Ladysmith - Tanner



(Photo by Tony D., courtesy BandShe)

Tell me about BandShe. When did that one start?

About two years ago. I've been in there about two years. There's a few different subs, and we had a few changes, and we've been playing casinos and private parties and things like that.

Is this the first all-female band you've done?

Yeah. Before, I was usually "the chick" in the band, so this is kind of a new thing. And then it helped spawn the Ladysmith thing, too, because I met Robin and Jen, and checked out Cheap Chick and was completely blown away by them. A lot of talent.

How would you describe what BandShe does?

It's six female musicians, not playing to tracks. Everybody sings, playing music from the 70s to today. We're kind of like a human jukebox, we just kind of go from one song to another. It's like a jukebox, really.

Based on what I've heard from you folks, it seemed to be to be a bit of a rock-based funk sound. Is that a fair assessment?

Rock-based funk? Yeah! We do a lot of disco, too, but ... Rock-based funk. Yeah, I like that. That would be safe to say, Tom, I think.

I noticed that you have an old (Precision) bass, right?

Yeah. It's a '75 P-Bass. It's amazing.

So much for the "CBS era" (Fenders) not being good, right?

Yeah, right (laughs). But this one, I mean, everyone who has picked it up has fallen in love with it. It's amazing. And you can't find one like that now. It's very special.

Well, it's always been that way. Before the CBS era, there were a few that weren't so good, and then all those years that CBS owned Fender - 20 years or whatever it was - even though CBS changed a lot of things, and the overall quality probably went down considerably, once in a while you'd find one that's as good as any Fender ever made.

Right. Yeah. This is definitely one of those. And this has a Jazz neck on it. So it must be a custom. I mean, I haven't really researched the serial number too much. I mean, it hasn't been modified - that's how it came - so if it was modified, it was done very discreetly, because I've had luthiers look at it.


(Photo by Victor Moller)

Right.

When I first started (with bass) I bought one of the reissue Danelectro Longhorns, but (laughs) it's too tiny for my hands.

(Laughs)

I mean, it sounds good, but I just can't do the short-scale thing, apparently. But yeah, (the P-Bass) is definitely going to be the Ladysmith bass.

You have another one you play a lot, a Music Man?

Yeah, the Bongo. That's a good bass, too. The cover tunes that we do, the funk and the rock, plus having six people and the keyboards and all the vocals, I need something that really cuts through, and that Music Man does. It's got two active pickups that are just gigantic.

What do you run those through?

Usually I run it through an Ashdown that's a little bit more compact, otherwise I have an Ampeg SVT. With four 10s.

And that drummer has to feel like a midget next to you.

(Laughter) Yeah, she's a tiny, tiny, tiny little Filipino girl (laughs).

But, one of the best drummers I've ever heard, he's a little bitty guy, but he can slap the daylights out of those drums.

(Laughs) That's really not that uncommon. Bass players are usually tall, and the drummers, when they come out from behind their kit, a lot of 'em are short (laughs).


(Photo by Pierluiggi Bonvicini, courtesy Krassimir)

And there's another project you were involved in recently, performing with Krassimir. Tell me about him.

He is a Bulgarian popera singer/artist.

You might want to explain what "popera" is.

Pop meets opera, equals popera. He is one of the creators of this genre of music if not the creator.

I see.

He has a four-octave range, and his music is pop/rock/world beat. He is really exciting to perform with, as his band can include up 80 musicians, dancers and singers. The show at the Kodak Theater (in May) included stilt dancers, Bulgarian choir, Middle Eastern singers, a sorod player - which is kind of like a sitar but don't tell the sorod player that - percussion, Japanese taiku drums.

Wow.

I mean, really, we were giving Cirque du Soleil a run for its money. I am looking forward to touring Europe and possibly a stint in Vegas with him.

With all these different instruments, and such a different style, how does this change your approach?

The way that I approach playing Krassimir's music is ... My primary function is to make his music bounce. There is a lot of low end - be it keyboards, double bass, cello - already playing similar bass lines or notes, but there is an aspect of house/trance/world beat and my job is to make it bounce. I hope that I am making everyone's booty bounce, even if it's in their seat.

I can't afford to bounce anymore; I'd probably burst. So Ladysmith came after you met Robin?

Yeah. Well, for starters, Jen, who is the rhythm guitarist - she's our Brad Whitford - she was in BandShe for awhile. So I knew Jen. And then I saw Cheap Chick play at the Knitting Factory in L.A., and this is before I met Robin. And actually I ended up going with Judy (Cocuzza, Cheap Chick drummer) to audition for another band, and thought that she was just one of the best drummers I'd played with.

Right.

So, it happens that, Robin and Jen started talking about putting together this band, and gave me a call to see if I'd be interested. And I was, "Let's do it!" I mean, Aerosmith! What a great tribute band (this is) gonna be, when we finally start playing a lot of shows, which is gonna happen.

What is your general take on tribute bands? You can get a little too campy with this stuff.

Yeah, absolutely (laughs).

What is your approach going to be with Ladysmith?

Well, the first thing is, I really enjoy ... I didn't even realize, going through these songs, I grew up hearing them ... It's really fun to go through them and learn them. Then, obviously, that's not enough for me, I want to build the chemistry with the other members. We want to be true to the songs but we also want to make (them) our own, slightly, you know?

Right.

I mean, there's a balance. Because I've been playing with the cover band scene, and all this blah-blah-blah-blah, and I see people do it exactly like it is, or what they think is exactly what it is, spot-on, right?

Right.

Which some people can do, you know. Or, they try to make it their own. But if you go too far in either direction, it's not really genuine, it's either too sterile or it's like you hardly recognize it at all (laughs).

Right.

So, there's got to be a balance. I think it's a lot of fun, to do it.


(Photo by Jessica Carey)

What about the fact that so much of what Aerosmith does is so heavy on the macho factor?

You mean, a lot of machismo?

Yeah.

Well, I think it's sexy for women to play rock and roll music, in their own, powerful way. It's very empowering. I don't really look at it in terms of being masculine, necessarily. I think it's powerful, you know?

I was thinking more in terms of lyrics.

Oh, lyrically? Well, that's kind of tongue-in-cheek, really. It's going to be interesting to see how (Leslie) handles it, whether she changes the gender or not, but ... I mean it's sexuality. It's the year 2006, so you can pretty much take what you want out of it, you know what I mean?

Where do you see this going?

Well, I really hope that we get to do a lot of the things that Cheap Chick has done. In terms of how they've gotten to travel and play a lot of shows and have a lot of publicity. I think going in that direction would be a lot of fun. But, I think (with) Aerosmith's music, I think there's a lot more dynamics. I can see having a catalog of 50 songs that we could pull from, you know? Instead of just 10 or 15. They've got so many great songs. So, for me, personally, that's what I'd like to do, is do a lot of traveling and play as many shows as possible. Have fun; that's ultimately it.

Are you doing any original music now?

I'm trying to. I've been playing so much in bands and then actually working that I actually haven't had an opportunity to write. And now I'm actually teaching, too, but yeah, I'm trying to. Every time Robin and I get together to start working on Aerosmith songs we start working on original riffs, too. It's going to be fun. Hopefully something will come out of that.

Sounds like you're going in the right direction for it.

Yeah. Absolutely. But, yeah, that's the goal, ultimately. I want to get out there and write more.

And maybe, somewhere down the line, headline at the (Savvis) Center in St. Louis, maybe?

Sure! Absolutely (laughs).


(Photo by Victor Moller)

More on Tanner:

www.ladysmithrocks.com

www.bandshe.com

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