After the shocking recent announcement of the Bass Pairs’ break up, I caught up with one half of the once legendary and now seemingly defunct rock duo Jeff Bergau over a margarita in the Bay Area. Showing physical signs of exhaustion related to the band’s extensive 2011 tour, which began and ended on August 3 in Chicago, Bergau was uncharacteristically guarded with his responses, but seemed willing to share some of his thoughts with me.
Mick Wall: Murad has been pretty vocal about the breakup of Bass Pairs. But you never confirmed nor denied it. Is Bass Pairs officially over?
Jeff Bergau: Man, Bass Pairs, like life just is. It never began, and it hasn’t ended. It’s perpetual.
JB: You gotta stop thinking about it in such a linear fashion. The interrelationships between Bass Pairs and life are almost beyond our ability to comprehend it. Without the right tools, that is. You know?
MW: Not really, but to bring it down a bit, are you and Murad still playing together? Writing together?
JB: Yeah, we play fantasy football every week. And he and I just finished co-writing a creative brief. I love the guy.
MW: Jeff, you know what I mean. Are you playing bass within 40 feet of Murad while he’s playing the same song on guitar at the same time?
JB: Not really. But did we ever really play the same song at the same time?
MW: So what kind of reaction have you gotten from people on the recent AP story?
JB: Man, the reaction from our fan has been overwhelming. It’s touching, really. I mean, in between online Gears of War 3 and COD Modern Warfare 2 sessions, that fan often hugs me and says things like, “Don’t worry, Daddy. Uncle Murad is just barking.” And, when my son asks things like, “Can we install Lion on our MacBooks?” I know he’s just trying to get my mind off of the Bass Pairs drama in the press.
MW: What started the rift between the two of you?
JB: Rift? What rift? He’s not p___ed off. He’s just expressing himself, man. He can’t help it, really. It’s an epigenetic thing. Being born in Karachi then growing up in the streets of Stone Park has measurable effects on creativity, technical approach, and the way the body responds to the intersection of distortion and bongo rhythm. It’s right there in his distinct biosignature.
MW: So what you’re saying is that the two of you are genetically incompatible?
JB: Not at all. You know, it’s all about experimentation. About seeing what works. Honestly, I was all about working through his ideas for the new album. Salmon For Carol , the ballad he proposed, was an alright groove. It just needed, well, bongos and distortion. More of an edge. A C chord. Basically, an evolved Bass Pairs sound. He said it breaks all the rules of logic. And this, coming from the guy who spends Sundays working to disprove the Theory of General Relativity. You gotta love the guy.
MW: So where do you go from here?
JB: I’ve launched a new band called Bass Pair. It’s like when Jimmy Page created the New Yardbirds. I don’t have to tell you where that went. The stuff we’ve recorded so far has an evolved, Latin-percussion-driven rhythm section at the core. But it still has the same off-beat and out-of-tune sound to which our fan has grown accustomed. Bongos and bass, man. That’s it. It’s kind of a cross between Black Sabbath, Cream, Led Zeppelin (a.k.a. the New Yardbirds), The Beatles, Queen, Iron Maiden, and Jethro Tull with some bongos thrown in. All very original riffs packaged together in classic Bass Pairs style. I mean, classic Bass Pair style.
MW: Who is the ‘we’ in Bass Pair?
JB: I did an exhaustive search to find the right vibe for the new duo. I needed an ultra-hip, ego-centric extrovert with great credentials. Someone with an eye for fashion. Kind of like Neal Peart, but exactly opposite. Steve Johnson is that guy. After seeing him perform on the walking snare drum for the Illinois State Marching Band in an old YouTube clip, I immediately knew he was the guy. He’s even going to wear the hat on stage. It brings something that Bass Pairs, I mean Pair, has been missing.
MW: I guess the splitting of the iconic Bass Pairs duo is the downside to the notion of opposing forces?
JB: Not at all, man. Just the opposite. Energy happens in a lot of ways. You can’t always think of opposing forces as creating energy through violent impact. Bass Pairs is more like centrifugal force versus something like kinetic energy. We’re an outward force that originates from the center. The ongoing circular motion may, on the surface, seem drab and monotonous. But it has a certain cadence to it. And as momentum increases, so does the outward power. So, there’s no downside. There’s no upside. There just is.
MW: Right. One last thing. There’s speculation by some Chempetitive Group clients that the Bass Pairs split is just a publicity stunt to drive back-catalog record sales and build momentum for a reunion tour. And, that Murad’s rant in the recent AP article was just an act. Can you comment on those speculations?
JB: I do know that the AP guy caught him just after he finished reviewing write-offs, so I imagine that his frustration may have spilled over into the Bass Pairs stuff. But, a reunion tour? Perhaps he will bite on the bongo thing if we change the nomenclature to ‘Cuban-influenced percussion apparatuses.’ I’m keeping the door open to it. But right now, I’m intensely focused on Bass Pair and am excited to getting this new project underway with a marching band influence and release some really ground-breaking material.
With that, Bergau mentioned his intention to learn Microsoft Front Page from Murad and launch his new web site. He then paid his tab and left abruptly. He left behind at the bar an iPhone 5 prototype. The only content on the iPod app was Bass Pair studio takes. Intentional leak? Given the source, doubtful.