: Juan Nelson
NELSON on bass. His nickname is Juan
He is the older member
of the band and he decided to stay with Ben in spite of more tempting
proposals on the financial aspect. The main reason is the fact that
he has more and more liberty on scene; he has fun more than always,
according to his own terms.
He plays bass but he
has tried the drums, the keyboards...He wrote with Ben Fight for
your mind " and he continues to compose with the hope to
come out a solo album
Here is the interview
of Juan done in 2000 by Sandra Salazar for Guitar Collector's :
Sandra Salazar: It
seems that you like to be in France?
France is our second country. We spend a lot of time here, more than
in the United States. There, they just begin to understand our music.
That pleases us, even if I like France.
Sandra Salazar: You
said in the past that you had chosen to work with Ben 'cause he makes
a positive music. In what Ben Harper's music is positive, according
His songs evoke the injustices of this world, even if this last album
(Burn To Shine) evokes lightest sides, there are more songs of love,
of fun. But in a general way, the message is a message of love and
integration, it's there that are the positive elements of his music.
Sandra Salazar: From
here, we always have the impression that this message of tolerance
emanates rather from the Black community than the White Americans,
even at the time when the Blacks were the most discriminated. How
do you explain that?
Our two communities must live in peace. Otherwise, we're heading for
disaster. It's necessary to make peace with the past and the present.
For the good of our children, it would be better that things turn
out all right and quickly. It's necessary to preach the love of his
"Jah work is never done", sure!
We've fought during all our existence, we try to transmit the message.
There are enough people who die, it's such a mortar. To my opinion,
Would you say that this desire of tolerance ensues from a past of
oppression of the Black population either that the Black community
is by nature more spiritual, more turned to God?
This is a part of our cultural heritage, sure! We are very spiritual.
When a people is reduced to slavery, when there is nothing else that
God and the spirituality to rise, people try to free themselves through
that. You can be a free man in your mind, even if you are chained.
You reach your freedom by touching God. It's what we continue to do
I believe it's also that which attracted me to Ben, he wasn't indifferent
to what happens in the world, around him. He writes songs about things
which preoccupy me, and not only "baby, I love you" or Hip-Hop,
even if there is positive and negative things in the Hip-Hop. Ben
is a guy who speaks about things deeper than what you can find in
a lot of songs and he makes a good music too. Will we do a difference
in this world? I don't know, but we contribute to make it a little
Sandra Salazar: In
the life of every day or in a large-scale?
In the life of every day, there are people who say me that we have
changed some things in their life. To know if that changes the life
of people, it's different for each one. It's what Bob Marley did for
me, at least. What he had to say made a difference in my life. I believe
that it's for that that we are successful, we do what seems good.
Sandra Salazar: You
are the most older member of the band, you chose to stay with Ben,
even if in a time, peopke proposed to you better?
It's true, some people have proposed me things which were better paid,
in the short run, but on the long term, I am there for the music,
I play because I like that. I believe that I made the good decision
and then I have more and more freedom on stage, I enjoy myself more
than ever, I improvise a lot. It's moreover my nickname: Juan "Improvise"
What was your musical education?
I began with Gospel and Soul music. Later I learnt Jazz and Blues,
because I wanted to study the differences between these two music
styles. All the musics have different musical approaches. My parents
listened of everything, I had the luck to listen to any sorts of stuff
when I was kid.
Sandra Salazar: They
Yes! My mother plays keyboards, my grandfather plays saxophone. When
I was twelve years old, my mother bought an organ, I played it non-stop.
I invented things on the organ. One said to me: "uses this chord"
and I invented around that, it was great! There was music all the
time at home.
Sandra Salazar: How
many instruments do you play?
The one that I play seriously, it's bass, but I tried drums and keyboards...
I write also my own music and I co-wrote the song "Fight for
I continue to write. I hope to release an album, one day, later. At
the moment, I'm with Ben and perhaps that one day, one of my stuff
pleases him, and he will put it in his album. Now, we are in mission,
Sandra Salazar: What
Make a difference in the life of people, in the music industry, the
most possible touch of people. The music stays, even when you've left
this world. It's your heritage, it's important that this heritage
Conducted in Lyon, France
by Ben Harper & Gavin Conaty on November 14, 2003.
