Part 5: Flying Pigs
FlyGuitars (FG) The 1980s saw you in a new band, Flying Pigs. How did that come about?
Mick Hawksworth (MH) It was initially, a jam band, often with Willy Finlayson, vocals and guitar; Matt Irving, keyboards; Steve Sinclair, drums. It went on to regular line up of Mickey Jones (ex-Man), guitar; Phil Little, drums; later replaced by Rick Dyett. Then came the Flying Pigs Mark two: Mike Summerland, guitar; Colin Woolway, drums, which was also a great band.
FG An album of Flying Pigs recordings was released in 2004, featuring yourself, Mickey Jones and Phil Little. What did you like about the band?
MH I think it combined the best of my attitude and the way that I played, and the same with Mickey really. We did work extremely well together, sang together well too. He would suddenly start playing this solo, and he'd end up playing it for twenty minutes, and it was never boring, never. And all sorts of stuff. Wicked player, wicked sense of humour, lovely guy.
FG It is a good album, and once again some very different sounds compared to your previous recordings: lots of effects on both guitar and bass. What basses and effects pedals were you using?
MH Jet Lagging - that was Igor
On the Street, that was Igor going through a bass balls pedal, again from Electro Harmonix
Back Together Again was the Gibson RD Artist going through the Zipper pedal again; the auto-wah, but on slow
Breaking up was Igor with the Electro Harmonix flanger
Psycho was the eight string on Igor
What in the world Igor with the flanger
Private Movie was Igor
Asylum was the RD
Last Birthday Part was the RD
Against the Crowd was the RD
FG What amp?
MH Acoustic 360, of course! That's all I'd use. Apart from one time in 1974 when my preamp got stolen and I had to use a Sunn Coluseum bass head, which was rubbish, but I managed to pickup another preamp, and that's all i've ever used since 1970. There's nothing else like them.
FG There's an interesting bassline you used on Back Together Again; all that sliding around.
MH Mickey and I used to argue at length about what I would be playing. I maintained that, as it was a three-piece, I didn't have to continually follow the bass drum; you may as well have two or three other players. If you're a three-piece you need to expand your playing, not lessen it, to fill out the sound. Like when he played solos, I needed to do something behind him that would illustrate the chords, and you can't do that on one or two notes. In the end we arrived at something that suited both of us, and again I think, in latter days Mickey came to like what I did, because we did a hell of a lot of work together, and I think he missed it once he started playing with Man again. In turn, I learned a lot from Mickey's approach.
FG Who wrote the songs?
MH Yeah. We did about 50:50. Most of what I play is pretty well controlled by what I write. Psycho was mine, Private Movie and Against the Crowd. Jet Laggin', Back Together Again, Breaking Up, What in the World, Last Birthday Party and Asylum was Mickey Jones.
FG What was the musical highlight for you?
MH Breaking Up I suppose; I mean it's a great song and we had a great arrangement for the solo: it really built to a great climax. There was nothing I didn't like really, though I think Private Movie wasn't too suitable for the band, maybe. Some songs work with a band and others don't, you know. That was one of those.
FG Around about this time you started to play fretless in favour of fretted bass. What or who made you go this route?
MH I'd heard Jaco of course, in about '76, and I thought Jesus Christ!!! I think he re-wrote the book on the bass guitar, let alone the fretless bass guitar. Again, you can't help but be influenced, but I was determined not to sound like him, if there was any way I could avoid it. I'll tell you a bass play I really admire, Fernando Saunders - he played with Jan Hammer Group and then John McLaughlin in the One Truth Band. They had this wonderful rhythm section, Fernando Saunders and Tony Smith. Fretless player, absolutely stunning. There's a Jan Hammer album, Melodies, and there's a track on it called Mayday; the bassline is very basic, but it's so musical and a great sound, fantastic sound. I stood on the side of the stage in Germany, playing with Alvin, we were on the same bill as John Mclaughlin. We were on first the first night, and they were on first the next night and I watched both their gigs, and I was just astonished. Wonderful, wonderful player. What really started me on fretless though, was having two identical basses, which was crazy [The RD Artists], and if I couldn't sell one, then I was determined to use it. I was just astonished, once you get your head around it, some of the things you are able to do.
FG So what did you have defretted?
MH The spare blonde RD. I heard that if you filed down the frets on a bass and played with a light touch, it would behave like a fretless, and if you played heavier with the left hand, you could sound the fret. It didn't take long to do it and I was really pleased with the results. The only trouble was that my heavy approach soon wore the fret remnants down to nothing, until they all peeled off... A friend of mine de-fretted it and filled the gaps with a black resin, so I still had fret markers. An idiot's fretless. I got so hooked on playing fretless that I virtually stopped playing my fretted basses: so much so, that I decided to de-fret the Guild as well, using the same epoxy resin treatment. It sounded great minus the frets, but I had this idea.... Having studied a Danelectro Sitar, to see how they got the sound, and discovering that it had a bridge with no fixed saddles; just a sloping piece of wood for the strings to buzz on, I thought, what if? So I did. I didn't get the trombone sound I was hoping for, but what I did get was a really different sound. Quite toppy, but still with that real hard low end. By now, I was only playing fretless, which meant that Igor, the Thunderbird and the original RD were not being used. As I still loved the colour of the first RD, I de-fretted that one as well, in the hope that I'd use it more. As it is, I've just dug it out of retirement, and only need to work on the action a little, and I intend to use it as my regular bass, instead of the blonde one, which incidentally, I resprayed in a metallic maroon. I said I didn't like a natural finish.
Drummer Phil Little has set up this page about the Flying Pigs - check it out