The Bill Nelson Interview (2019)


Bill Nelson is a man who seldom looks back. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he’s on a mission to stay in motion and create new music. Since the 80s, Nelson has established a niche all his own, exploring a vast spread of sonic landscapes, transcending genres along the way, and tracking literally thousands of hours of recordings. Though he hasn’t enjoyed the prestige and rewards of commercial success, Nelson’s core following voraciously gobble up everything he releases. They’re also on hand when he makes a rare public appearance — as they were during the sold-out Plectronica event where the guitarist celebrated his 70th birthday.

There was a time, however, when the prospect of selling lots of records and playing SRO concerts all over the world was well within reach. From 1972 to 1978, Nelson was the singer, songwriter, guitarist, leader and focal point of Be Bop Deluxe. The band had all the ingredients for success — excellent musicianship, strong vocals, songs that touch on sci-fi imagery and unrequited love, pulsating with hooks and impish embellishments. Sunburst Finish, the group’s third album released in 1976 and reissued as an expanded box set in 2018, encapsulates Be Bop Deluxe’s greatest strengths over the course of 10 lofty tracks. The record and its followup Modern Music were as close as Be-Bop Deluxe came to rock stardom until Nelson broke the band up and embarked down a more inconspicuous path.

In the following “fair exchange” with Bill Nelson, we get into Auditoria, his 2019 triple-disc set and likely the first of others he’ll push out during the course of the year. We also chat about his studio (where he is every day), his guitars, the Sunburst Finish reissue and his days with Be-Bop Deluxe, and how he’s managed to maintain a prolific and productive career amidst an ever-changing music industry. If Nelson has his way, he’ll keep plucking away as long as time and circumstance allow.

To read the rest of this interview, order your copy of
Conversations with the Masters:
The Interviews, Par Deux

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