George Lynch and renowned bassist Pancho Tomaselli, along with friends Corey Glover of Living Colour and studio drummer Chris Moore, make up Ultraphonix. Their incredible new album Original Human Music is available now. Ultraphonix is a follow-up of sorts to Project NfidelikAh, the project that Lynch and Tomaselli put an album out as in 2016 collaborating with Angelo Moore from Fishbone. Original Human Music is a killer collaboration – a showpiece of musicianship cast across twelve original songs that touch on numerous musical styles over the album’s 50-minute running time. The band’s unspoken mantra seems to be crafting great music that rests just outside of everyone’s laurels, and this approach yields some exciting results.
The question of whether Ultraphonix will tour or not remains uncertain, as Pancho reveals in the lengthy interview that follows. Conducted on September 10th by phone, the audio for this interview is included here as a SoundCloud stream here as well. Do take the time to stream Original Human Music by Ultraphonix on Spotify; it’s an album with numerous musical moments to marvel at.
On paper, this album would be a tough sell to a label. It’s pretty free-form, you guys are touching on a number of different musical styles. They would have a hard time picking something to put to radio.
Pancho Tomaselli: The way I see it, when I started doing something with him, with George, this is the second album of many more to come of very different eclectic projects. We took this not as an album to sell records; we’d much rather be creative. Everybody has projects where we have to play the same kind of songs over and over sometimes as professional musicians. So, we need a creative outlet. So, I remember sitting down at a meeting at ESP, by then George and I were signature artists for ESP, this is how the whole project started, I was sitting there with the VP of ESP, and I see a picture of George on the wall with Spandex and hairspray. And I’m like, “Shit, I wanna play with that guy! That’s George Lynch!” I asked Jeff Moore, the VP, I asked for George’s number and he gave it to me. I called George, and I asked him, “Hey man, do you wanna make a band?” and he was like, “Yeah, sure!” And then we started, like eight years ago.
Was that on Project NfidelikAh?
Tomaselli: Yes. Actually, it was called The Infidels, and it was me, the drummer from the funk band War, and George. And then, because of the touring thing we had to switch drummers. And people were a little skeptical of the name “Infidels,” because of what happened with The Eagles and all that. Promoters were saying, “Is there any alternative to the name?” Spira was shitting in her pants, so we changed the name to Project NfidelikAh, and that had Angelo Moore from Fishbone. And now we brought in Chris Moore, he stayed on this project. I don’t know if he’s gonna stay on the next one because it’s gonna be non-rock, at all. I dunno, everything changes.
Feel “Free” to check out this lyric video.
Will you and George be in the next one?
Tomaselli: Yeah, this is my project with George, this is our creative outlet. George and I have developed some kind of creative partnership, production partnership, we write a lot, and we try to stay away from the rock stuff. He’s done it enough, you know? And I’m not necessarily a rock player so we can grab a lot more from George than just the stuff that he’s used to.
But you can play almost any style of music, so you can step into almost any band and be very proficient and what you’re doing.
Tomaselli: Well, my success doesn’t come from fame, per se. It comes more from playing for a lot of old bands, Tower Of Power, War, The Animals, Eric Burdon, George Pajon, that was my favourite. So, it came more from being proficient because I’m not famous, I just have to be good! (laughs) There’s no other way to feed the family, you’ve just gotta do the gig.
I didn’t put two and two together that you were the same Pancho from Philm until I was prepping this interview. I saw you at the Gramercy when you opened the Metal Masters Four show.
Tomaselli: I have a funny story about that show. With Philm, we have a new album coming out, I don’t know when yet, but the album is done. But it is one of my favorite things. Gerry and I are working together on a different project that is not metal at all, it’s actually more of a jazzy, r&b-ish funk from the ‘50s and ‘60s. We actually have a gig on Wednesday for it. It’s pretty cool, I get to play fretless bass on it. That’s very nice. But yeah, the Philm thing is coming, we just finished it. Of course, Dave [Lombardo] isn’t on the album, he’s with Suicidal I think, and Dead Cross. But that’s the price of being big, so I’m not gonna say much. Let’s talk about Ultraphonix, man.
Yeah! You went into this album looking to do something different. What was your dialog with George like before you started putting this music together?
