(Progressive Newsletter Nr.28 12/99)
excerpts from an interview with Colin Bass (Vocals, Bass)
Yes and no. The main character in the book, Willems, is a selfish and relentless self-deceiver who, due to his inability to be concerned about anyone other than himself, lurches into a downward spiral into madness. Unfortunately I could identify with him very much and so it gave me some of the ideas for the lyrics. While certain visual images from the book did inspire the mood of some of the music it was more what the book suggested to me than the actual story that ended up being the theme of the album, so, er, yes and no really.
Even though "An outcast of the islands" is a solo album, it sounds in several songs a lot like Camel, maybe most of all, because Andy is playing the guitar. So what was the musical idea behind doing this solo album, when 3/4 of Camel are participating?
Well, as you said, it sounds a lot like Camel when Andy is playing guitar. Perhaps because Andy is Camel! Camel albums are really Andy Latimer albums. So if I wanted to get my own songs recorded I had to do a Colin Bass album - and I wanted to make something that reflected my own personal tastes and experiences. Dave Stewart is there because he's the best! And it was great to work with Andy on the album - he was ready to experiment and I love what he did on it.
The song titles feature places from Malaysia ("The straits of Malacca") and Indonesia ("Denpasar moon"). How did these places and countries influence you?
Well, going back to the Joseph Conrad book - it's set in South-east Asia and I have been travelling in that part of the world on a number of occasions and have been involved in the music scene there - the song "Denpasar Moon" was a big hit in Indonesia about five years ago - not my version I hasten to add, but there were about 50 cover-versions that sold very well. It's a pop-song but I tried to incorporate some of the elements of Indonesian Pop that I liked - particularly a Javanese style called Degung and the street-music they call Dangdut - so I guess that's why it was popular there. So in a similar way certain Southeast Asian elements crop up in "Outcast" but only very slightly! It's basically a rock album I'd say.
The album features a lot of beautiful, fresh and positively sounding melodies. Do you have therefore also a very positive thinking attitude?
Well, thank you very much - I am always looking for music that is uplifting - that can speak to you on an emotional level - that can evoke the indefinable sadness of being or just make you feel good. As for myself I am a great believer in the power of positive thinking - I just have problems with remembering what that means.
Did you have a chance to listen to the bands where your bandmates play in and how do you like their music (e.g. Quidam, Abraxas)?
Oh yes, in fact in July the Colin Bass band - including the musicians from Quidam and Abraxas plus Dave Stewart - played a festival in Poland at which both those bands also played their own sets - both very different styles and both excellent - and on most of the dates of my tour in April this year Quidam opened the evening with their own set. We had a very good time together on the road and I think that comes over on the new Live album.
You toured in spring together with Quidam. So how did this tour went overall?
See above answer - and listen to the Live album! That was recorded at the third gig - a radio concert in Warsaw for Radio Polskie 3. They have a very nice small concert hall designed for live broadcasts. It only seats about 250 so the tickets were given away on the radio - 10 at time over a few weeks - and the people had to phone in and answer a question etc. So to get a ticket you had to really want to come! So I guess that's why they were so enthusiastic - a small audience but they made a great deal of noise, which helped us immensely.
Besides this solo album you also contribute in another side project called Sabah Habas Mustapha. Can you tell a little bit more about it?
Well, er, I am actually Sabah Habas Mustapha. This is a name I got when I was in a band in the 80's called 3 Mustaphas 3 - we developed a repertoire of hit songs from around the world and there were some wonderful and eccentric players in the band wielding bagpipes, bouzoukis, banjos, clarinets, fiddles, accordions and more. To give a focus to the wide range of styles we played we masqueraded as a family of musicians - usually 5 brothers, one sister and one uncle - called Mustapha - it started out as a joke but became quite popular in certain parts of the world - there was a humorous element to the stage show that made it a very good live band. Anyway that's where I got the name Sabah Habas Mustapha - and I've used it ever since when working on projects of a culturally unidentifiable nature such as my projects recorded in Indonesia.
Kristian Selm © Progressive Newsletter 1999