Sunday, June 25 , 2017, 1:36 pm | Fair 73º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Terry Bozzio on Art, Music and Poetry

The drummer will present a collaboration with poet Todd Griese in Camarillo on July 1

Catch drummer Terry Bozzio at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo on July 1 for his new project, a collaboration with poet Todd Griese. Click to view larger
Catch drummer Terry Bozzio at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo on July 1 for his new project, a collaboration with poet Todd Griese. (Jeff Moehlis photo)

It's well known that Frank Zappa had the highest standards for musicians in his band, so drummer Terry Bozzio's membership in that select group starting in 1975 is a true badge of honor. Bozzio can be heard on Zappa albums including Bongo Fury, Zoot Allures, Zappa in New York and Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar.

Bozzio went on to co-found the band Missing Persons, which fused top-notch musicianship with New Wave sensibilities to give us songs like "Words," "Destination Unknown" and "Walking in L.A." A quintessential '80s band, they released three albums before breaking up in 1986.

Another notable gig for Bozzio was playing on Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop album, which is widely regarded as one of the guitarist's best.

A new project for Bozzio is a collaboration with poet Todd Griese, which you can catch at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 1 at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo. Click here for more information. The event is free.

Bozzio talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming event and more.

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Jeff Moehlis: Can you tell us a bit about the project that you and Todd will be presenting at Studio Channel Islands?

Terry Bozzio: We've known each other for about 10 years, and he's a really close friend, a very spiritual guy. He's been a source of emotional support for me for a long time. I got his book of poetry [Spiritual Lines] a few years ago, and I thought it was great, and then he approached me about us doing a project together for Channel Islands art studio. I said, "Yeah, that'd be great," because he knows I've been painting.

I thought at first it was just going to be him showing his poetry on his broadsides, which have natural pictures because his poetry is very nature-oriented and he talks a lot about the California Central Coast, and I'm a native Californian so his words resonated with me that way as well. And then I'd show my art, and it was just going to be two separate friends having a gallery show. But it turned into this collaboration that just went far beyond what both of our expectations were.

To begin with, in terms of music, I said, "Why don't you just speak into an iPhone, and send me some of your poems and I'll see what I can do?" Because, I mean, these days with technology if you didn't like his take, we could re-record the voice later if I could write some music to it. Actually, the voice was great and it inspired me, and the music just started flowing out of his words, and I composed 22 compositions now to go along with his poetry. So that became something I'm really excited about as a musician, which is the main thing that I do.

And then, I didn't think my kind of weird, abstract paintings would fit with his poetry, which has this natural resonance, but he's all about contrast, so he chose a poem and chose one of my paintings — my paintings have a lot of space so we were able to fit the poems in there beautifully. He has a friend that I met at Arts Alive, who can do the graphics to put the poem on the painting, and we were away.

And then, we got into the idea of what we were going to do live and perform. He had a couple of things that I could do live and accompany his poetry. Then I was playing the drums on "One," which is sort of a Beat poet thing, and that kind of fit, and another poem I played my gongs on. Then it was easy to mute the voice and make another copy of the music so he could speak over it, and he learned how to pace himself with the music so it stays in sync. That's what we did at Arts Alive as a teaser for this upcoming gallery show.

So it was a very intuitive and subconscious and natural process. Everything just flowed out of that.

JM: It's probably hard to believe, but the Missing Persons Spring Session M album turns 35 years old this year. What are your reflections on that album?

TB: Oh man, I think we were a great bunch of people, and we had our 15 minutes of fame. But the music was deep. We messed with a lot of other musicians' heads by doing that — you know, coming from Zappa and extremely out there, to honing something popular that raised people's eyebrows. I mean, first you have Ken Scott, who's a fantastic producer and a dear friend, one of the nicest guys I've ever met in my life. His bedside manner as producer was just phenomenal — you know, he just made us all feel comfortable. We had a strange kind of music, but there was a groove and we worked within the confines of what we wanted to do in terms of making it unique and different, but within the realm of New Wave and the '80s stuff that was going on.

JM: What do you have in the works?

TB: I've got a lot. The art show on July 1 and running through the month of July with Todd and I is one thing, and we'll have a CD of my music composed to his poetry available at that show.

And then this month I'm going to update on my website my solo project from 1991, which is something I think you'd be interested in, talking about jazz. It's a bunch of drum tracks I did with sections and solo sections and breakdowns and things like that with a beat box, just me and drums in a studio. We recorded about seven to nine things, and I've got enough now to release them all. It's taken me years. Some things I started overdubbing on right away, and other things I just finished last month. It's some really great drumming a la Terry Bozzio at that time, kind of a missing link between Jeff Beck and, say, The Lonely Bears, Polytown, and Melodic Drumming and the Ostinato. So that was done in '91, and I just finished composing to it. I'll release that on my website for download.

Then, I've got this History of Terry Bozzio project, which is coming out. I did that last year in Japan. That's about 20 of the best songs, and some very famous guys like Akira [Takasaki] from Loudness and the keyboard player from B'z [Takanobu Masuda], and some horn players and other guitarists and a couple of famous bass players. We did a history of my life. It starts with some solo drum music, then three tunes from my Composer Series album, which is that big music and art box set thing — 60 compositions and a painting to go with each composition — and then we went back and we did "Some Skunk Funk" by the Brecker Brothers, a Zappa tune "The Black Page." We did six Jeff Beck tunes, a bunch of BLS [Bozzio Levin Stevens] tunes, and then we did Missing Persons.

I sang "Walking in L.A." and "Mental Hopscotch," and sang some U.K. tunes, sang some Billy Sheehan and Terry Bozzio stuff, and one other group is in there that I can't remember right now. But anyway, it's kind of a smattering of all the projects I've done over my life. So that's a big DVD, and I'm just going through the final edit of it right now to approve it, and then it'll be released. So that's what's coming out for me. And a European tour in the fall.

Click here for the full interview with Terry Bozzio, including more on working with Frank Zappa, Missing Persons and Jeff Beck.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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