- WHAT'S RATTLIN' ?
:: The Weekly
Digest for Canterbury Music
Sunday, July 5th,
An unusual delay between the latest issue and this one,
which I apologise for. I hope the length of this one will make up
for the wait. I'll start with a few newsbits - a review of the
Steve Miller Benefit gig, which I attended, and a review of Pip
Pyle's solo album "7 Year Itch", finally completed after... well,
seven years of hard work!
STEVE MILLER BENEFIT GIG
When Pip Pyle told me that a benefit gig for Steve Miller
would take place on June 28th at London's Vortex Jazz Bar, I
promised myself I would be there. This was surely an event not to
be missed, although it's sad that it sometimes takes such
circumstances to bring old friends back together. Ex-Caravan
member later moving to a jazz career, Steve Miller has been ill
with cancer for some months, but the sad news was broken only
recently. A positive point is that, contrary to early diagnoses,
it was recently discovered that there is still a chance for Steve
to recover, given appropriate treatment. Of course, that is
expensive, and this was the reason for setting up this one-off
I've been at the Vortex a few times over the last few
years, to see people like Keith Tippett, John Etheridge or Evan
Parker perform. It is a relatively small and friendly venue
located at Stoke Newington in the North of London. That night it
was packed to capacity (approx 60-70 people). When I arrived it
was still not quite sure if Steve himself would appear at the gig,
but that uncertainty was cleared when he arrived, just a couple of
minutes later. I'd never seen Steve before, but he surely looked
thin and tired. Yet that night he proved that music wins over
everything, playing superbly for about two hours with various
combinations of musicians.
Among the musicians mentioned in the Vortex programme,
only two didn't make it : Roy Babbington was on a tour, and Peter
Lemer was on holiday with his family. The former was replaced by
the great Freddy Baker, while the latter needed no replacement
with Steve sitting behind the grand piano that took up almost half
of the tiny stage.
The first combination to perform was a sort of re-vamped
Steve Miller Quartet, with Eddie Prevost, Lol Coxhill and Fred
Baker, plus Phil Miller. It was great to hear the latter in an
improvised setting, an aspect of his talent which is not yet
documented on record. The music played was surprisingly melodic
and lyrical given the line-up and the spontaneous approach. A
typically British form of jazz for sure.
The most expected moment came after a first intermission :
the reformation of Delivery, almost three decades after its
inception. Carol Grimes, although herself a regular performer at
the Vortex with her group, admitted to not having shared the stage
with any of her old colleagues since 1970... With the exception of
Babbington, the line-up featured on the album "Fool's Meeting" was
reunited - Phil Miller, Lol Coxhill, Steve Miller, Pip Pyle. Aided
by the ever-helpful Fred Baker, the group played a couple of long
numbers in a bluesy vein. Again, it was a joy hearing these
musicians play in a style they're not associated with. Pip Pyle,
in particular, seemed to have a very nice time, and apparently
held no bad feelings towards Carol who had once fired him from the
band ! Grimes is an incredibly powerful vocalist, making full use
of her voice's range and dynamics. The group on the whole was very
tight, although Pip told me there'd been absolutely no prior
rehearsal. I wasn't familiar with the music, although the second
song was obviously the title track from "Fool's Meeting".
The third set began with Steve being joined on stage by
Elton Dean on alto saxophone (not his usual saxello) and Mark
Hewins on... err, I hesitate to call that guitar, although he
certainly used one, but not in a conventional way. I don't know if
he has a way of calling this technique, but he didn't hit the
strings at all, just caressed the board, producing atmospheric
sounds... Another moment of lyrical and melodic improvisation.
Mark then took his midi guitar and the Baker/Pyle rhythm section
was back for more. I don't recall exactly who else apart from
Steve Miller was playing at that point. Phil Miller had possibly
returned too, and Coxhill replaced Dean but I'm not sure. Anyway,
more improvised music, with Mark playing layers of what sounded
like an organ.
If I remember well, the last set was performed by a
quartet of Phil and Steve Miller, Fred Baker and Pip Pyle. But
maybe Elton Dean was playing too, as I recall that part to have
been somewhat "InCahoots-y". Again, some great playing from all, a
very tight band. I asked Pip how long it had been since he'd
played with Steve, and I was surprised to learn that the last time
they'd ever played together was when Delivery briefly reformed in
the Summer of 1972 !
All in all, a great night. The performance was recorded,
by Phil Miller told me there were no plans, a priori, to put it
out on CD. (Why not launch a petition?); and Yvonne Hewins
videotaped the gig for posterity. Also in attendance were
"Canterbury Nachrichten" editor Manfred Bress, Phil Miller's old
friend from Holland Henk Weltevreden, and "Facelift" reviewer Nick
Loebner... I'll finish off by thanking Mark and Yvonne Hewins for
the ride home !
