Donnie Nossov: The End Is Finally Here (No Depression / 2018)
“The End!’ Well, it started as kind of a joke – the project was taking soooo long, I thought it was going to kill me! It’s called ‘The End’ – as if this is going to be the last thing I ever do! Of course, the alternate meaning of that name is that ‘The End’ represents a goal…” Donnie Nossov
You don’t meet many humble folks in the music business however Donnie Nossov is that rare exception.
Though the name may not resonate with individuals outside the recording industry, his work as a side-man and session bassist is legend: Cher, Pat Benatar, John Waite, Lita Ford, and Genya Ravan, to reference an extremely select few. I hereby put forth the declaration that in the past forty years and counting – Donnie Nossov’s bass is being heard nonstop somewhere, anywhere on internet and broadcast radio, streaming services, via various formats including vinyl, CD, cassette and 8-track; on bandstands, and DJ turntables.
Some dude wearing a Hawaiian shirt is playing Donnie’s basslines in a classic Top 40 band right now. Another cat with a backwards oversized Ed Hardy baseball cap is sampling Donnie for the dancefloor. Tuxedoed pros on the wedding, Bar Mitzvah, corporate event circuits render Donnie Nossov basslines every day and every night amid Kosher chicken-fingers and horseradish.
And that’s not counting his work on film and television soundtracks as a composer and performer. If there is ever a time when Donnie Nossov’s bass playing is not being heard or replicated; life as we know it on planet Earth no longer exists. Scratch that, even after humanity is destroyed – and we’re getting close – whatever life form exists will find a copy of The Graces’ Perfect View and dig Donnie’s bass parts.
At present Mr. Nossov is the composer/ producer / bassist / multi-instrumentalist / and occasional lead vocal mastermind behind The End and their remarkable debut – Imaginary Life. “It wasn’t intentional, I didn’t say it’s time for me to make my own record – let me write all these songs…” laughs Donnie from his Los Angeles home. “I’d been writing songs for a long time – and I’d be recording them as I go.”
Experience counts for everything in Imaginary Life. “I’ve worked with great people in my career, but it was also my coming of age period where I was steeped in all the great bands and writers of the 1960s and 70s – from Brit rock, American folk rock, blues – those influences permeate everything I do.”
Waxed at his home studio and various locales at his own deliberate pace, Nossov enlisted vocalist extraordinaire Gia Ciambotti to carry The End to the finish line.
“One evening my wife Nancy and I were just sitting around and she asked me ‘why don’t you play me some of the songs you recorded?’ I played her five or six songs in a row and she said ‘you know, why don’t you make this into an album!’ It was kind of a cross between ‘what are you f’n crazy – and a light bulb moment! I thought, ‘yeah well they do kind of fit together…so then I started to listen to them in that context…and I came to the realization that ‘yeah I can do this.”
Classic rock fans will dig the diversity of Imaginary Life – which, in the classic rock era, was the way things were done. Every track is unique with regard to tempo, feel, and execution, however it all hangs together perfectly. The acoustic and electric guitars meld ala Petty / Campbell, the melodies soar, the song-craft is timeless, and the rhythm section swings. And it’s a song-cycle that won’t ever sound dated as long as there is an audience for human musicians playing “real” instruments. Scratch that again, even if you remake these songs on computers, the hooks will still shine through the bleeps and boinks. Note to Beyonce, Taylor, Rihanna, Madge, Nicki – call Donnie Nossov!
And Imaginary Life is no mere collection of tracks. Playlists be damned! Nossov’s all-important album track running order takes the listener on a journey. Tight cuts, no filler. The band and the album have a unique character – much like the artists Donnie has anchored. The End sounds like… The End!
“The process started out with me and a basic musical idea; and building a track from the ground up. I would get a basic drum feel, throw on acoustic guitars, add bass and get it to ‘feel right’ – and then call Gia as early as possible so I could really hear the song! Largely I asked the other musicians ‘what do you hear?’ Unless I had a really specific idea, I trusted them!”
Soulful and sensual, among Gia’s most riveting performance appears on the opening track. Notes Nossov “she came in to do the vocal on ‘Like A Drug’ and seemed distracted. She nailed the vocal and told me she felt like she was coming down with something. She later told me that she had bronchitis. She was able to not think about it and connect with the song. I think it may be the most emotional vocal on the record, for a 40 second bit!”
For the record, pun intended, Nossov’s extended posse aka “The End” is quite impressive: co-writers Lorraine Feather (acclaimed jazz writer and artist), Eddie Arkin, Chrissy Shefts, Laura B., Mark Aaron, Julia Goode, Risa Duff, and Gia; guitarists Gary Myrick, Storey Scheinberg, Ritchie Fliegler (“the only guitar player to have played with both Lou Reed and John Cale”), Brian Ray (Paul McCartney’s touring band), Marc Daine Dannenhirsch; keyboardists Michael Skloff, Daniel Crawford; and percussionists Dame Crawford, Rudy Richman.
Nossov would like to bring a touring version of The End onstage in select cities, however, at the moment, plans are up in the air.
And in an age wherein most album art affords the impression of a mass transit ad, Nossov brings back depth to the format: “that’s a photograph I took in a hotel room in Paris about five years ago. I was searching for a cover when I decided to call it Imaginary Life. There’s a certain loneliness to it. If you look at the chair, it appears as if someone sat in it! But they’re not there anymore…there’s an imaginary person – and I had the ends flipped on the graphics just because I liked the way it looked.”
Even the self-producer’s chair suited Donnie Nossov quite well. He boasts “I never had any arguments with my client!”
Imaginary Life by The End is out now and available here:
Photograph of Donnie Nossov and Gia Ciambotti by Christopher O’Brocto.
Coda: And on the topic of bass player royalty, Gia’s late father is another icon of the instrument: you’ve heard John Ciambotti on Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True, Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, as the bassist in celebrated Bay Area 70s ensemble Clover, and on slabs by John Prine, Nick Lowe, Norton Buffalo, Carlene Carter, and Jim Lauderdale, to cite a few.