This interview was conducted at Pip's home near Paris on the occasion of the reissue of Delivery's "Fools Meeting" album in April 1999.
Have you heard the Delivery album recently
I haven't, no. I heard it about ten years ago. What I remember of it is in fact more what Phil says about it, that it's a good record of Steve's playing. It's the last blues record that Steve ever made. That was already beginning to fall apart, it had been a quite straight rhythm'n'blues, if not fairly purist blues band, for quite a while, and Steve was a very accomplished boogie-woogie piano player. When the group was based around him, nothing was ever recorded. I think he plays really good on that. Also Lol, as far as I remember, he does some nice stuff on that, Lol Coxhill. And Roy Babbington... But I'd actually had an accident, I'd got a bit of metal in my tendon and all that, so I'd had to learn how to hold the stick this way rather than that way... So I wasn't very comfortable drummingwise. And Phil, he sort of cringes with embarrassment about his playing on it. But hey, we were really young... I'd be quite interested in hearing it again, though!
Was it in any way the starting point of what
you did later on?
I suppose there was some kind of inklings... It gives some idea of what we'd do. But I really don't think Phil was really serious about composing. He was more serious about learning to play guitar at the time. So he came up with a few things more based on riffs and modal things, rather than the kind of stuff he does now. I don't think Phil really got his kind of composing chops, really, until the end of National Health in a way, and the beginning of In Cahoots, then he really started getting into it. Although of course he wrote some good stuff before that, "Nan True's Hole" for instance was a really good riff, but I don't think he really got seriously into this mad harmony stuff that he does now, that sort of effort - or rather lack of effort, cause it comes pouring out of him! But I think that's what his work's been like more in the last twenty years, should we say.
Would you say Delivery had an original style or
was it just another blues band in the British blues-boom of the
Oh, completely, yeah. I think we wanted to be a group just like all the rest of the blues-boom, that's what came first. And then when we started taking lots of drugs, and listening more to Coltrane and jazz things... And we began to wonder, why were we, white middle-class musicians, trying to do that anyway? But we actually did a lot of interesting tours with American blues artists, and when I think about it, it's fantastic. We worked a lot for a while, backing people like Lowell Fulson, BB King, Eddie Boyd, Jack Dupree and all that, great musicians. Cause we were kind of cheap backing group, and I had a van. I remember Otis Spann, who was Muddy Waters' piano player, we did a tour with him, and I can still remember the look of shock on his face when I rolled up to pick him up at his hotel in my green Weaver van... This was what he was going to be driving in for the next three weeks! (laughs) We were paid about five quid a day for the gigs, including the van.
Was there a musical environment in the late 60s
that encouraged you to look for a more original approach
Mostly, it was getting very stoned and listening to music, and nothing else, for about a year, so apart from getting really smashed and listening to music all the time... We'd always done that a lot, but I suppose... meeting people like Roy Babbington, Robert Wyatt, Lol Coxhill, automatically forced us into different things. Even Lol played in soul bands like The Gass and things like that, but I mean... Don't forget that in the late 60s there was a huge improvised jazz scene in England. It was almost more forceful than it was in America, and certainly more so than over here [France]. If you listen to some of those records now like... I was in New York last year, I found that record called "Things We Like" by Jack Bruce, and there's like, Dick Heckstall-Smith, McLaughlin and Jon Hiseman on that record. And I mean, I don't even think of Jon Hiseman as a drummer now, but he plays fucking great on it. I'll tell you - it sounds quite like what Robert was playing with Soft Machine. It's very busy, really tense, exciting drumming. It's pretty free, I mean, you couldn't put out records like that anymore, people don't. But that school kind of still exists, but it's completely shunned. Anyway, we were running into some of that, as well.
Did you listen to the early jazz-rock stuff,
like "In A Silent Way"...?
That was a bit later. I thought the first Mahavishnu record was great too. "In A Silent Way", certainly, yeah. But at that point we were already doing something more like jazz-rock, even way before that, or round about that time, I suppose, yeah. After the second Mahavishnu record I thought it started to get very dull, though, and similarly, so did Chick Corea, and so did Soft Machine, and so did Lifetime. So did all those bands that looked like, you know, it can only get bigger and bigger... And it didn't, unfortunately not, no. And I wonder whether Hendrix would have just carried on getting more and more extroardinary... Probably. So I don't know, it's just a sort of completely natural thing. I suppose when we eventually got Hatfield together in the end, Dave Stewart put more the brakes on the kind of improvised sort of thing, and pulled it more into structured things; and Richard was much more into a song sort of thing. Otherwise I think Phil and I would have got much more extreme, much more of a marginal thing than it was.
(c) 1999 Calyx - The Canterbury Website