Monday, June 15, 2020

Finally back in stock!

Finally back in stock and available for a limited period for £5 only.
22 tracks, 73 minutes of genre-busting musics.
12 page booklet crammed with photos and text.
Spacial guest appearnces from Fred Frith, Tim Hodgkinson, and Marc Hollander. 
Click on header for link.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Acid Mothers Temple new release

Click on header for Bandcamp link and listen to one track.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Perfect Sound Forever Interview : March 2020

I've posted this here because the link (click on header) only includes part of the interview - here are both parts.

Perfect Sound Forever Interview : March 2020

Who were your greatest musical influences? Who do you draw inspiration from, both in the past and present?

~~~ Mmmm tricky one! There were / are many influences. I was lucky to have parents who both loved jazz, so I was exposed to that from a very early age, like 11 or 12. In 1961, aged 16, they gave me permission to go with a friend to see a concert by Dizzy Gillespie – the support group was the John Coltrane quintet, who I'd never even heard of until then. This was the beginning of me starting to listen to music other than what my parents were into, not so much the really out there free stuff, but Blue Note style hard bop and soul jazz. I guess my 2 favourite early saxophone influences were Jackie McLean and Cannonball Adderley. I was also hugely influenced by the UK rhythm and blues scene centred around guitarist Alexis Korner, who was not only the grandfather of that whole movement, but also the 1st musician to incorporate jazz into the scene, with players like Dick Heckstall-Smith and Phil Seamen. One of my absolute top fave groups from the mid-60's was the Graham Bond Organisation, with Bond on alto sax, organ, and vocals, Heckstall-Smith on tenor and soprano saxes, and the pre-Cream rhythm section of Jack Bruce on bass and drummer Ginger Baker. Live they were definitely the loudest, most raucous and funky band on the circuit – unfortunately their records never captured their live sound – I often wonder what they would have sounded like if they'd been produced by the Blue Note team! The 1st bands I played in were all heavily influenced by soul, R & B, and jazz-rock – it didn't take me long to realise that jazz was actually pretty difficult to play, but soul etc was a lot easier, so it was a great learning experience for me. I didn't start seriously listening to rock music untll '67, when musicians like Zappa and Beefheart (and the Beatles) changed the goalposts for ever. Like many people I'm still mainly inspired by the music I grew up with, rather than any newer artists, but I try to keep up with any developments which sound interesting. Groups like The Necks have transformed ideas about what you can do with a conventional piano / bass / drums line-up, saxophonists like Colin Stetson have added to the post-free-jazz saxophone vocabulary, and electronic music has evolved in so many different ways it's almost impossible to keep up with them all. ~~~

I hear a great deal of free jazz in your playing. Is this a source for you? Who from this community did you listen to and like, if anyone?

~~~ Yes it was a logical step to go from listening to hard bop to checking out more adventurous musicians like Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Eric Dolphy, but another major turning point was seeing the Spontaneous Music Ensemble with drummer John Stevens and saxophonist Evan Parker in 1967 – this was way beyond what most people would call “music” - it had more to do with creating sound waves and (an overused word these days) sound scapes – a very physical experience in a small London club with 5 people in the audience, including me and a drummer friend I was playing in a soul band with at the time. The very next day we were trying to recreate what we'd heard, or should I say experienced! From then onwards I started listening to more UK free improvisers like Brotherhood Of Breath, which was a kind of melting pot of all the top free players – I saw them playing with as many as 25 – 30 players, including Evan Parker, Mike Osborne, Dudu Pukwana, Lol Coxhill, Marc Charig, Louis Moholo, Mongezi Feza, Nick Evans, and many more. Then I started checking out the American free scene, particularly Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. I was fascinated not just by their music, which covered a whole spectrum from traditional African drumming through to 20th century European art music, but the whole theatrical presentation, with costumes, face paint, and (in Sun Ra's case) dancers, fire eaters, and a light show. ~~~

