I have the impression that articles and/or interviews with this man is fewer and far between compared to the other people involved with this band, so when the opportunity came to share this one with you, I grabbed it with both hands. A very fine musician and bassist with a long an very fruitful career that any fan of rock should know about. Hope you like it.
Tim Bogert Talk-in by Pete Erskine
Tim Bogert is maybe one of the premier white bass players, combining simplicity and feel with tremendous power and speed – perhaps like a pared-down Jack Bruce on superficial evaluation. He also does very few interviews. The band always used to do interviews together but Bogert feels his role as any kind of spokesman is obsolete. He admits, surprisingly, to being very shy.
The general feeling about the first BBA album was that there were too many songs on it – in contrast to what you do on stage. It wasn`t what you`d expect.
The new album still has songs on it but it`ll be a year`s progress. The session last night went well: we got another track down. We`re recording at CBS, Whitfield Street using Andy Johns and Jimmy Miller – and they`re good, really good. They`re getting the sound I wish we`d had on the first album. The first album was kinda thrown together, a very quick throw together. We were informed `okay boys you have to get an album together`. Then we got a producer at the end to mix the tapes and it was a very slipshod thing.
Yeah but there were lots of good things on it, like the opening of “Living Alone”.
Yeah, that was fun. We wrote that at eight o`clock in the morning when we couldn`t sleep on the time change. There was four tunes we knew and played on stage and the other four or five were done acutally in the studio, so we didn`t get a chance to work on anything, learn any riffs to throw around. The improvisation was still kinda raw.
The next one should be better. I hope.
It could be said that Jeff hasn`t really emerged to anything like his real extent on album anyway.
I agree with you. But on “Beck-Ola” he played his ass off and I haven`t heard him play like that on an album since. We had sort of a bad run lately, too. I don`t know why. We just we`re playing anything worth a damn. Sometimes the little red light on the tape machine goes on and the inspiration goes off.
Is Jeff very conscious of things like that?
Yeah, he`s very attuned to everything that happens… I just go battering through it all, flailing away. I just like to play. No, I`d really like to hear him cookin` the way he was cookin` on “Truth”. It would please me to no end because that was the album that turned me “round about the guy`s guitar playing. I thought oh, he can play”.
Is your situation as a band becoming more constant and level now?
There is no constant with this band; it`s very radical, very extreme. We have a particular norm that we`ve met on stage now that we don`t ever fall below, which is about a shade or two above mediocre – by my standards. And that`s okay because we can play a couple of shows like that as long as you come back later with a brilliant show to kind of balance it all out. But we`re very erratic It`s like last night`s session, there were some beautiful things going down yet a couple of weeks ago down at Underhill Studios we couldn`t have recorded a Troggs track and made it sound like anything. Tommy James and the Shondells could`ve cut us apart. Heaven knows why; I was actually trying harder down there to work than I am up here, and that could be something to do with it. I just couldn`t give a fly in hell now. I just go in, I`m feeling real good, I wanna play. I plug in and I`m playin`. Maybe that`s the secret, not to be too aware of what`s happening or too concerned with what`s happening; just go in and do what you know how to do.
Has the band been writing for this album?
No, we don`t write, we take material from every available source. We do instrumental things; there`s a thousand chord patterns that Jeff, Carmine and I know and fit together, but we`re not songwriters as such and never will be. We use Freddy Scott for a lyricist and a feller by the name of Ray Kennedy from Los Angeles. Pete Brown did a tune for us – or rather, we`re doing a tune of his. We`re going a lot more for instrumentals now because we`re not really a vocal band. We can`t sing. Somebody just had to so Carmine did, and I did. We can put a tune over well enough but there are a thousand people who can do that.
A dumb question, but how did you ever get to play the way you do? I mean, it is pretty distinctive.
It evolved from Motown records. I started playing about 8 or 9 years ago. I was playing soul licks in R n`B bands and the combination of R n`B, my slightly different psyche, gives that particular style. Jack Bruce is in a jazz vein whereas I come from an R n`B vein. I like to get into a groove and fuss with it for an hour. I`m not much of a technician; I just like to hear sounds. I like to make noise.
You said you started 9 years ago. What were you doing before that?
I was a sax player. Played the horn for 6 or 7 years with high school bands…
Did you study music at college?
No. Never went to college. Education was kinda wasted on me. I like reading hot rod manuals, taking cars and motorcycles apart, going out with my old lady and that was about it. I started to go out on the road when I was still a hornman in high-school, just trucking around locally on the East coast, nothing anyone would`ve heard of. We played rock and roll and stuff like that, but initially, having left high school I went to work for the phone company, and I was playing evenings and weekends. I started going smitten with bass I started to get the feel for it and started getting serious about making it a career, so I quit my job and I started haunting local bars in the area, seeing who was playing and what was being played, contacting people and letting as many people as possible know I was available for work I finally found work with a professional band called Rick Marin and the Showmen and they were a commercial band – society music – they had a chick singer up in the front with… and we played standards. It was kinda like a Vegas night club routine and we would play night clubs where your clientele would be your 40-year old age bracket and I wore a tuxedo and bow tie, the whole bit…
Did you enjoy it?
