Dose Hermanos live from California

From: MOJO MAGAZINE - London Issue p110 April 1998

"...Meanwhile, the Blotter Brothers' second trip finds keyboardists Tom Constanten and Bob Bralove assisted by Joe Gallant, Henry Kaiser, Steve Kimock and Prarie Prince, yet still deep in the Land of Wired Weirdness. The parallax effect pianos of "Fasten Your Seatbelts" and the Indo-Outre breakdown of "Ganges Valley Brew" conclusively demonstrates their brilliance..."

- Ken Hunt

From: RELIX MUSIC FOR THE MIND - Volume 24 No.3 June 1998

Independent Daze

"Dose Hermanos "Live from California" is a wonderfully adventurous album of category-defying music by keyboardists/electronic wizards Tom Constanten and Bob Bralove. The duo explores the realms of the avant-garde with a little help from such friends as Zero's guitarist Steve Kimock, guitarist Henry Kaiser, bassist Joe Gallant and drummer Prarie Prince.

Recorded live at the Fillmore west on 6/17/96 and 11/16/96, the set runs the gamut of textures and moods as the musicians create a veritable mosic tapestry of sound. There'a plaintive beauty to "Shadow Of the invisible Man", which begins with melodic tinklings and evolves into some complex, fast-paced playing, while there's a cacophonous twist to "Black Lightning." A little more out in left field is the the esoteric, percussive excursion of "Scenes of Pagan Iowa," and the ambient, almost pastoral specters of "Antartica." All in all, a challenging and refreshing album of intelligent music."

- Mick Skidmore

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From: RELIX, MUSIC FOR THE MIND, Vol. 21, No. 2 (April 1994) Brown, Toni A., 'Bob Bralove'

Bob Bralove, the wizard behind the Grateful Dead's MIDI technology, has been with the band for almost seven years. He is strengthening his musical identity through several solo projects. Vortex is one of the side aggregations he has been working with.

"Vortex played at this year's Digital Arts Be-In (in San Francisco, January '94). there were some technical problems that interrupted us, but we had a good time playing. Henry Kaiser is on guitar. He was nominated for a Grammy for World Out Of Time Vol. II in the World Music category. Bobby Strickland is on Saxophone, bass clarinet, woodwinds, oboe; he seems to be able to play just about anything really well. [The Relix] audience should know him from Todd Rundgren and from the Affordables. I'm playing keyboards. Sometimes Vince [Welnick] sits in with us on keyboards. He didn't at this recent gig, but it's always a pleasure to have him. He's always a great addition tot he band. And there are tow brothers from Holland on bass and drums, Paul Van Wageningen and Mark Van Wageningen on bass. Vinnie turned me on to them. The musicality between them is just incredible. They're from the Bay Area and play here on a lot of jazz gigs. They're the first-call percussion sections for many of the Latin and Brazilian gigs, and they've played on a lot of records. This is really a different context for them to be playing in.

I'm hoping to finish a Vortex album in the next month. The band has only played out three times, the first time was for the first Digital Arts Be-In. That was the reason to create the band. Someone offered me a time slot at the Be-In to fill as I pleased, and at first I thought I'd do something with a lot of machines and me, and maybe I'd do something kind of spacey and weird, a kind of drum solo vibe, which is what this guy knew me for. that was why he offered me the opening spot. But then I realized that I get to do that drum solo thing with the Dead so much, and here was an opportunity to do something else.

I thought it would be great to go through my little book of musicians and see who I haven't played with that I'd love to play with , and what I could put together that would be different and fun for me. I got these guys together with the arrangement that the arrangement that whatever we played, we would be co-writing. The point was to come in and share, not for me to be an autocratic band leader, but to really write together and share in the creative process. The understanding was that we would be improvising. We got together three days before the first gig, and with the help of the brilliant John Cutler, we recorded the rehearsal session. So we wrote, recorded and rehearsed for three days. We just walked in the first day and said, "Okay, I've got these ideas. What are we going to do with them?"

