Daevid Allen
Vocals, Guitars

Born : January 13th, 1938 - Melbourne (Australia)
Died : March 13th, 2015 - Australia
Past Bands :
Soft Machine (1966-67), Gong (1967-75, 1991-2001), Planet Gong (1977), New York Gong (1979-80), GongMaison (1988-91), Magick Brothers (1992-), Brainville (1998), University Of Errors (1998-2006), Acid Mothers Gong (2003-06), solo

A Short Bio:

A unique character, Daevid Allen, guitarist, poet and singer, was a founder member of Soft Machine before forming his own band, Gong, creating a unique musical and lyrical environment which later saw the birth of many different bands and musical ventures, within what can truly be considered a family of artists, including Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen and Harry Williamson.

Daevid Allen was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1938. As a teenager, he developed a strong interest for poetry and jazz music, while soon getting fed up with the educational system. Soon confronted with the difficulties of having to earn his living, and unable to cope with archaic social rules, he decided to flee his country, embarking on a boat to Europe in March, 1960. In the following twenty-one years, he never once returned to Australia, and when he did, it was out of fear of a nuclear war in Europe... "I had a very unhappy schooling and childhood because although it is now a very nice place to raise children, in the early '50s and late '40s australia was probably 10 times more redneck than the most redneck place in America. And it was a very repressive space for somebody like me who I guess has always been a freak and a wild card. I had the shit beaten out of me endlessly all through my childhood so this has left a lot of scars there that I found very difficult to confront. So this was the time for me to go and confront these things".

Disembarking in Greece, Allen travelled up to London, stopping off at Paris. Already a guitarist in several jazz combos while in Australia, he sat in with various musicians on the then-burgeoning London jazz scene. In 1961, he met Robert Wyatt, the son of his landlady in Lydden, near Dover, and subsequently Wyatt's schoolfriends Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Kevin Ayers. After about a year, he was asked to leave ("they thought I was too dangerous for the boys"), and moved back to London. There he played several gigs with 'Live New Departures', a poetry/jazz outfit fronted by Peter Brown and Mike Horowitz, culminating with a performance at the prestigious Marquee.

In 1963, Allen played a few gigs in London with Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt under the name Daevid Allen Trio, with Mike Ratledge occasionally sitting in on piano, to more than skeptical reaction from the audiences. Later that year, he moved to Paris, living for a while at the Blue Motel where he met William Burroughs, who asked him to provide music for one of his performances, and Terry Riley, who turned him on to the making and usage of tape loops. Around that time, Allen met and married a rich Australian girl and moved onto a houseboat on the Seine with her. Their relationship was shortlived, though, and he later described his first wife as "a crazy and alcoholic woman".

Sometime in 1964, Allen met Gilli Smyth, a Welsh poetess who had previously lived with a Dutch buddhist and had a daughter, Tasmyn. She had also worked as an English teacher and written poetry. They soon began a relationship and moved to Deya together the following year, where they spent 18 months of "an idyllic life, writing poetry and songs". In the meantime, Hugh Hopper had dropped by Allen's place and the two had worked extensively on experiments with tape loops.

Around Easter 1966, Daevid Allen experienced what he later called his 'seed vision', a quasi-mystical experience in which he mentally saw his future life mapped out in detail - Soft Machine, Gong and everything else. Around the same time, Kevin Ayers had managed to coax an eccentric American millionaire, Wes Brunson, into funding a band project of his. In August 1966, Allen and Ayers formed Soft Machine with Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge. For Allen, the experience lasted just over a year, as he was forced to leave the band on their way back from France and relocated in Paris to launch the Gong project.

Gong didn't become a real band until 1969. Following the May 1968 riots in Paris, Allen and Smyth relocated in the South of France and subsequently Spain, with the recently formed Bananamoon band, consisting of Allen with bassist Patrick Fontaine and drummer Marc Blanc. They recorded demos which were issued many years after as the Je Ne Fum' Pas Des Bananes CD. After spending the Winter of 1968-69 rehearsing the songs that would later form the basis of Gong's first album Magick Brother, Bananamoon split up with Fontaine and Blanc going on to form Ame-Son and Allen reactivated the Gong project.

Between 1969 and 1974, Daevid Allen's story was largely that of Gong, although he did release a solo album in 1971, Banana Moon, during this period, with Robert Wyatt, Christian Tritsch, Archie Leggett and Pip Pyle. The high point of this period, though, was the creation of the Radio Gnome trilogy and the albums Flying Teapot (1972), Angels Egg (1973) and You (1974).

