Two critical skills producer, bassist and composer Bill Laswell has emphasized and evolved across his nearly 40-year career are the abilities to adapt and improvise. Whether it’s within the music itself, dealing with mercurial musicians or facing the reality of changing business models, Laswell is a survivor. He continues to give shape to the amorphous across all fronts.
Laswell has helmed hundreds of records and projects, and influenced generations of musicians, producers and listeners. His openness to capturing what happens in the moment, including sometimes accepting mistakes as serendipitous opportunities, is key. His ability to mediate opposing creative and business forces is also critical to his success.
Much of Laswell’s philosophy is derived from a dub mindset. Negative space, drone, ambience, and dark rhythms are prime drivers in a great proportion of output under his own name, as well as shifting lineups that have recorded as Material, Praxis and Sacred System. Laswell is just as deft at propelling rock, pop, funk, metal, and jazz artists beyond their comfort zones. He also works with musicians from across the planet, capturing them as soloists, within traditional group contexts and meshing them with artists from other cultures.
The list of legendary names Laswell has collaborated with is epic, including Laurie Anderson, Afrika Bambaataa, Ginger Baker, Herbie Hancock, Whitney Houston, Zakir Hussain, John Lydon, Motorhead, Pharoah Sanders, Tony Williams, and John Zorn. The lesser-known, boundary-breaking names are no less important, such as Last Poets, The Master Musicians of Jajouka, Sonny Sharrock, Jah Wobble, Bernie Worrell, and Hideo Yamaki.