WILLIAM JAMES' ANT BEE: PR FOR PASSION
His passion for progressive rock and avant garde music, combined with a strong expertise in the field of public relations in music, makes William James one of the most creative and original characters from the world stage. With his company Glass Onyon PR William, a native of Charlotte in North Carolina, has worked with many famous artists in their careers and even managing to express himself as a musician thanks to ANT-BEE project, full of different influences and inspirations.
Currently William, who has also written successful rock biographies, is currently doing publicity for Jon Anderson, original frontman of Yes, and recording background vocals for a new cd by Jon called Zamran, a psychedelic new age music project on which James is especially keen. We interviewed him to learn more about his music career and his promoter activity ...
Let's start from the name of your musical project: ANT-BEE: What does exactly mean and when did you get the inspiration?
The name came from 2 different sources – one was from Capt. Beeheart's song “Ant Man Bee” from the “Trout Mask Replica” album – one of the most innovative and avant garde albums of all time. Also there was a very popular TV show in the US from the 1960's called “The Andy Griffith Show” where the story was based in North Carolina. The show had a matronly auntie called Aunt Bee – I was born in North Carolina so it's a bit if a play on that.
For your four albums you had very prestigious guests, including Daevid Allen and Gilli Smith from Gong, members of Mothers of Invention, Jan Akkerman...What were you able to learn from those musicians?
Most the guest artists that have appeared on my albums through the years were music heroes of mine when I was growing up and so it has been a great honor to work/record with them! I've had the tremendous fortune to have such legendary music artists record on my albums like Deavid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Peter Banks, Jan Akkerman, Michael Bruce, Neal Smith, Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Jimmy Carl Black, Zoot Horn Rollo, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Moogy Klingman, and others. It would take a book to discuss all I have learned, but each artist has brought an exciting and interesting new element to my work. A lot of the material was written with the guest artist in mind – not just them recording a part on one of my compositions like a session player. For instance the Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth material is very Gong-inspired. With Jan Akkerman's piece “Mannah”, I tried to keep the flute part (which was actually played on mellotron) similar to what something Thijs Van Leer would have done on a Focus piece. Peter Banks's tracks are sort of YES-ish in spirit. Tracks with Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Jimmy Carl Black and Motorhead Sherwood are very Mothers-esque... and so on.
Peter Banks from Yes collaborated with you for the song Endless Journey. What was your impression of him and did you always like Yes music?
It was a great honor to work and know the late Peter Banks. He was very suppotive of my music – possibly more than any other well known artist I have worked with. He sincerely enjoyed my music. So to have him record on 2 tracks on my last album “Electronic Church Muzik” was fantastic! I also helped him write his autobiography called “Beyond & Before” (Golden Treasures, USA)
I have been a major YES fan since 1972 when “Fragile” came out. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would record with Peter Banks, and for that matter Jon Anderson. I have also been very fortunate to do publicity for many of the members of YES – Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Tony Kaye, Billy Sherwood, Geoff Downes, Patrick Moraz and Peter Banks!
One of the greatest honors has been recording some vocals and percussion for Jon Anderson. It is a dream come true for me – something I would have never imagined in a million years! I did some background vocals for an epic piece by Jon called “OPEN” in 2011. Since then I have also recorded some background vocals and percussion (tablas, african drums etc) on a piece called “Day of Days” which is unreleased at present. I also contributed background vocals to another unreleased track called “Spirit Grounding”. I am currently recording vocals for a large form piece called “Zamran”, which is the follow-up to Jon's first solo album “Olias of Sunhillow”. Again this is a great honor and truly one of the the highlights of my music career!
Your most recent cd, Electronic Chruch Muzik, was out in 2011. Do you plan to make another album soon and which guests would you like to have?
I have some ideas floating around for another album – it could be a meditational album call “OM” or a jazz-fusion-avant garde album of ANT-BEE covers of Sun Ra, Coltrane, Miles and Pharoah Sanders tracks – it would feature Don Preston and Bunk Gardner of the Mothers of Invention. I am putting together a “Best of” album for release on GONZO Multimedia UK – which will feature different mixes and edited previously released material – still thinking on a name.
The style of your music is certainly very bizarre. What is your ideal audience for it?
I believe that my audience has to have some sort musical education or at least an open mind about adventurous music. Plus having some appreciation for the music artists that have influenced me through the years – Frank Zappa, YES, The Beatles, Beach Boys, ELP, Capt. Beefheart, GONG, Grand Funk, Alice Cooper, Santana, John McLaughlin, Miles Davis, 10cc, Focus, Sun Ra, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, T. Rex, Bowie, Faust, Can, Popol Vuh, Magma, King Crimson, Le Orme, on and on and on – all are influences on my music – you can take one or more of these artists' influences, put them in my musical blender and out comes ANT-BEE muzik!
You also work as musical writer. Did you ever think to write a novel?
Before I became a musician I always wanted to be a comedy writer for comedians and movies – but never really pursued it... not sure I would ever write a novel but you never know if the spirit hits me.
For years you promoted many great artist with your publicity company. Which one impressed you the most?
It's been an honor to do publicity for many of my childhood musical heroes through my company Glass Onyon PR. I would say that the two I am most proud of representing is Jon Anderson of YES and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who sadly passed away in Dec 2016. Both were my two favorite vocalists when I was a teen in the early 70's. So working with them was/is a dream come true. I had worked many years for Greg Lake and he was a really wonderful person and one of the greatest singers of all time – a true music legend! Greg was always very appreciative of my work for him – I truly miss him. I have had the great honor of being Jon Anderson's personal publicist for close to 6 years now. Jon and his wife Jane are very beautiful and amazing souls! It is always very exciting to work with Jon... he has so many amazing ideas and constantly pushing the boundaries of music!
What do you think of the actual music scene? Are there any bands that you like?
For me there are not many new artists that interest me, but there is so much music already recorded through the ages that I have a lifetime of music to research, discover and listen to – every day I discover on YouTube some new obscured German, Italian or French avant garde/Prog music ensemble from the 70's which I in turn will explore more deeply etc. That being said I do rep several new artists that have a lot of interesting releases like Zero Times Everything, YANG, Ape Shifter, Ben Craven, Leon Alversado, The Raptor's Trail, Stick Men, and several others.
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