For the second gig we did the same thing. After these seven days of recording (three days for the first gig and four days for the second gig), I have more than enough material for an album. These are brilliant improvisers. The trick is to unleash people like these and see what happens. They're all such sophisticated musicians that they catch each other's references. So real musical conversations come up. A tune can take a dramatic left turn, and everyone will realize, "That was a hip way to go. Let's go there". That created the environment for people to really play and be supported, and I think that some wonderful music has come out of the band.

My big hope is to get a [record] deal for the album and then to perhaps put a little tour together supported by the record company."

"What music do you listen to personally?"
"I'm a really eclectic listener. I listen for things that work for me. If I like it, it's good music. I listen to everything. I'm always amazed at how much great music is out there. I've certainly been listening to the Dead a lot the last six or sever years. But I like a lot of different kinds of music. I come from a traditional classical background. I used to write and study chamber music in school. In that scene I love Bartock, there's some Copeland that I think is absolutely brilliant. Stravinsky is one of my favorite composers. We do a piece with Vortex in which I'm using samples of "The Right Of Spring". The keyboard is divided up in half - "The Right Of Spring" and the other half is gunfire and explosions.

It's an interesting balance because we have a lot of technical stuff at our disposal. With the technical people like me and Henry (Kaiser) there, in terms of the technical stuff, we're very sophisticated. We know how to get something out. And with the other people that are sort of initially being exposed to it, it's a wonderful check. We sue samples and synthesizers, and somebody can say, "That's a really great sound, but it doesn't feel right for here". So it allows us to put that stuff in balance. And the technical aspects of the band, to me, don't feel like the most important issue. The music is the most important issue. The technical stuff is just another means of getting it across. that's kind of Grateful Dead training for me. When I was with Stevie Wonder, the technical thing had a sort of supreme seat in that pop scene where you want to be the first out with a certain sound on your record. You wanted to be the first one to use a certain technology, the first one to master a certain machine. The Grateful Dead, you just have to make it right."

"In playing out on your own, you're bringing more back into the Grateful Dead."

"Yes. I really feel that encouragement from the band. The kinds of things I have learned just by playing out and being able to assess what it is one is hearing and experiencing in that moment of creation is allowing me not only to communicate with the band members better, but design sounds that will be easily integrated into that moment. Sometimes you want to feel that moment, and you want a new sound to come in and surprise you, and bring out the energy and move it onto a direction that you expected it to go in, but didn't know how to pull in. Sometimes that moment is very subtly integrated. Vinnie might be playing a keyboard sound, and very gently that piano sound turns into a flute. But over that length, there's a whole phrase while a horn section maybe needs to come in right now for this chorus. And being out there, getting a sense of what it's like to be playing, and hoping and expecting things like that has really given me a handle on how to communicate non-verbally with the musicians."

" Can we expect any technological updates within the Grateful Dead?"

"I'm just now setting up a more sophisticated MIDI communication system. I'm not quite in a position yet to say that it's going to be what I expect because as software and hardware communication development happen, things take different turns. Until it's there, one is never sure. There's now the ability to network communication boxes and machines in the digital domain so that in the short run, it will allow say, Vinnie and myself, a more solidly interactive communication with the sound sources. It will give us each additional power, so we've gone from course tuning to fine tuning the sound. That development will also carry over to everyone else. The drum system will get refined in the same way.

The software that I'm trying to write now will allow me, in performance, to come up with a mix for sound, a certain combination of instruments and volumes for those instruments. In live performance, I'll have [a band member] turn around to me and say, "That's it, that's the one I like". And we'll be able to store it, digitally, right there and still each of us have the ability to manipulate it."

"Are there any other projects you're working on?"

"Everyone has differing degrees and styles in which they work. I think to some extent, everyone has some option to set things up the way they want. Phil does a lot of his prewriting, or sketches for tunes, with MIDI, drum machines and parts done out. Bobby and Mickey have full 24-track studios in their homes, and at the same time, Bobby can come up with a tune for an acoustic guitar and say, "this is the kind of feel I want". Or he might call me and say, "Let's do a MIDI version of this". He'll have written it. Or sometimes we'll have writing parties up at his place to do that sort of thing. It all depends on how involved they'll be for a given thing. When Jerry was ill, for example, I used to go up there and play with his stuff in the MIDI realm and in the visual realm as well, install painting programs and stuff like that. His computer art is mind-boggling. You saw the cover for Infrared Roses. He does other stuff that's real gorgeous.

