Beauty and the Bass

Ida Nielsen spent 5 years as the bass anchor for Prince. She is now stepping out in her own right as a singer – songwriter, following Prince’s tragic and premature death. In our exclusive interview and subsequent private conversations with Ida I discussed a number of topics with parallel lessons for anyone seeking to make their mark with their personal passion. Film production by Rory Gill roryjrgill@hotmail.co.uk:

Balancing discipline and freedom

Ida is a perfect example of a professional musician who combines discipline with freedom in her musical life. She took up music at the age of 16, having learned to play piano and bass mostly by ear. She then attended the Royal Danish Academy of Music to hone her natural born musical skills. When amateur musicians tell me that improvisation is all about creativity and freedom and nothing to do with discipline, I believe they have missed the point about the importance of structure / discipline / order. I’ve observed on many occasions musicians who have oodles of disciplined musical training, but who are unable to improvise and sometimes vice versa. Ida is a living example of someone who combines both sets of skills. Prince puts it simply:

“Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay”

In the business world this is what Tom Peters refers to as “simultaneous tight and loose properties”. I’ve just been discussing direct parallels from music for people interested in bringing more creativity and innovation to their enterprise at Innovation Mauritius

Beauty and the Bass - Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Beauty and the Bass – Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Deliberate practice

Ida is also testimony to the concept of “deliberate practice” proposed by K. Anders Ericsson. This requires the systematic desire to extend one’s repertoire beyond one’s comfort zone. In my experience, some musicians reach a plateau of competence, due to rerehearsing that which they already know. To master an instrument requires practice outside of the known regions of your competence. I know from my own experience that I had to switch from playing rock music to gypsy jazz in order to move my playing skill up a level through seeing and hearing things anew. This concept applies in many fields of human endeavour. Ida has respected great innovators in her field and built upon their innovations, for example Larry Graham, who is credited with the invention of “slap bass playing”, in his case due to not having a drummer in his band so he had to develop a more rhythmic way of playing the instrument. 

Here’s a section of Mr Graham with Sly and The Family Stone and a bass solo from my good friend Mr Paul Moss at a corporate aftershow event we did at Henley Business School from 2 minutes 08 onwards:

Get into the Groove – Working with Flow 

Mastery, unconscious competence, effortless genius, being “in your element” …  These are all ways to describe what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called the state of ‘flow’.  Prince’s sax player Marcus Anderson offers some practical insights into the state of flow:

“Although I can read music and therefore understand the “mathematics” of jazz, the real skill of improvisation comes from using your ear / intuition, paying attention to the other band members, feeding off them and finding a flow that moves the group performance up to the max.”

Marcus Anderson, interview taken from “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“, Bloomsbury

Ida is clearly in the state of effortless mastery or flow with this performance, recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London at an aftershow at 3 am in the morning:

We spoke outside of the main interview about Ida’s 5 years spent working with Prince and she had these things to say about what she gained from working alongside a master of innovation in music:

Serendipity :

Ida explained how she got to play bass with Prince: 

“I simply got a call on my cell phone. The person said they were Prince’s manager and they wanted me to go to Minneapolis and jam with Prince and the band. They said they would call me back – they did not and I began to think it was a hoax, but eventually they called back and I went to Paisley Park to play with them for three days”. 

I completely got the mixed emotions of Ida’s story, having once had an e-mail from Sir Richard Branson telling me I had won a prize, then nothing for two weeks – a social media “expert” mailed me to say it was bound to be a hoax, completely bursting my bubble!  It turned out it was not a hoax mail and I ended up writing and delivering events for the Virgin group.

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Mastery : When performing with Prince, Ida had to learn more than 300 songs in order to have the flexibility to vary a given performance, sometimes on the fly. This is quite different than performing with most professional musicians, who prefer to hone a set and perform this as a set piece on all dates of a tour. This level of agility gave Prince and 3rd Eye Girl the ability to personalise their music to a given audience. To do this requires mastery at the individual and team level, with everyone paying close attention to each other’s performances.

“Doing a residency in any particular city requires a large repertoire to ensure repeat business”.

Prince

Teaching as the best way to learn : Ida mused that she had been lucky to have the greatest guitar teacher on the planet in Prince. Moreover, rather than the usual situation in terms of paying your teacher for lessons, Prince had actually paid her !! The greatest gift of innovation is to transfer your skills to others to improve your game.

Check out Ida Nielsen’s music at her website for more insights into the skills of a master craftswoman.

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check book “The Music of Business” out, which has a chapter on Prince and 3rd Eye Girl.

Charlie Mingus AOR

On the One, Bass Ida

We’re very lucky to be interviewing Ida Nielsen, aka Bassida at Camden’s Underworld on Wednesday September 07, organised by Nigel Hart of Nitro Management. Ida has a new album out called Turn It Up.  For the last 5 years was the anchor in Prince’s New Power Generation and 3rd Eye Girl until his sad passing at just 57 years of age.

