"Music, especially if we are to consider music without lyrics, does not have a political agenda, does not speak to race or class nor is restricted by language. In that sense it communicates the human experience in the most profound way, connects us together as one species, and in that commonality, proves that we all want the same basic things for ourselves. We need to operate from that sensibility."
Lyle Workman: The Flourish of Music
Known both as a first-call sideman/session musician and a top-shelf film composer with credits including “Superbad,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” prolific guitarist Lyle Workman will release “Uncommon Measures,” his first solo album in a more than a decade, on February 19, 2021, via Blue Canoe Records. Featuring a 63-piece orchestra recorded live at Abbey Road under the direction of orchestrator extraordinaire John Ashton Thomas (“Black Panther,” “Captain Marvel”), the collection plays like the score to some epic film from an alternate dimension, mixing elements of progressive rock, jazz fusion, and romantic classical music with gleeful abandon. Bursting at the seams with soaring arrangements and virtuosic performances, “Uncommon Measures” showcases not only Workman’s unparalleled musicianship, but also his profound empathy and expansive emotional vocabulary. The songs here are living, breathing entities, constantly growing and evolving in ways both subtle and drastic, and the production is similarly unpredictable, veering from larger-than-life bombast to whispered intimacy and back, sometimes within the very same track. The result is a record as extraordinary as it is unexpected, a captivating, transportive song cycle that manages to scale the dizzying heights of joy and sadness, love and friendship, self-discovery and celebration, all without a single word.
(Lyle Workman / Photo by Greg Vorobiov)
A California native, Workman’s musical journey began in the mid-1980s, when he joined the Sacramento-based band Bourgeois Tagg. The group landed a deal with Island Records and gained international acclaim for their hit single “I Don’t Mind At All,” a Workman co-write that helped earn performances on the Tonight Show, Top Of The Pops, American Bandstand, and their European equivalents. The band proved to be a launching pad for Workman, who soon began picking up gigs in the studio and on the road with the likes of Sting, Beck, Frank Black, Jellyfish, Todd Rundgren, Norah Jones, Bryan Adams, and jazz icon Tony Williams, who included Workman’s “Machu Picchu” on his album, “Wilderness,” with Stanley Clarke and Herbie Hancock. Workman’s skills as a sideman turned out to make him ideally suited for the world of film and television, as well, and work writing commercial jingles soon gave way to jobs composing for indie films, which opened the door to major studio releases and a connection with Judd Apatow, who began hiring Workman to score many of his projects. To date, Workman has composed music for films that have generated over a billion dollars at the box office worldwide.
Interview by Michael Limnios Special Thanks: Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)
How has the Jazz and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
For me, that music, and all music for that matter, mostly influences me on a personal level. It does not have a big impact as to world views. Yes of course culture influences the music, and I do have a fondness for certain regions of the world and its people that produce music I love, such in African music, but that’s a far as it goes.
How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? Where does your creative drive come from?
I’ve grown over time through experiences playing with a wide range or artists. In learning their music, my understanding of music was broadened. Even more substantially, my work as a film and TV composer has afforded much growth through composing hours and hours of music, and a portion of that entails working with large orchestras. I took a class to study orchestration and along with working with great orchestrators, the combination was monumental to my development.
The creative drive comes from the love and passion for making music – the joy of creating something from nothing and the satisfaction of seeing a germ of an idea grow, flourish and come to life.
"For me, that music, and all music for that matter, mostly influences me on a personal level. It does not have a big impact as to world views. Yes of course culture influences the music, and I do have a fondness for certain regions of the world and its people that produce music I love, such in African music, but that’s a far as it goes." (Lyle Workman / Photo by Greg Vorobiov)
What touched you recording with a 63-piece orchestra at Abbey Road? How started the thought of Uncommon Measures?
I loved any semblance of orchestral textures from my earliest days, whether it was within Beatles music, pop music of the 60’s and 70’s, then to Gill Evans’ work with Miles and of course in classical music. This is my fourth record, and this time around I wanted a substantial element of orchestra for this one.
It was powerfully satisfying to hear a large group of world class musicians put their artistry and talent into each note, in one of the most iconic recording studios in the world. The Beatles were the reason I wanted to play music, and to be in the studio where they made theirs was quite moving and meaningful!
Are there any exclusively specific memorable moments with people that you’ve performed with either live or in the studio?
I had one in the studio with Todd Rundgren. We had just finished recording a final take of a song with a full band, as the intention was to record with no overdubs. Todd, being a great guitar player himself, gave me the solo spots which made me extra nervous because I would not have the chance to fix any mistakes, which is the common method of studio recording. When we listened to the final take in the studio control room, he looked at me very satisfied and outstretched his hand gesturing huge approval. I was very relieved plus getting praise from Todd was extremely rare, so it was a very good feeling!
Another was playing with Sting in France. We played an open amphitheater, and it was during the World Cup. It began to rain and soon thunder, and lightning followed. Somehow the crowd learned that France had advanced and in celebration, the crowd took their cushions and hurled them in the air along with the loudest cheers. The site was glorious! It also happened to be one of our best shows of the tour.
"Follow your heart, embrace your differences and build upon them, what may seem like weaknesses may in fact be strengths, always treat others with compassion and understanding, be the kind of person you would want to be around. In music, play in tune and in time, and listen to the other players as much as you listen to yourself!" (Lyle Workman / Photo by Tom Dellinger)
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
To pick a few I’d say playing with Sting, Beck and Frank Black (from the band Pixies), all for different reasons. I worked with Jazz drummer Tony Williams and learned from him that all music, regardless of genre, amount complexity or lack thereof, was all valid and therefore something to learn from. I took that not as advice, but as a lesson in the value of having an open mind; to look for value in music that I otherwise might not give the chance to.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
My hopes are than my son will grow to be a man in a world on track to heal itself from decades of environmental abuse through human ignorance, greed and failure. My fears are that he will not.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music paths and life?
Follow your heart, embrace your differences and build upon them, what may seem like weaknesses may in fact be strengths, always treat others with compassion and understanding, be the kind of person you would want to be around. In music, play in tune and in time, and listen to the other players as much as you listen to yourself!
What is the impact of music on the human rights and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?
Music, especially if we are to consider music without lyrics, does not have a political agenda, does not speak to race or class nor is restricted by language. In that sense it communicates the human experience in the most profound way, connects us together as one species, and in that commonality, proves that we all want the same basic things for ourselves. We need to operate from that sensibility.
(Lyle Workman / Photo by Greg Vorobiov)
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