Julie Slick is a bass guitarist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After watching her younger brother excel on the drums and have a lot of fun jamming with his friends, she started fiddling with the bass guitar. Her musical parents signed her up for lessons at a local school, and she started tackling standard classic rock songs. Once the lessons evolved to learning Frank Zappa material, Julie really started budding into a fine bass player and she could finally jam with her brother. The brother and sister rhythm section started being a force to be reckoned with on the local scene. The pair were introduced to Adrian Belew when he was in town doing a master class. Adrian liked what he heard so much, that he asked them to start a power trio with him. Julie has been a member ever since. They have toured the world as The Adrian Belew Power Trio and also The Crimson Project, performing the music of King Crimson. I recently caught up with Julie.
R,V,B - Did you start with the bass right from the beginning or did you try guitar first?
J.S. - Well, my dad has this great guitar collection, which is now probably over 30. When I was growing up, it was probably around 25 of these ridiculously amazing vintage guitars. I started scribbling on the hard shell cases of the guitars and my brother would bang on them. So my dad eventually got him drums. He started drums very young like... two. He got a kit when he was like... five. I just kind of goofed around and played with synths' and stuff. I tried messing around with guitar by the time I was ten. It didn't really speak to me that much. I struggled with it a little bit. I was really a shy kid, so I didn't want to be in the front, learning leads or playing solos like that. Barre chords were difficult for a ten year old girl, but by the time I was eleven... my dad had one bass. It was a fretless Gibson Ripper. It was as tall as I was at the time. I decided "That thing is four strings" and I learned to play one note at a time and hide in the back and maybe nobody would notice me... and maybe my brother would let me play with him. Before that, I would try to play guitar... he would invite friends over and he was getting really good at drums, because he'd been playing for years, even though he was a year younger than I was. He was starting to invite friends, that were taking guitar lessons. It was more fun for him to play with them than me... who would basically just plug the guitar in, and turn the distortion up and make the guitar feedback... thinking I was a reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix. (Hahaha) I couldn't play anything. He finally started letting me sit in with him when I started playing bass. My dad showed me a few songs, and we watched some Cream videos. When I saw how cool bass could be... how melodic the ideas from Jack Bruce were... my parents eventually got me my own bass. It was short scale, so it was more suited for me, and not fretless.
R.V.B. - Kind of like a Squire of today?
J.S. - Yeah exactly. It was a Squire Musicmaster... kind of like a Mustang bass.
R.V.B. - Oh, I got you. Awesome.
J.S. - Yeah, I painted it just like Jack Bruce's six string that he played. A few months later he signed me up involuntarily for lessons with Paul Green and what he was calling "The School of Rock" but it wasn't exactly a school of rock, just a dude named Paul who taught lessons in his apartment five days a week to pay for his night school at Penn... to pay for law school. It turned into this crazy thing and getting press. We would learn songs and do shows. We'd put on "The Wall" and then we decided to tackle Frank Zappa... getting all the students together and renting out a rehearsal studio. That turned into actually renting out an actual school stage... an after school program. We just basically learned by learning classic rock songs. In the off season, we would learn about chord changes and modes... music theory, but basically it was all centered around classic rock and performance as well.
R.V.B. - What Frank Zappa songs did you tackle? Do you remember?
J.S. - The first one's, when I was like thirteen: Stinkfoot, City of Tiny Lights... we did Inca Roads but we didn't do the ending of Inca Roads. We just did the intro... guitar solo.
R.V.B. - I guess that's how you eventually morphed into the prog' side of things?
J.S. - Yeah, we started with The Wall, and that was difficult enough. We spent eight months rehearsing the Zappa stuff and the ability increased exponentially. I'm lucky enough that I have my dad, who is a guitar player. I have musical talent in my blood. My mom's dad played trombone in jazz and bebop bands. He played with Buddy Rich, Billie Holiday, so I'm lucky I have natural talent, but I studied Zappa, so I was able to get a lot better. That was also how I became aware of Adrian Belew at first. By the time I was twelve or thirteen I became a fan of his. I discovered him with King Crimson by the time I was thirteen or fourteen. I became a huge fan after that. I went to see him live with King Crimson when they came through and played at TLA, and I saw King Crimson for the first time. I would by microphones because Adrian endorsed them. I would get the call six years after I first saw him play.
