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Progressive Rock Interviews

Julie Slick

Interviewed by Grant Hill
Interview with Julie Slick from 2012
MSJ:

So how are you?

Good, crazy, ‘cause I’m moving and everything. I’m trying to take care of everything before I go. I’m flying to Germany to do this project called “the Sand Project,” which was part of a KickStarter campaign with two German musicians I know, Peter Alexeis (guitar,) and Marc Mennigmann (Stick.)  It’s going to be experimental prog, typical of me. They are flying me out to Düsseldorf. We’re doing recording for three days. Then we’re doing three shows in the Cologne area. Then I’ll be flying to LA from there, and staying there indefinitely. So I’m moving from Philly to LA via Germany!

And last night I played with Mike Keneally, so that was fun! We’re talking about doing some stuff in the future, possibly for Scambot 2, which would be awesome. But literally, we just started brainstorming that yesterday, so that was sweet! He’s playing right now as a duo with Rick Musallam, who has been in Mike’s band forever, and Rick played on one of my tracks in Terroir, so they asked me to join them on stage for a couple of songs, which was pretty cool!

MSJ: Where was the show?
Kung Fu Necktie, right here in Philly, just down the street. It’s a newer rock club.

I did ask Mike to play on Terroir, but he’s been so busy putting out that record with Andy Partridge, which is awesome, and doing the Joe Satriani tour. So, he was a little bummed he missed the boat on that (Terroir,) but he definitely wants to do some work in the future. Now that I’ll be out west, it’ll be easier for me to go down to San Diego or for him to come up to LA to do some tracking. Or we can just use Dropbox, you know. We already planned a holiday party, so I’ll be doing a dinner party and I know he’ll come up for that. He came over for dinner when I stayed at Marco’s (Minnemann’s) apartment a couple of years ago. It was really fun; we did some jamming.

MSJ: Do you know what style you guys might do together?
I don’t know. This is completely fresh and we just started talking about it yesterday. When I played with him last night, it was typical Michael, fast, proggy shreds, you know. Fun, musical fun! He said he’s gonna send me tracks soon, so I‘ll have an idea of what it’s all about at that point.
MSJ: What about other side projects?
I have a lot of them. One is called “Springs,” music mostly right now written by Mike Visser. My brother, Eric, played drums on the album yet to be released. We’re still figuring out method of distribution before we release that one. Mike’s going to be moving out to California with me, and we just added a new member, Claire Wadsworth, who I’ve been working with on some other stuff. I’ve been collaborating all over the place. Both of them are featured on Terroir. Claire is also a songwriter and arranger.  I’m writing lyrics, too. Once we get out to California we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on. It’s a transition period for me, which is why life has been so hectic. But that project definitely has a lot of potential now that Claire is involved. She plays keyboards, a little bit of guitar, but mainly vocals. Her sister was actually just on “The Voice.” I missed the episode, though. It was a best case scenario for her. Nobody turned their chair, but that’s good because the Voice takes an exorbitant percentage of publishing, and since Claire’s a songwriter, it’s a good thing they didn’t go that far into the competition. So, it works out perfectly. She’s going to go out there building upon this momentum from being on the show and having all these songs.

We all just keep writing all of the time. I have these projects I’ve started doing with Tim Motzer, whose house I’m staying at now. Tim actually plays a baritone guitar, and we play some of the stuff from Terroir, but also some new jams that I’ve written. It’s very ambient, experimental fusion. And Dejha Ti does these incredible 3D visual sculptures and creates these spandex screens to project upon. They stretch across the stage. And then she sits on stage with us and does projections in real time. So it’s really more like a trio because it becomes part of the show, and that project is literally like a week old. We plan to do some more touring next spring. We would like to take this project to Europe, South America and Japan.

So, lots of collaborations - that’s not even all of them.  I’m doing a lot of stuff with David Torn. He played on three tracks on the album and crushed it. He did an amazing job. I’ve been keeping him in the loop, as well, writing new material and collaborating, collaborating and just putting things in Dropbox and sharing with other musicians that I think would sound good together. So, it’s really cool, a nice collective of awesomeness.