Tomaselli: It got to the point where we decided to dig out riffs from George’s iPhone. We found a bunch of music in his iPhone, and just produced it and added our flavor to it. That’s how this album came about. It was gathered from here, have an idea there. I did want to squeeze that “Another Day” song, which is not rock, it’s more like a groove for a country radio station. And it was on purpose – the worst part about living in LA is that you get labeled as “musicians”. George is such a versatile player, but he’s made a lot of money playing rock guitar. But when I heard George playing the style of, let’s say, Jimi Hendrix, it blew me away. I think George is carrying that torch, but he doesn’t even know it. I’ve played with a lot of old schoolers, you know, that new Jimi, and when I heard George play like old Jimi, I was like, “holy crap.”
How did you decide, then, on working with Cory Glover, and bringing in Chris for drums?
Tomaselli: Well, I didn’t bring Chris on drums, I think George knew him, and they met up, we needed a drummer quick. He’s very proficient, not my particular flavor of drummer, but he’s very proficient. He came in, did the job. We brought in Cory because Angelo was very hectic with all his other projects, and he was stopping the process. So after we were done with the record, and we had to start with another record, I just called Cory. Like I said, this is not me per se, it’s just me and George being creative. We put all of these band members in, and we’re up to touring, but people have to understand, when you go to Banana Republic and get a suit for 300 dollars, and it looks nice, or you can go to a handmade boutique and get a suit for $5000. This project is a handmade boutique kind of project. This is not Lynch Mob, Philm, Living Colour – it’s nothing like that so we can’t sell it like that. That’s why you don’t see us touring, because everybody’s all like, “Okay, blah blah,” we’re not gonna tour like that. This is what this thing costs because they’re very rare. So if people wanna pay for it, then we’ll go and tour all you want, but if people are thinking that they can get bands like this, a special project, for the same price they’ll get other bands, then they’re wrong.
Did you ever tour Project NfidelikAh?
Tomaselli: We did a couple of runs in California and up and down the coast. It was pretty successful! We were doing The Troubador… we got a lot of push for such a weird project. That is my favorite. If you want to write about anything, write about that thing. Because that thing is so real. The lyrical content and the way it sounds with George on little amps and old guitars, and without his rack and stack… recorded to an eight-track tape machine. It’s the bomb. But anyway, let’s talk about Ultraphonix. (laughs)
Pancho Tomaselli: Let me tell you, the Ultraphonix process was very straightforward. Come in, work with either a beat or a riff, or in the case of ‘Another Day’ I came up with the progression and the chord changes and all that. Everybody brought in their fortés. I was on the East Coast by then with Corey, and George was here, Chris was here. We had to throw the ball back and forth. I think the reason why this album is peaking is not that it’s good, but because it’s different, and right now we need different shit. I think that’s why everybody right now is like, “Oh my god! This is the shit!” It’s not, it’s the same people doing different stuff. If you’re driving through a field of cows and there’s a purple fucking cow in the middle, you’re gonna stop, take a selfie with it. This whole purpose of me doing projects with George, that’s why we’re doing it. To do shit that’s different.
As reviews for Ultraphonix are coming out, how accurate are journalists describing this material?
Tomaselli: They’re accurate, but they’re using the “Living Colour,” “Corey Glover is Ultraphonix,” shit like that, which I advise people not to do, because they are so saturated in the rock world, they’re gonna be like, “What the fuck, is this another project by George Lynch” and they’re gonna talk shit about it. That’s why I’m doing the interview with you, because, stop that bullshit, it’s not Corey’s band, it’s not Chris’ band. It’s just a fucking creative outlet for me and George and Corey’s part of it. That’s what it is, it’s not complicated. Yes, we want to tour. Can they afford the tours? Fuckin’ A!! And if they do, we’ll be there. It’s pretty simple. But let me tell you, what’s not going to end is that there’s a lot more music coming up. A lot more music with George. We’ve agreed about it for another huge project starting in November, actually. That one’s gonna take a little bit, but it’s gonna be a massive thing. Another weird project, so the whole vibe of that is not to stop.
How much time a year do you spend in the studio? You sound like you’re on a lot of projects, and you’re always keeping your fingers in different things.
Tomaselli: Yeah, I’m actually a composer for Facebook! (laughs) I write music with my partners of 20 years, we’ve had a band also called Dig Infinity. If you’re a guitar nerd, man, this is insane. And we have a company that generates income from different media outlets like Facebook etc. We generate income, of course, to survive and to make this band that we’ve had forever possible. That’s the money making machine, that’s how I make my living, and of course Philm, and the Gerry project, that’s strong. And I have a jazz quartet because I just need to play. I pulled out of the touring. I’m not touring with old bands anymore, because it’s different now. You really make money if you write the songs and go on the road with the songs. If you don’t write the song, you’re just making gig money. But I did tour, I did War for sixteen years. I was like, 25 when I joined a band full of people in their sixties. It was kinda crazy. Played everywhere, Royal Albert Hall, freakin’ The Olympia in Paris. And that landed me the other gigs, Tower of Power, etc. Then Philm came up, and that’s when I decided to pull out of the road and start my own shit. Otherwise, you get old quick in this business.
