STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
Routinely delving into the avant-garde and thriving on spontaneity, virtuoso bassist/composer Julie Slick is the latest homegrown talent to attain international prominence.
Still in her twenties, Slick is rapidly becoming a seasoned veteran of the road and the recording studio. Garnering praise from King Crimson alumni Adrian Belew, Pat Mastelotto and Tony Levin, among others, Slick is enjoying a career working among the music elite in the jazz and progressive rock worlds.
“Fourth Dementia” (2014), her third album, is the latest release featuring Slick and Italian bassist/songwriter Marco Machera. Rounding out the group are drummers Eric Slick and Pat Mastelotto as well as violinist Sarah Anderson. The end result is a collection of 8 masterfully executed original compositions offering a tantalizing listening experience. “Fourth Dementia” exemplifies real musical prowess and finds Slick and Machera pushing their creativity to the outer limits.
Slick and Machera first met in 2010 at “Three of a Perfect Pair Music Camp” held in upstate New York and hosted by Tony Levin, Adrian Belew and Pat Mastelotto.
In April 2014, the duo began collaborating following a European tour Slick did with the Crimson ProjeKCt’s. Inspired by the response they received while performing in Tuscany, Slick and Machera continued writing songs together. That effort gave birth to “Fourth Dementia.”
“As soon as we plugged in, we just started improvising and composing out of nowhere,” says Slick. “‘I’ve got this idea. Oh, I’ve got this idea. Do you want to try to do something to this?’ The next thing you know, we had four new songs. Two days later we played them for our shows in Tuscany. They were extremely well received. I was shocked. I was like ‘wow!’ People had even made the trip over that had come to the Crimson project shows.”
“We kept going with that momentum, and I was like, ‘We definitely need to record these songs!’” added Slick. “So, we recorded the ideas that we had, and then we just finished the record by sending ideas back and forth to one another. Within 7 weeks, from start to finish, the album was done. I met up with my brother in the studio in Philly, and he did all the drums for the record, and it was done. I knew it was something special, and I felt really good about it.”
Slick launched her music career at the tender age of 12, enrolling at the newly opened “Paul Green School of Rock.” She earned notoriety as the school’s first All-Star bassist and was prominently featured in the soundtrack of the award-winning documentary “Rock School.”
By her mid-teens, Slick had performed throughout the U.S. and Europe with a diverse collection of musicians, including Jon Anderson (YES), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Frank Zappa alumni Ike Willis and Napoleon Murphy Brock, Ann Wilson (Heart) and Alice Cooper.
Following her graduation from Paul Green School of Rock in 2004, Slick moved on to Drexel University, class of 2008, where she earned magna cum laude honors in the music industry program.
In 2005, Adrian Belew invited the talented siblings Julie and Eric to play a show with him at New York’s Knitting Factory. Belew was so impressed by the duo’s performance at that gig, he enlisted them to round out his newly formed “Adrian Belew Power Trio” the following year.
“We did the show and it was great,” said Slick. “Adrian called Paul a few months later about recommending some former students of his that could be in his band. Paul recommended Eric and myself. Then he called me, asking how my chops were to see if I could field it well enough to fly to Nashville to audition for Adrian’s band. It was a life changing phone call.”
“I was excited, and I was nervous,” added Slick. “ ‘Oh my God, this is really happening?’ Paul had told me on the phone call that Adrian had already bought my plane ticket to Germany to do four dates in Europe. So, it was really my job to lose. So, I felt confident. I was really excited to work with my hero. We went to his studio at his house, ran through the songs a couple of times, and it was like, ’OK, I planned the whole weekend for rehearsal, but I guess we don’t need that.’ So, it was really a good feeling, like ‘Yea, we knocked it out of the park.’”
“I have moments on where I’m like, ‘Wow! I’m on stage with Adrian,’” said Slick. “I’ll look out to the audience, and I’m like, ‘Wow! There are people here watching us play. This is awesome, and I’m doing this for my job.’ It’s great. I’m very fortunate that I went through the School of Rock and was given this opportunity. There’s no reason I should be playing with Adrian, but then again, there’s every reason. It’s given me a lot of great opportunities and opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of incredible — not just musicians — incredible artists and people. It’s just fantastic!”
As an artist in demand, Slick finds herself literally with no permanent address and, instead, living out of three suitcases.
“It was very scary, but it’s been very liberating,” said Slick. “I’ve realized that the universe does provide. I’ve sort of gotten rid of everything. I’m very fortunate that I have friends in a lot of places. I’m just very grateful that I‘m living in a time like this that can afford me the opportunity and the possibility to even do this. I guess I’ve made some sacrifices, but, for me, I’ve just been so focused on being a professional musician and making a living in music. Of course I would do this to achieve that. Sacrificing all this stuff has been the best thing that has ever happened.”
Slick and Machera, who will be joined by Pat Mastelotto (drums) and Tim Motzer (guitar), are looking forward to bringing their “Fourth Dementia” show to Philadelphia later this month.
“We’re going to do a lot of Fourth Dementia material,” says Slick. “We’re going to do a lot of improvisations. I think it would be very foolish to have all these amazing musicians on stage and not try to just make something new. And, of course, we’ll play a Crimson song or two and some solo work. It is going to be a great night!”
IF YOU GO
What: Julie Slick and Marco Machera, with special guests Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson) and Tim Motzer
When: 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30. Doors open at 8.
Where: Hard Rock Café, located at 1113-31 Market St. (corner of 12th and Market streets), Philadelphia.
Info.: Call (215) 238-1000 or visit www.hardrock.com. To stay up to date with Julie Slick, visit www.julieslick.com.