PIP PYLE "7 YEAR ITCH"
Well, bad news first - you won't hear this until sometime
this Autumn. Pip's solo CD is being manufactured by Voiceprint as
I write, but Pip has decided to wait a bit until it's officially
available to attempt a bit of promotion. Last month he was busy
setting up a French tour for In Cahoots in October (a handful of
dates, but this time by the sextet version... hopefully), now he's
going to work at it. As regards dates, more bad news : there was a
good offer from a Japanese promoter for a little series of gigs
there, but because of the current recession in the Far East this
has been cancelled for the time being. But Pip is still hopeful
that some gigs will happen late in the year or early in 1999. Just
the thought of seeing Dave Stewart and Pip together on stage
almost makes me faint with anticipation...
Now, the music. I've had the chance to listen to "7 Year
Itch" quite a few times, so I can give a few impressions on the
contents. First, this is a very varied album, not just a
collection of songs in the verse-chorus-verse mode. Secondly, it
is a delight to hear such a combination of highly talented
musicians all on one album. Of all the Canterbury veterans still
in activity, no-one's missing, except Robert Wyatt who declined to
sing on "Shipwrecked"... and, where's Mark Hewins ?! With these
few exceptions, however, everyone's there : Phil Miller, Dave
Stewart, Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, John Greaves, Didier
Malherbe, Hugh Hopper, Fred Baker, Barbara Gaskin, Jakko Jakszyk,
Paul Rogers and more.
The album starts with "Seven Sisters" (8:35), a delightful
showcase for Richard Sinclair's vocal talents that makes one
hopeful that he will soon be back from him Dutch retirement. The
track, originally written as an instrumental piece for National
Health, also benefits from a piano solo by Dave Stewart, and a
guitar solo by Phil Miller. Pip mistakenly mentions in the liner
notes that it's the first Hatfield reunion on record since 1975 -
what about "Black Hat" on National Health's "D.S. Al Coda", not to
mention the 1977 gigs and BBC sessions with Richard ? The track
eventually changes from a melodic song to some equally tasty brass
"Chinese Whispers" (4:07) is a more popsong affair, with
Jakko on vocals, and has lyrics dealing with Pip's move from
England to France in 1985. It has a middle part sung in French
(with excellent accent), but in spite of that it's one of the
least interesting songs for me, having little to offer in the way
of instrumental work.
A cover of "Strawberry Fields Forever" (4:48) follows,
with the mellotron introduction perfectly recreated by Dave
Stewart. With Barbara Gaskin singing lead you'd think you're
hearing the new Stewart-Gaskin album (when will it finally be out,
btw?), and the approach in the arrangement is actually similar :
the melody line from the Beatles original is intact, but the chord
structure is completely perveted, resulting in a very peculiar
effect... The second half is more madness, with everything from
brass to samples of National Health's "Phlakaton" mixed together
onto hypnotic electronic rhythms.
"Seven Year Itch" (3:29), the title track, will be known
to some of you as it is featured on the recently released "Gong
Family Jewels" compilation. Pip describes it as a song of pure
hatred (against what or whom is unclear), and indeed it's
aggressive and dark, with John Greaves screaming rather than
singing and playing some adequately noisy fuzz bass. Difficult to
really judge this one.
"I'm Really Okay" (5:02) is a delightful ballad, with
lyrics by Faton Cahen's wife Jacqueline, and sung by Barbara
Gaskin in her usual charming voice. This superbly melodic song is
graced with an equally lyrical synth solo from Dave Stewart.
"Once Around The Shelves" (4:06) is an instrumental piece
featuring Jakko on both guitar and flute, that was originally
written using the Cubase software but with real instruments having
finally replaced most of the original tracks. Nice tune.
"Long On (7:08)" is sung once again by Jakko, and was
written in 1984 to impress a lady (Sophia Domancich I assume - her
sister Lydia is incidentally featured on a couple of tracks on the
album) "with what a great artist and songwriter I was... although
I hadn't counted on a nearly fourteen year interval before finally
getting it released!". Well, this one hasn't left a very striking
memory in my mind so I can't say much about it right now...
"Shipwrecked" (7:34) is for my money the best track on the
album. Although I miss Richard Sinclair's vocals from the Hatfield
version performed on the Central TV reformation gig in 1990, I
think the instrumental work is much better. Jakko sings again, in
a style initially very similar to Richard's, although it becomes a
bit poppier towards the end. The middle part is pure
Hatfield/National Health progressive rock, with Dave Stewart and
Phil Miller playing fantastic solos to Fred and Pip's solid and
imaginative rhythm work.
"L'Etat Des Choses" (7:40), originally inspired by Wim
Wenders movie of the same name ("Der Stand Der Dinge" or "The
State Of Things"), is an experimental collage that was started
over ten years ago, using keyboards given or loaned to Pip by
Peter Lemer, Dave Stewart and Alan Gowen, but recently completed,
with in particular Hugh Hopper offering some 1984-style fuzz bass
The album closes with a funny fanfare arrangement of
"Foetal Fandango" (2:48), originally found on Equip'Out's debut
album from 1987, but dating back to National Health's 1979 US tour
and heard on live tapes from that era. Didier Malherbe and Elton
Dean lead the brass section, with Pip providing military drums.
All in all, a very varied effort which is very
interesting, not only for its own artistic merits, but for
bringing together our favourite musicians in unusual combinations
and musical contexts.
