Eclectic Mouse interview with Steve Forman
The Eclectic Mouse was the nickname of master percussionist Steve Forman, who released one LP and a supporting 45 on Capitol Records in 1969 under that moniker. Steve, tell me what are some of your influences as a young boy, to start playing music? I would also like to know if you were in any other bands in your teen years (before the release of your LP)?
At the point when I started writing the Eclectic Mouse project most of my influences were from Jazz and Classical music. But I remember being aware of Al Kooper’s first Blood, Sweat and Tears record, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. From the jazz camp I think Don Ellis was an important influence then, and all the Miles Davis recordings, particularly the works with Gil Evens. Really, the Mouse project got me out the symphony orchestra and into pop music, so my main experience with deep listening to pop music began at that point. I was 22.
Your album Everything I’ve Got’ has some of highly original “movements” that feature numerous wind and percussion instruments and were all written, arranged and conducted by you. It was released by Capitol.
The record was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered in Phoenix Arizona. I was approached by George E. Laibe, a local promoter who wanted to get into the record business. George didn’t know that much about it in the beginning, ( I knew nothing ) but we both learned fast. Everything we did was a first-time experiment, musically for me, and business-wise for George. The sessions were all live takes, no overdubs. And I don’t think we took more than two takes of anything. We’d rehearse for a few days and then do about one session per week. Eventually we wound up with the finished album. George had been selling the record in Hollywood since the fist recording session, making extravagant claims and stories up about it, in general creating ridiculous rumours in LA which I knew nothing about at the time. I didn’t care about that stuff anyway, I was having fun just creating the thing in the studio. I did whatever I wanted, no-one ever said “no” or corrected me, or asked me to consider practicalities like how the hell we’d ever actually perform the stuff and promote the record. If I wanted to use a tuba and a vacuum-cleaner in a chat, it was totally OK. So I did. George eventually sold the record to Capitol for essentially the production costs in the end. Several other labels were interested and made some very high figure offers, until they realized what it would cost to underwrite promoting a huge band like that on the road.
How did you decide to use the name “Eclectic Mouse”?
I chose ‘eclectic’ because I was mashing totally unrelated musical artefacts and influences, using anything that I thought was interesting, anything I remembered. It was essentially post-modern/dada but I never thought if as art. I honestly don’t remember why I chose “mouse”. The album front cover was the work of Capitol records art dept. I like the front cover (though I haven’t seen one in over thirty years). That’s all I’ll say about the album cover.
How many copies were pressed?
I’ve no idea. It’s been a cult/collectible item from the start.
What happened after the album was released?
We did a showcase in Hollywood for the Capitol suits and a few odd gigs in Arizona. Then out of the big band a few smaller versions emerged under other names. They were all really creative. A few years on I joined a Denver based group of mostly Eclectic Mouse veterans, “A Slower Buffalo” which was one of most creative bands I’ve ever been involved in.
The stand out track on the record is the amazing ‘Where Do the Hounds Go?’, which is absolutely mind-blowing.
Thanks, I liked those too. “Hounds” is probably the best thing on the record compositionally.
Is there any unreleased material from that period?
Not much, but bits are surfacing on the web now. I really haven’t paid much attention.
What did you do after that?
I became studio recording percussionist, and performed with a lot of artists. For that story visit my site: http://tambourine.net/Pages/steve.html
What are you doing these days?
I’m winding up my PhD in composition in Scotland, starting to teach, and playing acoustic music in Glasgow.
I would like to thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you like to share with us anything else?
My pleasure, thanks for your interest.
– Klemen Breznikar