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The SSR Interview with Fergus Marsh

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The SSR Interview with Fergus Marsh


Canadian Stickist Fergus Jemison Marsh has had a long and brilliant career sharing stage and studio with some of the most prominent names in music..He has appeared on over 50 albums and has toured the world over.His tight,rhythmic Stick work can be heard on albums by contemporary Christian Music's late great Mark Heard, multi-Juno Award winner Bruce Cockburn, Alt Rockers Big Faith, brother Hugh Marsh,and Art Turner,to name but a few.He has also managed to squeeze in some jingle work.And now Fergus has released an album of world beat grooves with beautiful, spiritual themes.His signature Stick is in full bloom providing a rich tapestry upon which is built a magnificent experience of lush harmonies and meditative chants.Fergus was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule and answer a few questions for us.

1. You have had an illustrious career as a bassist and Stickist working with some of the top names in the music industry.Why did you wait so long to put out a solo album?

I think it was just the right time for me.I bought a computer and I suddenly had the means to twiddle away on it and try to figure out what kind of project to do.I wanted something that would express who I am musically and spiritually.

2.How did you set out to write the material for "Spirit Moves"?

It was a combination of playing around on the Stick and looking for scripture that could accompany the music. The idea was to find short passages that would act as chants or meditations. In this way, the thought process of the listener remains open to one's own directions for meditation on the themes provided and the music can either support the lyrics or take more of a leading role. Having said that, you can hopefully also just listen to it and enjoy it for what it is.

3.Your album has a definite "world vibe" to it.Some of the material reminds me of Peter Gabriel's "So" or "Shaking the Tree".Who are some of your musical influences?

A short incomplete list:
Peter Gabriel
Bill Laswell
Mark Isham
Jimi Hendrix
Frank Zappa
Los Lobos
Daniel Lanois
Miles Davis and Steps Ahead
My other main influence was all forms of Classical music which I was brought up on.

4.Tell us about Big Faith.Is Big Faith going to release another album soon?

Dead and burried.

5.You have had a long standing association with Christian performers of the highest caliber. How was it working with folks like Mark Heard?

Mark was a wonderful man whom I knew for a very short period over a few years before his untimely death. He always made it easy to work with him because he was so much fun and he wrote such poignant and beautiful songs.

6.You have also worked with the incredible Bruce Cockburn.Bruce seems to gravitate towards front and center players when it comes to the bass and percussion sidemen of his various groups.His music has a driving force which is propelled by a tight rhythm section. Did Bruce have a
clear idea of what he wanted from you on your collaborations with him,or were you allowed a certain measure of freedom?

Bruce actually made me play Stick all the time, which I'm thankful for now, but I remember on the first tour , I didn't really know what notes I was playing all the time because I didn't know the instument that well.
Musically, Bruce always seemed to give plenty of freedom to the players.Of course he had input to give but I felt he wanted the musicians to express themselves as well.

7.Any chance of doing more recordings with Bruce?

No phone calls to date.

8. Getting back to "Spirit Moves".For the song "Shelter" you employ the Swahili language for some of the verses.Where did the inspiration come for this?

Well I don't think I could do a credible job of writing and playing an African song ,but I've always enjoyed artists who incorporate different elements of "World Music".In "Shelter" there's a combination of African singers, Middle Eastern Duduk and percussion, synthy loops and Chapman Stick. I asked the singers to improv a bit and use the language of their choice. (they spoke Swahili, Congolese, French and English).

9. When did you first begin playing Stick and do you still play "The Grid"?

Well as I mentioned before I owned a stick when I began with Bruce Cockburn, but that was essentially when I started which is around '84. I'm not using the grid anymore (just a personal choice to rely more on effects than synths).

10. Any plans on touring for "Spirit Moves" and are you gonna tour the U.S.?

I don't think that's going to happen unless circumstances change quite drastically.CD sales would have to be phenomenal to justify the very large expense of touring.

11. Thank you so much for your time Fergus! I usually ask only 10 questions for our interviews but what the heck! Here's one more.Any plans on attending some of the Stick Nights or Stick Seminars around the U.S?

I've always wanted to go to one of the seminars but the opportunity has never panned out. Maybe sometime, I'll make it.

"Toy Bin"
Chapman Stick
Fender bass
Ned Steinberger upright electric bass
Alembic F 2B pre amp
Boss se-70 effects unit
Mac G4 running Logic Audio, Reason
Doyle custom bass cabinets


Fergus' Facts & Links

A Partial Fergus Marsh Discography

Fergus Marsh -Spirit Moves
Bruce Cockburn -Stealing Fire, World of Wonders, Big Circumstance,Live
Hugh Marsh -Shaking the Pumpkin, The Bear Walks
The Sidemen- Dig In
Steve Bell - Romantics and Mystics, Waiting For Aidan
Big Faith-Grounded, Undertow
Tom Prasada Rao -Incoming
Layton Howerton-Boxing God
Yodeca-Earth Fusion
Mary-Kathryn- One Spirit
Mark Heard- Dry Bones Dance, Satellite Sky
Art Turner- Story Water
Pierce Pettis- Tinseltown
Billy Batstone-A Little Broken Bread
Ruth Fazal-Joy in the Night, Inside Your Heart

Purchase "Spirit Moves"

Offsite review of "Spirit Moves" by Jerri Anderson

Bruce Cockburn