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Michael, you had an album come out this year, Book of Flame. What other music do you currently have in the works?

Michael: As soon as I get another album together I will put it out. I do so many sessions and so many records that it's hard to keep my head straight with it all. I'd really like to spend more time doing Sadhappy.

How's the commute between your home in Oakland and Seattle?

Michael: It would be nice to be closer.

Paul: I keep buying lottery tickets in the hopes that I'll win and be able to move him up here, pay off his mortgage, put him on salary.

Michael, it seems you acquired a number of nicknames. "Manthing," among others.

Paul: Oh that's just Evan and I sitting around over a couple of beers entertaining ourselves.

Michael: I've been called "Manthing" since I was 12. It's from a comic book character.

Paul: Is there a comic book character called "Manthing?"

Michael: Yeah, I've got a bunch of them that I've collected. He's a big, ugly guy.

[ michael manring - book of flame ]

I read that you did some tutelage under Jaco Pastorius.

Michael: That was when I lived in New York, back in the early '80s.

Time well spent?

Michael: It was, although I never really found myself at home there. I learned a lot. New York is an amazing place.

How was it to study with Jaco?

Michael: It was great--that was definitely a very good thing to do on several levels. He was one of my biggest heroes since I was 14 or 15. I worshiped the ground he walked on. So it was great to meet your hero...and find out what he's really like. It was...extremely eye opening.

In a positive light?

Michael: I don't know how much you know about him but he was a mess.

Yeah, wasn't it in '87 that he died. Beaten up so badly that he ended up in a coma.

Michael: Yeah, '87. He was a manic depressive and also an alcoholic. It was a sad thing. One-to-one he was a very, very sweet person and very, very supportive. That's what I needed at that time in my life. Mostly we'd sit and play together and I'd ask him questions. He didn't really teach styles. He was very sweet. I'd ask him to play stuff, and very carefully he'd play through them and show me.

Paul: It's funny that you bring Jaco up. The tune we were working on today is a tribute to him. I...I never got to meet him, but his music completely changed my life and opened my eyes up to what was going on musically. I heard him play and all the musical barriers I'd grown up with just got blown out. I thought, "Cool! I can finally go tell those guys at the music stores to go fuck themselves!!!" They didn't know what the fuck was going on. That's why they're still stuck in Olympia wishing they were Eddie Van Halen.

Who were some of your other influences?

Paul: Stanley Clark, John Paul Jones, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, Tony Levin. Levin was a big influence. I'm always absorbing influences. Michael's been a tremendous influence on me the past two years. It's nice that we have two different worlds that we can share. It's fun being his bass player.

[ jaco pastorius ]

Your bass sound and playing style is very distinctive, very unique. The other night we talked briefly about your rig setup, but I'm curious as to how you came upon your playing style.

Paul: It's just been a result of life. I've been playing bass for twenty-three years. You absorb every influence, musical and otherwise. It's an ongoing process. Every day, I expect to hear some bass player do something I haven't heard before. I look forward to it with relish. It helps me pull down my walls so I don't have all those barriers, labels, boxes, and all that other shit that gets in the way.

I'm also a big guitar fan. Brian May, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Jimmy Page. I'm influenced by them as well, because when I heard Jaco play I realized that the bass doesn't have to be so narrowly defined. You can absorb any musical instrument and style and incorporate it into your language.

I think you have a very distinctive sound.

Paul: Thank you.

Michael: It's interesting. I've spent a lot of time hanging out with all the hot shot bass players and other musicians...a lot of really great players. But there's no one like Paul. He makes you really feel the music he's playing.

Are you still offering bass lessons?

Paul: Not really. I have a few students but not too many. I got really burned out on the teaching thing. Nine out of ten students that came to my house for lessons only wanted Chris Cornell's phone number or to find out how to get a fucking record deal. If you want to learn how to play the bass I'll get you started, but I'm not going to go, "Oh, here's all the inside information about all the money and the coke and the babes!" They go, "Bass is easy--I saw Blur. No problem." It really riles your bile.

Evan: Rattles your bile?

Paul: Riles your bile.

Evan: Rile your bile. Heh. Greatest Shits...

Paul: I can see why Jaco hated teaching. For the most part people think you're going to wave a magical wand and they're going to go bouncing out the door sounding like Les Claypool. It isn't that instant gratification of, "Give me my Whopper now--and I want onions on it, dammit!" It's hard to find good students.

Speaking of gratification, do you have any of those Bass ales left?

[Rob passes Paul another beer]

Paul: Thanks.

Evan, I talked with you back in '96 about what Sadhappy was up to and you mentioned that you were putting together an album of trios. What's become of that?

Evan: We've got about eight songs in the can already mixed. Some of it appeared on the Complication One record. We recorded quite a bit of stuff with Eyvind Kang a couple of weeks ago. That will probably be what happens when Michael gets sick of us.

Paul: When he gives us the boot!

"You're out of the band...I'm Sadhappy!"

Evan: Yeah, when he kicks us out!

Michael: Yeah, it'll be me and Kip Winger.

Didn't he put out an album last year? Shudder...

Evan: I'm always recording. We're really happy to be working with Michael and we're all set on putting out another album.

Sadhappy has been a driving musical force for ten years now. You've survived all the vultures that swooped down on the Seattle music scene in the early '90s. You've changed and evolved both musically and as a band, but you've still been able to keep that sound and style that is recognized as being Sadhappy. I asked you earlier what your expectations were when you started out. What are your expectations now? Where's the next stop on the super-sonic locomotive?

Paul: Finishing up the new record. Getting a good manager that can get us over to Europe. Just continuing what we've been doing over the last ten years: making music; remaining true to ourselves and to our audience. We have a great deal of respect for our audience. When I walk out on stage and see a room full of people I'm humbled. After playing bass for twenty-three years I still get a pit in my stomach before every show.

[ collage ]

Would that worry you if it didn't happen?

Paul: Yes, it would. Then I'd know I'd be out of touch.

Sadhappy Discography:
Sidways Laughing (1990)
Spin Cycle (1991)
Depth Charge (1991)
Live Before We Were Dead (1993)
Wailingfuckingbassanddrumsandsax (1993)
The Good, the Bad...and the Scary (1994)
Good Day Bad Dream (1996)

On the web:
Official Sadhappy Homepage
Michael Manring
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