BON LOZAGA’S ENDURING AND UNCOMpromising
commitment to fusion and prog-rock
has won him a loyal global following. His soaring
melodies, searing solos, and funk-infused
rhythms have been central to his approach since
his days in Gong during the band’s classic late-
’70s Expresso II period—playing alongside Allan
Holdsworth—through to Gongzilla, his current
reinvention of the group.
Gongzilla’s most recent album, Five Even
[LoLo], found the group successfully venturing
into jam band and songwriting territory, with
members of moe and Umphrey’s McGee guesting.
Lozaga’s forthcoming solo album Tiny Boxes
[LoLo], released under the name Bon, continues
those relationships, with its inclusion of
moe guitarist Chuck Garvey and Umphrey’s
McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins, along with
renowned bassists Kai Eckhardt and Jonas Hellborg.
Drummer Donnie Futrell and bassist
Anthony Goodwyn round out the line-up for
this impressive, highly melodic jazz-rock effort.
Describe the concept behind Tiny Boxes.
I look at it as the Band of Gypsys meets Jeff
Beck. There are a lot of instrumental guitar
records out there today, but something’s missing.
Many players have an impressive
vocabulary, but few have anything to say. Hendrix
and Beck are guitarists limited in their
knowledge of scales and theory, but both say
a lot in their playing. If you transcribe the music
of some technically oriented players, all you’ll
see is a bunch of scales with thirty-second- and
sixteenth-notes. But try and transcribe the solo
from “Machine Gun.” You can’t. It’s full of grit
and chaos. You never know exactly what is
going on and it can’t be recreated. On Tiny Boxes
tried to find a middle ground between that
universe and Beck’s melodicism.
What are some of the things you do on the
album to create grit and chaos?
Playing deemphasized ghost notes is one
way. Using feedback to work notes in an
unpredictable way is another. On “The Gypsy
King,” I’m constantly working my Ernie Ball
stereo-panning volume pedal, and as I do, my
two amps—a Marquis 36 and a Marquis 30
by Oldfield—start switching modes and feeding
back. The feedback variations that occur
when you move around in front of an amp
can’t be replicated. I do things like picking a
melody and changing position in front of the
amp, while working the guitar’s tone and volume
controls to roll off the highs and mids.
It makes every solo sound different. I also get
chaos by playing really aggressively. I get a
little more sloppy when I do, but in a good
way. It’s about capturing a feeling as opposed
to executing something really exacting.
Tell us about the recording setup for Tiny
The album was recorded at Old House
Recording Studio near Charlotte, North Carolina.
We used the iZ Technology RADAR
hard disk recording system, which is the closest
digital format to ’70s analog recording I’ve
heard. It sounds much better than Pro Tools.
The studio has one big room where we
recorded the rhythm section, and I’m in a
smaller room with my amps, but close enough
to see them. The majority of the record was
laid down live to capture us moving together
as one unit. Most of my solos are the originals
played in real time. When you overdub
too much, you start to mess up the live feel.
Your main guitar is a Framus Panthera Classic
Pro. What makes it special for you?
It’s a fantastic, lightweight, semi-hollow
archtop guitar with a rosewood fretboard,
and I added a Stetsbar tremolo bridge. It has
Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 Model humbuckers,
but instead of having that typical thick
humbucker sound, in this guitar they have
a thinner, Telecaster-like sound that’s a bit
more compressed and has a bite to it. When
I need the thick sound, I just roll off the
highs. It’s a really versatile instrument that
lets me run the gamut from chicken pickin’
squawk to a fat jazz tone.
Take us through your signal path.
I use T-Rex Alberta overdrive and Mudhoney
distortion pedals, both set on low
gain. Sometimes I stack them when I want
to go balls out. From there I go into a T-Rex
Replica delay pedal, which is my main source
of slapback and other echo effects. I also use
a Lexicon Vortex and a DigiTech JamMan.
Reflect on your days recording and touring
Gong’s Expresso II album.
It was a very fortunate career break and
a dream come true. When I flew from New
Jersey to London to do the sessions, the airlines
lost my pedals, so I recorded my parts
playing my Gibson Les Paul directly into a
Fender Twin. That was it. My contributions
and Allan Holdsworth’s were complementary
because Allan’s style at the time wasn’t
rhythm-focused, whereas I was more grooveoriented.
It worked really well and we didn’t
step on each other’s toes when we played
live. Gongzilla is thinking about doing some
2010 shows in which we play all of Expresso
II as part of the set. The music sounds timeless
and there’s still a lot of interest in it
after all of these years.