Daevid Allen split from Gong after an incident where he was literally physically blocked from going onstage on the subsequent tour, and Gilli had already left to look after their two sons Tali and Orlando. They returned to Deya, leaving Gong in Steve Hillage's hands, and later in the jazz mode of Pierre Moerlen. Several years later, Allen explained his departure from Gong in the following way : "I've always had a very particular conception of music. In my point of view, there is no reason for making so-called 'popular' music, simply for personal glory or financial reasons. That is not enough of a motivation for me, I need higher aspirations. I need to feel that my music helps society and the human race in general to move forward. When Gong started becoming famous, especially in England with Virgin, a lot of people started coming to us, most of them professionals whose principle motivation was money and power. This had the effect of splitting the band in two halves, one that was attracted to the material side of life and the drugs (sometimes we were offered suitcases of coke as payment for the gigs!), and another that had the same vision as mine, that thought we should stay as clear and clean as possible to be able to keep pursuing the musical direction we had chosen. The use of drugs made us lose touch with our positive energy, which became negative... Music is a power; I was a medium transmitting this power, but I was no more able to use it as it should be used. So the only solution for me was to escape from this situation. That's what I did. I left for Deya where I had a small house, thinking I could make a new start there".

Allen still had a solo contract with Virgin and released Good Morning, recorded on a 4-track Teac and featuring the Majorcan electro-acoustic band Euterpe. This comprised individual songs instead of a grand concept, as did Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life, which featured Pepsi Milan and Joan Biblioni from Euterpe and another lot of Catalan musicians. Also while in Deya, Smyth's thoughts about different aspects of motherhood were channelled into a solo album, Mother, which was produced by Allen. This happened during 1976-78. In May 1977, a Gong reunion gig has organised by the original French fans at the Hippodrome, Paris. This included the entire trilogy band, who played in various combinations for 12 hours to eight thousand fans who'd come from all over Europe.

Not long before this, Allen had started working with Here & Now, a punk band whose beliefs mirrored his ideas to strip away the pomposity of the alternative movement - they did free gigs where the hat was passed for petrol money for the travelling bus they used. The Gong reunion was their first performance as 'La Nouvelle Planète Gong', soon to become Planet Gong. They issued the single "Opium For The People", which attacked all sorts of everyday drugs and not just medicinal ones. This was followed by Floating Anarchy, which involved Allen, Smyth and Here And Now under the collective banner Planet Gong, and was largely recorded live in Toulouse during the grouping's inaugural French tour in November-December 1977.

Allen split up with Smyth shortly after the tour, and flew to America. In the midst of a very confusing period, he recorded N'Existe Pas!, a very obscure album using elements of free jazz, art-rock, bag pipes, and bluegrass banjo released in 1978. Whilst in America, Allen took part in the Zu Manifestival set up by Gong's former manager Giorgio Gomelsky, getting to know and record with Material, who became New York Gong and subsequently went on an ill-fated French tour that led to its premature breakup. The bass and drum tracks from this album were copied and re-edited for a backing tape which Allen used for the Divided Alien Playback performances, which were solo shows - this was as much about performance art as music.

In 1981, Allen returned to Australia after a 21-year absence. "I hadn't been there for half my life, I had to go back to check out and see what Australia was. So I went back to find my father, who was actually on his deathbed, and five or six days later he died. Nobody could understand why I had shown up. They'd sent me telegrams, none of which I'd received, and they said why did you come now if you hadn't gotten the telegrams. And I said, well, it was time". Once he'd settled in Australia again, Allen recorded the Ex; Stop/Don't album, with performance artist David Tolley, and the album previous to that was The Death Of Rock And Other Entrances, the title track being a farewell to a number of dead stars which has been reworded as "Hey You Kids Of The Future..." and become an apocalyptic poem which he did on Street Poets Vol.1. He abandonded music for street poetry (it was then that he first met Tom The World Poet), busking at markets and fairs, taxi driving, and hosting a weekly radio programme of other acts' alternative music, Radio Brainwave.

In 1982, Allen's new partner Maggie gave birth to his third son, Toby. "It wasn't a very good time for me. I felt that the bottom had dropped out of everything, I think it's what they call the long dark tea-time of the soul... In that time I really contemplated suicide, but this was brought to a luxurious end by the birth of Toby, which gave me some degree of inspiration about life, ongoing life, and so on. So I proceeded to split up with his mother, and we went and lived in separate places in a corner of Australia, a place called Byron Bay". The following year, he began a spiritual retreat in the rainforests of Northern New South Wales, where he was initiated into various 'new age' consciousness therapies, and studied intensively in a mystery school. During this period he composed a series of seven single note compositions called 'drones' for use as therapeutic tools and aid to meditation. Eventually, he came back to music, working with Gilli Smyth and her new partner Harry Williamson at their house in Melbourne. "We recorded Stroking The Tail Of The Bird, which was one of those miraculous group improvisations, that we did at full moon after we'd been chanting for about fifteen hours at an ashram in Melbourne for a perticular Hindu festival".

