Beneath the darkly subsonic bass of producer Bill Laswell, the funk-laden beats of current Primus drummer Brain, the extreme guitar terror of mutant virtuoso Buckethead and the deftly rendered scratching of DJ Disk, Praxis represents an inspiring, at times mesmerizing and even harrowing foray into the collective mind of a lethally futuristic live unit. Group improvisation, musical breadth and sheer sonic assault are all pushed to their outer limits—true to the ethos of "free jazz" outfits like Last Exit and Painkiller, of which Laswell is also a member, but with a brash element of youthful exuberance that gives the music a fresh sound, even newer than "new school". Whether ambient, dub, funk, hip-hop, metal or avant garde, each is wired and detonated across a canvas of controlled chaos.
The name Praxis has been applied over the years to a number of loose configurations of musicians either fronted or produced by Bill Laswell, going back to an experimental 12-inch in the early '80s on Celluloid Records that consisted of shortwave noise over drum machine beats. Since then, a revolving army of innovators from Bootsy Collins to John Zorn have contributed to Praxis projects, particularly TRANSMUTATION, released on Axiom in 1992, and SACRIFIST, released on Subharmonic in 1994. The most recent studio album METATRON (Subharmonic, 1995) features the core of the current group, as does TRANSMUTATION LIVE, recorded at the JazzNoJazz Festival in Zurich and released on Douglas Music in 1996.
When asked how he first met Buckethead, Laswell points to a series of connections among like-minded musicians that has always seemed to play a role in any project he conceives. "I'd originally worked with Brain when we were putting together the Limbomaniacs album [STINKY GROOVES, from 1990 on In-Effect/Relativity], and he told me about Buckethead and gave me a video of him playing in his room. I gave that to Bootsy, who it turns out Bucket is a big fan of, and we both were interested in what he was doing. After that Bootsy and I sort of helped him in the direction of collaborating and experimenting more, instead of committing to a full-on career with a corporate situation, which was what he almost got into with Sony. That in turn led to the Praxis record [on Axiom]."
Speaking of himself in the third person, Buckethead has found the whole experience to be quite satisfying musically. "Buckethead says Praxis is a big binge loaf, like terror long dangler buddies on a scoop rack," he riffs in his inimitable southern Cali patois. "Taking people away in their imaginations is a lot more important to Buckethead than freaking people out with the guitar. He practices a lot, but that's so he can make the guitar sound like a rollercoaster, or bombs, or scapulas getting ripped open. He doesn't think about speed, but sometimes it takes a thousand notes to make one sound. When he practices, he imagines video game characters running through all these different fields and meeting all these weird things; he never thinks about scales or techniques."
Like Brain in his latest role as the regular drummer in Primus, Buckethead is also well-known in the SF Bay Area for his own avant-shred combo The Deli Creeps (at one time featuring the fearsome Throatrake on vocals), as is DJ Disk, whose pivotal contribution to the Invisibl Skratch Piklz with Q Bert and Mixmaster Mike is now legendary in underground hip-hop and turntablist circles. Meanwhile, Buckethead has most recently recorded a string of solo albums for the CyberOctave imprint, while Laswell forges ahead with new releases on his own Axiom label. When time allows, the individual members of the current Praxis lineup continue to hone a mind-bending schtick that strikes both abject horror and a surge of charged excitement into the hearts of fans and detractors alike.