Q: You've got a new CD coming out in late February
with the group Big Advice. How did you get together with the guys?
A: I've been playing with them years before I joined the Innocent
Criminals. They called me way back in '91 to play a gig. Before that
I had my own band and picked up one of their records. They were called
Sun Bear at the time. I already knew their music so there was a connection.
Q: Where did you record the music?
A: Electric Monkey in Beverly Hills.
Q: How long did it take?
A: 3 months to record, mix, and finish.
Q: How many songs?
A: 14 songs.
Q: Are you writing individually or a group?
A: As a group.
Q: What's your role in the band?
A: Lead singing on some songs, and background on others. Bass. I'm
playing Fender 5-strings exclusively.
Q: Did you enjoy stretching out on the vocals?
A: Yes I did, although I'm not the lead singer. But I enjoyed stretching
Q: Did it take getting used to or was it natural?
Q: Tell us more about the 5-string bass. Why play this versus a 4
A: 6-strings are for soloists. With the 5-string, you can get more
chords and different voicings. When I used to work with the other
band, I had to compensate for those missing notes. They required a
lower register. I was covering the synth bass position by tuning down
the 4 string. So why not just get the 5? The 5th string lets you hit
lower octaves and registers.
Q: Did you have a chance to experiment with any new instruments or
A: Not really. It's a classic big band sound with horn arrangements.
Earth, Wind and Fire style. Jazz-soul.
Q: Is this your first solo project?
A: This is my first solo step.
Q: What label is it on?
A: Electric Monkey Records.
Q: Did you produce it as a band?
A: Yes, and with a producer named Georgio.
Q: Are you working on any other projects?
A: Right now this is a band I'm in, but I'm looking forward to making
a solo record in the future.
Q: What drives you to make a solo record?
A: For personal satisfaction to be able to put out that statement.
It's about the art and the self-expression. There may be a limited
market for that.
Ben: Juan can break the mold and do something highly extraordinary
on that level.
Q: What are the highlights on the road for this tour?
A: The fans. They're over the top. Enthusiasm. They're loud. Ready
Q: What's it been like with the expansion of the band?
A: I'm the happiest I've ever been. It feels more musical now. Not
that it wasn't musical before, but it's expanded and evolving into
something quite unique.
Q: When you first discussed expanding the band, how was that conversation?
A: It was an easy conversation to have. It's musically broadened my
Q: How do respond to fans who feel you should have left the music
A: The other guys have expanded the music and really iced the cake.
Q: Gimme a couple magic moments from this tour?
A: All these gigs have a magic moment over here in Europe. Everyone
is singing along, knowing the words, even when they don't speak the
Q: Have there been any low points?
A: On this particular tour, there have been no low points. Even when
we have a harder night, there's still a cohesiveness.
Q: Have you received any gifts from the fans?
A: An electric Gibson!
Q: What do you do in your off-time?
A: Rest, shop, read, practice.
Q: Your son Jeremy beat-boxed on the Live at the Hollywood Bowl
DVD. You're quite a musical family!
A: My mom played keyboards in church. Dad was a singer. Grandpa played
numerous instruments. Grandpa got me into music by playing this old
rusty c-melody saxophone.
Q: How old were you?
Q: How did you start playing bass?
A: My father's Christmas party. The only person I could focus in on
was the bass. The vibrations were so groovy. So I worked hard enough
to buy my first bass. Then I quit my job after I got my bass. Then
I found I had to have an amplifier! [laughs] So I found myself with
no amp, and I had to find a way to hear it. I'd go into a little bathroom,
put the butt of the bass up against the wall, and that's the only
way I could hear it. And it worked!
Q: What is the one thing you look forward to the most?
A: Spending time at home with my family, then going back out on the
Q: When will we get to see "Fight For Your Mind" live
A: That question might kick off the sound check rehearsals tonight!
Q: For the tech-heads, what strings are you using?
Fender Jazz 5 stings. SWR amplification. Moe bass head. Goliath cabinets.
Q: In closing, is there anything else you want to talk about?
A: I'm getting together an instructional video. When it's closer to
release, we'll let everyone know.
Find out more about Juan at www.bigadvice.biz
© 2004 Inland Emperor, Inc.
All rights reserved.