Artistic Integrity

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Mark Gollihur, Jul 25, 2000.

  1. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Gloucester County, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    Greetings, Michael!

    Just FYI, I first saw you many years ago. (It was before I -- or most mainstream bassists -- knew who you were.) I imagine it was either late 80's or early nineties, as I was still in college. You played with Montreaux at my school, Glassboro State/Rowan College in Southern New Jersey. I sat right in the front row, and truly enjoyed the performance (which included a dual-bass song.) This was pre-Zon - I believe you had a fretless Stingray and a fretted Steinberger. Anyway, just thought you'd like to know I've been following your career with great interest since then. [​IMG]

    As a fellow (bass) toy collector, I've always enjoyed watching you stretch the boundaries of bass playing, including multiple basses, E-Bows, wild tuning gadgets, 3-octave necks, and looping devices. While a lot of the fun stuff I use (Funk Fingers, E-Bow, eight string bass, MIDI bass, etc.) is specifically to achieve a certain sound I hear in my head, I have to admit that much of the appeal comes from the raised eyebrows in the audience ("dude - that guy has DRUMSTICKS on his fingers!") Do you think that some of the appeal of your gimmickry and unusual techniques (four basses at once?!?) is at least partially driven by a devilish desire to shock the audience and create a buzz
    among envious bassists?

    If so, do you find that to be a driving force to improve, or an impedement to your (or my) artistic integrity? I mean, c'mon - no one listens to Steve Vai or Billy Sheehan for the songs. They listen to hear them shred. And I admit that often my agenda when dropping "Thonk" into my deck is to impress friends & marvel at the spectacular chops and pyrotechnics. (Though I do like most of the tracks for their "song value" too.)

    IMHO, I think you must be "driven to impress" to some degree. Why else would the liner notes for "Purple Haze" say (not verbatim) "Recorded in one take with no overdubs or unusual effects." If we're listening just for the song, we shouldn't care how much virtuosity went into its recording.

    So, while I don't really have a quantifiable question, per se, I'd love to hear your thoughts concerning chops and toys versus artistic integrity.

    Thanks for creating your wonderful & intriguing music and being an inspiration to stretch the boundaries of bass-ness.

    Mark Gollihur
    Bassist, Second Story
  2. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Thanks for such thought-provoking comments, Mark! I'd have to say that I'm not particularly interested in shocking people, but it is fun to think that what I do might be a source of amusement for those who are so inclined. I am interested, however, in opening my own mind to new experiences, ideas, possibilities, expressions and emotions. I look for ways that I can use the bass to explore and express something about who we are and what it feels like to be alive at this time. We live in extraordinary times, so in my opinion, conventional methods are not always adequate to make relevant music. Like you, much of my motivation for experimentation comes from an irresistible desire to realize the sounds I hear in my head and in fact, I'm often quite surprised by what listeners find to be shocking and what they don't!

    Actually, I consider the need to expand one's creative horizons and find new and innovative means of expression essential ingredients of artistic integrity and pretty much all of my artistic heroes have been considered shocking in some way or other at some point, whether that's their intention or not. I strive to live up to even a small percentage of their creative courage and vision, so the shock value/artistic integrity dichotomy doesn't trouble me too much. I think you're right to question it, though, because the attention you get for being novel can be pretty intoxicating and can tend to cloud your artistic sensibilities if you're not careful. My solution is to try not to obsess about it too much one way or the other and just enjoy making music that captures my imagination. Like everything else about creativity, it's a fine line to walk! I don't really have a problem with art that's main intention is to shock and I greatly admire the Zen concept of using shock as a means of awakening the mind to higher awareness. However, I'd say my main focus is primarily toward trying to find something meaningful and beautiful in this extraordinarily expressive instrument we play, the potential of which remains largely untapped.

    I'm sorry for the little disclaimer that appears on my records about the solo tunes being recorded in one take. I've actually been inclined to leave it off many times, but I've always been talked out of it by somebody or other and ended up deciding just to have fun with it. It's that "fine line" thing again!

    I know a lot of people are entertained by being shocked and I think it's pretty cool when an artist can succeed in being moving and entertaining at the same time, like when a movie has great special effects AND a great story line, acting, cinematography, script AND message. I have no illusions about the fact that an awful lot of folks leave my shows only remembering "that guy who played three basses at the same time," but if there is just one person out there who enjoyed the fun of the pyrotechnics and also heard something deeper and was genuinely moved, then I'm a very happy guy.

    Thanks for listening all these years!

  3. :D