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Progressive Rock Interviews

Tony Levin

Interviewed by Gary Hill
MSJ Chat Transcript Tony Levin from 2003

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at

Tony Levin: Greetings all
Bruno Colesse: hi tony !

Mike Clark: hi Tony

Beyond The Bass Fan: Hi, TL, saw you recently in Montreal with PG and for your own show. Both were definitely hot & professional. Basically both a joy!!

Tony Levin: Glad you liked the Montreal show - - we did too

KD: Tony: is there any animosy between warr and chapman teams? lol

Tony Levin: Good question.

There was some wierdness a few years ago (between Chapman and Warr users)

KD: Tony: I'm in touch with Trey Gunn and he is suspiciously quiet about it lol

Tony Levin: But I never actually knew the reasons. Both instruments are excellent. and , hey, we're all musicians, trying to make good music!

Mike Clark: Tony, I saw you with Seal on TV and the vibe in that band was amazing, what did you think?

Tony Levin: I LOVED playing with Seal. Great singer, great guy and an excellent bass player too!

KD: Tony: do you use stick mainly as a bass?

Tony Levin: Yes, I use the stick mainly as bass. Though in my own cd's, and sometimes w. Crimson, I use the guitar side .

Bruno Colesse: Can you comment about the different pleasure you have in playing with PG and with TLB

Tony Levin: As for difference between PG and TLB... wow, hard to be brief - both are great because of the musicians involved. I am equally happy being in the back or in the front. it's a LOT more work being the front guy when you're off stage... So PG tour wins as my fave!!

Beyond The Bass Fan: Tony, KC will be on the road soon. Any chance or personal dream on your part to co-headline? You know KC/TLB - one night together. True Utopia for lots of us.

Tony Levin: I won't be opening for Crim, I'm afraid. It WOULD be fun though. Maybe in the future.

Mike Clark: Tony, what's Pete G. like to play with, eccentric in the least?

Tony Levin: Peter isn't eccentric, just a great, genuine, humble person.

MSJ Gary: How did you find out about the Grammy nomination, Tony? Do they call you?

Tony Levin: Really, it surprised me because I didn't know many people KNEW about my music. The record label (Narada) called me early in the a.m. (they check on those things pretty quick). It took a while for me to even accept what they were saying. I first thought I'd been chosen to be on the (large) ballot for Grammys' , which was enough for me.

Mike Clark: Tony was ABWH creative ground before it ended in Union Tour?

Tony Levin: ABWH was great, of course - what players! I especially liked being with Bill Bruford in that setting.

Bruno Colesse: Tony, what's the PG song you like the most?

Tony Levin: On this PG tour, my fave was Mercy Street. Don't know why.

Mike: Tony tell us what is happening with King Crimson, your talent and imagination is needed. .

Tony Levin: Crimson, as I've heard it, is about to tour with the new (very cool) record. I hope to join up with the group sometime in the future, but no definite word on that.

Scott: Do you see any personnel changes in TLB, or is every one committed for the foreseeable future?

Tony Levin: I like the guys, and they're very kind to stick with me (and make very little $$) so we'll be staying together!

Jan Adler: Tony, will you do a book featuring your photographs and paintings?

Tony Levin: I have a book planned, but it's taking ages to finish. It'll be photos from my 20 years in Crimson. I have great b & w shots thru the years AND great road diaries to include. I hope (again) to have that done by end of this year

Mike Clark: Tony, have you recorded with Steve Gadd?

Tony Levin: I have recorded a great deal with Steve Gadd. And as for favorite musicians, there are so many I love and admire. I try to learn from them, even if they play different instruments than me.

KD: Tony - how is your cello playing developing? I enjoyed some phrases with cello in WATERS OF EDEN.

Tony Levin: Cello - I try! It's not my main instrument and I feel very much like a BASS player when I bow on the cello. I'm usually hoping there are no REAL cellists there - glad you enjoyed the cello on Waters... I did overdub quite a bit to get it in tune. (Also that was early days on it for me, I'm a bit better now

Jon: Do you roast your own coffee?

Tony Levin: I've tried roasting my own coffee. Terrible, really terrible!!

Stank: Tony: This is a broad question but how did you get started in the business? What was your "big break"?

Tony Levin: I had some breaks, to be sure.

KD: Tony: do you use any gtr synths in studio recordings?

Tony Levin: I use some synth in studio... depends on the project

Stank: Tony: Have you worked with Martin Sexton other than Wonderbar?

Tony Levin: Wonderbar is the only CD I did with Martin. He's really great. I hope I get to play again on his music

Bruno Colesse: I always liked your style of playing because I find it a very good balance between rhythm (as bass often is) and harmony. Does it make sense and can you comment?

Tony Levin: I don't really think about rhythm, harmony, etc. I just try to find a good bass part that works for the piece being done.

Erica: Hi Tony! I saw you in Detroit for the first time - What is your favorite place to be in the world?

Tony Levin: favorite place... .that'd have to be Italy. what's not to like there... the food, language, people. THE COFFEE

Chris Anderson: Your Discogarphy says you played some with Don McLean. Did you play bass on "American Pie"?

Tony Levin: I didn't play on American Pie. A few albums after that.

Eric: Tony, are you planning to come back to Montreal soon?

Tony Levin: No plans to return to Montreal, but never know till tours are booked.