Ida

Bass in ur face – Ida Nielsen and Prince

Ida Nielsen hails from Denmark. She started playing bass at age 16, studying music at The Royal Danish Academy of Music. Ida is a multi-instrumentalist and in 2010 received an out of the blue invite to play with Prince which she assumed was a joke! She is something of a bass tech expert and an advocate of TC Electronics equipment, which a number of my friends also use in their rigs.

TC

Beauty and the Bass – Ida’s style combines resonance in the low register with superb slap bass for punch and sparkle in the high end

There will be a full report on my film interview with film maker Rory Gill and the concert after Ida’s performance. Her music is cool and funky. Ida’s bass playing combines beautiful low registers to reach your soul and a healthy dose of popping to excite your synapses. For now, read this interview about this all round musicologist at Bassida. Here’s two extracts from that piece on what she learned from working with Prince:

“I learned to play tight. He was so tight about making space in the music. There’s always a lot going on in my music, and I’m trying to clean it up because I know that’s what he would do. Not that I wasn’t playing tight before, but he taught me to not play all the notes in between that we bass players normally do. It’s a little bit like a drummer who is always rolling on the snare instead of keeping a tight, simple beat. Prince taught me to keep it simple. With my own stuff, I make everyone else play simple so I get all the space!🙂

The first time I was in the studio recording with him, I was in shock because I found out he doesn’t use a click track. I was like…what? When you hear every record it sounds like there is a click because it’s so tight. It’s all about locking within the band and getting it that tight and I feel like that’s what it’s all about. I love the whole idea of, “we don’t actually need a click. It doesn’t matter if the tempo goes a little up or down as long as the energy and the life is there.”

Check Ida’s new album Turn It Up on iTunes.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics – offering long term development programmes on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity and shorter masterclasses and keynotes via The Academy of Rock, which uniquely fuses Business School insights with parallel lessons from the field of music. Author of 7 books on creativity and business – check them out at Amazon:

Click to view books on Amazon

Click to view books on Amazon

Prince R.I.P. – Sometimes it Snows in April

That is all I can find to say … 

I wish u heaven xx

Prince Koko's

A few tributes have come in from musical friends:

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Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 00.40.51Prince posts:

The Prince of Innovation

3rd Eye Girl

My Tribute to Prince

George Clinton and Prince

Innovation Excellence – NYC

A post from South East Asia

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Spirits come and spirits go
Some stick around for the after show
Don’t have to say I miss you
(Don’t have to say I miss you)
‘Cause I think you already know

If you ever lose someone
Dear to you
Never say the words, they’re gone

They’ll come back, yeah
They’ll come back, yeah yeah
They’ll come back

Tears go here

PrinceI

Illustration by Martin Homent

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Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?

A few months back, I casually went to a networking event, got talking to a chap who said that they worked in the music business as a recording engineer.  We chatted on for a while, eventually I asked:

“Oh, have you worked on any records that I’d know of?”

Well, the last record I worked on is a bit old now – 40 years in fact” he replied

“What was that then?” I enquired

Bohemian Rhapsody” he casually replied

I pinched myself and asked “Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?”

Turns out that this guy also produced or engineered records for The Kinks, Rush, Deep Purple, Toyah, Yes, Jack Bruce, Hawkwind, Sooty and a very long list of great acts from the 1960’s and 70’s. We got talking about the gentle art of working with people, some of whom have very fixed ideas about how they wanted things done and who sometimes had less than ideal personalities or, at least, egos that were too big for the room. We shared a connection in terms of my friend Bill Nelson, who also worked with Roy Thomas Baker, Queen’s producer. The conversation flowed on and on …

I’ll be talking with Barry Ainsworth at the Virgin Money Lounge in London on FRIDAY February 26th from 3 – 4.30 pm. Book your place NOW via 0207 439 8802. Beyond that, book us for an in company masterclass.

Whether it's a night at the Opera or "we're going down the pub" we can offer you an unforgettable experience

Whether it’s a night at the Opera or “we’re going down the pub” we can offer you an unforgettable experience

Of course these skills are entirely transferrable to the world of “Brain Based Enterprises”, where intellect must be cultivated, facilitated, directed but not squashed. As a result of this, we’re now able to offer a joint masterclass where you will learn from a master of getting things done with volatile and sometimes precocious talents. Should you really wish to make the event unforgettable, we can combine this with a performance of Queen’s material with Patti Russo, long term singing partner of Meatloaf and songstress with Queen and Cher

What’s it like working with Mercurial people? Find out by booking us for a masterclass

The Show Must Go On - with Patti Russo

The Show Must Go On – with Patti Russo

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Book him for your next interactive motivational keynote or longer masterclass on subjects such as Leadership, Creativity, Innovation and Change.