Everybody has differing degrees of sophistication, but certainly everybody is capable of coming up with stuff like that. but it's not always the way you want to express yourself. Sometimes you just want to clap your hands and sing a lyric. At the point you want to get it to the band, there are enough competent people to help that happen and have the band members do just as much as they want. Most poignantly, in Phil's case, it's a full board demo that he could bring out of his home with vocals and bass and drums and keyboards and horns, anything he wants to bring in. If everybody has to do these demo, some of the tunes might not have the same organic quality that they do. Personally, when I'm writing with a band member, I enjoy leaving holes in the demo because if I come up with a drum pattern, I don't want to put something there that's going to try to be what Mickey and Billy can come up with. I want to put something there that's going to keep time, so that when Mickey and Billy come up with something, they'll blow me away!

My approach to writing for them in the MIDI world is much simpler than in other situations. I'm in the midst of doing this sound track with Jerry for a dive video called Touch of Blue. It's a couple of dives with Jerry in Hawaii. That's extensive MIDI work. We're trying to really scope that out. That would be very different than doing a demo."

" During a Dead performance, do you ever find yourself with a gap in the middle of a solo. and you have to fill in that space?"

"There's been this little section between drums and Space that seems to be opening up where I'm playing and nobody's on stage. That's been growing a little bit. The equipment that I have to prepare for that, which is pretty much a keyboard, has allowed certain seamless qualities to open up so that, if indeed, I', setting up for a moment and somebody's not there, I can add it. Then they can turn around and say, "Oh, that's what you meant!" and be right on it. It's a lot of fun that way. This is during the drum solo where I can add a line underneath somebody."

"Do you have freedom on stage to develop what you'll deliver?"

"that's how that stuff develops. You have to have your freedom or you're not going to be able to deliver. But the most important thing to me during a drum solo is to make Billy and Mickey happy. and I have full freedom to do what makes them happy".

"Have you ever not made them happy?"

"I would think so. But I don't focus on the way things don't work, unless it's technical, as much as when they do work. I try to figure out what it is that we did when it worked for us more than the moments that we missed. It's a fine line - how to give them the space that they need and also provide support. Every night we go out there, it's different.

There are sometimes references that we like, or sonic environments that we like or processing that we like. Sometimes Mickey will say, "Kill this, and move this up," or Billy will say, "Just change my sound. I've played this sound enough". We're right in each other's faces back there, so communication is not only musical, but visual and auditory. We hear what we're doing with these headphone monitors. That's the thing that has dramatically opened up that moment of the show where I'm playing solo. Before, when I had the speaker monitors, I couldn't hear what Jerry, Bobby and Phil were doing. I couldn't even tell when they were out there. I couldn't see them because they were blocked by speakers, and I couldn't hear them because my volume was so loud near me that it was burying any subtlety that they were doing. Now if I'm playing, I can plug into Jerry's. Bobby's or Phil's monitor and say, "How are they playing to me?" and figure out the best way to make that segue to support what they're doing. The thing is how to make it happen musically , and when you can't hear them, it's pretty tough!"

" It's impressive that the Grateful Dead has been able to progress technology the way they have. They haven't isolated themselves within their own music."

"I think that's part of the magic of who they are. They are not isolated musicians. One doesn't have to look very far to see the vast influences that I come across this band. Whether it's the Guymoto Monks or Phil reading an Elliott Carter String Quartet score on the plane or Jerry listening to reggae music or Bobby doing what he's doing with Rob Wasserman - this is a band that really feeds musically on its diversity and its disagreement. part of the magic to me is that they are such different musicians. there isn't anyone who's replaceable, in a musical sense, that if the person is replaced it would truly define the band. When Vinnie came in , it seems to me that the sound of the band changed. To me, the technology is an advancement of that. It's viewed by the musicians as an element in helping to explore the diversity and difference that they can make musically with each other. But because it is an element in this bigger picture, it's not relied on as the sole element. They were always diverse musically, and they will continue to be. And they're using all the tools that they have.