R.V.B. - You said TLA? What does that stand for?
J.S. - TLA is the Theater for Living Arts on South street in Philly. It's a venue.
R.V.B. - Ok, I got you. How many people does it seat?
J.S. - Oh, it's not that big... maybe 2,000???
R.V.B. - Sometimes those small venues are the best. They're nice an intimate.
J.S. - Not huge.
R.V.B. - So where was this "Three of a Perfect Pair" music camp?
J.L. - That was in New York, near the Woodstock area at a place called "The Full Moon Resort" in Big Indian. In the Catskills. They do a lot of music camps up there. They do a lot of music camps up there. I know Dweezil Zappa has done a camp up there. If you look the place up, you can see artists who have done camps up there.
R.V.B. - That's a summertime thing?
J.S. - Yeah, it happens in August, but it's kind of chilly. You have different workshops. Adrian will do guitar workshops, and vocal workshops... songwriting, pedal workshops, and he'll talk about things like that. Tony will do different workshops. Pat does different workshops. They are also welcome to people who are non-musicians. That's what people almost really enjoy the most. Like hanging and hearing these legends tell their stories and get some of that energy and feed off of it.
R.V.B. - That had to be nice, going into up into the mountains and hearing that...
J.S. - Exactly, it's just nice... it's a cool hang.
J.S. - No, Adrian Power Trio came first in 2006. The Crimson Project started in 2011. It wasn't called Crimson Project at first. It was actually a double headlining tour between the Adrian Belew Power Trio, which of course I'd been in for five years and also Stick Men, which is Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto, and Markus Reuter. It's the Crimson Project now... it's been re-branded. Originally the show was set up differently, where they opened up the show and then we did the Crimson encore. It was a three hour show. It just ran long, and just kind of billed weird. Then we opened for Dream Theater in the summer of 2012. Just to clean things up, because we were only gonna play the music of King Crimson for that show... rather then solo sets of course. We were just an opener. That's when we came up with the Crimson Project. It was okayed by Fripp himself. After 2012, we started touring with that name. Between 2012 and basically this fall, every tour that we've done has just been a Crimson Project tour, with the exception of a few Power Trio dates here and there. We have just done 41 dates with the Power Trio here in the U.S. and Canada.
R.V.B. - I see that you did a European tour. That must have been exciting.
J.S. - We did two this year. The first round in March and a little bit of April. That was like indoor clubs, and we came back in July and a few weeks in August and did a summer tour, which was mostly outdoor festivals and pavilions and things of that nature. That was really fun as well, because we got to play for bigger crowds. People who would'nt necessarily come to see us play our set and stuff like that. So that was really cool.
R.V.B. - Give me an example of some of the cities that you visited?
J.S. - Oh (Hahaha) all over Italy, Germany, England, France, Russia, Israel...
R.V.B. - Oh wow, so you were all over the place.
J.S. - All over, Yeah. Then of course, we also went to Australia and New Zealand. Thirteen months ago I was in South America, Sweden, so it's been just crazy.
R.V.B. - This current little tour that you're doing now with Marco. Where did you meet him?
J.S. - I met him at the camp in New York. We met on line at first. He was writing for an Italian music magazine. He interview me for a little piece that he did for the magazine. He interviewed me for My Space, so that's how long ago that was. Probably like 2006.
R.V.B. - Yeah, back when My Space was the thing.
J.S. - Exactly... so we met at the camp. He came to two camps: 2010, 2011. Basically, because we had been on tour so much... I was on tour with the Crimson Project for a year, I would stay there and maybe do some shows. I figured I would capitalize on the opportunity on having a flight over there. So we put on facebook, if anybody was interested in booking some dates in Europe. Marco responded in a direct message and booked a few dates in Italy after the Crimson Project tour was over. I wasn't expecting to write original music with him. I just figured we would just maybe improvise or play solo and maybe do some interesting arrangements on our solo pieces.
