top of page

As comfortable as a cactus suit...

Under protest, here's a brief bio of Yours Truly:

Born on the planet. In Canada. Specifically, Montreal. In 1960.

I've lived in the USA since I was 9 years old. Currently I reside in Winnetka, California.

I'm about 5 foot 9, and I'm average, physically.

Besides the Audio and Computer stuff on the other pages here, among the things I used to do or have done, and things I know a lot about or have a special interest in, are the following:

Animals in general, zoos, dogs, cats, tropical fish, oceanography, marine biology, scuba diving

Fencing Foil & Epee, coaching fencing, competing in tournaments, martial arts philosophy

Science-fiction book collecting/reading, Cosmology & Astrophysics

Modern Art appreciation, Art galleries, writing skills.

Humor of all kinds

GR Extended BIO:

I was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1960. My parents were Hungarian immigrants who left Europe in the 1956 revolutions there. My youth was not spectacular for it's musical achievements, although I was always a curious and driven-to-learn sort of child. My parents observed me listening to music with a great deal of attention when I was as young as two years old, though. My father was a great music lover—he would buy used instruments from the Salvation Army and bring them home to plink on. He loved Gershwin, big band jazz, and movie music a lot. When I was maybe 7 or 8, my folks took me to a piano teacher for lessons, for about a year, but none of it took--I hated the teacher and the practice. I've come to regret not paying more attention then, but I think it left me with some subconscious guilt about not learning an instrument well, and maybe this drove me later in life when I found what was to be my chosen instrument, the bass guitar.

When I was 15 years old, we had moved to Los Angeles, California, and I was struggling to fit in. I had three friends at high school, and we were all self-professed nerds and geeks. One of my friends was very into music, and when we hung out at his house, he would play mostly Yes records, and regale me with his hero-worship of Yes' bassist, Chris Squire, and then tell me idealistic fantasies about how he would buy a bass and learn to play just like Squire one day. It turns out that I was the one that got a bass, and I was the one infected with Squire-worship, and I was the one that got the musical thing going on.

It piqued my interest. I have this friend to thank for even making me aware that the bass had such an important role in music, and for showing me how to listen to the different parts and instruments in songs. I ended up buying a homemade wood-shop bass another friend was selling, and that was my first crappy axe. A year later, my big sister, seeing how obsessed I was becoming with learning this instrument, bought me my first real bass guitar. This was a used, cream-colored Rickenbacker 4001 made in 1973--I got it in 1975 for my birthday. It cost about $300 back then and I still own it. I think it's worth over $5000 now. Of course, Squire played the Ricky, and so I had to also. 

I also ended up getting a Sunn Coliseum amp later on, like Squire had, and Moog Taurus pedals, like Squire had, and effects like Squire had, and eventually learned all the Yes bass parts as well.

He's still an idol of mine, and when I met him a few years ago it was a thrill. I had him autograph his first solo record for me, and I told him I thought he was a GOD. He was very humble and said it was kind of me to say so, but there were so many players now that were better than him. Maybe there are those that have better chops, but for sheer amount of memorable, musical, tasty bass parts, I feel Squire stands alone, to this day.

I now own almost two dozen instruments of various kinds, and tons of effects and other studio gear. What can I say? Creative people need their tools.

The high school summers were all about shedding--I wanted to understand the instrument and play cool stuff, maybe be in a band. I remember the first summer I had it I spent a month or two just trying to master the finger stretch and bass lines from Pink Floyd's "Money", which is mostly in 7/4 time, I think. I listened to all sorts of prog-rock, and those were my first real instrumental influences. Bands like Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, ELP, Rush, and Return to Forever.

While a senior in high school I jammed with a cover band for a short time, then I joined with some other guys in a better cover band to play parties for money--we did a few parties, but my little practice amp was shitty and I needed something better, so I got my first real amp, a Fender Bassman 10 with 4 10" speakers in it and I think 200 watts of power. It sounded great but could barely be heard over the other loud players.

Shedding, more shedding, and still more shedding throughout high school. Then I went to college at CSUN and through some friends I met there I learned about and went to see a band called PaperBag, playing on UCLA's quad. They were doing something incredible to me. I could barely understand what was going on, but they seemed so serious and earnest and committed to their music that I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I approached them.

It turned out that their second guitarist, an amazing musician and later friend by the name of Ken Rosser (they had had no bass player since their inception a couple of years earlier) wanted to leave Paperbag in order to pursue jazz music, and so I was able to audition as his replacement in the band.

The other three guys in the band were amazing people. Mark Segal, who played hundreds of styles of music with conventional drums, hand drums, ethnic percussion, all manner of toys and junk, spouted poetry, and did all the excellent artwork for the albums and gig flyers throughout PB’s career. There was his younger brother Greg Eric Segal, who was a lead guitarist with all sorts of effects that could get millions of tortured, screaming, ethereal and otherworldly guitar sounds unlike anyone I had ever heard. Finally there was Kenny Ryman, a most unconventional musician for his time, because though he occasionally played keyboards he also manipulated tape loops in real-time, used turntables and vinyl as instruments (you have to remember this was 1985…WAY before hip-hop began and DJ culture started using turntables as instruments) and tweaked everything through various delays and whatnot, and acted as the band’s recording engineer early on. They’d all been in other bands before, played music forever already, and were veteran performers.

We hit it off so well both musically and personally that after just a few “jams” I was in. A bit later I will explain why what PB did was really not “jamming” at all, and this is key to why I was so entranced with their concepts and mission.