From: "Kent F. Smith" <email@example.com>
Subject: Cafe Jaques
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 06:55:54 -0700
[In WR#97, Reed A. Callais <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>Anyone know where I may find cd'c of Cafe Jaques. Have
a couple of
>albums in poor shape. Any help on finding these great
albums from the
>past would be deeplu appreciated. REED
"Round The Back" is available (recently) from CDNOW, and
sounds soooo goooood. No word on "International". Rupert Hine is
getting his official web site together and more info about
releases may be available then. You can find a link to Round The
Back from my 'Essential 100 Recordings' page
From: Michael Rae <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 10:08:15 -0700 (PDT)
Just wanted to mention that I was fortunate enough to see
PRESENT at Club Toast in Burlington, Vermont earlier this month.
This was an incredible show; the group performed complex,intricate
arrangements without the aid of any charts. The leader, Roger
Trigaux, sings with a dark, foreboding approach; the interlocking
dual guitar interplay between he & his son Reginald was
intense. Everyone else in the group was equally intense in their
respective supporting roles; of considerable note was the monster
drumming of Dave Kerman, and it is no surprise that he is an
in-demand drummer amongst various progressive groups today (5UU's,
M.T.G, Blast). Worth mentioning is that Roger was kind enough to
permit us to videotape the concert; while not of
professional quality, still it is a nice souvenir of one
incredible show! Until next time, keep up the great work and
thanks once again for keeping us "Canterburians" linked.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Chris Topham)
Subject: Cafe Jacques
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 08:02:33 GMT
Well, at least _Round the Back_ is available in America -
Is the Catalogue number and it is a part of the Sony
rewind series; I
don't remember how much I paid for it but it was
From: "Steven M. Hill" <email@example.com>
Subject: Dave Stewart on TV (UK)
Date: Sat, 20 Jun 1998 08:27:05 +0000
Has anyone else spotted Dave Stewart's theme music to the
Friday night comedy program called "Offal TV" - the music is very
DS. I can make a Layer 3 mpeg audio file of the theme if anyone is
From: "Ballentyne" <Ballentyne@btinternet.com>
Subject: Brainville in Leicester (again!)
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 1998 00:02:51 +0100
Saw Brainville play the "Physio and Firkin", Leicester,
Friday 19th. First, a little word about the venue... this had to
be the worst venue for a gig that I have ever attended! Upstairs
in a rather dingy pub, a really dingy function room, L-shaped,
with hardly any space to stand or sit (we ended up sitting against
the bar, perched on the foot rail, or backs vibrated out of
alignment every time Hugh Hopper hit bottom E, which seemed to
correspond with the natural frequency of the bar itself)... the
sound was the worst I've ever heard, so that you just could not
hear what Daevid Allen was singing, unless it was a quiet passage,
and in those quiet passages, the chatter from the back of the bar
was louder than the band. Squeezed on to a tiny stage, I was half
expecting Daevid to fall out of the open window behind him every
time he took a step backward.
And this was the second time inside six weeks or so that
Daevid had played this venue! Must have something going for it,
but I'll be blowed if I could say what...
Less than 50 people were there, and of that, a dozen or so
walked out during the first number. There seemed no more than a
handful aware of who these guys were!
But, all that aside, it was a blissful experience! There
was mixed expectation of what they were likely to play, and
certainly, there were some moments unknown to me, but in their
95-minute set, you could recognise several pieces from Daevid's
1992 album, "Who's Afraid?", including the title track, "Thinking
Thoughts" and "Shadow", and towards the end of the show,
unexpectedly and wonderfully, "Hope for Happiness" (the very
opening track on that very first Soft Machine album ... *s*) throw
in a few monologues about those ubiquitous g'nomes and a bizarre
story about Bloomdido packed with impenetrable in-joke references,
and some intense wall of sound stuff with the old glissando (no
doubt helped along by the muddy mix), and it was just great.
My big blank spot was the fourth man, Graham Clark (oh,
forgive me if I got that name wrong, but he was the only one
playing not from my personal music hall of fame), on guitar and
violin. Daevid said that it was ten years the two of them have
been playing together, so you can guess how long it has been since
I last saw him live.
Almost a quarter of a century, actually, at the Glasgow
City Halls, when the big band were touring to promote the "You"
album. After the show, chatting at the bar, I mentioned to Daevid
how long it had been since I last saw him play, and that threw him
into wistful mood (er ... is he ever in anything else?) and he
looked me in the eye and said, "Ah the changes for us all since
then ..." (or words to that effect ... my ears were still
ringing). He was good enough to sign my cover of "You" and drew a
pot head pixie on "Who's Afraid?" Pip signed my Hatfields covers,
and Hugh seemed genuinely surprised that anyone wanted his
autograph at all -- but then did a little caricature of himself on
the cover of my copy of "Meccano Pelorus"!
Considering I had no idea what was going to be played,
went along with my girlfriend who had no idea who any of the musos
were (though she enjoyed it), the direness of the venue and the
utterly attrocious mix, it has to be said that Brainville overcame
all the odds and really delivered an enjoyable and memorable set.
I think this was the last date on their mini-tour, but if you get
another chance, don't miss!
