Praxis Return From Hiatus With Album Worthy of 'Worship' -- Song Premiere
A full 16 years have passed since the last proper Praxis album, 'Metatron,' was released -- at least according to the band's experimental funk/jazz-metal bassist Bill Laswell, a longtime fixture in the New York underground. Discographies on various websites note a 1998 album called 'Mold,' the EP '1984' and a couple of live records, but Laswell insists the band's new disc 'Profanation: Preparing for a Coming Darkness' marks the genuine return of Praxis as an adventurous unit featuring guitarist Buckethead (ex-Guns N' Roses), bassist Brain (Primus) and a revolving door of guest musicians.
"Praxis was never meant to be seen as a band," Laswell explained to Noisecreep. "It's a project, and projects come together a little differently. Projects don't grow up together or get tired of each other. They're always new, and they have moveable parts. In the case of this record, we did it in our own studio and through the mail sending CDs back and forth, and if we did it today, we'd probably just do it over email."
Like past Praxis records, 'Profanation' includes bizarre, creative and stellar performances from a variety of friends and fans, including Iggy Pop, Serj Tankian, Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton, the late hip-hop performance artist Rammellzee and Deli Creeps frontman Maximum Bob. The latter contributed vocals to 'Worship,' which Noisecreep is proud to premiere.
Noisecreep recently had the pleasure of talking with Laswell about Pop's fascination with the vengeance of the Furies, Tankian's penchant for adventurous excursions, the refreshing humor of Rammellzee and why -- after releasing two jawdropping albums in 1994, 'Sacrifist' and 'Metatron' -- it took Praxis so long to create a proper follow-up.
Briefly explain the history of Praxis.
I first used the name [Praxis] on a sampling project for [Celluloid [Records in 1984], and because that was all tape and sounds thrown together, I thought it would relate to do the same thing with musicians. So I just kept the name, and we did the first [album 'Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis)'] with Bootsy [Collins in 1992].
The nucleus then became the trio, which was bass, drums and guitar, augmented occasionally by turntables [by DJ Disk] or keyboards [by Bernie Worrell]. There have been gigs under the name Praxis, where it might be me, [guitarist] Buckethead and [drummer] Brain or another one with me; Buckethead and [drummers] Cindy Blackman or Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins). The only person who's been in all of them was me, but it's always just a name that you put on a project.
Why did 'Profanation' take so long to create, and wasn't it originally scheduled for release on Sanctuary Records in 2005?
'Profanation' took a while to happen because we were doing a lot of live stuff over the years. There's no absolute reason for it, but it went into a time where there was other activity for myself and the people who had been part of that nucleus, with groups like Guns 'N Roses, Tabla Beat Science and a lot more.
'Profanation' also took at least a year to make, because a lot of it was planned before it happened. And when people say this was originally for Sanctuary and they didn't get it, that's a misconception, too. This is not the record for Sanctuary. We gave Sanctuary a Praxis record, and this one was not it.
We handed in a live record from Bonnaroo, and that was the one they would have put out. That's a fact that I've always wanted to straighten out. It's true that I initially planned this for Sanctuary, but they folded way before this was coming together.
'Furies' features guest vocals from Iggy Pop. What was the inspiration for that song?
It really comes from the lyrics, which Iggy wrote, and it's about the three Furies from Greek mythology. What I remember about the story is that the Furies represent vengeance, but the concept for the song is his.
Beyond that, we recorded the music first. In fact, we did all the tracks on the album as a session first, without recording any vocals. Some of the vocalists we recorded at the studio, and others sent us what they did. Iggy recorded his vocals in Florida, and then we sent versions back and forth.
Did you know Iggy from an earlier encounter?
I worked with him on a solo record he did in the late '80s called 'Instinct.' I think I first met him in '86, after the [Public Image Ltd] record came out. He had mentioned it to somebody I knew, so I had heard that he was into that.
That was the beginning of the connection. But I did a few things with Iggy around that time. One of them was a duet for a John Cage tribute, and another was a track with him doing vocals for Ryuichi Sakamoto on the 'Neo Geo' record, which ended up being used for a Nissan commercial and got a lot of exposure in Japan. I also invited him to do narration on a record called 'Hashishin,' where he read the text of William Burroughs, with the subject being Hassan-I-Sabbah. That was a little later. So we've known each other for a while.
What do you think about his vocals on the track? Were they what you expected?
I just thought it was unique for him, because he goes through a couple of different characters on the performance. I thought that made it really special for him. It wasn't just his low voice, which a lot of people know him for now, but he's also doing some really aggressive singing, and I hadn't heard him do that in a long time.
So I was really surprised, in a good way, that he brought that to the track. And when you think about it, the approach he takes is reflective of the 'Furies' title -- he's pulling out at least three different characters on the performance.
You have other guest vocalists on the album. What did Mike Patton and Serj Tankian contribute to 'Profanation?'
Mike worked on the track called 'Larynx.' I originally met him through John Zorn, and we've done a lot of live stuff together. What he's doing there is more about vocal sounds rather than lyrics. With this particular project, I imagined using a lot of voice, but it didn't have to be with lyrics or in a traditional song form. So we sent Mike a track that was fairly aggressive, and he did pretty much what I imagined he would do.
How about Serj?
With Serj, who's on 'Sulfur and Cheese,' I had done a remix for him and we had met several times and talked about doing more, and this was the first time. I felt that he was moving more and more toward being experimental, which is a good thing. He's someone I'm still in touch with. In fact, with all these people, there's a relationship. Nobody was chased down or cornered or begged or paid a lot. There's nothing too far-fetched -- it's all related.
Is this the last record that Rammellzee did vocals for before he died of a lingering illness last June?
You can definitely say one of the last. What he did on here we recorded with him, as we always did -- again, the backing tracks were laid out first and structured -- and Rammellzee was always spontaneous. There's nothing written, pre-conceived or pre-arranged. He would just do it, and then we'd structure it later. There's a lot of humor in what he does, and it just keeps coming, but to me the spontaneity is the key to it.