Books x 4

Party’s Over .. but I’m still Eight Miles High

I had the great pleasure of playing with a Rock Legend just recently, at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé and the band. Even more frightening to be in front of a crowd of fans who can be quite precious about their heroes, not always wanting any interference with their expectations from outsiders.  It seems I more than “got away” with the whole thing, having impressed blogger Darren Johnson with my ability to play with Class A rock stars:

Click on the picture to read Darren's Review

Click on the picture to read Darren’s Review

It seems that the world thinks that not only am I a good business consultant / author but also a rather fine guitar player who can hold their own with world class musicians. Getting an accolade like this is perhaps more important than scoring 11/10 on a happy sheet from an event or masterclass – of course, both things matter, but I think this review has set the week off rather well !! At the point of writing this I confess I am feeling rather smug – back to earth soon I hope ! Here’s some video of the rather drunken jam session:

Bernie Tormé’s tour continues through the month in Oxford, Newcastle, Liverpool and Brighton. Check the band out.

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We also did a superb event in The Virgin Lounge where Bernie did an interview, conducted a Q&A and gave a mini guitar masterclass.

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The Mile High Club at the Virgin Lounge – Picture by Christina Jansen http://www.cjansenphotography.com

The Band et moi and Peter Lawrence - Picture by Christina Jansen www.cjansenphotography.com

The Band et moi and Peter Lawrence – Picture by Christina Jansen http://www.cjansenphotography.com

A full interview with Bernie appears in my current book “The Music of Business” where we discuss the impact of climate on high performance, Jimi Hendrix, the gentle art of improvisation from a starting point of nothing and various other matters.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out on Amazon

Our next events in the Virgin Lounge are on Friday 27th November with the Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange and Friday December 4th with Mark Christopher Lee, who has created an album of 100 x 30 second songs as a disruptive force in the music industry.

Parallel Lines

I was delighted to speak with Paul Kwiecinski, Co-Owner of “Face The Music” recently. It seems we have been developing our respective businesses along parallel lines, on opposite sides of The Atlantic Ocean in what could be described as a piece of simultaneous invention.

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Face The Music shows surprising parallels with our own work at The Academy of Rock and we have been running our respective businesses for similar lengths of time. Great minds literally have thought alike in what is known as simultaneous innovation. Paul explains the concept:

Face The Music is a collaboration between great musicians and experienced organizational consultants who bring a uniquely powerful mix to clients’ programs and events. And while we are definitely entertaining, we are not mere entertainment. Rather our music events are a powerful catalyst for teamwork and organizational change — using a variety of musical genres as our toolkit — to help organizations become higher performing, more innovative, and just plain cooler places to work.

Perhaps an easy way to understand Face The Music’s work is to see it through  the eyes of a customer, in this case CNN News:

Paul has an impressive client list who have chosen to work with him because they seek greater engagement, authentic relations between coworkers, real organisational improvements and so on. As he points out, it’s not just entertaining. It’s about engaging people’s heads, hearts and souls in their work as most serious enterprises understand.

At face value, it may seem odd to be writing about a potential competititor. It is not. This blend of music and experienced organisation consultants is an extremely hard act to pull off as I know through some 15 + years of development of the approach. We’re hoping that more people will get to learn of our work and choose this over a beige approach to business and organisation development. Both Paul and I travel the world and hope to collaborate at some stage. Come join us and Face The Music.

Check our post on Seasick Steve as well. Speaking of NYC, here’s another product of New York, from the album Parallel Lines:

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Seasick Steve

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As part of my role at The Academy of Rock, I was blessed to witness a performance by Seasick Steve the other week at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Maidstone. In case you are not aware, Steven Gene Wold is a 73 year old blues musician who left home at the age of 13 to avoid abuse by his stepfather, travelling as a hobo on freight trains for much of his early life. Having worked with people such as Joni Mitchell and been a studio engineer and producer, he made his breakthrough at the age of 62 after an appearance on “Later with Jools Holland”, thus proving that it’s never too late to start a new career in the music business.

Steve is living proof that less can equal more in life. Amongst the guitars he plays he has the one pictured above, made from car hubcaps and a broomstick. He also plays a one string guitar, a neat demonstration of the theory of constraints and his famous three string Trance Wonder, pictured below:

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Amongst the artists that we interviewed at the Ramblin’ Man Fair were Bernie Marsden, Marillion, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Bob Wayne, Jess and the Bandits, The Temperance Movement, Blue Oyster Cult, Aaron Keylock, The Quireboys, No Hot Ashes, The Rival Sons, narrowly missing Vic Reeves, Ian Anderson and Saxon. Check out our interviews with Music Giants at Interviews to see these in due course.

We finish with some of the great man’s work with one string, three stringed guitars etc.

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For more on Music and Business grab your copy of The Music of Business.

Check our offerings on the blues and motivation at Keynotes.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out