How has your dystonia affected your playing?

~~~ Enormously! Not just the fact that it affected all the muscles I need to play saxophone, but the psychological damage as well – before I was finally diagnosed in 1992, I had to put up with people staring at me and making very audible comments – my jaw was jumping around with a life of its own, my neck was twisting from side to side, and my eyes kept jamming shut. As one friend put it, it looked like I'd just snorted a mountain of bad speed or cocaine, and other people since have often assumed the same thing. Fortunately it hasn't impacted so seriously on my flute embouchure, but I have to play saxophone a lot, otherwise it's back to the basics as soon as I take even a short break from it. But I'm one of the lucky ones – the medication works (more or less) without too many side effects, and once I was diagnosed I went straight into warrior mode – fighting the enemy within became my mantra, and it seems to have worked. Apart from having to take the medication for the rest of my life I can't really complain. And (so far) I'm not doing too badly for my age! ~~~

Why did you decide to leave Henry Cow? Was it musical direction or some other reason? Did you ever play with them again after you left?

~~~ Ahh ... the inevitable question! It's complicated. One thing I've learnt is that I'm not a very good team player – hence the various solo / duo / trio projects over the years. Once it gets to 3 or more other musicians I start to feel claustrophobic and that impacts directly on my creativity. I can deal with a big group but only for a short time - being on the road with such a group really does my head in! Anyway back to HC – I was very unhappy about the contract we signed with Virgin – in the end I was out on a limb – the bottom line was either sign the contract or leave the group, so I took the easy way out and signed, only to leave 7 or 8 months later! The whole record company thing was more political than musical, but there were musical differences bubbling under the surface – I felt that the written music was becoming more complex simply for the sake of it, and the improvisation was also taking a different direction – moving away from the more high energy free jazz approach, and towards a more electronic / ambient style. In the end I was the only person playing totally acoustically, and yet I was still the loudest player, which was very frustrating. Before joining HC I had already experimented with electronic effects while playing with Mouseproof, and at this point had no desire to go back to that. I have to admit that a lot of the group's internal dialogue concerning politics and music was frankly way beyond my intellectual comfort zone (if that's not an oxymoron!), and still is – if I watch some of the rare video clips of the band in its later incarnations, I really can't imagine myself onstage with them! But despite all that, yes I did play with them afterwards – they invited me to play on a couple of tunes in London when they toured with Captain Beefheart in '74, and I appear on a couple of tracks on later albums. And I still get to play with Chris, Tim, and John occasionally. ~~~

Before Henry Cow, what kind of bands were you playing in during the 60s?

~~~ I started out playing soul and rhythm 'n' blues covers, and jazz rock. My first gigs were in Manchester in 1965, playing in Ivan's Meads, a soul band whose keyboard player was John Mayall's younger brother. What we didn't realise at the time was that we were actually part of the first wave of Northern Soul, as it was later called. When I auditioned for them I hadn't done any serious playing for two or three years, but I got the job because there were virtually no sax players of my age to be found - all the horn players were much older and playing jazz, mainly mainstream with a few be-boppers thrown in – they looked down on soul as being too commercial and not ”real music” like jazz......strange days! I moved back to London in early '66 and started going regularly to auditions (in those days the Melody Maker magazine was full of advertisements for musicians wanted, and musicians looking for work). There was certainly no shortage of sax players then, and I ended up joining a semi-professional soul covers band, who somehow miraculously played support on a couple of early Jimi Hendrix gigs. Around late '66 I met a drummer from Liverpool, who was the first serious professional musician I'd played with up until then – he helped me hook up with various relatively short-lived groups before putting me in contact with Crazy Mabel, a jazz-rock group he had just left – they had a management / agency deal and played regularly in London clubs like The Speakeasy, The Marquee, and The Pheasantry, as well as playing the burgeoning university circuit, which was at the time the main source of income for many bands. By '68 we had played all over the UK, and had residencies in Holland, Switzerland, and Norway, but despite the business connections (or maybe because of them!) we never really made any serious money, and it was around this time that I discovered the joys, freedom, and money-making possibilities of busking on the streets and in underground stations, playing pop / rock covers with a guitarist / singer and a bongo player. It was while busking in the Portobello Road (hippy central at the time) that I met Gerry “Mouseproof” Fitzgerald, who had just landed a lucrative record deal with MCA – the recording of his debut album was my initiation into rock experimentation, and through him I got to meet Daevid Allen, Kevin Ayers, Lady June, and other Canterbury Scene people. I also met John Martyn, who I played a few gigs with, plus got quite a few well-paid recording sessions as a direct result of meeting different musicians and producers while busking. ~~~

What kind of bond did you find you had with the other members of Henry Cow early on?

