Bill Laswell Biography

12 February 1955, Salem, Illinois, USA. Laswell started playing guitar but later switched to bass. He was, he has said, more interested in being in a band than in playing music, but in the 70s he became more committed and has since organized some of the most challenging bands in recent popular music, including Material, Curlew (with Tom Cora, Nicky Skopelitis and George Cartwright), Praxis, Arcana (with Derek Bailey and Tony Williams) and Last Exit (with Sonny Sharrock, Peter Brötzmann and Ronald Shannon Jackson). For the Material album, The Third Power, he assembled a band including Shabba Ranks, the Jungle Brothers, Herbie Hancock, Sly And Robbie and Fred Wesley. Laswell and Hancock had already worked together, in Last Exit (on The Noise Of Trouble) and on two Hancock albums which he produced: on Future Shock in particular the ‘backing band’ was effectively Material.

Laswell has established several adventurous record labels, including OAO, Celluloid and Axiom. The latter was formed in 1990 to facilitate the release of Laswell’s experiments in ambient and techno. His collaborations in this field include work with such artists as Pete Namlook, Klaus Schulze, Buckethead and DJ Spooky. In the late 90s, Laswell began to explore drum ‘n’ bass, including the trance dub vehicle Sacred System. He also inaugurated his ‘reconstruction and mix translation’ series, applying the concept to such artists as Bob Marley, Miles Davis and Santana. In addition, he has produced for a wide range of people, including Iggy Pop, Motörhead, Laurie Anderson, Fela Kuti, Gil Scott-Heron, Yellowman, Afrika Bambaataa, Yoko Ono, Public Image Limited, Mick Jagger, Nona Hendryx, James ‘Blood’ Ulmer, and Manu Dibango.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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