Although Weller’s music takes many of its cues
from 1960s and 70s rock, there’s absolutely no sense of
retro revisionism in this band. It's the opposite, in fact,
says Lewis. "There’s a wonderful musical and almost
intellectual progression - this idea that Paul’s got that
you don’t want to look back all the time. Too many
musicians out there look back at the golden years of
their career and think that those were the only times
that were any good. But if you're a creative musician, like
we all are in this band, we love the last great thing we
did, which is the last show or the last song or whatever
it might be. Being in a band with Paul as the captain
and the creative force is terrific, because he’s constantly
driving himself forward, so you’re constantly driving
yourself forward too. If you’re a creative musician and
not content to sit there and do the same thing all the
time, that’s really exciting."
Talking of new music, how are the bass parts on the
new record? "Some of the new songs are so intricate.’ he
chuckles. "Arrangement-wise, they're complicated and
there’s a lot going on. so as a bass player you really have to
do your homework. You’ve got to know where all the little
stops and starts are, and where all the changes will be.
You know, like Ringo Starr not being the best drummer in
the Beatles, I'm not even the best bass player in the band!
But that’s not the point. Paul’s a great bass player and he
knows what he wants on a track, so if he’s laying down a
line you have to play it. You can’t really go jazz.’’
That said, there are improv-friendly moments
throughout the Weller set, adds Lewis. "There’s always
room for that: he allows you a lot of freedom to do stuff
with his songs, unlike most bandleaders. That leads you
to try things in a different way. and Paul’s very good
at drawing that out of you. It depends on the song, of
course: obviously if it’s a song where the bass sound or
feel is integral, you’ve got to have that before you can go
anywhere else."
We point out that the forthcoming tour looks likely
to require plenty of versatility from the musicians, and
Lewis agrees. "In this band it’s not about doing incredible
runs on the bass, it’s about being able to lock in with other
musicians and adapt to a huge array of material that spans
nearly 40 years. You can be playing a straight rock song
by the Jam, or a Style Council number, and then you’ll find
yourself playing something like These City Streets' from
the new album, which is a very simple groove but a very
complicated thing to do. because the bass-line isn’t doing
the same thing all the way through. The first time I heard
it I couldn’t replicate it exactly, so I had to approximate it.
You have to get the spirit of it, and the sound of it. and you
have to be locked in with not one but two drummers."
Ah yes, the small matter of Weller using two
drummers. Does that make life harder or easier as a
bassist? 'Actually, there’s no better place to be.” says Lewis.
"1
used to look at Adam & the Ants, or James Brown in his
early years, and I hoped that one day I’d play in a band
with two drummers - and now I am. It’s great fun.”
With an organ and two drum kits competing for the
low frequencies. Lewis solves the problem of on-stage
audibility with tried-and-trusted gear - but not too
much of it, crucially. "In-ears are great, but in the live
environment I like to hear what’s going on.” he says.
"I don’t like to be too insulated. With in-ears you’re so
focused that maybe you don’t catch the visual cues. Also.
I like the fact that the sound changes as you wander
around the stage.
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