George M. Ballentyne
From: "Bill Duhigg" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Wyatt interview
Date: Sun, 21 Jun 1998 20:44:53 -0400
>From U.S. Rocker Magazine - Vol. 9, #6, June 1998
USR, 4758 Ridge Rd. #279, Cleveland Ohio 44144
Published monthly; distributed in the Cleveland area.
Subs: $20/yr (11 issues)
Back issues: $2, first copy; $1 ea additional
NEW ON DISC
Singer/instrumentalist (& ex-Soft Machine drummer)
Robert Wyatt reveals the secret world of dreams with Shleep
By Sean Carney (publisher/editor)
Robert Wyatt? Who the hell is Robert Wyatt!? Well, unless
you buy a lot of out-of-print vinyl, you might not have heard of
the man before. But now with a new record, Shleep, available
domestically from Thirsty Ear and a reissue of his entire back
catalog planned for summer release, it's time to catch up.
Robert Wyatt was a founding member of the '60s art rock
band Soft Machine from Canterbury UK. Although Soft Machine
debuted in the middle of the decade-long British rock explosion,
the band was quite different from its contemporaries. First off,
Soft Machine -- in its classic configuration -- had no guitarist.
Instead, the musical focus was on the hyperactive interplay
between Hugh Hopper's fuzz bass, Mike Ratledge's even fuzzier
organ, and the drumming and singing of Robert Wyatt. The band
careened recklessly from cabaret-sounding jazz to completely
frazzed-out rock, bypassing the flaky psychedelic affectations of
many like-minded, progressive bands during the scene's nascent
era. Jimi Hendrix was a fan of their idiosyncratic approach and
took Soft Machine along on the Experience's first U.S. tour in
Wyatt's percussion style was unusual in its fluidity and
ratty energy -- a mid-point between Keith Moon's manic approach
and the precision, 'pro' sound of Bill Bruford. Even more
remarkable than his drumming was Wyatt's unbroken, high-pitched
voice that sounded more like it belonged to a teenage boy than a
man. His phrasing on the first three Soft Machine albums is
amazing. He breaks the words at unusual points and often indulges
in "word-less vocal guitar solos", scatting along in an eerie
register, tripping and trilling along with the melody. His words
were exceptional, too, and had nothing in common with the insipid
"let's boogie" come-ons of other English bands of the time. He
employed whimsical surrealist imagery that was also wise and
subtly political. "Virgins are boring," Wyatt sang on "Pig" (from
Soft Machine ii). "They should be
grateful for the things they're ignoring."
Wyatt left Soft Machine after three albums to form
Matching Mole, an even more spontaneous and jazzy ensemble. Then,
in 1973, Wyatt fell from a window at a party and was paralyzed
from the waist down. Although this ended his career as a kit
drummer, Wyatt was soon back at work, singing, arranging and
playing a variety of instruments on classic albums by luminaries
like Brian Eno (Wyatt contributed to Taking Tiger Mountain By
Strategy and Music for Airports -- some pretty cool credentials).
Wyatt also began what is now a twenty-five year long solo career
that de-emphasized rhythm for vocal and harmonic
exploration. On albums such as 1974's Rock Bottom and 1975's
Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, Wyatt plumbed his emotional depths,
extracting some of the most heart-rending personal music of all
time. His newest record, Shleep, is a bit more light-hearted than
his '80s work (which saw him delve into Marxist politics) and
features guest musicians like Eno, Phil Manzanera (from Roxy
Music), Paul Weller (from the Jam), and avant garde saxophonist
USR was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend some
time chatting with Robert Wyatt on the phone early in May. He
doesn't do many interviews, but he spoke candidly with us about
what it means to live as an artist in the late 20th century, and
his joyful lust to create infected us all month long.
USR: It's been a few years since you've released any
material. How did you decide it was time for a new record?
RW: Well, I spend months on end working on piano ideas and
cymbal ideas and
trumpet ideas at my home. I'm always writing bits and
pieces of songs but only at certain times do they come together
into a coherent piece. I can't force it -- I can't turn the tap on
and POOF! a song comes out. Things have to come together
naturally, organically. And when they do, I get into the studio as
quick as I can.
USR: Do you have other collaborators in mind when you're
RW: Ever since the early '70s, I've found that the safest
way to record is to
take responsibility for everything. It's as if you were
the captain of a ship: it's a good idea to be able to do
everything you're gonna ask everyone else to do in case they get
washed overboard. I really try to be prepared to play every
instrument myself and only when I need another voice do I invite
someone who I think is appropriate to join me. That way, I'm not
dependent on them but they can enhance what I do -- sometimes
beyond recognition. When I'm mixing, I take that into account and
change what I already planned.
USR: So the contributions sometimes surprise you?
RW: Yes, though over the years I've learned a bit better
who is most happy in each particular context. I don't always get
it right but I really try. I attempt to take into account each
musician's harmonic palette and the pace they like to work at
beforehand so I don't throw them into an uncomfortable situation.
If I'm working on something that is rhythmically or harmonically
obscure, there are certain jazz musicians that would be more
comfortable with that than rock musicians. Rock musicians possess
other important qualities, having mostly to do with dynamics. They
can really bear down on a tune if they're harmonically
comfortable. I was very lucky this time because there was a such a
helpful and friendly bunch of people that came by the studio. I
got more and more happy because I realized I wasn't going to have
to rely on myself for everything.
