Tony Levin

Stickin' with the Low-End
Stickin' with the Low-End

It’s not surprising that Tony Levin has always been a player of instruments in the low end of the sonic range. From his experiences with upright basses in classical and jazz music through his ongoing, innovative efforts with his Chapman Electric Sticks as well as his Music Man electric basses, Levin’s been a force to be reckoned with for decades. Small wonder he’s been heard on hundreds of albums, and has been the musical anchor for King Crimson, as well as Peter Gabriel’s band.

Levin now owns Papa Bear Records and has written a book titled Beyond the Bass Clef, which includes numerous commentaries, recollections, and tips… as well as Levin’s personal recipe for carrot cake.

However, a new album by the Tony Levin Band, Pieces of the Sun (Narada) was the primary impetus for VG‘s dialogue with the veteran bassist, but Levin was up for discussing all facets of his long career.

It’s not surprising that Tony Levin has always been a player of instruments in the low-end of the sonic range. From his experiences with upright basses in classical and jazz music through his ongoing, innovative efforts with his Chapman Electric Sticks as well as his Music Man electric basses, Levin’s been a force to be reckoned with for decades. Small wonder he’s been heard on hundreds of albums, and has been the musical anchor for King Crimson, as well as Peter Gabriel’s band.

Levin now owns Papa Bear Records and has written a book titled Beyond the Bass Clef, which includes numerous commentaries, recollections, and tips… as well as Levin’s personal recipe for carrot cake.

However, a new album by the Tony Levin Band, Pieces of the Sun (Narada) was the primary impetus for VG‘s dialogue with the veteran bassist, but Levin was up for discussing all facets of his long career.

Vintage Guitar: You aren’t a converted guitarist, like a lot of bassists…
Tony Levin: I’m a bass player from the beginning. I asked my parents awhile ago if they remembered what made me choose the bass back when I was about 11 years old; they said they asked me then, and I didn’t have a reason – I just liked it. It turned out to be a good decision, ’cause after 44 years I still just like playing the bass. It’s kinda lucky, I think, to be able to do what you enjoy.

You had an early affiliation with (drummer) Steve Gadd.
I went to college with Steve. He took me under his wing and showed me how to get the feel right when playing jazz; I’d been a classical player up till then. It must’ve been tough, with me always playing right in the middle of the beat, oblivious to the nuances going on around me.

When we both moved to New York in the ’70s, we got into recording and did quite a few records as a rhythm section. To me, the striking thing about Steve isn’t just that he plays the right thing, but that he is always learning from other players, practic