MSJ: We’ve known each other for a few years now. It’s been fun watching your work expand and become more involved and sophisticated. How do you feel about the progression of things since leaving the School of Rock and starting up with Adrian (Belew)?
It’s been amazing. Adrian always jokes that the School of Rock is like high school, and I’ve now gone to college with the Adrian Belew Power Trio, which is kind of true. It’s definitely influenced me a lot, especially, well not only playing, but with starting to compose, which has been just an amazing outlet. But also just with my sheer interest in sounds. I’ve been recording longer than I’ve been playing bass; I’ve been recording since I was like six years old. So, sound has always been so interesting to me. So, it’s also been great having some of these relationships with some of these manufacturers, too, whose products Adrian endorses. They’ve helped me out a lot, too, like Eventide and Lakland. These things are helping me become less known as just a bass player and more known as a musician. Lakland even just sent me a new six string bass, which is just gorgeous, and it’s so funny ‘cause my friend, Tim  Motzer, asked me, “Are you a bass player or a guitar player now?” It’s tuned E to E and it’s 30 inch scale, and it’s got built in midi, etc. My palette has expanded over the past six years. (laughs) Adrian keeps downsizing and my rig just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
MSJ: How has the Crimson ProjeKt been similar to or different from the combined Two of a Perfect Trio tour in 2011?
Crimson ProjeKt is really cool; the only downside is just opening for Dream Theater. Don’t get me wrong; it was a great tour with the DT guys. They’re super nice. We got exposure to new audiences and new fans. But is was a little disappointing to only play for 45 minutes every night. My favorite song that we did, I would say, would have to be “Thrak,” because that’s the only one where we get to improvise in the middle, which is the most satisfying thing for me as a musician. I really enjoyed doing the double trio full concerts more. We did a few of those peppered throughout the tour on dates where DT had the day off, like in Houston and New York City. It’s just more satisfying to do things in a three hour show where we can get into some epic stuff, too. It really doesn’t feel like a three hour show the way the performances are spaced, and I guess each trio gets its 90 minutes in overall, so that’s pretty cool. After being used to playing with Adrian Belew Power Trio, those joint shows with Stickmen involve a more condensed set-list, so when we were on stage it was like “shred-fest.” It was great! (laughs)
MSJ: Did you find the wear and tear on body and mind to be greater on the Dream Theater tour, or with the double trio?
It was definitely a lot easier this year. Remember, we only played 45 minutes a night. You’d feel like you were just getting warmed up and the show would be over. And, then, you know, we’d be finished playing every night by like 8:30. And, we wouldn’t have to show up until later. Load in and sound-check were always late, and sometimes sound-check was a luxury. If Dream Theater had to take extra time, they got extra time. The opener always checks last, so typically we’d get a line check, play a little bit of Red, and then we’re done, you know. It was a cakewalk almost; it was pretty easy. The guys were so easy to get along with. I had great conversations with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess. It was really cool and very inspiring to be around them, you know, all those legendary musicians.
MSJ: As you know, I enjoyed your first CD greatly and think it was an eclectic debut with lots of interesting ideas. I haven’t heard Terroir yet, but how is the new CD going to be perceived as different?
I would definitely say it’s more organic. Like the first album has a lot of electronic elements, so I was using a lot of the Logic sampler instruments, so it literally has like a warmer sound than the first album. The whole idea or concept is “terroir.” I had to use a food term, which means “from the earth.” So, it’s really based on the things I’ve learned and experienced in the past six years, but the past two years in particular, growing as a composer, and collaborating with more musicians. I’m letting them have more of a say in a way, using samples from things that inspire me. There’s one song that has a sample of kids playing in a schoolyard. It was in Portugal. I was sitting in my hotel room, and these kids were having fun and screaming so loud. I was thinking, “I’ve got to get a sample of this.” So I wrote this song that has this eclectic