USR: Do you think that's a strength of jazz and rock music
-- the collaborative spirit?
RW: Yes, that's an advantage those musics have. When I was
young, my initial tendencies were towards "purist" artforms like
painting and poetry because a person does it entirely themselves,
straight from their imagination onto the paper. The trouble is
"pure forms" don't reflect what real life is: a constant process
of interaction and adjustment to the things going on around you.
And I've really understood that listening to jazz. I'm so grateful
to jazz because it established the idea of an inter-relationship
between the composers and the performers, constantly flowing,
constantly shifting. Despite the fact that we're not playing what
anyone would think of as jazz, those of us working in the more
improvised and extended areas of rock should be thankful for
everyone from Louis Armstrong to John Coltrane for having opened
up the whole range of collaborative creativity.
USR: Miles Davis used to arrange music simply by choosing
the players and then letting their personalities shape the sound.
RW: That's right, yeah. I was just listening to Miles
Ahead and on one track Miles Davis makes a humorous reference to
"When the Saints Go Marching In." To do that, Miles is depending
on the other musicians to know what reference he's making -- they
don't automatically lock into "When the Saints," but they
accommodate him for a few bars. They all faintly echo the '20s
record he's referring to and then they zip back into the '50s,
which was when Miles Ahead was recorded. To accomplish that
depends entirely on knowing who you're with and that you can trust
them. I suppose it's like what some socialite might say about how
you invite people for a party: a good party depends on who you've
got sitting next to whom. But it doesn't mean you can control what
they say! If you've chosen well you can't go wrong, however.
USR: It's been suggested that the ultimate anarchist art
grouping is a party.
RW: Oh, that's a very good idea! Of course, there's always
someone who throws the party and there's always someone who has to
say "Fuck off, I want to go to bed!"
USR: And someone who has to do the dishes the next day...
RW: That's absolutely right. As Noam Chomsky said,
"Anarchy is not a state that can be achieved but it's a useful
tendency that should be applied at all times."
USR: As far as the lyrical imagery of Shleep is concerned,
were you going for an overall concept or unity?
RW: My initial collaboration for the record was with
Alfie, to whom I'm married. I turned to her words, the notes
she made, and her poems because, although I had a lot of musical
ideas, I had very few lyrics in mind. Her words seemed to be
based around the imagery of birds: birds in flight and birds not
able to fly, etc. This coincided very well with the almost
permanent dream state I've been in the last few years, a narcotic
state without narcotics which is an ideal state to be in if you
can manage it! Hahaha! It's what you'd call state of
grace or luck. Real life doesn't let you live that way too
often, but I aim for it and Alfie's lyrics aim for that as well.
I also think that as you get older and heavier, the
lightness of birds becomes more and more romantic. At least it
seems romantic to me -. I always eat too much. So I combined
Alfie's vicarious bird fantasies with my yearning to recapture the
wonderful world of dreams. I know that sounds like a cliche, but I
just _love_ dreams. The more I look back on my life I'm just so
glad for those dreaming moments. Everything is good about dreams.
Even the worst nightmares are great -- you wake up thinking, Wow,
thank God that wasn't true! But if it's a good dream then all the
better, and that's the theme of the album.
USR: Do you have waking dreams?
RW: Yes, crepuscular dreams -- dawn/dusk dreams. They're
dreams that emerge right as you wake up and creep in on you as you
start to go to sleep. There are other dreams that happen while
you're fully asleep, but they're hard to recall and pin down.
Crepuscular dreams - those moments between being asleep and being
awake -- are the maddest. The closest parallel we all know, even
if we can't remember our dreams, is when we get drunk or stoned.
And maybe that's why we get drunk and stoned -- to recapture that
magical half-world. It can be a nightmare or it can be magical.
And there's no one, even people who are really boring and dull,
who doesn't have those moments where the most amazing, fantastical
thoughts go through their head. We all have them -- it's just a
question of harnessing them, which is one of the jobs an artist
USR: Have you always dreamt so vividly or have you used
special techniques to enhance the experience?
RW: I absolutely have. I've always been involved in
listening to music and looking at paintings and I realized fairly
early on that what made art so extraordinary was that it took me
back into the world of dreams. That's what I liked about art long
before I ever made my own.
USR: What kind of paintings do you like to look at?
RW: Well, basically those from the first half of the 20th
century in Europe when people got together around Paris. Not
necessarily just French painters -- although I love Matisse and
Bonnard. But also the ones who arrived in France, like Chagall
from Russia or Picasso from Spain. That whole period is superb,
right up to the American abstract expressionists in the middle of
the century like Jackson Pollock. Those paintings are still my
reference points, even more than anything that has happened since
in any other artform.
USR: In the '80s, you became deeply involved with the
communist cause and
your art took on a more political slant. How did that
RW: When things are on my mind, that's what comes out. In
the '80s, for example, I was deeply troubled by the nasty end of
the cold war. It wasn't that I was trying to be political or that
I lived in fear of atomic bombs, it's just that the times were so
disturbing they got deep inside. It was an intellectual horror at
the banalization of ideas by our Prime Minister at the time, with
her moronic cliches and the fact that she was going down so well
in the world. It seemed nightmarish to me. I have some pride in
English people and I was happier when we were represented in the
world's eye by John Lennon, quite frankly!