It was an experience. I had a good time. It was a whole new thing for me at the time. It was a groove as I look back on it – matter of fact everything`s been a groove as I look back on it. I played in other society bands, and I played in a piano jazz combo and a whole bunch of rock and roll bands and then it was 1966 and Vanilla Fudge started and it was 12 record albums between then and me sitting here.
How did you meet Carmine then?
I was working a place called the Choo Choo Club and in Garfield New Jersey and we worked there for 16 weeks with the band I was in called the Pigeons and Carmine came in following us and where does a musician go when he`s got a night off and no place to go but back to the night club, right, so I did and our drummer wasn`t cuttin` the gig at the time, he just wasn`t quite makin` it and so we were looking for a drummer and I spotted Carmine and I thought `hey this guy`s got a really good foot`, `cos we were looking for a drummer who was a bit more progressive than the one we had. I went up and asked him if he wanted a job `cos the band that he was in was no big thing, and the one that I was in was no big thing either, but we were open to get something better going. So he said yeah after a bit of thought and we went off to a catering place in New Jersey and rehearsed in the basement for two weeks and then got ourselves over to a place called the Action House on Long Island and played third bill at a bar and started that way.
Was he very different from other drummers at the time?
He had one helluva foot at the time which no one else had. Drummers` feet were just starting to happen then. It was still bang bang bang and he was coming out with all kinds of intricate patterns which was brand new for the time. He was really funky for then. Oh and about `66 was when I started doing strange things with the bass, playing things that you wouldn`t normally hear, `cos I got just plain tired of bass players. I liked the tone of the instrument but I thought the accepted style was incredibly boring. I thought `oh how boring these people are` and in fact I still do. When you put on a hundred records and only two of them will be saying anything. It`s always been a second instrument; I don`t approach it that way. To me it`s the first instrument, so watch out – outplay me or move over. It`s a very competitive spirit in this band; it`s a lot like Cream. We played a split bill with them down South in `67. Some nights they were good, some they weren`t, but I wasn`t too interested as I was still strongly into black music and wasn`t interested in these whiteys but come `69 and “Wheels Of Fire” I thought “heeyy”… alright.
Who of the black players did you like then?
Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Joe Tex, all the Stax things, everything that came out of Stax at the time, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, just everybody. Anything that happened to come out as a single or as an obscure radio cut, I had it. I still have a vast collection of soul music from `66-`69. But music`s pretty consistent, it`s only the faces that change. It goes different places – all the way back from the twenties you`ve had excellent musicians, you`ve had a raft of adequate musicians knocking out adequate music – you`ve had a bunch of noise and then you`ve had a rubbish. You`ve got your excellent players, etc., etc.
Do you think the bulk of adequate players is larger now?
Yes, there`s more players now than there ever has been. I know a number of people that can play the ass off a lot of people but they`re just not on record, and they`re never going to be on record because of the circumstances involved – they`re never going to get a hit contract, or a hit record or see the big-time but they can blow with the best of `em.
Looking at our Polls recently it would seem that England and the States have grown far apart inasmuch as we read of musicians and players that we`ve never heard of in England. There seems to be more depth to music from the States.
Well, there are so many more people in America than England, but England to me was always a source of excellent guitar players and good white singers. Up until I heard Jack Bruce, I never liked a single bass player I`d heard out of the country; and Jack isn`t what I call a bass player, he is just a player playing the bass. Rhythm sections were one thing I never really thought of when I thought of England. The difference between say Carmine or an American drummer is that they accent with their feet whereas an English drummer would accent with his hands and vice versa.
It seems to me that a lot of English musicians are very much into technique rather than feel which is an American feel.
Most of the players I know don`t know a quarter note from a dotted eight note from a hall note or anything else but you sit down and stick an axe in their hands and the son-of-a-bitch will make it talk. I can`t read music, I don`t know chord theory, or anything but I just like to feel what I`m playing and if I didn`t have that feel, I couldn`t play at all, I`m sure.
How do you find playing in Europe and England compares with the States?
For the hour and twenty minutes that we`re on stage it`s about the same, almost. But the rest of it`s entirely different. The audiences here, as a block of faces, respond pretty much the same. Most of European kids know enough English to go along with what we`re trying to do with them and what we`re saying to them and they know enough of the tunes to groove with it. But otherwise the atmosphere is totally different… the consciousness is different, the weather`s different, the buildings are different, the cars are different… it`s all different. It was a little unsettling at first but I`ve got used to it now.
Are American audiences more demonstrative, more perceptive?
I think that they`ve been exposed to more because there`s more there to be exposed to… y`know, America, the land of too much! It`s hard to generalise an audience because an audience is an entity unto itself and every audience although it`s basically the same, is different and every night you walk out to the microphone, you don`t know what`s going to happen… I just take it as, `Well, OK here I am,”… and you start the show and you hope… you hope they like it, you hope that an amp doesn`t blow up.