~~~ Well I already knew Chris Cutler – we were at school together, although he was a couple of years younger than me, so we didn't have a lot of contact, but I had played a couple of times with him in his band Louise before he joined HC. I was hungry for some new musical adventures, and although I had a sneaky feeling that joining them would be a bit like going back to school (it was!), I felt it would be good for me to get into some more serious score-reading, and the free improvisation side of things was very attractive to me – I had dabbled in it after seeing John Stevens and Evan Parker in '67, but had never been involved in a band which practised it to such an extent. The atmosphere was very tolerant, and there was no pressure on me to learn any of the written music quickly, which was necessary as my reading skills were fairly basic – I learnt the more difficult passages by sitting down with the composer and using a combination of reading and listening to them playing the part. Tim Hodginson and I quickly built up a “brotherhood of breath” horn section kind of relationship, and John Greaves and I exemplified the more “let's party” side of things – he liked to drink, and I liked to smoke dope, so we got on well socially speaking. When I first joined, Chris and John had apartments in the same house, and that was where we rehearsed every day. Steve Hillage also lived there, and when he joined Gong I moved into his apartment, so with three of the five members sharing the house, there was a fair amount of hanging out and socialising, which definitely helped the group spirit to develop. ~~~

What were the sessions like for the first Henry Cow album "Legend"?

~~~ The music was well-rehearsed (some of the compositions were developed during the early days of the band), and we had played it on stage many times, but it was the first time the band had ever been in a studio for such a long period, so there was a steep learning curve to negotiate. Most of the sessions were recorded by Tom Newman, who had no experience of experimental music and musicians, so he was quite shocked and often amused by our discussions, humour, strategies, and general “otherness” in terms of the more“normal” rock bands he was used to working with, but he was very patient and did a grand job. Unlike many sound engineers he was quite happy to let us fiddle about with the mixing desk, and it wasn't long before he started chipping in ideas; I think having a different engineer would have resulted in a very different and perhaps less interesting album. As I recall the atmosphere in general was quite relaxed and creative – I can't remember any serious arguments or disagreements, despite the fact that I was very unhappy with the contract we had signed with Virgin, and not exactly on very friendly terms with most of the company executives. ~~~

You also guested with Slapp Happy and Hatfield and the North. What was it like working with them?

~~~ Being in the studio with Slapp Happy was certainly a more light-hearted, fun, and relaxed affair than recording with HC. I had already rehearsed with them, and initially they liked having me around and wanted me to play on everything, although their producer Steve Morse had other ideas – he was the one who (quite rightly) decided on the instrumentation for each song, which I think is one of the album's strong points. Unfortunately Slapp Happy had just signed a management deal with Andrew King (Blackhill Enterprises), and Steve had experienced a bad run-in with him some years earlier – Andrew came to the studio to see how things were going, immediately recognised Steve, and fired him on the spot. A great pity – I remember hearing Steve's early rough mixes and finding them better than the final release.
I only had one evening / night in the studio with the Hatfields. HC were in the middle of some very intensive rehearsals for a theatre production of Shakespeare's “The Tempest” - when I say intensive, I mean getting up at the crack of dawn, driving for about an hour to the theatre in Watford, setting up, rehearsing / composing until 6pm, packing up the equipment, driving back to the house in London, setting up again, rehearsing until 11 or 12, sleeping, then repeating the whole cycle again, for several weeks. So for the Hatfield session I left Watford on the train after rehearsals, arrived at the Manor Studio in time for dinner, went into the studio and recorded until around breakfast time, then got the train back to Watford to continue rehearsing, after which I came down with an almighty dose of the flu. Have to say sympathy from the HC boys was in extremely short supply; just get on with the job was the general vibe. The Hatfield session took the whole night because they assumed that I could pretty much sight read all the scores, because I was playing this very complicated music with HC, but (see above) the reality was very different. They very sensibly used Jimmy Hastings on sax and flute for later album sessions – he could pretty much sight read everything. However they did invite me to play on their short UK tour with The Northettes, plus Lol Coxhill, Lyn Dobson, Jeremy Baines, and various other wind players.~~~

