ask him ‘How are you doing that?’. Later when I went to Berklee I found a very hip teacher, by the name of Roberta Radley. I took a transcription class and she taught me how to isolate the bass notes. I found over the years it proved to be very therapeutic and a learning thing for me. I must have amassed hundreds of these things. I really wanted to make my website kinda like a depot for transcriptions of all kinds. As many instruments as I can find. I have more bass of course than I do of trumpet. I do have a few Randy Brecker solos’ that I’ll put out there. I don’t want a penny for any of them.

I’ll tell you something that’s incidentally come in through the transcriptions. Funnily enough Billy Shehan got in touch with me. I’m not even a rock musician, but he said the he is looking for someone to transcribe his catalogue and he wanted to know if I would be interested. Right now we are discussing that. So if something comes in on its own, well that’s cool.

It’s a nice way to earn some money doing something you love. Plus it’s like exercising a skill, in turn keeping you in shape.

Lucas: Yeah, and I just like to put it out there. I am getting e-mail from literally all over the world. This is amazing because I am putting out things that you can’t find in books. I did all these transcriptions out of a kind of frustration. I figured that if I can’t find it, I hafta do it myself! I’m gonna continue to do that. If a buddy of mine has a good transcription then I put it up there too. There’s something there for everybody as well as for bassists. I’ve even got some Alan Holdsworth stuff which I have NEVER found on the Internet. This because I have played with Steve Hunt, the keyboardist from Alan’s band. Through Steve I was able to get the right changes to some of Alan’s music.

What is Alan doing these days?

Lucas: Well, Alan is coming into town here in Boston and one exciting thing about that is that Steve Hunt and I and Alan’s drummer Gary Husband are gonna be recording during that time, for Steve’s album. Steve is putting out something of his own and he has also been recording with me on my own CD.

You’re thinking that it might be around September that your CD will be ready?

Lucas: I think so, I go there on the 26 and 27th of July to finish up my tracks and then I have to spend some time mixing. I think they are going to be available on Audiophile Import which is kind of a fusion oriented website.

Do you have a working title for your CD yet?

Lucas: Very good question, I’m just thinking of the tune titles here. I was thinking about calling it ‘Hot Shot’ which is the name of the Burroughs track. (Later Lucas informed us that he has switched the album title to ‘Exaggerated Sense of Well Being’.) There’s a song on my website now called ‘Hot Shot’ and it’s my tribute to William Borroughs, I have him doing some voiceover. Not that it hasn’t been done before but it’s my little twist on Burrough’s reading his own works. It’s the only ‘vocal’ track. The rest are all original jazz and funk tunes.

You only use the two basses, the Fedora Anthony Jackson and the 1977 Fender Marcus Miller. Why so few? I speak to people with literally truckloads of this stuff, do two basses say it all for you?

Lucas: I have to mention that Anthony Jackson was just such a tremendous influence on me, after Jaco Pastorius of course! But I really wanted to get his instrument and I have played it solely for the last five years. Then I was starting to miss a brighter or punchier Jazz Bass type tone for some of the gigs I was doing. So I went and I got that and it was really like coming full circle, going back to the four string. I play differently on each one. The Fodera is remarkable in any style. It sounds great for jazz and Latin, Funk, anything. As a solo instrument, it has a very dark woody sound and I just wanted something a little brighter and clearer. When I play the Jazz it’s a little more light hearted, or something.

You use a Gallien Kreuger 400RB amp head?

Lucas: Yeah that’s the working mans amp. It never breaks. I know that there’s more powerful stuff out there, but I’m no technophile. I just like an amp that can make it to the gig and sound good!

Are you doing a lot of live work these days?

Lucas: Yeah I am playing a lot, with summertime I do a lot of commercial work, so I don’t usually post that on the website. Right now I am focused on getting that CD done. So, in between my hectic commercial gig life I am working on the album.

You say on your site that William F. Burrough’s writings inspired the names of a few bands over the years.

Lucas: Yeah, Steely Dan’s name is taken from ‘Naked Lunch’ and in the book ‘a steely dan’ was in reference to a dildo. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen being the sort of hip literate types that they were, just thought that was the funniest thing ever. Of course the public never caught on to it. To this day, most people don’t realize this. Soft Machine is the name of a novel by Burroughs. It’s a very far out kind of novel that a fusion band from England borrowed for a name. What is interesting about that is that Alan Holdsworth was the guitarist in that. Small world!

Is there anything else you would like to have covered?

Lucas: I just really want to offer the transcriptions to the people, a sort of passing on of the information. It’s a good feeling to me and I want to encourage people to respond. If they find something in there or they have something they would like to add, just let me know.


You can reach Lucas, check out his transcriptions and hear some of his wavefiles at…

Read this article in Chinese



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