Are you nervous before you go on?
Sometimes, it`s sporadic… there have been some shows when I`ve been shaking in my boots and there`s other shows where I`ve been as calm as hell. No particular reason for either… I should be nervous for all of them but I`m not. It doesn`t make the show any worse or any better if I`m nervous or not – There are some shows that I should be very nervous about but I`m not – I walk out, plug in and roll… other shows I`m just on the edge of my nerves and I walk out, plug in and fly… and then sometimes it works the opposite… I walk out cold, plug in and can`t get started and everything I play is just wrong, so I fall into a groove and I don`t try and outdo myself `cos I know I`m only going to stumble and trip so I just do as much as I know I can do that night.
When there are three of you playing the sort of music you play, is it possible for any one of you to step out and take a lead?
All the time… we try hopefully to do this every night… it can`t be done every night, but we try. BBA isn`t really what I call a band – it`s the three of us playing as a unit but completely individually at the same time – we`re playing sympathetically with one another… that`s the closest way of putting it. The three of us are constantly soloing and if we can solo in a format we`re fine. If we can`t, it turns into noise.
Is it very tense and draining when you`re playing?
It can be… sometimes it`s a drain and sometimes it`s very exhilarating. Sometimes I walk off stage with the hair on the back of my neck just bristling and sometimes I walk off feeling as though I`ve just been in a football match for an hour and a half.
Do you ever get into the position when you`re waiting for one of the others to do something?
Well somebody has to take the initiative and eventually some one will and you just pray to God that they`ll pick up on you. We do a lot of cuts and breaks on drum cue because it`s the easiest thing to distinguish – you catch a particular roll and you think, `Ok it`s break`… and Carmine will do the same roll before the break and I`ll go into it and Jeff won`t or Jeff will go into it and I won`t… and there are occasions when Jeff and I will both go into it and look at Carmine and say `Well… -` … and he`s flailing away like mad not knowing that he`s played the break. It gets tense sometimes but one of us will usually pick up quickly and the others will follow right in. No-one usually knows that we`ve fouled except us because the three of us are masters of picking up errors. I picked that up playing showbands where you have fast cues and you can`t leave the may up front hanging… you`ve got to learn fast otherwise they`ll fire you faster than hell! There`s a lot of road experience in the band and there`s no other way you can accumulate that kind of knowledge without having been on stage thousands of times. A lot of it`s second nature… you just hear something and you go accordingly to what you hear. It`s a lot of second guessing… that`s the main thing I do on stage is second guess Carmine and Jeff.
Do you spend time together socially?
No, we`re very individual people who have very little in common. We have a vast respect for one another musically so the band works but socially we don`t have too much that we can truck along the same paths and enjoy.
Perhaps it`s a good thing… maybe it would make the band too stolid and complacement.
It could be because a trio plays violent music, it always seems that way – this is a very violent band – and after a disagreement or after a hell of a long car ride the band plays. We had to drive 400 and odd miles in lousy rotten traffic in France to get to Bordeaux and by the time I got to the gig it was time to walk on stage and I just had so much nervous energy inside me… we went out and the band screamed. But it can work the opposite way when you`re so up tight and jittery that you`re dropping cues and you`re missing notes – there`s no set pattern at all.
Do you ever find that you really get into an aggressive thing?
Well, it`s not so conscious – it`s not, well, I`ll try to outdo you… It`s I`m going to really let loose and if you don`t keep up – too bad! It`s not a conscious fuck-you, although it could be construed that way, I guess.
How about recording as compared to playing on stage?
Recording it a little cut and dried still because Jeff doesn`t play lead on record… he won`t, he flatly refuses to, so that`s that. He`s very secretive and you don`t ask him. He plays how his moods strikes him and he`s a man of a million moods.
Do you think you`ll ever make a live album?
We definitely will make a live album but I don`t know when… maybe the next one, for sure the next one after that… `cos live is where the band really cooks. On a good night this band can be as good as any live band they`ve ever heard.
One of the American tours we`re doing – either March or April – I hope to bring a truck with us and record every night we do and then sit down and systematically go through the whole thing because we work on a feed back basis with the audience – if the audience is really cracking they can generate us to do things that we normally wouldn`t do, even on a bad night. I don`t think that audiences realise that their response can force us to play, even when we don`t feel like it. I don`t like to force an audience – I kinda take the attitude that they`re going to do whatever they`re going to do.
Carmine takes them in the back of their seats and shakes them into moving – that`s his approach. I would let an audience sit, whereas he would pick them up by the throat and shake them. Jeff`s attitude varies according to the mood he`s in. He`s a Cancerian – always goes sideways, never knowing what his real motives are.
OOoohhh -this was probably a sure-fire method that just got lost in time. Too bad for you short people out there with dreams of being taller…
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Leo Sayer, The Who, Gallagher&Lyle, Keith Emerson, Deep Purple, Magma.
The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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