USR: Have you left that state now?
RW: No, I would say that state has left me. We now have
governments that have mastered the art of not representing
anything in particular. It's turned into a kind of ideological
soup. They don't say anything that could offend anyone.
Intellectually, I still feel a certain distance but how can you
fight soup? I mean there's nothing there -- it's all too cloudy
and nebulous. It's impossible to tell what you're up against. So
to that extent, my revulsion seems kind of diffused. All I can do
is stick to what I know is right and defend it at such moments
when it's clear to me. And, God help me, keep quiet when I don't
know what I'm talking about.
USR: Don't you think that just making art is a political
statement? Don't you think that now more than ever, people are
looking for things that are imaginative?
RW: Ugh, I have no idea what people are looking for. I'm
certainly looking for the imaginative but I'm not sure what use it
is. There's a danger in thinking that great works of art and
imagination can really profoundly alter _anything_ for the better.
For example, my father was a very idealistic man, a Christian
socialist of a very English type. He believed what he was fighting
for -- he was a soldier in WWII -- and he really loved classical
music. But the people who had created the most majestic classical
music in the world at that time were from Germany and Austria and
were themselves the seedbed of the most cruel and heartless
phenomenon the world has ever known: Nazism and Fascism. It left
my father totally confused... and me, too.
I don't know what people want or what they're gonna do
with it, and that's the truth. All I know is that an artist should
always try to be authentic and be true to himself and hope that
that's good enough. If that doesn't work, then there are forces at
work too powerful for anyone --let alone me -- to know what to do
about. It's not a soundbite, I'm sorry. After years of
thinking about it, it's gotten harder and harder to work those
USR: One of the things that makes Shleep sound so unusual
is the way you
extend the melody lines over many bars of the music. Do
you sing along
with the riffs as you're creating them?
RW: Yeah. I was talking about my dad -- he was a big
influence on me in terms of music. He got me interested in
classical music. I remember when he played me my first LP, a piece
called "Antarctica" by an English composer named Vaughn Williams.
It went on and on -- I had never heard anything quite like it. I
was very impressed because up until then I had only heard 78s and
just the very existence of LPs meant that ideas could flow like
oceans, not just go round and round and disappear down the
plug-hole like water in a sink.
As much as I love pop music, which I absolutely do, it
seems to me that the length of the early 78s still govern pop.
Everything is forced into a two or three minute soundbite song,
and I've always felt constricted by those restraints. I love pop,
and God bless the people who do it well, but it gives me
claustrophobia. I like the idea of things flowing and twisting and
turning and going where they will.
USR: It's funny how mechanical considerations have often
artistic standards in music.
RW: That's right -- the three minute single is a result of
technical considerations. It's very useful in a way. On those old
jazz records they kept those solos short and sweet and didn't
ramble on too much. It was a good discipline. But in the end,
there's just so much more to be done than that.
USR: Sure - those same players were really cutting it up
RW: That's why it's so wonderful to hear live concerts by
people like Charlie Parker, extending chorus after chorus,
unraveling the whole song. And we would never have known this if
we'd only heard 78s.
USR: Yep, live is where It's at. What about you, do you
still perform out?
RW: No, I figured if Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly can get
away with not doing any live gigs, so can I.
USR: That's not the same thing at all, Robert!
RW: I suppose it's not. Playing live is difficult because
of the way I make my records. I put all the layers on myself in
the studio. It would be hard to re-create that live. Also, I've
found that I've got stage fright. I've lost my nerve. Being in a
wheelchair has sort of removed me from access to the world of
getting on and off airplanes and cars and buses. The everyday
world of the touring musician seemed to recede into the distance
after a year or two of being in a wheelchair. I get invited to do
gigs, but if I said yes to one, they'd be offended if I turned
down other ones. Plus, when I'm singing a song my technique is
very often shit and it takes me four goes to get it in tune
whereas live, the first go is all you get. I'm not Aretha
Franklin, I can't hit it on the note every time! I'm much more
competent as a drummer than I am as a singer.
USR: But you used to sing and play drums at the same
RW: Yeah, but the fewer takes anybody has of that period,
the better, as far as I'm concerned.
USR: Would you ever have imagined as a child creating
music as you are
RW: No, I assumed that music was completely outside my
reach. I was interested in painting and Dadaist art at the time. I
had no idea what I was going to do when I got older. I imagined I
would be a comic or a comedy writer because I've always enjoyed
word games. It would never have never occurred to me that I would
be a musician or a singer, it just sort of happened in the '60s. I
was crap at school and I couldn't handle any of the careers I was
being trained for. So, like a lot of people of my generation, I
went into something where you need no qualifications whatsoever --
USR: It's interesting that you bring up Dada and comedy.
My friend Peter has always said that while Dada destroyed modern
art, it was a boon for comics.
