Veteran session bassist and touring Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt recently detailed how he managed to record bass lines for the legendary Michael Jackson’s 1995 studio album “HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I.”
Guy Pratt shares his experience of collaborating with Michael Jackson
Speaking with “Vintage Rock Pod” in a recent interview, he recalled how Michael was apparently hiding behind a mixing desk and giving him instructions through his bodyguard as Pratt was laying down the bass lines in the studio. The Michael Jackson collab came at a particularly busy time in Guy’s life, when he was living in Los Angeles and had already worked with Madonna, Toy Matinee and Pink Floyd. Recalling how he got the call to work with Michael, he said (transcribed by Ultimate Guitar):
“I was in LA, I had become this sort of pop session dog, which was never what I wanted to do. I had unbelievable impostor syndrome because I’m a bandy type; I can’t read music, didn’t go to fucking Berkeley… The only thing I had going for me was that I was definitely the best-dressed person [laughs].
“I went and I did the Madonna record, came home, then went back to LA. I did the Toy Matinee project… and then I had to go I had to leave before it was finished to go back on tour with Pink Floyd…Then from that, I had to come straight back to LA to start Robbie Robertson’s album. It was nuts… Then I’m like, a few weeks into Robbie’s record and I get a call one day from [producer] Bill Bottrell, and he goes, ‘Hey, Guy, do you want to come up and play Michael Jackson sessions?’
“And I am like, ‘What?’ He goes. ‘Yeah, you need to be here by six or seven’. And I said, ‘But I can’t, we don’t really finish before about seven!’ So I said, ‘Well, I’ll ask Robbie…’ I go to Robbie Robertson and said, ‘Robbie, listen mate…Is there any chance I could get off early tonight? Because I’ve got a Michael Jackson session.’ And he goes like, ‘What am I supposed to say to that?’ [laughs].
“So, those [Michael Jackson] sessions were just me and Bill in the studio… Apparently, Michael had heard [Pratt’s work on Madonna’s “Like a Prayer”], and he wants that vibe. So, I assume, ‘Right’; I had my red Specter, my octave pedal, I [thought], ‘Oh, this is gonna be Michael Jackson, some stomping groove… and I’m gonna be all over it like a cheap suit…”
“But Michael wasn’t there. And I was asked to come back the next day [when they] said he’d be there, and Michael wasn’t there… This happened about three times, and eventually I went, ‘Look! Tell me what he wants, so we can all go home!’ So, I get called the next day from Bill, who says, ‘Michael’s down the studio, we’re not leaving’, so I rush there, and Michael’s just left…
“But it was very different [this] time; there was this massive Samoan bloke, better suited for being a bodyguard, perhaps. He was at one end of the desk, and he wouldn’t get me down there. So, I did a pass at [recording his parts], and then this guy leans over to the side of the desk, says ‘Yeah, I think Michael would find that appropriate!’ Somehow, he knows exactly what Michael would require from a bass performance.
“And then it becomes very apparent [that] this guy is talking to someone hiding behind the mixing desk. And it’s Michael Jackson, but I’ve never met him.”
Pratt further noted that it was not unusual for the megastar at the time. He added:
“Michael was going through a period of hiding from people at that time.”