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Bill Laswell

A longtime linchpin of the New York City underground music scene, Bill Laswell has been among the most prolific artists in contemporary music; as a performer, producer, and label chief, his imprint is on literally hundreds of albums, the majority of them characterized by a signature sound fusing the energy of punk with the bone-rattling rhythms of funk. Born on February 12, 1955, in Salem, IL, he initially played guitar, but soon switched to bass; raised primarily in the Detroit area, he honed his skills in local funk outfits before relocating to New York in 1978. There Laswell formed Material, an outlet for his experimental approach toward sounds ranging from jazz to hip-hop to worldbeat; originally the backup unit for Daevid Allen, the group soon began working on its own, issuing its debut EP Temporary Music in 1979.

In addition to fronting Material, Laswell also mounted a solo career, issuing Baselines in 1982 on Celluloid, a label he partly owned and operated. Appearances on key recordings by the likes of David Byrne, John Zorn, Fred Frith, and the Golden Palominos established Laswell as a virtual nexus of the downtown N.Y.C. community, and in 1983 he broke into the mainstream with his production work on Herbie Hancock's smash "Rockit," which he also co-wrote; the follow-up LP, Sound-System, won him a Grammy. Throughout the mid-'80s Laswell was everywhere, playing bass on LPs from artists including Mick Jagger, Peter Gabriel, Yoko Ono, and Laurie Anderson; he also joined the avant group Curlew, and produced a number of African acts.

In 1986, Laswell joined guitarist Sonny Sharrock, drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann in the group Last Exit; a second solo LP, Hear No Evil, appeared two years later, and after a long hiatus he also resurrected Material in 1989 with Seven Souls. Another project, the hip-hop-flavored Praxis, was resumed after close to a decade of inactivity with 1992's Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis). In 1990, Laswell formed another label, Axiom, to explore his interest in the new sounds of ambient and techno; where in the past his work rarely appeared solely under his own name, by the middle of the decade he was issuing several solo records annually in a wide range of styles from dub to jazz. He also remained among the most prolific producers in the business, collaborating with the likes of Dub Syndicate, Pete Namlook, Buckethead, and DJ Spooky.

In 2004, Laswell signed a multi-album label deal with the Sanctuary Records group. The deal spawned his new label, Nagual. He also began to collaborate on a series of drum'n'bass-styled recordings with Submerged (aka Kurt Gluck of the Ohm Resistance imprint), the first of these -- attributed to Bill Laswell vs. Submerged -- was entitled Brutal Calling and issued by Avant in 2004 with contributions from Toshinori Kondo and Guy Licata. Through the Sanctuary label's earlier acquisition of the seminal reggae label Trojan, Laswell now had access to the Jamaican label's sizable back catalog. Picking some of his favorite cuts and remixing them, Laswell issued the Trojan-sourced Dub Massive: Chapter One and Chapter Two in May 2005. The Only Way to Go Is Down followed on Sublight Records in 2006.

Laswell and Submerged re-teamed under the Method of Defiance moniker for 2007's Inamorata, on Ohm Resistance. This date found the pair teaming various drum'n'bass producers -- Amit, Paradox, Submerged, Future Prophecies, Karsh Kale, Evol Intent, SPL, Outrage, Fanu, and Corrupt Souls -- with jazz, rock, and avant artists such as Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, Pharoah Sanders, Nils Petter Molvaer, Kondo, and Buckethead. Laswell (as Method of Defiance) also released a collaboration with Finnish producer Fanu on Ohm Resistance entitled Lodge, which includes contributions from Molvaer and Bernie Worrell. The notion of a live band created around the Method of Defiance structure was initiated with participation from Laswell, Worrell, Kondo, Licata, and Dr. Israel. The group was documented on Nihon from the RareNoise imprint in 2009.

