The past two years have been difficult for everybody, but especially those whose livelihood has been affected by the pandemic. Bassist, iconic producer, and sonic visionary Bill Laswell becomes the latest to fall victim to the vagaries of these crazy times.
Dealing with a whole host of preexisting health conditions, Bill’s musical output has been seriously curtailed by Covid, which is basically a death sentence should he be infected. With the risk too great, he has not been able to keep up his usual pace, working alongside other musicians and engineers in his Jersey studio. The pandemic has also forced him to cancel live appearances at European festivals, where he has generated the bulk of his income. To add insult to injury, he is now desperately searching for a place to live after getting evicted from his current Manhattan home. He is also struggling to hold on to the lease for Orange Music, the legendary New Jersey studio that he has helmed for the last 20 years. Bill is putting the call out to all fans, friends, and fellow artists: If you can help, please chip in. It’s NOW or NEVER, and no contribution is too small.
As an artist and producer, Bill Laswell really needs no introduction. Though managing to operate largely out of view of the mainstream, he has collaborated with the giants in practically every genre of music—from Miles Davis to Mick Jagger, Bob Marley to Bootsy Collins, to name but a few. His underground sensibilities first collided with commercial success when he produced the Grammy-award-winning “Rock It” for Herbie Hancock in 1983, a gargantuan hit that helped hip-hop crossover to the mainstream. At this point, he could have moved to L.A. and cashed in, but chose to stay in New York and later, New Jersey, keeping it real as he worked with both stars and unknown artists from around the planet. In doing so, he demonstrated his very real commitment to music as art and art as a weapon.
Orange Music, the studio Bill moved to in 1998 after getting priced out of rapidly-gentrifying Greenpoint, Brooklyn, has a storied history of its own. Supposedly built in the late 60s for Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, it was originally called Vantone Studio. In the 70s, groups like Jethro Tull, Humble Pie, Brooklyn Bridge, and Carole King recorded there. In the 80s, the studio, renamed Grand Slam Studios, hosted such luminaries as Aerosmith and George Benson. When Laswell took over the space, he brought with him his international cast of colorful characters, producing such artists as Tabla Beat Science, Sly & Robbie, Matisyahu, Bernie Worrell, and the inimitable Lee “Scratch” Perry. As a maverick in his field, he has always supported other independent artists, who, like himself, are striving for something further, deeper, and real. In such a capacity he has always opened the studio to other independent artists and labels—including John Zorn (Tzadik), Rare Noise (UK), Meta Records, TUM Records, and True Groove. So, many stand to lose if Bill cannot hold onto Orange Music.
Bill’s entire career has been a powerful statement of art over commerce. He has helped out countless artists over the years–always generous and unselfish when others have needed his help. While money has never been an issue, Bill now needs our help. Please contribute anything you can.
DONATE TO BILL’S FUND: HERE