vibe. The album just has that eclectic feel. You can tell that I wrote it, my sort of signature sound. I thought this sample of kids running around would be perfect for the song. It’s called “Quintal,” which means schoolyard in Portuguese. Marco Minnemann plays drums on that one. Someone had tuned the six string bass to open G or something like that, so I played something I had written before which sounded so cool in that different range that I used it. On “Skypark” and “Minminzemmi.” I used a cicada sample. I was walking around in Tokyo, and I heard this deafening cicada. I had to capture the sound and use it as an interesting textural element. So, you know using more analog and organic sounds, and using more acoustic drumming. I used more electronic drums and programming on the first album. And l also I play a lot more guitar on this one. I don’t even think I played any guitar on the first album. But, I play some nylon string on this one. As a bass player, nylpn string guitars are easier to play. The string spacing is a little closer to what you have on a bass.
MSJ: Speaking of acoustic drummers, how’s your brother, Eric, doing?
He’s doing really well, very busy with Dr. Dog. I had to say “goodbye” to him two days ago. It’s the last time I’m going to see him for a few months. Dr. Dog’s going to be doing some pretty extensive touring until the end of the year, so it was kind of funny. He did a lot of touring this year, too, to promote their new record. But, I made sure I got him in the studio at least for one day.  He did four songs for me in about an hour. He works so fast, it’s killer. He needs just one listen through, two takes, and he’s done. It’s awesome.
MSJ: You two have always had that communication connection going.
Exactly. He’s still my favorite. (laughs) Don’t tell any other drummer!
MSJ: I’m sure they all would understand, You can’t duplicate growing up and playing together all that time.
Exactly!
MSJ: With your pending move to LA, what brought that about as opposed to just staying in Philly?
I’ve been here my whole life. I just sort of felt I’ve maxed my limit here. I think you’ve got to experience living somewhere else than where you grew up. I have some really good connections out in LA, jamming with Danny Carey from Tool, for example. I’m really good friends with him and his girlfriend. I’ve been able to meet a lot of the musicians in that network. Mike Keneally’s out there. Marco Minnemann is out there. My friend Claire is moving out there, and we convinced my friend Mike to move out there with us. So, it’s really a good network. Worst case scenario, I can stay out there for a year even if it doesn’t work out. But, I think I’m going out there with a good advantage, a new record to promote and good projects on the horizon. I feel really good about it. I’m not looking back. I’m just going forward.
MSJ: You’ve quickly risen up the ranks among major bass players. Obviously working with high profile guys like Tony Levin and Adrian Belew helps. Are there any technique things you’re getting into that are new or different, and where do you see your playing going stylistically?
Hmm, I’ve experimented a little bit with tapping, but with the six string I may do more of that. I do love playing finger style, even though I’m really known as a pick player. I’ll be doing more finger style with the six string, maybe like that acoustic nylon guitar picking style. My technique there should improve. I should gain a greater knowledge of chords, too, with the expanded register to work with, so that’s cool, too. I’ll be doing more building sounds harmonically.
MSJ: What are you listening to lately that you’re finding to be inspirational or interesting?
I’ve always liked Tortoise. Tim’s been playing some really cool stuff for me. I’ve really been into Broken Social Scene, this one song in particular. I do have my indie rock side, unabashedly. That was one of the newest albums I’ve bought in a while.  Marcus gave me some Art Zoyd, which is really cool. I like that a lot. I was also just listening to Andromeda, the California Guitar Trio record that Eric and played on. That’s really cool, too. And the new Mike Keneally record with Andy Parttridge, of course.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended for your own enjoyment?
Well, besides Mike’s show last night, I went to see Chris Harford recently. That’s a project my brother plays in. It features Mickey from Ween and Dave Dreiwitz, also from Ween. It was amazing. I went there obviously because I love all those guys, but the band was just klller, super groovy.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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