In 2010, Laswell initiated a new label called M.O.D. Technologies. Said to be centered around the principles of a solidified Method of Defiance lineup, the label released three albums: Method of Defiance's Jahbulon (a reggae album featuring Hawk and Dr. Israel), the instrumental dub-centric Incunabula, and a live offering from Laswell's spouse, Gigi, with Material, entitled Mesgana Ethiopia. Laswell collaborated with master reggae and Radical Jewish Culture bassist/composer David Gould on a dub version of the latter's 2009 album Feast of the Passover. The new recording, entitled Dub of the Passover, was issued by Tzadik in 2011. Metastation released Aspiration, an electronic album billed to Bill Laswell & Friends (including Alice Coltrane, Carlos Santana, Pharoah Sanders, and Zakir Hussain) -- the tunes were dedicated to the ensemble members' own inspirational figures, including H.H. Dalai Lama XIV, Sonny Sharrock, Rumi, and Pattabhi Jois. ~ Jason Ankeny & Thom Jurek, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Version 2 Version: A Dub Transmission

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Track List: Roir Dub Sessions

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Track List: Sacred System: Book Of Exit - Dub Chamber 4

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Track List: Sacred System: Chapter Two

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Track List: Sacred System Chapter One: Book Of Entrance

Comments

diazomar1
me tinking me feelin da jam goin true me hed an me soul
His Sounds are Expansive!
Rastaman on a LSD....lol
Never heard of this guy till now... Excellent guitar work!!
1.kiss your left hand
2.say your crushes name
3.say a school day
4.close your hand
5.say your name
6.open your hand and look at it
7.post this to at least 15 other songs and your chrush will ask you out the school day you said.
The sounds of brilliance.
seawild
Keep them coming Bill!
..the godhead.
If I had to choose just one on Pandora or any dora...it is Bill Laswell.
An artist's artist.
stilljohnny
hitting
Smooth and laid back. Puts you in a trance
luv al this mans stuff and there is so much thank you BILL...the late W.Houston sang for him on ONE DOWN....a long time a ago kids
step aside....and let this man come throgh
This is what we call a real Artist.
smooth dubstep in the movement of ska luv
Beyond SICK........
SICK!!!!
Bill Laswell - what a smooth, transcendent a l genius. MATERIAL- my first introduction to Bill and I've been religiously following his musical path ever since.
jeanjacque3
...no mention of him discovering and producing his wife, GiGi, a major pop artist from Ethiopia in 2001. Her debut album was considered phenomenal in world music and Afrobeat circles. check it out.
methinks therefor meam - like marmalade soup!
If I had to pick just one...it would be the godhead Bill Laswell.
Wanna explore this artist some more...
keep going!
wena saludos de suramerica!
This is what i'm looking for... music that keeps expanding beyond genres boarders into a cohesive evolution.
Excellent.
sweeping errant corners where those little grommets have gone before.
wow! so prolific!
If I had to pick just one, it is Bill hands down.
dreams of freedom is one of my all time favorite albums
doubleyou down sir
vonlyn44
long time chill time artist for me
inet143
The whole bio is in the past tense - "Bill Laswell was among the most prolific artists in contemporary music;" and ends in 2005. So I had to check Wikipedia to make sure he wasn't dead! Doesn't anyone edit/proofre a d these things?
dsch126
Breathe deep.....rel a x . . . . . . . T h a n k you! Bill
Wow, Bill. I think ALL of today's dj's listened to yo stuff and then decided what they wanted to do with their sound!!
This man makes me feel like my life has a soundtrack. My love, I love.
vonlyn44
his music takes me to that healing place
I'm completely blown away. I must have this.
mkarpey
love the dub on this
This is some mutha funkin good stuff

bcimagegroup
this man and his music transcend any description ... listen mindfully and love baby
jdollarhite
Great meditation and spiritual work. Goose bumps ! WOW !
Amazing! A new genre cultural fusion of sounds.
You are a master in your own element. Thank you for gracing my ears for so many years and giving me inspiration!
tight.
f**k Laswell.

only because he's that good.
Panthalassa is one of the finest non-classica l experiences in Western music. Or more humbly put, one of the best things I've ever, ever heard.
PRAXIS!!!!
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