R.V.B. - Now, he's a bass player also?
J.S. - Yeah exactly, and that what was so funny. Since I met him at the camp, I trusted that it would be good. It ended up that our styles wound up complimenting each other really well. We were improvising at first, just in a living room in Bologna. We ended up writing new songs on the first day. We ended up playing a few of these new pieces and writing a few more. We played two shows in Tuscany, and played a few of our new songs. They were really well received. I went to Belgium a few days later to see my friend who plays violin. We just kept going with the momentum of the excitement of the shows and writing the pieces and ended up finishing the record. I flew back to the States and finished up mixing it, so from start to finish, between meeting Marco in Italy, and writing music from day one, to mastering the album... we finished it within seven weeks.
R.V.B. - Very nice. That's the Fourth Dementia record right?
J.S. - Exactly, so it's pretty crazy... it happened really fast. You kind of have to do things like that. I knew we were coming back to Europe... I had already known at that point we were doing the festival tour. I also already knew that we were going to the camp in August, so I figured finishing the CD's would be a really good thing. I knew I would do very well with them, on the tour and in the camp. It would be good promotion for us, and our new project. Things have been crazy ever since the record has been finished. We released it on line in July, and then we put it out on CD at the camp. We picked up the CD's on the way. I've sold them on the whole Power Trio tour. Pat was available, this week in January and offered his time in doing the tour with us. We also invited out friend Tim Motzer to play guitar as well... to provide another layer of awesomeness. He's an excellent guitar player. I'm really excited about the band. I just hope this winter storm doesn't spoil anything.
R.V.B. - I could imagine the work that goes even into a five night tour. There's a lot of work involved.
J.S. - There's been tons of work, and I've been doing it all the while being on tour with Adrian. Also, Marco Machera - mixing a second record, which we just finished mixing yesterday. We're doing one more session to brush up things, and we're mastering on February 2nd.
R.V.B. - Do you mind if I crack a joke? What happened to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Dementia?
J.S. - (Hahahah sarcastically) Well they've already been visited in the past. (Hahaha) You know, it's a pun on the bass. Four strings... even though I play a five string and Marco plays a six string in the project. It was one of those things when it just slipped out of my mouth one day in the kitchen when we were practicing and everyone was like "Alright, that's the name of that". I had that photograph with the sunglasses and I drew that and then I had Marco take a photo, and I drew him. It became the Cover... everything went so fast.
R.V.B. - Now with the two basses, does one lay down a rhythmically thing and the other improvise and then switch it up? I'm sure that you work the pedals and loops into it also.
J.S. - There's a few kind of improve' sort of pieces and atmospheric idea pieces, but it's mostly very intricately arranged, loop based... effect based music.
R.V.B. - How many pedals do you use?
J.S. - For this show? Maybe four or five... and also my MIDI system. That will make my bass, model other bass guitars, synths', electric guitars, organs and other kinds of things.
R.V.B. - So there's a lot of tech savvy involved in this.
J.S. - Yeah, so it's progressive in that way and it's like almost mathematical? It's very hypnotic music.
R.V.B. - I watched a youtube video of you demonstrating some pedals?
J.S. - Oh, probably the Pigtronics
R.V.B. - It's sounds like a lot of fun.
J.S. - It is, It's not like what you would expect the bass to sound like. It's not like a bunch of slap, pop, and funk... very obnoxious, in your face playing. It's very melodic and interesting and because of all the effects that we use, it doesn't even sound like two basses that we use. They sound like keyboards. Marco also uses prepared bass techniques... funk fingers, clips for the prepared bass.
R.V.B. - That sounds very, very cool. I hope the tour works out for you, and the weather doesn't screw things up. Good luck with the shows.
J.S. - Sweet, thank you very much.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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