PB was recording EVERYTHING they played and it turns out that our first release together, the cassette-only "VIctimless Crime" is culled from jams done in those first few weeks after I had joined the band.

As for my own contributions to that band, I will leave it to others to comment. I will just say that what I was always trying to accomplish was to at least play something interesting enough that if you listened to nothing else in the track but the bass you could still find something musical and meaningful in it. My philosophy was that bass should be melodic as well as foundational, grooving but nuanced, emotional and powerful and driving all at the same time. I'm proud to say that I think I did that at least 50% of the time.

Of course, I was there and part of the development of our “Theory of Improvisation” and the methods that came out of that. That’s documented elsewhere and I highly recommend looking into that if you are interested in the meat and potatoes of how we did what we did.

I should say something about my feelings on Improvisation as well. Up until my actual experiences with PB I had only had exposure and experience of “jamming”, the things where all the guys in a band trade solos over known chord changes, known melodic motifs, known rhythms. It was mostly all worked out ahead of time, all you made up personally was the few bars of your own solo. And this was back when solos were still done in rock music, unlike nowadays.

The only place you find “soloists” where they make it up on the spot is in jazz, but even in that idiom there are somewhat strict parameters within which you can work. When a musician gets kind of free and freaky within the song’s context the jazz cats call it “taking it outside” meaning playing beyond the conventional constraints of the average solo, like introducing exotic chords, melody notes not found in the song’s key, poly-rhythmic accents and syncopations.

If you are not a musician maybe a lot of my take on this stuff sounds like a mess to you, and maybe it is, so I’ll explain it another way. If music is a form of non-verbal communication, where I am trying to communicate some idea or vibe to you the audience member using only my musical instrument, then soloing on that instrument in the context of a pre-written and rehearsed tune is basically riffing on established themes, however non-verbal—you are not really saying anything unexpected or unsafe. I’m probably saying things that have been said before, with only the slight twist and uniqueness afforded by my individual way of playing.

On the other hand, if you are ALSO making up the context, melody, rhythms, etc., on the spot, then you may create a truly extemporaneous, spontaneous generation of pure improvisation, in other words, it might be something totally new and unexpected, and maybe it is something NO ONE HAS EVER SAID BEFORE. Original, novel, and unique are words we use to describe this when it happens. Interestingly, this kind of playing tends to reflect more of one’s subconscious influences, because you don’t have the luxury of thinking about it too much before you must speak.

In polite conversation, we want to think before we speak or we might say something dumb or offensive, but since this is music and not speech, we may instead tap into something more primal and less intellectualized, more honestly expressive of our pre-verbal feelings and emotions. In music, it’s ok to be “thoughtless” in the sense of “not pre-meditated.” You can sometimes be amazing and profound in ways pre-meditation would restrict severely.

It bears mentioning that the better you play your instrument in terms of knowing how to get what is in your head and heart at any given moment to come out through your hands, the more expressively one can play.

Then, you must also acknowledge (to whatever degree your nature allows) that TOTAL FREEDOM in music is both most exhilarating and most scary. You have no safety net of known chord progressions, known rhythms to fall back on.

You have no ability to predict or prepare for what is coming at you from your band mates—you can only react to it in the moment it is happening. You must trust yourself. Cliché that it is, with great power comes great responsibility: an effective improviser in really not and should never be a musical anarchist—it isn’t that there are no rules, it’s that the rules come and go as fast as the notes do. You have to be uncommonly sensitive to everything around you, the playing, your gear, band members, audience vibe, trending vibe of the notes just heard, your own feelings and reactions to what you are experiencing etc. You try to predict and shape where the music is going as you are instantly reacting to where it actually does go. It’s a heavy challenge for even the most seasoned musician. We had all sorts of people tell us they’d be TERRIFIED to death to try doing what we did. We also had all sorts of people beg us to let them sit in and play with us, so they could see if they could rise to the challenge.

It’s scary and it’s glorious. That’s because there’s no safety net. You are blindfolded with a paintbrush in your hand and a canvas before you, and your goal is to make Art. Sometimes, almost as if by random chance, you do, except the only thing keeping it from being totally random is the musician BEING THERE. We in PB did this, more often than not, and that’s something I am very proud of. Sometimes we didn’t make Art, just noise, and we rightly regarded these pieces as failures. We called it the “turkey factor”—the fact that not all improvisations will qualify as “artistic.” It’s a job hazard, and we worked really hard to keep the turkey factor to a low percentage of our pieces. That’s why we rehearsed, developed a theory and methodology, and did endless philosophizing about improvisation. We were always trying to eliminate the turkey factor.

That first rehearsal with the PB guys, I was infected and wholly taken over by the mad viral meme of this idea. I was as converted as if I’d been body-snatched by aliens. When it works, and you make ART, there is no better feeling. None.

I got TOTALLY nuts into the Bag thing. We were experimentalists in a mad scientist, wizard alchemist way. Having no boundaries other than our own musical limitations and of course, cash flow, we were into so many ways of making and offering up sounds and musical ideas, such as the use of effects processing. I started collecting effects to use with the bass. I built my first of what was to be three (now four) generations of pedal boards. We all played various instruments and tried to get unique sounds. I remember a guy coming up to me as I was setting up for a bag show and he was marveling at all my pedals. He said "Wow, I have never seen a guitarist with that many effects pedals."

To which I replied, "Um, I'm the bass player. The guitarist is over there." The dude's eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped. I guess he never saw a bass player with more than a chorus or fuzz.

-G. Radai 2/28/12, Los Angeles, California

bottom of page