One of the things that I like about Ultraphonix is that it is not an easy album to classify. There’s a number of different styles, it sounds very free-form, it sounds very jammed. Like you just put it together on the floor.
Tomaselli: It makes you wonder, “What the fuck are those guys doing?” I hope it did because that was the whole purpose. It makes you go, “I gotta rewind that thing, because what is that?” The whole purpose was to make people wake up a little bit. It shouldn’t be the same music over and over. That’s why I think we’re stuck, because back in the day, the whole thing about a good radio DJ, was a DJ who found out the newest shit. Am I right or wrong? Now, it’s what is selling the most? Just fucking play that over and over until we die. Before you got all of these DJs like, “Oh my God, look at this demo I found!” and shit, on the air. And then the Rolling Stones are born. And now you’ve got all this shit. For us, I think it was important to put out an album that is going to go and do its thing.
Check out this Ultraphonix video today, or maybe “Another Day”.
You strike me as someone who’s always eager to learn, you’re not gonna do something unless you get something out of it. Have you ever considered doing any clinics, or any teaching one-on-one?
Tomaselli: I did, actually, last year when we moved to the East Coast, we had to have some family move over there, to Massachusetts. I was teaching at the Community Music School of Springfield, and I had a whole bass department that they gave me, and a contemporary program that I wrote. I went and taught in public schools for a year and a half last year. It was wonderful and an amazing experience. Pretty much teaching the kids, not so much about the music but about the power that music gives. My bass is like my magic carpet, I’ve gone around the fucking world with that thing. But it’s smart also to pay attention to attitude vs. aptitude. Give me one answer, and you pass the class. That was the final exam, attitude versus aptitude, and there’s only one answer. If you get it right, you pass, if you don’t, you fail. And the answer was simple. Some students were like, “Aptitude, you gotta learn!” And I was like, “Okay, you fail, boom.” “Okay, so attitude!” “I’m like, ‘You fail too.'” “So what the fuck is the answer?” “I go, ‘both.'” You have to know your shit, and you have to have a good attitude, then you’ll get the gig.
I’d almost say you’ll need a little bit of marketability, as well, because a lot of artists can’t market themselves, and they don’t understand business. That’s tough.
Tomaselli: I actually have a degree in music business from Berklee College of Music. That’s where I started, and I’m telling you, it’s important. I came to a point in my life where I had the option of getting a fat record deal and putting my time and effort on that or getting a signature bass guitar and putting my effort into that. So I opted for the bass guitar in my career path. Because I said, “Fuck, if I get a record deal, spend all this money to make an awesome record, put it out, people will download it for free, and I won’t sell a fucking record. And that’s it, I get one chance. But, if I put a signature bass with my name on it, first all, with a signature bass, you cannot download it from the internet. And then, my name is imprinted everywhere on Guitar Center, Sam Ash, Musician’s Friend, you go and put my name, and it’s there. In places where a record deal wouldn’t even put your name on. I advanced in my career through the player side, as opposed to the artist side.
How was that process for you? Were you involved in the development from beginning to end of the guitars that you built?
Tomaselli: Yep! From measuring and necks and styles and woods and pickups and bridges and design and price point, marketing, I did it all. Because I’m not gonna pay a manager to do it wrong for me! (laughs) At this point I’m too fucking old to go and pay 15 percent for someone to fucking experiment with my career.
So, what did you learn from that experience, of building and putting your name on a guitar? What did you take away from that?
Tomaselli: I’ve learned two things: when you pay attention, and you persevere, and you kick ass at it, and you’re the best at it, you can still fail. You know? So it’s kind of like a double-edged sword. It’s like being an entrepreneur, we are musicians, we have to take high risks in our careers. The higher the risk, the better the reward. Opting for this player side of my career, I did hurt a little bit because I kind of detached from the artistry side of my career, which I’m back now because I had to go on the road. There’s no art in touring, I’m telling you, the only thing you need is stamina because it’s the same shit. Same show, same clothes, uniform, go! Boom! So, that kind of dies, and it kills your soul a little bit.
Well you could go out and change your setlist every night, but I think that would confuse your audience. Like they wouldn’t know what to do with that.