I think the sound system has always been that high-end quality. It seams like they were the first band to realize that you're not going to find interactive musical magic in a system that you can't hear each other with. So their sound system on-stage is very sophisticated, and has been for a while. And then when you make the assumption that if we have to hear well, then what are we doing this for? They have to hear will! The audience has to hear what we're doing. So you end up with the best sound and monitor system in the world. My feeling is that when [the Dead] had the opportunity to explore the MIDI realms and the digital communications possible through musical instruments, it's sort of the next stop in a continuing march. A lot of people think there are very distinct stages in this. The only distinct stage that I experienced was when I got hired, and everything else seems pretty fluid in its development, to me. When Jerry first played his MIDI guitar, I suppose it was a big moment to the audience. But for me, it was the next logical step to where we had been going. Some day he was going to play this. And when he felt comfortable enough, and I had done my job well enough, he was going to play that little horn line, because it sounds like a horn when he does it. Of course, it's a great moment when something I've been working on is performed in front of an audience because that's what we're all living for, making that moment happen. But it's not like that moment loves by itself for me."

" The Grateful Dead has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!"

" They deserve to be there. I feel very privileged to have worked with two acts that have entered that scene (Stevie Wonder was inducted previously). To me, it's a great honor because it means that their music really does stand up over the long haul. It's also meaningless because their music would stand up either way, but it's a very nice recognition. I just feel privileged to be part of that music, whether it gets into the Hall of Fame, or not! I worked with Stevie for six or seven years, and now with the Dead for six or seven years. That's a huge artistic and emotional commitment for me, and I can't do that without really believing in these people, sharing the vision that they've been trying to communicate. It's nice that somebody else sees that, too."

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From: RELIX, MUSIC FOR THE MIND, Vol. 22, No. 2. Juanis, J.C., 'Bay Area Bits'

"Siamese Step Children: across town at the Great American Music Hall on the same evening as the digital Art Be-In, Zero and Second Sight packed them in as well. Second Sight, formerly Vortex, came together a year ago for a performance at the Digital Art-Be-In. Led by bob Bralove, the wizard behind the Grateful Dead's MIDI technology on keyboards, Second Sigt is a musical side project that features virtuoso Henry Kaiser on guitar, the Grateful Dead's Vince Welnick on keyboards, Bobby Strickland on sax and brothers Paul and Mark Van Wageningen, on bass and drums respectively. Bralove was forced to rename the group after discovering that there was already a band using the name Vortex. Second Sight mixes atonal jazz workings with sampled music and sounds. They found a welcome audience opening for Zero.

Henry Kaiser, an astonishing guitarist, plays a unique "backwards" style that is better heard than described. Bralove is best know for hsi behind-the- scenes work with the Dead, especially during "Drums" and "Space", and he really gets a chance to shine in this musical adventure. The band cut a groove with a sampled rendition of Sly and The Family Stone's "Dance To The Music". Second Sight already has a recording on the way and, on the basis of its live shows, is definitely recommended."

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From: SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE DATEBOOK, December 1-7, 1996 April 1998

"Kelp, Larry, Second Sight Jams Into Gear, Grateful Dead computer wiz Bob Bralove releases debut album with new instrumental band."

Bob Bralove recently moved his Steinway piano near the living room window of his hillside Sunset District house. Now when he sits at the keyboard, he takes inspiration from the sweeping panorama that goes from the golden Gate Bridge to the downtown skyline. It's a spectacular, wide-open vista, but not nearly as spectacular as the musical vistas he opens up in his all- instrumental band Second Sight.

Bralove, a computer wiz who spent eight years with Stevie Wonder before moving on to eight years with the Grateful Dead, is unknown outside a cult following. As his guitar-toting buddy Henry Kaiser puts it, "Bob's the cosmic facilitator," the artist whose work you could hear but not see on-stage as he fed musicians sounds designed to inspire them to play their best.

