Throughout his career, Peter Gabriel has used a lot of musicians, but the man who provides the low end on his solo career is essential to the sound. In this blog, we’ll look at the man behind the bass.
Anthony Frederick Levin or Tony Levin as he’s known has provided bass on every Peter Gabriel album since 1977. Initially, Gabriel first met Levin through producer Bob Ezrin. Levin had played on two previous Ezrin productions, Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare and Lou Reed’s Berlin. The partnership seems to have worked out well for both Gabriel and Levin, with Levin playing bass on Gabriel’s solo records as well as being his live bassist.
Levin is a session veteran with over 500 albums on his CV, but what makes him so in demand? Starting his musical life as a double bass player, he started out studying classical music. He also played the tuba and started a barbershop quartet. After leaving high school he studied music at Eastman School of Music in New York. While he was here he bought his first bass guitar, a Fender Precision bass. Studying jazz, he made his first recording in 1968, supplying bass for Gap Magione’s album Diana in the Autumn Wind.
By 1970 he had moved to New York City and was playing in a band called Aha, the Attack of the Green Slime Beast alongside long-time Mothers of Invention keyboard player Don Preston. His reputation as a session player was growing and in the early 1970s, he recorded albums with Carly Simon, Don McLean, Paul Simon, Ringo Starr and Lou Reed. It was after the success of these albums that he started working for Bob Ezrin, who introduced him to Gabriel and a fruitful partnership was born.
Levin is well known for his versatility as a bass player, playing his signature Music Man Stingray bass mainly, but is hugely versatile, playing both upright and Chapman stick. He is also famous form his percussive bass playing style, using “funk fingers” drumsticks cut down to finger length that are used to create a percussive bass sound.
The relationship he’s had with Peter Gabriel has produced 11 studio albums and contributions to film soundtracks including Wall-E, and Babe: Pig in the City.