Memories of Mo

There’s really only one thing I can write about this month: the sad passing, a couple of weeks ago, of Nic Mozart.

Nic had been in the grip of the degenerative brain disease, Pick’s, for the last couple years. (Oddly, the same rare condition was the one which did for Pat Moran.) The prognosis was not good for Nic and as  I understand it his condition was steadily worsening – though thankfully he was not fully aware of this himself. In the end a bout of pneumonia and following complications led to his death at the age of 61.

Nic was astonishingly young when he began playing professionally in the Misunderstood and then, of course, with VdGG. His bass playing, though, was mature, authoritative and direct from the outset.

This was all the more so when he rejoined the band in its VdG incarnation.At this point he threw himself into a world of flange and distortion which, not for the last time, propelled his bass into a lead role.

The VdG period was a particularly headlong and helter-skelter one, with the playing powerfully reflecting the nature of the lives we were living. Later, the same kind of thing obtained in the K group era and it’s not mere accident that Nic should have been so deeply involved in these schemes. It goes without saying that I loved playing with him: he was ever reliable and intuitive and also capable of pulling off a surprise move.

Memories of so many moments with Nic have come back to me in the last few days, vivid and bright. Often the best communications with him were wordless and those gestures of a raised eyebrow, an affirmative thumbs up, still stick with me. However, I don’t intend to get into telling stories of Mo-ness and of my times with him, though there are many, most with some element of his wry and sometimes dry approach to the strangenesses of life, particularly on the road.

He was always in the Now, but simultaneously always looking out for what might be Next, Elsewhere. A tapping foot, a drumming finger, a quick gasp on the cigarette and he’d be out of  the door before you knew it. Always, though, with a bit of deduction one could trace a line of logic back into what was driving his current search.

Dear, dear Mo.

We’d had our fallings out over the years, of course. For what it’s worth, it’s a matter of some relief to me that none of these were outstanding the last time we saw each other, some time before the onset of the Pick’s.

I couldn’t be there for his funeral but at the time it was happening was able to raise a glass to him, looking out on a cloudless sky and a deep blue sea. At this moment I felt very close to his flown soul.

So adieu Nic, who coined as good a definition of touring life as I’ve ever heard: “consuming and being consumed.” Now all the hours and times are eaten up

My final and enduring image of Nic will be not one of the  nods, winks, smiles of the social life…but his eyes fixed in tense concentration, head thrust slightly forward, steady at stage left. And here come those blasted out opening bass chords of “Last Frame”.

He was often complicated, enigmatic, mysterious.

But above all Nic was ever, wonderfully, Pretty Keen.

31 Comments on “Memories of Mo”

  1. Daniel says:

    After Nic Potter, Kevin Ayers (sometimes a bass player 2) at the young age (?) of 68 died! Kevin was the exact opposite of Peter in music and in life! I know i was both their impresarios or agent or whatever you call that!Where Peter was quite light in life and easy Kevin was more silent and obscure. On stage Kevin was light and easy and always wanted to turn the lights down (on him?) …Peter is Peter on stage… All that to say that it’s avery sad year my cd players is going from the K group and Room Temperature to the amazing live album Kevin and The whole World in Hyde Park, Joy of a toy and his last and fantastic and very inspired album: The Unfairground… RIP both i just hope that we don’t loose more of those musicians this year.

  2. Albert says:

    It is about two or three in the morning. A tiny room in the University dorm number 5, dimly lit by draped table lamp on a small coffee table. Outside is darkness, snow, cold, lonely lampposts surrounded by globes of livid mercury-blue haze and dark, murky shadows of trees in the forest park across the street, moving with the wind. Not a living soul can be seen and only one or two other windows glow somewhere in the distance.
    The Quiet Zone is on the turntable. Tonight is not for the usual reel-to-reel tape. This night is special. The precious vinyl is out of the carefully plastic-wrapped jacket. The tone arm is lowering slowly, the stylus makes a slight scratching noise and there, in dead silence of the Siberian winter night goes the snappy, jagged riff, the violin, the bass, the drums, the voice, sending shivers down the spine: “Frozen moment, cold blood time: the Iguana lady is saying goodbye….”. And then it feels like nothing else exists anymore, just this room and this music that grants bliss and mercy, if only just for an hour, from the whole reality that for the brief moment takes a step back into nothingness and waits.
    Peter, Nick and all of VDGG/VDG, thank you for moments like this, for the experience, for the memories.
    Nick, Rest in Peace. God bless your soul. You will always be remembered.

  3. Cesar Ors says:

    Great heartfelt words,Peter.What a loss…
    I’d like to see,finally,a decent edition of K Group’s concerts at the Rockpalast.It will be the perfect homage to one of the best bass players ever.
    Hats off,Nick and rest in peace.