Just as his view at home has widened, since Jerry Garcia's death Bralove has moved from sound designer for others to out-front performer, playing keyboards in Second Sight. To celebrate the release of the sextet's self-titled debut album on Shanachie Records, Second Sight plays a concert Saturday at Maritime Hall in San Francisco, with instrumental cosmic surf band Mermen opening.

Second Sight's space-rock-jazz music swings wildly from driving rock and funk grooves (they even do Sly Stone's "Dance To The Music") into psychedelic group improvisations that fall somewhere between the Dead and Pink Floyd. Joining Bralove is Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick, guitarist Kaiser, hard-blowing saxophonist Bobby Strickland and the bass-drums brother team of Marc and Paul Van Wageningen. On the CD there are other Dead tie-ins, including some tune titles supplied by Dead lyricist Robert Hunter ("Rosetta Rock" and Sin City Circumstance") and guest performances by Garcia and Bob Weir.

Missing the Dead Bralove still chokes up over the loss of Garcia, who died last year. With a bit of distance, he says, "I miss so much of the Dead, but in the past year I've done more in front of people than in the previous 40. I'm getting to play with some of the greatest musicians around. Because of that, Jerry's death has given me a rebirth feeling. That I'm taking his energy and working with it now is consoling."

In addition to playing in Second Sight and working with Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Bralove has a duo called Dose Hermanos with '60s Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten. Their music moves into tripped-out soundscapes that make Second Sight sound mainstream. "We're like tow kids in a sandbox," Bralove says. Now 41, Bralove has been surrounded by music most of his life. "My dad played piano. I took piano from Art Lande, who was living in Berkeley then. And I listened to the radio. A lot. "I went to college thinking I was going into psychology" - both is parents are psychiatrists - "but I got bored."

He picked up his master's degree in composition and film scoring at San Francisco State University, but found himself working for a computer company. That led to call from Wonder, who wanted someone to make his computerized keyboards talk to him, since he couldn't see what was on their screens. Soon Bralove was in the thick of Wonder's music.

"The real test came when we took a break one night around 4 a.m., and Stevie tells me his fantasy of having a robot come on-stage to introduce his show. He even knew how the voice should sound, human and not at all robotlike. 'Bob, you should do this,' he tells me as we get into it. I ask when he wants it. And he says, "The show's on Monday.'" Not just any show, but New York's Radio city Music Hall. Bralove hustled for equipment, burned the night oil, and Wonder got his wish. From there it was world tours, "The Woman in Red," 72-hour nonstop recording sessions. "That's the way Stevie works." During one seven-month tour, Bralove had a week off that he used to help set up Steve Winwood's first solo tour, "Back in the High Life."

Helping Wonder prepare for his performance on the Grammy Awards in 1986, Bralove met San Francisco keyboardist Merl Saunders, who was then music director of the revived television series "The Twilight Zone," using the Grateful Dead as his soundtrack orchestra. He called on Bralove for technical assistance. "As soon as I met Mickey and Bobby, we could tell we shared a vision," Bralove said. Bralove was brought into the Dead camp to help with sound on what would become their hit 1987 album, "In the Dark." "I got invited into their inner space. they'd show me their vision, and I'd offer options for how to realize it," Bralove said. "It wasn't making them better musicians, but custom- designing the environment they worked in."

In the Dark Soon he was on-stage in the dark at his computer, headphones on, making his own drone sounds during the Dead's Drums and Space jams. He assembled a 1991 album of those jams called "Infrared Roses." Tow years ago Bralove was asked to do what he did with the Dead at the Digital Arts Be-In. "But, I thought, I'm already doing that with the Dead. Why not put together a band?" He called some friends and Second Sight was born. "I think everyone know something was happening, so we did more shows. Then between Dead touring, doing Jerry's thing, doing Mickey's thing, we were in the studio recording."

With its debut album out, Second Sight is preparing for a January tour of the East Coast. Bralove has come into his own. "this is just the beginning of yet another dimension in music."
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