The Mute Gods are getting angry!
feature by Greg Howard
Nick Beggs's metamorphosis is complete. In the early 1980s he was a cheery pop star, playing bass and Stick and singing with the bands Kajagoogoo — Of "Too Shy" fame — and Ellis, Beggs and Howard, whose hit song "Big Bubbles, no Troubles" was built around a distinctive phase-shifted Stick bass groove. Musically, at least, the last 30 years have been a steadily "darkening" period for Beggs (thankfully, he hasn't lost his wicked sense of humor).
In the early 2000s he toured with Howard Jones and then in a trio with Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. More recently he's been a side man for Genesis's Steve Hackett, and prog rock phenom Steven Wilson. Enter The Mute Gods, a progressive studio collaboration with Roger King and Marco Minnemann.
The band provides Nick with an outlet for music he began writing while touring with Hackett, and he's not writing dance tunes for your Saturday night clubbing; he's sounding the alarm about a bleak present and the future it will lead to.
The Mute Gods' second album, Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth
is a darker folow-up to their award winning debut Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me
Nick in action - live photos
Steven Wilson Band
Nick also plays a little keys...
Steven Wilson Band
Steven Wilson Band
Nick and Craig Blundell
"Whenever I see Tony I always feel the need to amalgamate our bodies in some way.
One time he knelt down and I covered his head with my hair. He’s very accommodating."
In the '90s and a bit more recent
Tardigrades will Inherit the Earth
“The album is an acknowledgement of our fragility, our stupidity and our impending demise. It’s not a very uplifting message. It’s a rather angry record, but it reflects how I’m feeling about the world and by all accounts a reality of where we are as a species, politically, ecologically, morally…
"There’s a lot to be worried about, I think there always has been. The difference is now, at fifty-five I’ve had the opportunity to reinvent myself as a musician, and if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to talk about what I’m passionate about, and the things that are important to me. I’ve got a platform and…beware world!”
"I see our generation as part of the problem. I think we are the ones, by and large, who have created these issues for our children and continue to pour kerosene on the fire, and also some of the older generation in this country particularly when it comes to the Brexit vote — most of the ones who voted Brexit are going to be dead by the time it’s actually implemented, and it’s going to have massive far-reaching effects on our children… Diminutive, introspective right-wing thinking is not healthy for them, it’s not a healthy world for our children to grow up in. So in time I hope that our mistakes can be learnt from…”
Roger King and Nick talk about the new record
(what are tardigrades, anyway?)
The Mute Gods' process
"I get the song down with me playing everything, I’ll program a drum part, I’ll record the Chapman Stick, I’ll do the bass, keyboard, guitars, I’ll sing it, I’ll put in the harmonies, I’ll chop it around. I will have had a piece for a long time before I’m ready to get the other musicians to play on it. So what I tend to do is send it to Roger King, the keyboard player and producer of the record. I’ll tell him what I want to keep, and what I feel he can change. And he will mess with it, and then send it to Marco Minnemann, and then Marco will add drums and guitars where appropriate, because Marco also has a very interesting take on guitar playing, and then from that we distill it down to a final mix. As Marco put it, it’s a bit like putting the filling in a cake after the cake’s made, but that’s the way 21st Century music is made these days, I mean Marco and Roger King haven’t even met. That is indicative of the times we live and the technologies we’re blessed with really. I think it’s a great thing, I think it frees us up tremendously.."
Check out these other Stick-featured releases by Nick Beggs
Nick's 2002 solo CD is a collection of instrumental pieces featuring Stick enhanced with electronics, drum loops and ambient synths.
Availble only from Stick Enterprises.
Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me
The award-winning 2015 debut from The Mute Gods
Find out more at The Mute Gods web site.
What's coming up 2017-18?
Touring with Steve Hackett (on bass this time)
Started work on a third Mute God's recording
Played Stick for Fish on Friday’s new album
New Steven Wilson release.
Evolution of a Performance Rig
"Touring with John Paul Jones, I had three backlines. When you play with member of Led Zeppelin you’re expected to be bombastic. He wanted me to be loud and proud, and he encouraged me to experiment with backlines. We put together an SWR stack for the bass side of the Chapman Stick. I bought one of the old Aerosmith Fender ToneMaster Columns, it was a valve head with a 2x12 cabinet, almost like a classic Marshal configuration but it sounded much more powerful than that, that was for the melody side of the Stick, the whole soloing aspect.
Nick's side-stage setup station, and his paduak 10-string, with the ACTV-2™ Block® pickup module, which he runs in mono.
"And then there was the whole MIDI side which was very important because I was using three different synths for that, and then a Roland VG-8. If was a lot to consider, a lot to keep my eye on, a lot of very challenging roles within that band. Everybody was making a very important sound, either supporting or leading, and the roles would change as the songs progressed."
Nick’s current setup: keep things as simple as possible.
"It has this amazing multi-band compression. It’s very good for Chapman Stick. not only are they every small, but it just makes the Stick sound great at every level… V-Bass, TC Electronic phaser (another “must” for a Stick player, in my opinion), Digitech Bass Driver pedal. I haven’t used the Chapman Stick in stereo for a long time, probably since the 80’s because I’ve found that it’s not been necessary for me to do that as a soloist. When I play solo my compositions tend to be self-accompanying in less of a processed way now."
Mono into a TC Electronic RH450 bass amp.
Nick's second Stick is a bamboo Ten String Grand™, also with the ACTV-2. This instrument is featured on the track "Lament" on the new album, a Stick feature. The new album is very Stick-centric, with many of the "guitar solos" played by Nick on the Stick.
"For Sean", an unreleased solo track played on his bamboo Ten String Grand.
Looking Back in Videos
Nick's professional career spans over 30 years, with Kajagoogoo, Ellis, Beggs and Howard, Iona, as well
as performing with Howard Jones, John Paul Jones, Steven Wilson, and many others.
John Paul Jones Trio, 2000 (two-hour concert video)
Ellis, Beggs and Howard, 1987