British immigrant and guitarist Conrad Warre has been spearheading Bees Deluxe for nine years and through eight CDs. The progressive rock, free form jazz, acid blues band gets hit with a lot of labels. Many describe them as complex, but Warre said complex or simple doesn’t matter, as long as the groove is good.
“The first thing for me in writing is a groove,” he said. “Does the tune or the bass line or does something make you want to hang in there and listen to more of it. That’s what you got to find, the pulse. And that can be simple or complicated. It doesn’t matter which.”
Warre recently experienced an epiphany. Previously, if he felt something he was writing was something he had heard before, he’d scrap it and start all over again. Then, not too long ago, a radio station friend played for him a CD of music of that’s all been done before in another form.
“It’s wonderful that I’ve heard every bar of that in another form somewhere else, but they just put it through a blender and brought it back again.” Warre liked it immediately because it was familiar and fresh at once. “I’ve kind of relaxed now,” he said. “Just this year I’ve decided the stuff I write could be more accessible and I wouldn’t feel weird about it.”
Presently, his Bees Deluxe outfit is in the middle of recording another of their progressive acid blues albums. “We’re in the studio working on an album of all original material tentatively Voice Of God,” Warre said. “This time, we’re going to record upside down. Typically, in the past, Patrick and I’ve gone in and we’ve recorded guitar and drums. Then, the bass player would come in or the keyboard player would come in and do their parts. This time around, we’re going to do drums last. So, Patrick’s going to kill me when he hears this.” When asked if drummer Patrick Sanders will first learn of this development in this article, Warred responded with “Yes, yes. That’s how he’s going to find out. Poor soul.”
The entire Bees Deluxe concept and project had formed in Warre’s mind through a circuitous creative route. He had just lost his job in Austin, Texas when his company crashed, went under. Warre had a Gibson Flying V on the floor to inspire him. So, he came back to Boston and was ready to reenter the music industry after a brief stint in corporate America.
“At that point, my children were old enough that I could expect them not to put forks in the plugholes,” he quipped. “I could actually leave for an evening and they would be responsibly watching The Simpsons without burning the house down.”
Warre recalled finding drummer Patrick Sanders and Jamie Lonto on Craigslist. Their newly form group went over well at a blues jam in Quincy, even though they were winging it. “Several people came up to us and said ‘Have you got a CD.’” To which Warre said “No, we just met.” Warre describes the current incarnation of his band as a “floating battleship.”
Bass player Jamie Lonto passed away but Warre and Patrick held it together. Their usual bass player is now Aldo Dorr, but they occasionally swap him out with Joel Cavarri and Patrick gets subbed by another drummer. Warre compares it to herding cats. He said the pre-requisite to playing in Bees Deluxe is that everybody’s got to like each other.
“If you’re going to spend two hours in a van and four hours in a nightclub and then two hours back in the van, you’ve all got to like each other,” Warre said. “B.B. King used to say ‘I hire musicians 50% because they can play and 50% because I want to play cards with them on the bus.”
Bees Deluxe record a lot of interesting things in the studio and they perform a lot of interesting things on stage. Warre might unleash a lengthy progressive guitar phrase while the rest of band maintains a smoky groove. The guitarist-vocalist-composer said he just lives for the moment on stage.
“There’s a point when you’re playing when you have a kind of out of body experience, when everything is going well, and time stands still,” he said. “I guess it’s like a drug. You just keep trying for it. As soon as you’ve done it one night, you want to do it the next night. There’s a lot of interplay in this band. We don’t play arrangements. We’ll play according to our wants and the audience’s needs. So, if a tune’s going down really well, we’re going to stretch it. We’re going to find other things to do with it. If we feel, we’re messing it up, we’re not grooving, then we’ll stop early. The whole point about playing is to expose yourself to the joy of life of hearing something that you’ve never heard before, and learning while you’re doing it, and sharing it with people.”
Warre isn’t a particularly big fan of the recording experience. He understands that if he expects someone to listen to a disc more than once, he has to make it better than something that was spun out spontaneously. Yet, he also understands that too much fussing can also be a drag. In a past life, Warre has been in a 48 track studio with a name producer working for eight hours on merely the bass drum track of one song.
