Happy to Patrick O’Hearn – born September 6, 1954!
Known primarily as a bass guitarist and keyboardist, O’Hearn came to prominence with Frank Zappa and co-founded the early 1980s new-wave band Missing Persons with several other veterans from Zappa’s bands. While O’Hearn’s musical repertoire spans a diverse range of music, he is an acclaimed new-age artist in his solo career. In addition to solo albums, he has composed soundtracks for movies and television.
Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in the Pacific Northwest, O’Hearn began his professional music career at age 15 when he joined the Musicians Union and began playing night clubs in Portland, Oregon. Upon graduating from Sunset High School in 1972, he moved to Seattle, Washington. There, he briefly attended Cornish College of the Arts and, as well, studied privately with bassist Gary Peacock.
In 1973, he moved to San Francisco, California and soon became involved in the vibrant Bay Area jazz scene of that time, playing bass for well-established artists Charles Lloyd, Joe Henderson, Dexter Gordon, Joe Pass, Woody Shaw, Eddie Henderson, and Bobby Hutcherson, as well as with other like-aged young musicians, including Terry Bozzio, Mark Isham and Peter Maunu.
While on tour in Los Angeles in 1976, O’Hearn met musician Frank Zappa, who offered him a job as bass player in his band – a position he held for over two years. During this period, O’Hearn shifted from the acoustic bass to the electric bass guitar (given the requirements of Zappa’s arrangements), and also became increasingly interested in electronic music. Zappa encouraged O’Hearn to explore his premium collection of synthesizers, and also introduced him to the technical aspects of intricate physical tape editing as a way of producing compositions (in an era prior to home computers), audio engineering, and home studio audio recording equipment.
In 1979, O’Hearn teamed with trumpet player Mark Isham and guitarist Peter Maunu to form Group 87, an ensemble influenced by the early recordings of Weather Report, Kraftwerk and ambient minimalism of Brian Eno. Although they only produced two LPs — Group 87 in 1980, and A Career in Dada Processing in 1984 — Group 87 would help establish the musical direction of O’Hearn’s solo career. Both Isham and Maunu would continue as important collaborators on several of O’Hearn’s subsequent solo releases.