Tuesday, March 14, 2023


Joe Carducci writes of the late legendary SST Records producer-engineer SPOT

"I hate to type out the words but... SPOT passed away after 10am today/Saturday (Mar. 4, 2023) at Morningside Healthcare in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.... 

"SPOT didn't dwell a lot on his personal history but I believe he was born in Los Angeles, grew up in the Crenshaw neighborhood, moved to Hermosa Beach in the mid-70s, moved to his favorite Black Flag tour stop, Austin Texas, in the mid-80s and then to Sheboygan to be near his favorite Celtic music scenes in Milwaukee and Chicago. His father was Claybourne Lockett who was a Tuskegee Airman who flew British Spitfires and Spot told me once his mother was Native American and from New Orleans...  

"SPOT was a musician and writer and photographer who spelled his name in all caps with a dot in the middle of the O. His principal sideline was as a record producer-engineer and an architect of the natural approach to recording a band in the punk era. He started in Hermosa Beach playing and recording jazz and he took the primacy of live jazz playing into recording bands against prevailing attempts to soften or industrialize a back-to-basics arts movement in sound. 

"When approaching the mixing board SPOT would assume an Elvis-like stance and then gesturing toward all the knobs he would say in a Louis Armstrong-like voice, "This is going to be gelatinous!" 

"His recorded work as player and producer is listed at discogs.com. I'll be going through his writing with an eye toward publishing a collection including his writings on jazz for the Hermosa Beach free weekly. He spent recent years writing the novel, Decline and Fall of Alternative Civilization, and producing a radio-like dramatization of it which is online. Last year he posted new SPOT music at his bandcamp page. In recent weeks I read off lists of the names of his well-wishers to him and SPOT nodded at the mentions of his friends from around the country and the world."

Henry Rollins in the Guardian, on Spot: 

"Spot had a very old-school way of recording: fewer microphones, less mixing, everything live, like he was cutting a Charlie Parker side. My favourite album he did is The Punch Line by Minutemen, from 1981. They were very argumentative, so Spot would go: “OK, that’s the take. Shut up,” and they were smart enough to listen.

"I’ve never met anyone like him. He would go around for days wearing roller-skates. When Black Flag recorded Damaged, Greg Ginn wanted to hear what it sounded like in the studio, so Spot picked up Greg’s guitar and while the band were playing he absolutely nailed the track Damaged II, which is like math rock. Greg was an astonishing guitarist, but he was totally shut down. It was hilarious. The chess master got checkmated."

An interview with Spot and Joe

Friday, March 10, 2023

RIP Wayne Shorter


My favorite Wayne Shorter piece is this eerie, poignant track that ends Side 1 of Mr. Gone (otherwise a rather florid and exuberant attempt by Weather Report to hitch a ride on disco - and highly enjoyable on those terms, particularly "River People"). "The Elders" is a completely different vibe - I don't know what was on Mr. Shorter's mind when he wrote it, but the title suggests an ancient, impossibly wise race on some alien planet. (I've just been reading H.P. Lovecraft for the first time so I'm half-wondering if that's an influence, although the Old Ones is his formulation - and the ancients in Shorter's piece seem altogether more kindly). His bandmates contribute to the eldritch vibe wonderfully, particularly Zawinul, who arranged, and Jaco, with that damped-strings, percussively played bass-as-rhythm-guitar pulse.  

I first heard this when I'd moved from Oxford to London in the autumn of 1985 and my friends Amanda and Mark kindly put me up for a month or two in their West Dulwich flat, while I searched for a place to live long term, sorted out dole and housing benefit, and waited for a music paper to call me back with offers of work. A cassette of Mr. Gone was in Mark's collection and provided my first taste of Weather Report. I associate "The Elders" with that tentative time: moving to the big city, grey November days, and an empty flat (my friends would be at work during the day) with just their delightful cat and Mr. Gone for company.  

Of course, Shorter is all over this next record, which might just be my favorite album of all time (it certainly jostles  strongly with the other contenders) and would definitely be a disc to take to the proverbial desert island - for its inexhaustibility, and for the  way its peculiar combination of tension and serenity would provide both stimulation and solace in my isolation.

I know I was an awed Miles fan by 1987, but I can't actually remember if I heard In A Silent Way after Mr. Gone... if so, that would've been an odd entry point into the Shorter soundworld (especially as he was largely absent during Mr. Gone's making - the title came from Zawinul's nickname for Shorter during those sessions).  

But certainly after that I started picking up Weather Report albums in the Record and Tape Exchange, as it was still called then. Memory is fuzzy, but there might have been one or two I taped from the West Norwood library, which was surprisingly hip. 


Now I know that Joni worked with Jaco, but I hadn't realised until now that she also called on Shorter  for Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (as well as two of Weather Report's percussionsists). I guess at that point she really did want to make fusion, but with songs and lyrics. 

Dearie dearie me - I wonder what Mr. Shorter thought of the album cover...