“I vowed I would never do that again because it just produces Cheesewiz,” Warre said. “We’re you’re spending that much time in the studio with that much equipment, you’re just making jello.” Although other people can focus on minor details like that day after day, it just isn’t Warre’s bag. “I can’t do that,” he said. “I’m not happy unless I’ve got a guitar in my hands, and when I got a guitar in my hands, I’m always looking for other notes.”
In his Bees Deluxe band he works most regularly with bassist Allyn Dorr. Dorr used to play in a reggae band called Loose Caboose, presently works with 2120 South Michigan Avenue. Drummer Patrick Sanders works at Grover Probe Percussion and he’s a genius as drummer. He teaches martial arts so he’s as fit as an Olympian. Keyboardist Carol Band was discovered by Warre at Ryles Jazz Club playing real jazz. Stringers who sit in include drummer Paul Giovine who used to work with Tracy Bonham in Boston. Bassist Joel Chavarri, harmonica player Ottomatic Slim, saxophone player Doug Lowe.
Warre’s own songs and compositions are inspired by many sources, except for cliché’s like boy meets girl. He’s currently working on a song about a man who mistakes his wife for a keg of beer. “He cuts her head off and drinks her until she’s dry,” he said.
Warre learned his chops a long time ago. He worked as a music journalist in England for Melody Maker and New Musical Express, competing papers, which required Warre to use a separate byline for each. “Sometimes I would review the same gig for both papers with two different bylines,” he said. “It was really funny. They only paid ten pounds a review. But you get in for free. The labels were sucking up to the journalists so they would send a taxi to my flat to come and get me to take me to The Marquee to see the band.”
Warre moved onto playing in bands, managing friends’ bands, and he brushed with fame managing The Body Snatchers but walked away from it when it got big. “Like most startups, the very beginning is what’s most exciting.” At this time, it was common for Warre to have experiences like running into Phil Lynott or getting into a fist fight with Iggy Popp.
In the early 1980s Warre relocated from London to New York City after working in Great Britain as a theater carpenter, a journalist, a musician, as a manor, and running a label called Swerve under Sire. He had to start from scratch in the Big Apple because he didn’t know anybody. After hiring a rhythm section through a Village Voice ad, he got a series of gigs at CBGB’s, eventually landing a couple of Saturday night gigs opening for Living Color at the time Living Color were calling themselves Dogs Of War.
“At CBGB’s we were playing prog rock, sort of complicated stuff, and it was hideously out of fashion at that time because noise was just starting,” he said. “The next band would come up and they’d put an oil can on the stage and throw newspapers and set light to it and I’d go ‘Well, I’m glad I’m not following that.’”
Warre had come to the states because the woman he had fallen in love with was a dancer drawn to the more modern forms of her art found in the United States. Warre and his lady had illegally sublet an apartment that had belonged to the manager of Blue Oyster Cult. The apartment had a four foot cube Jacuzzi and dumpster loaded with Blue Oyster’s Cult fan mail. “He decided to give up managing Blue Oyster Cult because he wanted to go to Florida and get a law degree,” Warre recounted. “The landlord was this Ukrainian guy who would wait for me at the doorway with a baseball bat to hit me because he knew he I was staying there illegally.” Warre had to come up with a system of watching from a distance to see when the landlord left the doorway so he could run inside and lock the door.
After relocating to Boston, Warre went to work as a production manager for Rycodisc in Salem, Massachusetts, the first CD only company in the United States. He was assigned to work with Mickey Hart on Planet Drum, the first Grammy awarding winning world music album. At that point, world music wasn’t a genre. “We sort of invented it,” Warre said.
From here, Warre would like to see his own band extend their own road map. Bees Deluxe will be playing The Timeout Pub in Rockland, Maine. He liked to see Bees Deluxe include Maine, New York, and Connecticut, and places in between in a single tour. His biggest challenge is making certain his band mates or their usual substitutes will be available and can get to the gigs.
“We’ve been talking with some national agencies, but I’m not sure the crew is quite ready for it because they’d have to give up their day jobs,” Warre said. “I think maybe next year we could be ready to do a three month tour, got to Florida for the winter, that kind of thing.”