Bill Laswell
Bill Laswell at Moers Festival 2006, Germany
Bill Laswell at Moers Festival 2006, Germany
Background information
Born February 12 1955 (1955-02-12) (age 69)
Salem, Illinois, U.S.
Genre(s) Avant-garde
Occupation(s) Musician
Instrument(s) Bass
The Golden Palominos
Sacred System

Bill Laswell (born February 12, 1955 in Salem, Illinois and raised in Albion, Michigan) is an American bassist, producer and record label owner. He is married to Ethiopian singer Gigi.

Laswell ranks among the most prolific of musicians, being involved in hundreds of recordings with many musicians from all over the world. Laswell's music draws upon many different genres, most notably funk, various world music, jazz, dub and ambient styles. He has also played or produced music from the noisier, more aggressive end of the rock spectrum, like hardcore punk and metal. According to music critic Chris Brazier, "Laswell’s pet concept is 'collision music' which involves bringing together musicians from wildly divergent but complementary spheres and seeing what comes out."[1]


Laswell got his earliest professional experience as a bassist with funk groups in and around Detroit, Michigan. Laswell's first recording appearance was in 1978, playing bass for Michael Blaise and Cheater on a track titled "Scoring Power".

Moving to New York City in 1978, and soon founding a recording studio with producer/engineer Martin Bisi (of later indie rock renown), Laswell quickly became part of the thriving New York music scene. Among his earliest efforts was the avant-funk group Material, and the punk-experimentation of Massacre. As a collaborator or session player, Laswell played along with John Zorn, Fred Frith, Elliott Sharp, the Golden Palominos, and notably on Brian Eno and David Byrne's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. His solo debut, Baselines, was issued in 1982.

His artistic and commercial breakthrough came via Herbie Hancock's Future Shock album (1983); Laswell produced the album, played bass on all the songs, and co-wrote most of the material. Its track "Rockit" has frequently been regarded as a pivotal starting point of hip hop and turntablism (via Grand Mixer D.ST).

Coaxing Ginger Baker out of semi-retirement, Laswell gave the drummer's career a new boost. He likewise brought Sonny Sharrock out of semi-retirement and produced some of the guitarists most acclaimed recordings. Laswell and Sharrock went on to co-found the metal and hardcore punk-flavored free jazz supergroup Last Exit along with drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson and saxophone player Peter Brötzmann.

Even though many Laswell-produced albums have featured dozens of musicians, he tends to work with a small group of collaborators who appear on most of his recordings. Such musicians include bassists Jah Wobble and Bootsy Collins, guitarists Buckethead and Nicky Skopelitis, and keyboardist Bernie Worrell. Laswell has also frequently worked with musicians from the sprawling P-funk camp.

1992 saw the recording debut of another Laswell group, Praxis, featuring enigmatic guitarist Buckethead. Laswell continues to hybridize music styles of disparate world cultures. Tabla Beat Science is one such fusion, joining classical Indian instrumentation with modern electronic production.

Laswell has remixed the works of Bob Marley (album Dreams of Freedom), Miles Davis (album Panthalassa, 1998 [2], and Carlos Santana. He has also produced such artist as Jah Wobble, Matisyahu, Ramones, Motörhead, Swans, Public Image Limited and Angelique Kidjo. He also contributed to French producer Hector Zazou's album Chansons des mers froides. He produced Yoko Ono's Starpeace album, including the hit single 'Hell in Paradise', and also collaborated with ex-Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles member Nona Hendryx.

In the mid-1990s, Laswell released several albums in the style of Ambient dub, using the umbrella name Divination. In keeping with Laswell's common work method, each album was the result of a collaboration with a revolving group of musicians, some of whom, such as Tetsu Inoue, were more permanent members. The music of Divination is strongly influenced by ambient and thus occasionally reminiscent of some of Brian Eno's work, but Laswell's and his co-workers' compositions were more rhythmically orientated by injecting heavy bass lines and percussion into the pieces. Laswell released some of the music recorded in those sessions under the name Sample Material as a sample library for other musicians to use as raw material in their own recordings. Other Ambient Dub projects Laswell recorded in the 1990s, included Sacred System, and Axiom Dub, a collaborative project featuring The Orb, Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit and DJ Spooky.

Laswell's new project Method of Defiance is a blend of live instrumentation and electronic production drawing on Avant-garde drum 'n' bass, jazz, and funk.

Laswell has also participated on a collaboration with Sony Media Software on a new box set Loop Library: The Bill Laswell Collection. A link of all Bill's work with Sony Media software is available here.

Laswell appears on Nine Inch Nails' 'Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D'. Remixing the 'Year Zero' song 'vessel'. Details can be found here

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