LONDON — It was an experience, yes, but it was no picnic to have been Jimi Hendrix' bass player for three years. In the end, it developed that there was no way Noel Redding could continue with the Experience.
"Jimi is a very good guitarist, but he was very hard to work with," said Redding. "I think he suffers from a split personality. He's a genius guitarist and his writing is very good, but he whips himself. He gets everybody around him very uptight because he worries about everything. God knows why.
"I could never understand why he worried so much. I mean, we were earning a fortune on the road. On three occasions, we earned over $100,000 for a single performance. In the last 12 months, I don't think we ever copped less than $25,00 for a night's work.
"The recording sessions were chaos, and on stage, it was getting ridiculous. The audience wanted us to play the old Hendrix standards, but Jimi wanted to do his new stuff. The last straw came at the Denver Pop Festival when Jimi told a reporter that he was going to enlarge the band . . . without even consulting myself or our drummer, Mitch Mitchell.
"I went up to Jimi that night, said goodbye, and caught the next plane back to London. I don't think Jimi believed I'd do it. Later on, he phoned and asked me to come back, but I said stuff it.
"I already had plans to get into my own thing. I'd formed a band late last year and we cut an album in December." The album will be released shortly. The original English Polydor jacket folds out into a cardbox poster, four times the size of a normal album cover.
Redding's new group is the Fat Mattress. "It's quite simple really," explained Jim Leverton, "Seven years ago, some friends of mine went on a camping safari to Morocco. They accumulated an incredible amount of hashish, and they had no idea how to get it back into England. So they started to stuff this mattress they had with the hash, and it became known as the fat mattress."
"But we're all nice boys in Fat Mattress," quipped Redding, scratching his rampant locks. "There's no hairy hippies here, mate. You might call us a co-operative society. We came togother with the purpose of writing songs, and it progressed into a band. We're a quartet – there's Neil Landon, Eric Dillon, Jim Leverton and myself."
They have been working on stage for about six weeks now, and have done some TV work. An American tour is planned for November, and meanwhile they're busy cutting their second album.
"It's all happened very quickly for us – even faster than it did with Hendrix. The Experience started off in September of 1966 and it took us almost a year to get to the States. With Fat Mattress, it's only going to take a few months."
And what of Mitch Mitchell, the Experience drummer whom Hendrix announced recently was on the firing line? "Well," said Redding, with a grin, "I hear that Mitch is still working with Jimi and his new band, which is all colored.
"The problem with Mitch, and with Jimi too, is that they never saved any money. As fast as they got it, it was spent. But not me, mate. I've got me Rolls and I've got quite a kitty in the bank. I'm alright.
"Actually, I don't want you to think there's anything nasty between Jimi and I. We're still good friends. It's just that we can't work together anymore."
This story is from the November 15th, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.