RW: Absolutely! Comedy is such an underestimated
artform. The ability to be funny is as great as the ability
to play violin. The best comedians are as good as the best artists
in any other idiom. Maybe- it's because of my early introduction
to Dada that I feel so confident in saying that.
USR: A lot of your lyrics and even your melodic ideas tend
to be whimsical and comedic. But I'm impressed by the deeper sense
of feeling that's also there. And I think that's what was so great
about the Dadaists, too. A lot of people who came along after them
in the artworld missed the humanity of it.
RW: Well, I usually have to have two reasons for doing
something. I do things that are amusing to me because I try to
avoid boring myself. That's number one. But secondly, "interesting
to me" isn't enough because I know from having a record collection
that albums that are just novel or interesting only get played
while they're new and then, after I get used to them, I don't want
to play them anymore because I've gotten the point. I've found
what I really like about the music and art that I love the most is
that even when I know it by heart, I still want to hear it again.
And that seems to me to be a whole other level beyond being
surprising or witty. So I try to think about records I like and
what keeps me going back to them twenty or thirty years later.
It's very hard to me to say what that is it's beyond words really
When I really think about things like that, I'm in the land of
USR: Ah, but that's the great thing about music, which is
a totally abstract artform. Like with classical music, the person
off the street can appreciate it for the pretty melodies but there
are far deeper complexities to ponder, too.
RW: Absolutely right. Words fail me when I try to describe
how important music is to me. I have fanciful ideas about that.
Perhaps because our animal ancestors were originally underseas
animals, we need the viscous connection that music provides -- we
want to re-create a swimming environment now that we're on dry
land. Music connects us ear to mouth, mouth to ear in an invisible
physical link through the air. We all know about that. When
a baby is born the first thing it does is cry to its mother. Only
when it gets a tit in its mouth does it shut up. The noise is for
a _reason_. There's something pretty serious going on the whole
business of making a noise at all. Our lives have depended on it
since the moment we were born.
Robert Wyatt's new album, Shleep, is available from
Thirsty Ear (274 Madison Ave. #804, NYC 10076).
From: "Yarwood, Stephen, YARWOOS"
Subject: Mixing It
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 1998 14:20:00 +0100
In his communication regarding the latest edition of
Facelift Phil Howitt referred to an up and coming interview with
Robert Wyatt on a BBC radio programme called Mixing It. This
programme can be found on BBC Radio 3 every Monday evening from
2245-2330 and is well worth a listen. For people such as myself
with eclectic tastes it represents a potential Aladdin's Cave of
musical discovery. The whole spectrum is covered, from modern
classical to drum 'n bass, from world music to free jazz, from
total electronic weirdness to Balinese Gamelan, a complete A-Z.
Many of these artists would have no chance of ever being heard on
the radio unless this programme existed, musically speaking for me
it is the most crucial 45 minutes of the week. I have compiled
many wonderful tapes from recorded highlights. More people ought
to be aware of its existence, but be warned it is not for the
faint hearted, it is not easy listening, and you can't dance to
it!! Presenters Mark Russell (musicologist/composer) and
Robert Sandall (rock journalist) make a good team, Russell's more
cerebral approach often contrasting with Sandall's gut feelings,
and they frequently agree to differ. From time to time they have
studio guests or sessions, some of which are totally bizarre, but
never dull, I'm sure Robert Wyatt will be make interesting
listening, I think he is scheduled for the 29th June edition, but
check your Radio Times for details. Sounds like a BBC commercial
From: "Relentless Pursuit" <email@example.com>
Subject: THANK YOU!!
Date: Mon, 22 Jun 1998 06:38:36 -0700
As a life long SOFT MACHINE and Caravan fan, finding your
site has been a godsend! I have my own small record label as well
as being a web author and internet host. I am versed in the many
flavors of HTML coding as well as having much experience in
relational database programming. If there is anything I can ever
do to help you in your wonderful efforts to help educate and
expose the world to the wonders of Canterbury music, you need but
Relentless Pursuit Records
Arcadia Web Service
p.s. Check out my labels site at:
http://www.iuma.com/relentless_pursuit we are in the middle of
completely redoing the site so it's a little thin but it's going
to be very cool when it's brought up to date. Again, thank you so
much for your site... now I know where all my old heroes are and
what they're up to!
From: "alan j bolton"
Subject: mike ratledge
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 1998 21:24:15 +0100
Was he reponsible for soundtracks for Levi's ads?
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 11:04:26 EDT
Just to let anyone who is over in the USA, on the East
coast that Gongzilla is doing a tour of some clubs here. Bon
Lozaga, Hansford Rowe, Vic Stevens & Benoit Moerlen. Also only
at certain shows Mike Fiuczynski will join in on guitar.
They will be playing the Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Opening will be Geno White. I've seen him b4. He can really swing
that axe, fusion hard rock type. They will also be at the Bottom
Line in New York. I do not know the dates for any of the other
shows. Well maybe see you at the Saint on July 6.
Next we need Pierre Moerlen to come over to the USA and
tour the east. Whatever band he brings, I just want to see him
play the drums again. Well get the word out about Gongzilla if you
can, last time Bon played here drew small crowd. Adios you all...