In early 1988, having met a new partner in life and music, Wandana Turiya, Allen returned to the UK, and more precisely Glastonbury, to run with her what he called 'play-shops' for adventurous spirits who would wish to speed up their personal evolution rates. "And people came from all over the place to this workshop. After it, we tried a concert, and so many people came to this concert that I was astonished. I had been in Australia so long I fugred that Gong didn't exist anymore. But to come back and so a concert and find that that whole family was not only still intact but enormously well organized, it was a tremendous surprise ! So from here I started doing concerts, just myself and my friend, and then I found three other women to join us and it was called the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet. We circled around England for about a year, sowing seeds...". Allen's new music, very much in the acoustic vein which characterized Good Morning and Now Is The Happiest Time..., was warmly received.

Acoustic gigs in Exeter, London and Glastonbury that Autumn were well-received, as was a brief visit to France. "We joined up with Didier Malherbe and Shyamal Maïtra, and we all performed together, which was recorded as a tape called Daevid Allen Live 1988 that was released by GAS". Allen then went back to Australia for a few months, and when he came back early the following year, having signed with Dave Anderson's Demi-Monde label, he headed for Foel studios in Wales to recorded what would become the Gong Maison album. "Harry Williamson came over from Australia, where he was living with Gilli, to join us and this was the start of Gong Maison. A solo album of mine, Australia Aquaria, was recorded at the same time, which is I think one of the really magical ones I've done".

Joining the existing nucleus of Allen, Wandana, Malherbe, Maïtra and Williamson were violinist/guitarist Graham Clark and Mother Gong bassist Conrad Henderson. In the meantime, there had been a UK tour, French dates and finally, just after the album was completed, a successful appearance at 1989's Glastonbury festival. "Gong Maison is the new dispensation of the Gong vibration", Allen said at the time. "It's called Gong Maison partly as a reference to house music, house jazz and so on, but mostly as a reference to the sorts of houses we find ourselves living in, which are like lunatic asylums of hermits who are trying to live together. In other words, houses with all these rooms with different trips going on in each room - the house of Gong".

In the following months, fans who attended Gong Maison's performances started requesting all Gong numbers, which led to an increasingly electric music, with Maïtra adding conventional drums to his percussion setup and sometimes triggering electric drumbeats. "Harry left after a year, as did Wandana, who went to Sydney to become a commercial artist [she and Allen were reunited a few years later and had a child, Ynis, together]. Then Keith Bailey of Here And Now joined on bass. At that time Gong Maison had really taken off and we were playing to 1000 and 2000-people venues, with 80% under 25". In April 1990, Gong was briefly reformed for a televised concert on Nottingham's Central TV, with a line-up of Allen, Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle and Here And Now members Steffi Sharpstrings, Keith Bailey and Twink Electron Flo. A further UK tour was undertaken in the Spring of 1991, and towards the end of that year, the project had evolved to a new version of Gong. Midway through the recording of Shapeshifter, former Gong drummer Pip Pyle was asked to contribute drum parts to the album, and ended up joining the band permanently.

In 1991, Allen launched a new musical project, the Magick Brothers trio, named after the very first Gong album. Joining him in this more low-key venture were Gong's Graham Clark and multi-instrumentalist Mark Robson. The latter, who played keyboards, didjeridu, flute and whistle, was born in Sussex but his musical career had blossomed during a trip to Australia where he'd joined the "peace train", a round-Australia travelling demonstration for world peace organised in 1987. During this itinerary he played and sang with the band Dreamtime. It was there that Robson met Allen, who was immediately impressed by his song "Isle Of Glass", and asked him to join the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet. Robson returned to the UK in 1990 and promptly set about working with Allen. The Magick Brothers made their debut performance in Oxford at the annuel Winter Solstice celebration held there. Later, they performed at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms at the Summer Solstice, and in March 1992 embarked on an 8-date tour of the United States.

So in the 1990's, Allen has kept busy on the live front with an alternation of solo concerts and tours with Gong, The Magick Brothers, the reformed Planet Gong, duos with Graham Clark and Russell Hibbs. He has also written and started publishing his three-volume autobiography, "Gong Dreaming". In October 1994, the 25th anniversay of Gong was celebrated by a two-day event uniting past and present members of the Gong family, and launching the reformation of the classic Gong line-up, which toured internationally from 1996 to 2001 in Europe, North America and Japan.

In 2003, Allen decided to get together with members of the Japanese psychedelic collective Acid Mothers Temple to form a new version of Gong, appropriately named Acid Mothers Gong, involving Gong regulars Gilli Smyth and Didier Malherbe, as well as Josh Pollock from Allen's California-based outfit, the excellent University Of Errors. UoE has been in existence since 1998 and has so far released three albums, the latest of which (Jet Propelled Photographs) consists of the entire Soft Machine 1967 Gomelsky demo plus other early songs - and many will agree these versions are often superior to the originals.

The 2006 Gong Unconvention in Amsterdam marked the beginning of a renewed collaboration with Steve Hillage, which has continued with two London gigs in June 2008 and is extended to a new studio album, 2032, to be released in September 2009 to coincide with a major European tour, preceded by a series of festival appearances throughout the Summer.