You have also founded several bands yourself like Red Balune and Random Bob. What kinds of music were you looking to do and explore with each of these bands?

~~~ Red Balune was more of a mixed-media group than anything else. Formed in Bristol in '77, we initially started working with a community-based charity called Share Comunity Theatre; they ran a kind of half-way house for ex-prisoners, incorporating a heady mix of Esalen Institute style encountering, and direct creative therapy sessions with mentally and physically handicapped people, schizophrenics, and what I can only describe as feral teenagers from one of the toughest areas of town. We then started performing in public with various musicians, poets, dancers, and performance artists, including two of the ex-prisoners, both of whom had served sentences for possession of shotguns, armed robbery, and assaulting police officers. Our self-run record company of the time, MCCB Records, actually grew out of a performance idea; a very long story which I'm saving for “the book”, when I finally get around to writing it! I was once asked in an interview what my biggest contribution as an artist was – I had to give equal credit to my solo EP “Chemical Bank”, and being involved with Share Community Theatre. In December '77 we embarked on a 32 gigs in 30 days whirlwind tour of Holland – Cathy Williams and I arrived in London 3 or 4 days before the first gig, having just lost our bass player and drummer. We stayed in the HC house, and fortunately one of their neighbours was Colin McClure, who had played double bass on the first Radar Favourites demo tape; he had a drummer friend Robin Musgrove, who also had a van (we had no transport). We persuaded them to join us for the tour, they accepted, and we all arrived in Holland completely unrehearsed but raring to go. Anyone who could play an instrument or was willing to put on a crazy costume and play at being a performer was welcome to join in; by the end of the tour we were often on (off and around!) stage with anything up to ten people. Every gig was different – we had found time to rehearse some structured material, but most of the music was totally improvised. Straight after the tour we went into a small studio in Bristol where we recorded the single Spider In Love / Capitalist Kid, the first release on the MCCB label. In early '78 the whole band (me, Cathy, our daughter Louise, Robin, and Colin), moved to Holland; the rest is history.....or not, depending on your point of view!
Random Bob was formed shortly after I was kicked out of Black Sheep in '82; I was getting very dissatisfied with the experimental scene in general – a lot of doom and gloom, some weird and very unhealthy right-wing stuff creeping in via the industrial music scene - my reaction to a lot of it was “Take a break in the sun somewhere, chill out for Christ's sake”. I had taken a brief sabbatical from performing, but then started getting together once a week or so to jam just for the fun of it, with Colin on bass, cello, and tuba, and Henk Weltevreden on keyboards. Later we met Asad Oberoi, an Indian percussionist, and that set the scene for a kind of improvised world fusion music, which was fun to play but didn't really catch on with the public (I guess hardcore HC / Canterbury fans were pretty horrified!). Eventually we started incorporating more structured song forms, Asad left, to be replaced by drummer Coen Aalberts, but we weren't really getting anywhere so things just fizzled out, as they do sometimes. In '86 I had a lot of problems renewing my residence permit in Holland, and ended up heading back to Brussels. Another city, another chapter....