Mike Clark: Tony, was your sound guy (drummer) psyched to play on tequila, how did that come about?

Tony Levin: Doug Stringer is our monitor man, and is a good drummer. Seemed a natural choice, so Jerry could play sax.

Chris: Tony, I heard you sometimes drive up to Montreal in the summer on your motorcycle and hang out on Crescent street. Is that right?

Tony Levin: Only drove up on the Harley one time, and that was to do an in-store signing with Crimson.

Bruno Colesse: Why did you give up stick on last PG's album and tour?

Tony Levin: Last tour of Peters I didn't play much Stick, only because he chose songs where I hadn't played it. Later in the tour he added "monkey" and I played Stick on that.

Chris Anderson: I saw One Trick Pony yesterday, do you still have your portable chess machine I saw in the movie?

Tony Levin: Hah... I've lost that chess machine... had forgotten about it... . So long ago, I could actually BEAT the machine!! How's that for ancient!

Jim: Didn't you play stick on Solisbury Hill?

Tony Levin: On this tour I played bass on Sols. hill. On last tour, Stick. on the album....bass, I think... it was a long time ago!

Dennis: Tony, thought the sound system at the Continential arena was not great with the PG tour. Did you find any arenas that you liked playing at?

Tony Levin: Some arenas felt better than others, and we did a good job with the sound, FOR AN ARENA... they're tough though

Stickgirl: Tony, I wanted to thank you for signing my cds and taking a photo after a CGT show in Rockford, IL

Tony Levin: My pleasure to sign CD's, and meet the people who support my music!

Chris Anderson: What do you order at McDonald's when you and CGT eat breakfast there?

Tony Levin: I don't do McDonalds....maybe I'd get a Stomach McPump

Mike Clark: Tony, what is your feelings on Liquid Tension Experiment, do you think Prog. could be better in general

Tony Levin: I really enjoyed the challenge of Liquid Tension Experiment. Those guys really have some technique!! A good challenge for me

Dennis: Is PG coming back to the US to play maybe in smaller concert halls?

Tony Levin: PG MIGHT come back to do smaller halls, or sheds.

fer: Tony, when are you coming back to mexico, but with your band, any chance of doing a brief salsa tour?

Tony Levin: Re Mexico, we keep begging the agent to book us there.. I loved it with PG last fall----no luck so far

Jim: Tony, Peter has indicated that there is more or less another album in the can...any idea on a release date?

Tony Levin: No idea about Peter's next release. I was amazed to hear him say he had an album ready. I hope so! .

fer: Any chance of you coming near monterrey, laredo, austin or san antonio?

Tony Levin: It's certainly not up to me where Peter gets booked, but I'd imagine Dallas and Houston would be on the list if we come back

Intruder: Any chance of the TLB coming over to Italy oin their own?

Tony Levin: TLB want to come to Italy a great deal. They (agents) keep telling me there isn't enough presence there for my records...I keep telling them I don't care, to please book us there anyway, but they don't. I will try again, while I'm touring with Peter in europe, to get agents to book my band in Italy.

Larry McBride: Do you still listen to opera? Italy and opera...ahhhh

Tony Levin: I don't get to listen to opera much lately (or anything else!!) but I still love it

Bruno Colesse: Tony, who is Peter Levin playing on expresso ?

Tony Levin: Peter Levin is my brother, a really cool jazz pianist.

Dennis: Tony did PG film any of the live shows for a possible DVD release?

Tony Levin: I think Peter had the shows filmed, and his daughter Anna was filming the whole tour t

Mike Clark: Tony, do you love Ayub Ogada as much as I do?

Tony Levin: Ayub Ogada is really great. And what a hairdo!

Bruno Colesse: Are you a vegetarian as Peter is? Do you like wine? (you know french translation for your name is "the wine") ?

Tony Levin: I am a veggie, do like wine! (just had some, or I'd be typing faster!!)

Jon: How bad did Buddy Rich rip into the musicians?

Tony Levin: Buddy DID fire us all in the first studio day----hired us back the 2nd day and finished the album in a day

Imp: Tony, will the tracks you recorded with seal ever surface?

Tony Levin: The Seal tracks won't come out. He re-did that album and it came out (didn't do well though)

Dennis: Tony, I have a video of early Buddy Rich performances that is just amazing from the 30's and 40's I thought you dealt with it pretty well though. some taped his tantrums. they're scary!

Tony Levin: They're scary, but funny------ I once saw a comic book made from them.

Bruno Colesse: How about playing with Ged compared to Manu?

Tony Levin: Playing with Ged is great. Can't "compare" it to Manu - each player's different. Could do an essay on the great drummers, and their differences.. but maybe not tonight!

PeteGilbert: How did your session with David Bowie on Heathen come about? Did you enjoy that?

Tony Levin: I loved the Heathen session. They just called me. It was out in the country, and I mistakenly walked into David's kitchen rather than the studio. Caught him half dressed, and he didn't khow who I was! Pretty embarassing, but also funny I played on 2 songs, both frettless bass. Only one made it onto the CD

Bruno Colesse: Tony, do you have children and do you play music with them?

Tony Levin: I have a 17 year old daughter, don't play music together. She writes.

Bruno Colesse: Who is the musician you played with who impressed you the most?

Tony Levin: There's no single musician -- so many great ones, and I don't compare them with each other.
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