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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Ron LeSaar of Pentwater from 2015
MSJ: Is there any news in the world of Pentwater – new music in the works, special releases of old material or other things?
We do have a few songs in the can, but no movement yet on any new releases. We all stay in touch, but, as I'm sure other bands can relate to, it's hard to get everyone in the same room and on the same page these days. Someday, I'd like to produce some remixes with Pentwater samples to see what we could invent from all those great sounds we created. 
MSJ: What have you been working on outside the world of Pentwater?
My focus lately has been working on all the aspects of a solo album - songwriting, learning new instruments, practicing, and mastering ProTools so I can get my ideas recorded properly. 
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
Wow, that answer could take pages! As a bass player I'd have to start with Jack Bruce because he was the first bassist I heard that could combine the rhythm and lead into one style; both melodic and grounded at the same time. Later, the iconic Chris Squire influenced my tone (a bit)!  As a musician in general and an avid listener, the list goes on: King Crimson for their prog-jazz influences, Bela Fleck (prog-banjo!), The Dixie Dregs (exceptional musicians and writing), Aaron Copeland (“Appalachian Spring” just breathes America), Keith Emerson (give me more Hammond percussion!), Count Basie (arrangement genius), Steve Reich (subtlety defined), The Blue Nile (raw simple emotions), The Cars (Elliot Easton says more in 16 bars than almost anybody), Prodigy (when you've got to have thumpy-syth jams), Orbital (studio masters, sound manipulators), The Mahavishnu Orchestra (just try to keep up with Billy Cobham, let alone John Jan or Jerry!), XTC (how to learn song-crafting), and lots more!
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
I think most musicians (probably most bassists & drummers!) could attest to the inherent frustration of translating the melodies or songs in your head onto the instrument of your choice – when you're not as proficient a player on other instruments as you'd like to be. That's been my struggle, so my focus now is bridging that gap by more hours of practice on a variety of instruments. I've been charmed by the sounds of many non-Western instruments lately because they bring new colors into the palette. The African Jeli N'Goni is a nylon-stringed gourd instrument known as the forerunner to the Banjo. Two strings are drones and two play the melodies. Hard to master but it can be hypnotizing-ly joyful in the right hands. I picked up an Indian Tambora (a drone partner to the Sitar) and a Shahi Baaja (sort of a lap-steel and sitar combo) recently, and I'm working on the African Talking Drum and the Indian Tablas. Also add the violin, a few synths, and the traditional western drum kit (for grounding, and for understanding drummers!). My plate is full!

I'm also studying the phenomenon of binaural beats, which, I think is why certain twin-lead guitar melodies have always taken me to another level (Allmans, Wishbone Ash, Peter Banks). Spend a minute on Wikipedia delving into that topic and pretty soon you're down the rabbit hole!
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
If I ran into Bill Bruford in a dark alley on his kit, I'd give it a go!  Steve Morse, Jerry Goodman, Tony Levin, to name a few.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
I think I would be compelled to fight all the bureaucrats who take music out of school curriculums under  the guise of budget cuts. I don't understand why the Arts always get cut before football does. Music training and appreciation can take you farther in life than a sport.  
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
I'm not sure how egotistical it is to put myself in the band, but, damn – I'd want to play with these guys! I think every one of these musicians knows how to lead and how to lay back. When to push and when to coalesce. Listening is just as important as playing!

Ron LeSaar – Basses
Billy Cobham & Bill Bruford – Drums & Percussion
Tony Banks – Keyboards
Kerry Minnear – Cello
Allen Sloan – Violin
Robert Fripp & Steve Hackett – Guitars
John Wetton – Vocals
Kate Bush & Jane Siberry – Background vocals
Pete Brown – Lyrics
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
I'd like to hear some of the bands that I've never been able to catch live before. And I think eclectic combinations are the best, so let's put the Rolling Stones on the bill with Magma, XTC, Mew, Atomic Rooster, Kate Bush, 21 Pilots, Bassekou Kouyate with Ngoni Ba, Radiohead, Lene Lovich, Ultravox, and Rokia Traore. That sounds like an interesting mix!
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
The last actual CD I bought was Sia's 1000 forms of Fear. She has an absolutely fearless voice...though at first almost indecipherable. I've discovered several Tune Yards songs that are superbly produced and very creative, and a haunting evocative new singer, Jarryd James.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
I like to keep several books going at the same time, so I'm in the middle of Jerry Shirley's bio of his life on the drums with Humble Pie, Best Seat in the House, and David Hockney's Secret Knowledge  - about how many of the Old Masters secretly used mirrors and lenses to create their masterpieces, and lastly an intense telling of the three U.S. astronauts aboard the International Space Station in 2003 when the Challenger shuttle exploded.. with no other vehicle prepared to bring them home. It's called “Too Far from Home” by Chris Jones. 
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
I saw John Fogerty put on an energetic show at Northerly Island (Chicago) a few months back. He told tales of playing Woodstock in '69, which was news to me because Creedence wasn't on any of the Woodstock albums. Seems that John figured festivals were already passe at the time and CCR were already more popular than any festival album could make them, so he declined. 
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Yeah, I'll cop to one: 60s Bubble Gum music! The Ohio Express, The Lemon Pipers, The 1910 Fruitgum Company. There really is an art to writing a two and a half minute pop song that has great hooks. I wouldn't want to listen to this all the time, but if it comes on an oldies station, I don't turn it off!
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
In Pentwater's heyday in the 70s, we would get booked to play great, packed concert gigs one day and not-so-great venues the next. There's a scene in Spinal Tap where they're playing an outdoor arena to about twelve people. That was us. And just as Spinal Tap decided to jam out for a while, so did we – playing what we called “space jams” for 20 minutes while the few souls in the audience pretty much ignored us. It was all ad-libbed Pink Floyd style screeching and plinking, which we enjoyed immensely! When I saw the Tap movie years later, I thought they had actually filmed us that day!
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
A simple question, yet a real head-scratcher...  Let's get Robert F. Kennedy, Twyla Tharp, and Carl Sagan together for a night of conversation and see what happens.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Fresh seafood of every variety, roast pheasant, and flowing alcohol to loosen the tongue!
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
If you're a fan of music, get out there and see local bands and musicians. If you like what you see and hear, tell your friends, buy some songs, and let them know that they created something that moved you in some way. There's no greater compliment to a musician than hearing that they reached another human with their special combination of notes from their soul.

Thanks to Gary and Music Street Journal for keeping music alive and current! We appreciate the hard work you do. 
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 6 at
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