The Jersey Gypsy
From: Rob Illingworth <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Ca Va
Date: Wed, 1 Jul 1998 17:39:21 +0100 ()
Just thought I'd exhort everybody to buy the new Slapp
Happy album it has had STELLAR reviews and, for once, the critics
ain't lying it certainly follows on from the '70s albums
stylistically but it has a satisfyingly contemporary sound
the music is beguiling, the lyrics are witty, the vocals
are beautiful- in a nutshell, it's ACE! how mnay albums have
you bought recently that you just have to play every day?
well that's what i have to do with ca va spin and spin again mes
From: Mark Hewins <email@example.com>
Subject: WR posting
Date: Wed, 01 Jul 1998 18:05:28 +0100
here's some info for the USA WR readers, sent to our hello
On Wednesday, July 1, 1998 at 02:58:52,
the following data was submitted from
The Muffins Reunion Show! July 16
Chief Ik'es Mambo Room, Washington DC
1725 Coulmbia Road NW --
Subject: gong & soft machine album ?
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 1998 15:07:09 -0400 (EDT)
Like your work, and I'm just writing to suggest a few
things related to your GONG info.
There's one earlier recording (I recently got hold of one
copy, and it surprised me very much) credited to Gong and members
of Soft Machine. It's called 'Soft Machine'. A very strange
record: the first side is similar to the first side of Daevid
Allen's 'Banana Moon', and the other side contains songs from the
b-side of 'Magick Brother..'
It's issued(?) on BYG. It has a hand-made sleeve, and that
is Daevid Allen's drawings & handwriting so I suppose that it
was not made by someone else.
But here comes the interesting part: on the back side of
the cover it says that it's issued in 1969 (!). Hm.
That's it, I hope it's of some interest to you. I'd like
to scan the cover and send it to you, but i don't know how to do
it, hehe, i'm not all into this computer stuff, sorry.
All the best, bye
Marko Caklovic, Croatia
From: Earl Rapp <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 4 Jul 1998 11:12:03 -0400 (EDT)
I finally got Soft Machine's "Virtually" and it is
fantastic. I agree with all of you, who said: that Hugh and
Elton really shine here.
BTW I was wondering if anyone of this list made it to the
Steve Miller benefit gig .. feauring: [Phil Miller-Pip Pyle-Lol
Coxhill-Roy Babbington-Mark Hewins etc.] Jun 28 - London, Vortex
I would really enjoy some feed back on this event. [well-
From: Steve Taaffe <email@example.com>
Subject: new prog website http://www.tafcommedia.net
Date: Sat, 04 Jul 1998 12:15:20 -0500
All Canterbury music fans are invited to check out the
following website (http:// www.tafcommedia.net). We feature
various Canterbury groups(Gong etc) in with progressive and
psychedelic groups thru Real Audio programming. Over 15 hours
recorded so far. Our official grand opening was July 4, 1998.
Future programs will include National Health, Caravan, Egg,
Gilgamesh, Phil Miller.
From: Simon Foster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Tim Blake, New Jerusalem
Date: Sun, 05 Jul 1998 01:41:58 +0100
I've just found your page on Tim Blake. This has a special
significance for me, about eight years ago a friend (who sadly
died 4 years ago) mentioned an album called "New Jerusalem". He
though it would appeal to me as I have an interest in
electronic/synth music (among other styles). I was heavily
into Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, etc. He wasn't sure of the
artist's name, I did try to obtain this recording at the time, but
hit a brick wall, no-one had heard of it. Time had since eroded my
memory (it happens to most of us !), all I could remember was
'Tim' somebody, so I did a search and found your page, when it all
came back to me.
I must confess I know nothing about the man or his music,
I really have no idea if it would appeal to me or not, but I am
curious. Firstly, thank you for enlightening me, I had begun to
think that either my friend or myself had imagined it. Secondly,
now that I know a little about it, I would really like to listen
to this, for various reasons. I know the album is now rather old,
but is it available on CD ?, I just thought it might have been
re-released in the intervening years. Alternatively, can you
suggest some other recordings by Tim, in the same style, which are
currently still available and which I might be able to get hold
of, to sample the flavour. What has he done recently, how
does it compare to "New Jerusalem" and is any of it still
available ? (so many questions !).
Thank you for your time,
A potential convert (!),
[Not being very knowledgeable on Tim Blake, I thought some
of you may be able to help Simon with his query. I know "New
Jerusalem" was reissued by Mantra some years ago but I'm unsure
whether it's still available - AL]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
[for more info : check out the 'Concerts' page of CALYX -
see URL below]
CARAVAN - EUROPEAN DATE
Jul 19 - Burg Herzberg (Germany), festival appearance
FRED FRITH - WITH LARRY OCHS & MIYA MASAOKA
Jul 05 - Los Angeles (USA)
FORGAS BAND PHENOMENA
Sep 3 - Paris (France), Petit Journal Montparnasse
Sep 11 - Paris (France), Le Glaz' Art
Sep 18 - Paris (France), Studio des Islettes
Sep 19 - Paris (France), Studio des Islettes
Oct 09 - Paris (France), Peniche 'Le 6/8'
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *
END OF ISSUE 98
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