Eddie Jobson has played violin for a host of bands over the years, including Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, U.K. and Curved Air. (Courtesy of Randex Communications)
by Peter Lindblad
When he set about assembling the lineup for what would be his new “dream band” — at least one comprised of the best musicians playing today — Eddie Jobson didn’t hold hours and hours of in-person auditions. Neither did the king of the electric violin go from club to club to see what wizardry they could perform live.
No, Jobson, the violin prodigy and keyboardist extraordinaire for such progressive-rock luminaries as Curved Air, Roxy Music, U.K. and Jethro Tull, did what a lot of us do when we’re goofing around at work — he went on YouTube.
“My idea was to try to find the best players in the world, but a new generation of them,” says Jobson. And so, UKZ — which includes Aaron Lippert (vocals), Trey Gunn (10-string touch guitar), Alex Machacek (guitar) and Marco Minnemann (drums) — was born.
Their impressive chops can be found on the latest EP from UKZ called Radiation, a four-song appetizer of punishing postindustrial noise, heavy metal rhythms and virtuoso prog-rock that sounds like Nine Inch Nails attacking King Crimson in a dark, garbage-strewn alley — especially on the terrifying title track and “Tu-95,” which alternates between skittering, bare-knuckled metal savagery and wondrous instrumental beauty.
“More of a concern for me was to make the music contemporary — not just a rehashing of ’70s prog-rock but something truly progressive that would appeal to younger listeners as well as older fans,” says Jobson.
As he went forward, Jobson says, “It became obvious to make this an extension of UK.”
U.K. was the supergroup of sorts that culled its members from bands like King Crimson, Yes, Soft Machine and Roxy Music. It originally featured such dynamic prog-rock heavyweights as drummer Bill Bruford, bassist/vocalist John Wetton and, at that time, unheralded guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who would later become a prog-rock superstar in his own right.
In a way, UKZ might be more like jazz-fusion pioneers Mahavishnu Orchestra, at least in its worldly citizenship — Gunn is from Texas; Machacek is a guitar prodigy from Vienna, Austria; Minnemann is from Hannover, Germany; and Lippert is a citizen of Belgium, though he was born and raised in New York City.
“It’s interesting because all five people are citizens of different countries,” says Jobson. “Not since Mahavishnu Orchestra has that happened, and I do like the idea of being like Mahavishnu Orchestra.”
Of course, Mahavishnu never used distortion like Nine Inch Nails. “That’s part of that contemporary voice I’ve been looking for,” says Jobson. “I quite liked that direction in music. Looking back at the music we were making in the ’70s, you can view albums like King Crimson’s Red as being industrial, and that’s probably why it’s held up so well. It’s held up better than the keyboard-based prog of that time.”
Just like with Nine Inch Nails, the keyboard sounds of the more industrial tracks on the Radiation EP aren’t so obvious, and that’s just how Jobson wanted it. They’re less melodious and more harrowing than what you might expect.
“Many of the keyboard sounds you tend not to notice them,” says Jobson. “Like with Nine Inch Nails, you don’t think of it as all keyboards because it’s not Rick Wakeman.”
For his part, Jobson recognizes that he himself was partly responsible for the keyboard sounds of the 1970s progressive-rock movement. But for UKZ, he was “ ... looking for a new approach so I didn’t end up being the one who dates the record,” Jobson laughs.
Along with UKZ, Jobson also has a new live group that he’s took out on the road in August. For those keeping track, it had been 27 years since Jobson went out on tour. This live project is called U-Z. In essence, it was a solo project, but with a revolving cast of musicians he recruited. November dates in Poland for U-Z will find Wettin and Tony Levin joining the group.
With Jobson taking center stage with his trademark Plexiglas electric violins, U-Z performed rarities from U.K. and other material Jobson has helped create over the years. Read www.ukzband.com and www.eddiejobson.com for more tour news and information on the two projects.
One way to get an idea of what UKZ is all about is by going to — what else? — YouTube to watch their video for “Radiation.” Interestingly, just as Jobson started laying the groundwork for the Radiation EP by e-mail and the Internet with the rest of the far-flung band, Jobson also used different means to gather video footage for it.
Jobson had all the UKZ band members play their parts before green screens. When he got the footage back, Jobson was able to piece it together for what amounts to a homemade video. “We’re living in a video age,” says Jobson. “And things have to be done differently than we used to do them. You don’t have the support structure of a record label supporting you on tour or giving you a couple hundred grand to do a video. This is more cost-effective and creative.” Look for recent reissues of U.K. albums U.K., Danger Money and Night After Night [Live].