Tomaselli: I did that when I was doing the music thing for War, and it wasn’t the audience that was getting confused. It was the repetitive mind of old musicians that would fart out because I’d play “Cisco Kid” as the fifth song, not as the opener of the show. So nah, their brains are all fucked up. It created problems. It created insecurities in the band, and people started not to like me because I was pushing. Adding songs, because War has a huge repertoire.
Yeah, they got a lot of records.
Tomaselli: And a cool repertoire, and I want to do a Tower of Power thing. They change their shit, they add songs from all the records, I’m like, “Why can’t we do that?” So I did it, and we did good. Well, it was like a bipolar uncle; some days it was awesome, some days it sucked.
So who haven’t you collaborated with, people that are on your wishlist?
Tomaselli: That’s an awesome question. Bass-wise?
“Walk Run Crawl”, or whatever you have to do, to check out this Ultraphonix video.
Across the board. I listen to your stuff and feel like you and Mike Patton would get along very well together.
Tomaselli: That’d be great, we were signed to his label actually, on our first Philm record. It’s good because it’s Mike’s label, so he’s on his own schedule. Mike is such a talented guy, but if I get to collaborate with anyone, I would like to do a collaboration with John Zorn or Willie Weeks on bass. I don’t know, dude. I started this quartet called The Red-Eye Quartet with Dave Garibaldi from Tower of Power, the drummer, and Roger Smith, the keyboard player. That’s really out funky jazzy shit. Collaboration is great, I’m always down for it. It’s the funnest thing, it keeps you versatile. Electronic, I’ve done shit with Tricky on the electronic scene, I did remixes for Nelly Furtado on the pop scene. And it’s very much… “How do I feed my kids?” (laughs)
Let me ask you this: if being a musician hadn’t worked out for you, did you have a backup plan?
Tomaselli: Farming. I have some land in Ecuador, so in case when the zombies come, the land there is enough land if you wanna come over. I like farming, and the two things I wanna do is either agriculture or music.
Awesome, man. I appreciate your time and no bullshit. I’ve been playing Ultraphonix since it came out, I think the album’s pretty cool.
Tomaselli: Yeah man, like I said, keep your eyes open with this shit with me and George, because this is only album two.
Well I haven’t played NfidelikAh yet, so I’m gonna dig that up.
Tomaselli: You’re gonna love it. Smoke a joint, listen to NfidelikAh, you’re gonna get so out there. Just like, the lyrical content, I will go to Angelo, and I’d go, “Hey man, think about this. You get home to your freakin’ apartment in Hollywood, and there’s a mess, because the hot chick who’s your neighbor is now dead in her apartment, and you’re the only black dude with tattoos, so guess what, who are they gonna blame? They’re gonna blame you! So you’re coming back, and there’s all this mess coming on.” So I said to him, write a song about you talking to the judge in the courtroom where you’re telling a story that she was dead when you got there, and you have nothing to do with it! And he made a story and tells the song, and, Oh my God. The other one is that Jesus is coming back with an army of angel zombies because you know how people drink their blood and eat their flesh, all that. That’s amazing. And there’s another song called, “I Wanna Be White, But I Can’t.” Really good stuff.
Awesome, well if you tour this, I’d love to see Ultraphonix live, but I totally understand where you’re coming from.
Tomaselli: Yeah, man, we’re trying to set a point also. Everybody wants you, but when it comes to, like, “Hey dude. This really is different, and things cost.” People pay more money for a Tempur Pedic mattress because it’s handmade and special, well it’s the same shit with this.
People are pretty funny when it comes to spending money on tickets. They’ve only got a certain threshold.
Tomaselli: Their loss for promoters not to take the risk. Yeah, it’s gonna be a shitty draw on the first thing, but that’s what happens, dude. You can’t expect to fill up the Dodgers Stadium on the first show. It’s just the nature of the beast, but the creativity will not stop. There are more albums, more ripping albums, hopefully, the plan is to put out enough albums to do a whole night. Project NfidelikAh/Ultraphonix and whatever comes next and put it all together. Have Angelo, have Cory, I wanna bring KRS-One for the next one, and go real dubby/hip-hop/metal kind of vibe.
Man, if you can find a sponsor and do a residency somewhere… let people come to you.
Tomaselli: Yeah, go to Vegas for two weeks and present “The Black Underground”. Black punk music, or eclectic sounds of LA. Anything’s possible. But no promoter’s gonna see that until they see five albums back-to-back of the same production team. So it’s a packaging thing, we’re getting there. Album two is done. Album three is being made.