  4. Daniel says:

    In December 78 Nic tour Quebec with Graham and Peter…6 shows were done in a week (one cancelled) I saw 5 of them and i was amazed by the power of his bass… I remembered thinking : God if there was a drum to help him it would be amazing! The shows were rough,almost punk and i suspect that Mozart had a great influence on Peter’s options in the way of presenting the songs.Of course it was right after Vital and you could still feel that echo…but then it was Peter solo and you still could feel THE influence on the sound by Nic…In the tour of 90′ (room temperature) it was not exactly the same…maybe a bit less raw ( gone was the almost sexual bareback thing of 78 if i dare to compare the bass to the…) a bit more subtle but still very powerful… Then i saw The Noise tour in Holland and Nic was support by a drum…a very rock drum (Manny Ellias) and i thought it was perfect for his bass playing and God was that tour ever powerful and fulfilling ( for my part contrary to many fans i didn’t missed Guy,i thought for the sound of that album Manny was perfect)…So the las time i saw Nic was in The Paradiso in Amsterdam…The name tells it all…Rest in Paradiso

    PS: Excuse any english mistakes as i am french

  5. Michael Simpson says:

    Had the privilege of playing pool once with Nic in a small pub in Peebles, Scotland. This was prior to a “warm up” K Group concert in the pub. It was part of the tour that produced ‘The Margin’, with recordings made at concerts the following night in Edinburgh and Glasgow, if my memory serves me well. He was warm, friendly and down to earth. I remember discussing the edited single and full album versions of ‘Paradox Drive’ with him.

    Thanks Peter for your tribute and as always thanks for the many hours of wonderful listening, exciting anticipation of your prolific and unrelenting output.

  6. donald ferguson says:

    The loss of a family (VDGG) member is never easy. That sounds glib, because his close family will feel the loss so much more but it isn’t meant to be.
    So many feelings haunt you. If only…
    My sympathies to all concerned

  7. Gary says:

    Peter, I was priveleged to see Nic perform in NYC in 1990 with yourself and Hooly during the “Room Temperature” tour. With all due respect, he stole the show. Most of the comments I overheard from the crowd as we filed out were about him, and all were glowing. He left his mark on my life and that of many other listeners. One of a kind and irreplaceable. If there’s music in Heaven, it sounds fuller now.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I saw Nic play several times and it was a privilege. Thanks for the moving words, Peter, I will now listen again to ‘the Quiet Zone…’ in tribute. R.I.P..

  9. Cor says:

    Thanks Peter for these beautiful words, He’ll be sadly missed

  10. David Ferrer Valdés says:

    Rest in peace!
    We´ll never forget you!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Rest in peace!
    We will never forget you!

  12. Agustín Mendilaharzu says:

    Beautiful tribute, Peter. Walter Jakob and I came back to Buenos Aires yesterday from a long trip that ended in Athens (a true paradise for PH vinyl collectors). I was spinning my greek print of Quiet zone/pleasure dome when I read this very sad news. We too saw Nick in the shows Marcelo and Gervasio refer to. And, what’s most incredible, our play “La edad de oro” (Golden age) starts with those bass chords, filling the hall when lights go down. Plus, Nic is named several times in the play… I hope this modest homage from this faraway town reaches him, somehow. Que en paz descanses, genial Nic Potter

  13. William Hein says:

    Those PH and NP Roxy Shows with in LA are still fresh and treasured in my memory. RIP.

  14. Ólafur Audunsson (Iceland) says:

    Listen to Sign on Live in London 1993.Best bassplayer in prog.

  15. And just yesterday i was listening to “A Quiet Zone” and thinking, what astonishing bass playing.

    Thank you, Peter, and thank you, Nic.


  16. Peter Neumann says:

    Last days I listened daily to the quiet zone/pleasure dome album and nic’s mighty bass-playing. Remembering k-band shows in Mannheim and Saarbrücken with Nic and his wonderful playing. RIP dear Nic Potter. Thanks to Peter for his words about Nic.

  17. Santiago says:

    Rest in peace, Nic.

  18. miguel muzquiz says:

    Well, s**t…

  19. Miguel Muzquiz says:

    Well, s**t…

    Date: Thu, 31 Jan 2013 12:51:17 +0000 To:

  20. Andrea Imberciadori says:

    Really loved his bass-playing and attitude.
    RIP nic “mozart”

  21. Adam Matlock says:

    Glad to see this very heartfelt recollection.

  22. MarcelloGobello says:

    What a sad notice and a big loss!!! one of my favourite bassists of lall time, with a big, heavy and distorted sound, mosty live. I saw him live in the nineties in Buenos Aires with Peter Hammill and the Noise group…an unforgettable experience!!

  23. Michel E says:

    Sad news indeed. Only a couple of weeks ago I was watching the K Group DVD, thinking how nice it would be to see/listen to Nic or John play with Peter again…

  24. gervasio says:

    I saw Nic in (i believe) 1993, in the Auditorio Belgrano, Buenos Aires. The concert started with an incredible version of Crying Wolf. What a wonderfull musician. Always in our memories.

  25. I too raise a glass to his flown soul. Very moving tribute Peter. I now listen deeper waiting for the next note.

  26. Anonymous says:

    So long Nic. RIP

  27. Nicely said, Peter. So sorry to hear this news.

  28. bayernmike says:

    Sad news indeed, our thoughts go out to his family and friends

  29. Kevin says:

    What a wonderfully, touching and moving tribute from Peter. And if his remeberance of Nic’s playing Last Frame could be put into words then maybe this could fit:

    There you are, your eyes laced with secret pleasure,
    saying that you’re on the way to change,
    devouring in inordinate measure
    every diversion that’s arranged.
    For every appetite, a cruel attraction,
    but there’s a panic in your actions…
    oh, I never saw you look so strange.

  30. Gareth Price says:

    Sad news RIP Nic

  31. Beautiful. Glad you two parted with none of the out-fallings left unsettled.

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