Ask Willis - October - 1998

Hey Willis,
You guys are the best
cant wait for thick to come out
when are you going to do something like vital tech tones. you/mclaughlin/chambers would be awesome.
something to think about. keep up the good work.

Hey Ozzy,
Thanks. A project like that's not up to me, but those MacLaughlin time signatures are beyond my scope.....1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, Doh!
BTW, Benny Barnes was just going for the ball and should have never been flagged.
Dallas was robbed.

Hey Willis,
I'm trying to learn "Stoopid" but for heaven's sake I can't figure out the chord progression for the guitar solo. Please help. Thanks man! Vikings rule! Walid

Thanks Walid,
'Too bad the Cowboys passed up Randy Moss.
Randall obviously should have never quit his day job for that TV thing.

C7sus Db9 | D7alt Eb7sus | E13 F9 (#11) | Gb9
Gmill Gb9 | Fmill E7alt. | Ebmi11 D13 | Db9

Hey Willis,
thanx again...
But,to close my 'research',can you explain how things work when you 'hear' a line and then see it on the neck...Is that meaning I should practice and fine up my ear to directly sing with my axe, or it just requires the time of experience, by practicing and getting patterns in my head so that there's no think about?I would avoid doing the stupid 'pick a piano note and sing it'training system;I'm just against this accademical method of practice,being a bass player I would rather pick the bass and play things I really need to work on!!!What's you 0.02 cent? Francesco

Hey Francesco,
Here's my 32 Lyra: The bass fingerboard is symmetric. 'You learn a shape and anywhere you go on the neck that shape will have the same sound (interval relationships). Learn what different sounds "look" like and learn what different shapes "sound" like. Your singing voice is valuable as a "ruler" to measure if you're playing and seeing what you hear. Don't ignore it. Connect your ears to the fingerboard and you'll be able to play whatever you hear or imagine.
'Hope that makes sense,

Hey Willis,
Thanx for the page address,Btw here's the question n.1: Playing trough all that chord changes in many of tribal tech's tunes,how do you manage to not get lost? I mean,no cadences,no tonal centers to take as shortcuts and no time to think about. I already know what you gonna answer,you play by ear and feeling,but there must be a way by wich you accomplish this task,even without thinking about!!! Please don't answer the same way many did,when asked the way they solo. Many of them told me only they just sing...Sing? How can they sing certain 'angular'lines in real time and with no pause. I understand this can set a fire to every reader who thinks he has 'those'chops to solo no matter how difficult the tune is!!!!!

Ciao Francesco,
On the nights where I don't get lost;-) it's because we do have cadences and tone centers. Most of my solos in TT are over chord progressions or 1-chord vamps. You're right in that there's no time to think. Just like a language, you can't communicate freely if you're thinking about grammar, spelling, conjugation etc. One thing that helps is that I've memorized and learned to play over hundreds of tunes, a lot of them standards. Always try to practice playing over changes without the paper in front of you.
To answer your question about soloing. The most important thing I try to do in soloing is develop ideas (a rhythm & a shape). I'm only free to chase those ideas when I don't have to think about the chord progression or the neck. I've already mentioned memorizing progressions, the other thing is the neck. No matter where I am on the neck I can "see" the shapes that make up the key center and related sounds.
Here's what happens when I'm soloing, either I hear the idea and then I can see it, or I see the idea and then I hear it.
If I have to think about anything else: the next chord change, key center, scale, F#, Ab, whatever.... then I'm in trouble.
Do all your 'thinking' when you practice, then eventually, things like progressions, key centers, pitches, scales etc., will become subconscious. Then you'll be able to concentrate on your ideas. (sorry 'bout the long answer)

Hey Willis,
Dude! First of all let me say that you are incredible musician(you know this of course so I will cut it there). When are we going to get a live Tribal Tech CD? Hands down - you guys are the most explosive band out there. Your live performances are unparalleled. It would be great to immortalize that on CD. If you don't put out a CD, there has to be some way(legally) that I can obtain a live recording of your concerts. I'm not a bootlegger - just an intense music fan. Help me out... Thanx C.M

Thanx for the kind words. We've wanted to to a live CD for a while now, but it's usually more expensive to bring a 'studio' to a gig, vs. the band to the studio. The technology is getting cheaper and more portable so it should happen eventually. Meanwhile, hopefully "Thick" (ESC release in 1-99) will keep you from pulling off that Tower Records holdup you've been planning,