This interview with Phil Miller was conducted by fax in February 1997 following the release of "Parallel".
Was there a conscious effort from you to go
back, on this new album, to a more "progressive"/rehearsed, less
jazzy/improvised direction, in comparison to previous albums ("Live
In Japan" and "Recent Discoveries"), or is it just the result of the
new material having been played on tour prior to recording it, in
contrast to the 'hurried-up' sessions for "R.D."?
Well, there was indeed a conscious decision on my part to go towards a CD with less of a jazz-orientated rhythmic feel. On "Parallel", there is quite a bit of variety in this respect. "Live In Japan" is really a snapshot in time of what the band was into; not really the ultimate performance of those pieces. An interesting document hopefully with some substantial playing from the band. As for "R.D." it was a CD done in a hurry. Events beyond me - or for that matter anybody else - conspired to cut down the time I had allowed myself to finish off the working and rewriting.
We had this madman living above us creating mayhem and noise - the 'neighbour from hell' syndrome - and it threw me out of schedule. I like to rewrite things, iron out a few wrinkles; change things that need it. So there were elements or areas in the writing where things are perhaps at a lesser standard than I might like to have achieved. It would have been better to have spread events over a longer time span, perhaps a few extra gigs to feel more at home with the material might have been beneficial. I believe we did six gigs and four days rehearsal besides all the other stuff one does at home as it were.
I will say that a lot of work was put in by all the other musicians concerned and that has to be recognised. Anyway, there are some positive aspects to deadlines, finite budgets, limits of somesort make you finish projects rather than be in a perpetual state of being where nothing you do is ever either finished or good enough. You can go the other way where you rehearsed the life out of something. It is good to ensure that there is enough of that sense of freshness you get when you first play a piece more or less right when you finally record it.
There had been a one-off tour of Japan in 1991
with the same sextet line-up, but this is the first time In Cahoots
is permanently a 6-piece band. Do you wish to keep it this way? Did
you think it was possible to dispense with keyboards, then reckoned
it was a problem?
The sextet version of InCa simply has a larger scope for me and increases one's options. Writing specifically for a duet of, say, guitars, is for me much more difficult than for a six-piece. Also it is always nice to have keyboards in the line-up, especially with someone as good as Peter Lemer who can play the fiendish bits easily and make them less fragile. The keyboards are an efficient instrument and can play most things. Ideally I'd like to keep this line-up intact for all the gigs but that depends on availability and money to an extent.
So that is why I have been happy to do gigs as a quintet, quartet, trio or duo. That way you develop the pieces and your knowledge of them and how to adapt them for the required line-up. However, it does help in the guitar duo setting that Fred T. Baker is such a virtuoso because it is really like having two players sometimes.
Regarding the 'horn section' approach with
Elton and Jim, I'm wondering whether you were in any way frustrated
of never working with a sax player on a regular basis during the
whole of the seventies, with Matching Mole, Hatfield and National
No, I wasn't. In respect to Mole and Hatfield it was a case of focusing on what was there really, rather than having any need for a particular sound or instrumentation that wasn't available. Elton and Jim work and blend so well together you feel a bit naked when they're not there. They make a telling contribution to the music.
Could you tell us what other projects you're
working on, and whether gigs with any of these line-ups are
Well, Short Wave will be doing some gigs in France in September [these dates fell through eventually]. I always like to play with Didier so I am looking forward to that. Hopefully we may get around to organising some recording sessions in conjunction with the gigs. We have been thinking of doing some pieces at home on our respective computers and multi-tracks as opposed to a band playing live as it were. As yet this is in the design stages. Fred [Baker] and I are planning a visit to Cuba for some concerts. My friend Henk Weltevedren, who was very largely instrumental in getting us to Japan has been out there scouting for us and came back saying that there were some opportunities for us, but once again this is in the initial stages. We will be working in Holland in October/November that is for sure. We well may do some gigs there with the sax player Dick de Graaf. He may take us on his tour of Mali which could be quite unusual. As far as the trio with Pete Lemer, nothing planned as yet. In Cahoots will be working but I'm still trying to figure the 'when' part of the equation and this depends on my assuming my 'Harvey Goldsmith persona' which is not a particularly enthralling prospect !
(c) 1997 Calyx - The Canterbury Website