It has taken us far longer than we wanted it to, but GP Records is finally a reality (hooray!)—thanks to Universal, MI5 Recordings, and MI5 label honcho Ted Mason, who is also an extraordinary guitarist. In fact, to test the waters of this new partnership, the first album to be released by GP Records is Mason’s. The Road to Mecca is a sprawling work of 24 tracks that embraces everything from rock, funk, metal, and blues to soul, Rai, Soukous, classical, and other world styles.
“I wanted the album to be free from the constraints of the consumer world,” says Mason. “I also wanted to let the album have a life of its own—like a novel. Finally, its themes about colonialism, religious intolerance, and the modern consumer world couldn’t be limited to 12 tracks.”
Crafting such a broad musical palette required a pretty large cast of instruments, and Mason’s go-to gear included his “hopped up” Charvel Model 4, a Fender Stratocaster, Gibson and Epiphone Les Pauls, an Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor, an Epiphone PR-5E, a Ramirez classical, a Marshall 8100 Valvestate, a Mesa/Boogie Road King, and a Fender Twin, as well as a stunning 1987 Phillip Woodfield 11-string alto guitar.
“That thing is a beast,” says Mason. “The 6-string is multi-timbral, but very limited. You can’t even play Claire de Lune on it. When I saw Narciso Yepes playing a 10-string guitar, I knew I found an instrument that could play piano music, and getting turned on to Professor Anders Miolin and his 11-string alto was the next step. I went a different direction than Anders, though. I pluck with my flesh on the lower notes to emulate a harp, and I use my fingernails for higher notes. I use my left thumb like a cellist to half bar, and twohanded tapping for quick, complex polyrhythmic motifs.”
The creative thrust of The Road to Mecca was also informed by what record companies are not doing for artists these days.
“As a label boss, I know the majors are not coming out there to discover you,” says Mason. “There is no artist development anymore. That’s the business now. So I don’t care about hits or being a product or a genre, and neither should you. I think musicians should throw the whole game out, start listening to music from around the world, and incorporate something different into their music. Experiment. I’m not hearing diversity and adventure in the marketplace. Want to make compelling and exciting music? Then, take this test. Ask yourself, “What kind of music do I play?” If your answer is a definitive genre, it’s the wrong answer.”