John Lydon & Bill Laswell:
Musician magazine, USA, June 1986
Transcribed by Karsten Roekens
© 1986 Musician / Jim Bessman
by Jim Bessman
"Energy has been missing from music for so long," notes John Lydon, "particularly in England where it's all nail varnish and Nancy-boy keyboards, which people have been trying to break away from for some time."
Clearly the PIL leader sees 'Album' as just such a breakaway, one which he feels returns to "my own little mine" of the Sex Pistols and first Public Image releases in terms of pure rock energy. Having established a "brilliant" working relationship with Bill Laswell on 'World Destruction', the Afrika Bambaataa/Lydon 12 inch, Lydon again tabbed Laswell to coproduce 'Album' under a shared "umbrella theory". Explains Lydon, whose goal was an "uptempo, non-disco" sounding record: "We both like to cover a lot of musical ground."
And Laswell indeed brought his customary far-reaching worldview to the project. Noting that the recording was "well thought-out in advance" and "definitely organised but with room to improvise", Laswell says that the finished product was a team effort guided by specific musical "reference points".
For the record, the musicians enlisted were Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboards), Bernie Worrell (organ), Nicky Skopelitis (six- and twelve-string guitars), Steve Vai (guitar), Malachi Favors (acoustic bass), Bernard Fowler (background vocals), L. Shankar (violin), Ginger Baker (drums), Tony Williams (drums), Aiyb Dieng (percussion), Jonas Hellborg (electric bass) and Steve Turre (didgeridoo).
As for the reference points, Laswell names Led Zeppelin for its "sound and attitude", as well as Zulu music, Joujouka, and other North and South American musics, while Lydon singles out The Stooges' 'Fun House'.
"There was a definite plan to make a more rock-oriented record, more direct and musical than past PIL records," continues Laswell. "But even though we were dealing with a simple beat and chord changes, we didn't want to use just rock clichés. And while there was a basic direction, the musicians were given a lot of freedom. I think that the total sound shows the personality of the individual musicians."
The recording process itself, says Lydon, was "very quick", taking three weeks of one-take recording time "in every studio in New York" and one week of mixing.
"We were determined to get the best drum sound we could, but that doesn't come cheaply. We had an awful budget, ridiculous. Arcadia gets $800,000, and we had two sixteenth of that. Outrageous!"
According to Laswell, the drums were recorded at The Power Station by Jason Corsaro, who also mixed the entire album there. "It was necessary to record the drums with a particular engineer with a big drum sound," explains Laswell, who adds that Vai's guitar was recorded at Electric Ladyland because of its "historical resonance and good larger room sound on a live amp."
Additional recording was done at RPM Sound Studios and Quadrasonic Sound Studios, Robert Musso engineering all but the drum tracks.
"It was like the good old days," says Lydon of the swift recording pace. "We went for high energy and instant reaction. I could play the master before editing and it sounded perfectly finished."
Laswell now looks ahead to forming a musical "continuum" using the same musicians and stylistic relationships established in 'Album'. "It's the beginning of something that you'll hear in future projects," he says, noting a commitment by the PIL collaborators to work together again and solidify their initial undertaking. Reporting that his most recent production of a forthcoming Motörhead album continues in his current harder rock direction, Laswell says that there may even be a Ginger Baker solo album using many of the PIL players.
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