BASSIST extraordinaire Andy Peterson’s work ethic is simple, “If I’m playing a song live, it’s my job to match the playing on the CD or make it even better.”
He was consumed by music as a teenager and would spend hours practising basslines on a guitar and hanging out with the late guitarist Terry Thadeus and childhood friend Lewis Pragasam, who went on to become the virtuoso drummer behind Asiabeat.
“I was so into playing music that I didn’t even bother sitting for my MCE exams. My dad couldn’t stop me. He knew my mind was made up. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s a calling. Maybe it was watching The Beatles on TV,” he recalled.
Peterson then went to work at a printing press for two months so he could buy his first guitar.
“I couldn’t afford a proper bass, so I bought an acoustic guitar and practised on it,” he said.
Peterson even tried working as a waiter but left after one day because he wanted to go to a jam session.
Peterson’s sheer determination has paid off. He honed his craft with the band called The Ages, a Vernon Steele-fronted band that played Top 40 repertoire in Glass Bubble, Jaya Puri (now the PJ Hilton) and Tomorrow Disco at The Merlin Hotel (now the Concorde).
“That was the 1970s. People were really into music and would dance to the melody. People would dance to The Eagles’ Hotel California!”
He then spent some time with the famed Carefree (before it had hits like Belaian Jiwa) before joining The Falcons, one of the country’s pioneering rock acts with singer Jerry Ventura and would-be virtuoso drummer Jerry Felix. The band went on to record music and also play in clubs in Germany.
In the 1980s, he was in the influential Asiabeat, the jazz-fusion brainchild of Pragasam.
“A lot of people think I’m a jazz musician because I played jazz-fusion with Asiabeat. I take a lot of pride in what we did musically. Lewis and I played tight. But you know, I’m a rocker. I was in a rock band called Storm (in 1990) after Asiabeat,” he said.
Today Peterson, 58, has played with Taiwanese and Hong Kong stars like Lee Hom, Jackie Cheung and A-Mei and most recently Jonathan Lee.
He has played on hundreds of recordings, including those of Datuk Siti Nurhaliza and Jaclyn Victor.
He is stumped, though, when he is asked for the names of songs that he has played on.
“I can’t remember the titles. I just do my best in the studio,” said the Singapore-born musician.
In 2011, he released a six-track EP named after his daughter, Anusha. The EP, credited to API (Andy Peterson Inc), was a fusion effort featuring keyboardist Aubrey Suwito, percussionist Steve Thornton, saxophonist Greg Lyons and drummer John Thomas, the son of Jose Thomas, singer Elvira Arul and others.
Peterson has already written material for the next album but there are no fixed dates on when it will it will be released.
“I’ll probably use the same musicians. It’s just finding the time to get everybody together and do it,” he said.
The single parent’s musical influences include jazz-rock outfit The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Yes and Black Sabbath.
He also does regular gigs with the Jamie Wilson Trio, which has been together for more than a year. The trio features Peterson on bass, John Thomas on drums and Wilson on guitar and vocals. For updates, visit the Jamie Wilson Trio Facebook page.
“We do a lot of blues and rock. We do stuff by Cream, BB King and John Lee Hooker. I told you, I’m a rocker!” he said.
The trio will be playing at No Black Tie in Kuala Lumpur on April 22.