The improvisational music icon Billy Cobham is hitting the road but was gracious enough to field a few questions for us!
Compass Point is a remarkable release! In the liner notes you mention the logistical issues involved and the enormous amount of time this record sat on the shelf yet it remains a personal favorite of yours. Can you go into a little more detail as to why?
B.C. - "From what I remember about the incident that got me to focus upon the eventual release of Compass Point, the story presents all of the reasons why one should not do business in an island community without having a few safety backup plans in place in case something goes wrong at the last minute. I was naive and had no prior experience working in Bahamas as a contracted artist. I learned, that one must have a "godfather" of sorts, kind of behind the scenes, to help one navigate around all of the "invisible political pitfalls" awaiting you should one not know "the right people. When we arrived in New Providence much was done to accommodate us including the provisions of such basic things as a piano tuner and general logistical support in the initial stages of the performance presentations but as the hours grew into days and toward the end of the one week stay (I believe that was about the length of our time there) all good things turned sour: the piano tuner we needed to keep the instrument provided us in tune would not tune the piano, explaining that on the first day that he tune the instrument for us, he had won the local lottery and therefore stopped being a piano tuner (we believe on cue from a higher source) from that day forward. We all laughed and added this story to the many incidents and as our personal legendary tale of our experience in the Bahamas. This was just one small bit that lead to my not giving up on the eventual production and release of Compass Point but it also told me that I had to wait for science to come to the rescue. After about 15 years of waiting we have an end product thanks to software that can bring a musical instrument, once out of tune with itself into reasonably good sonic standing with a bit of TLC.
I used the term "fusion" as do many others in referring to your prolific influence on improvisational music. Fusion as most of us "40 something" and over know it has morphed into something more of a modern contemporary instrumental hybrid with a global beat. Did the or does the label of "fusion drummer" ever both(er?) you or do you simply accept it as an industry tag that you can't do much about?
B.C. - "I find that the tag is in the same category as all of the rest placed there by a faceless individual with a university degree showing his or her ability to put tags on anything in our society that requires a tag. Of course we all have to earn a living and our place in history so there we are. Does it bother me?................No.
Some may not be fully aware of your status as a highly respected educator. Given the enormity of your career and influence on other musicians - As a teacher, what is the most important thing you have learned from your students?
B.C. - "Very few absorb the lessons offered but the ones that do present my ideas through their actions and never through their words."
In your downtime or even on the road, who are you listening to today and where are you drawing your inspiration from?
B.C. - " No one in particular and my inspiration is drawn from my everyday experiences."
Finally...Are there any current plans for a new studio recording?
B.C. -"The next studio release for me is entitled "Tales From The Skeleton Coast". I hope to have it released after January 1, 2014."
I want to extend my sincere thanks to Billy Cobham and his publicist for making this happen!
Be sure and check out Billy Cobham tour dates and my review of Compass Point below: