Mike Ratledge

Born : May 6th, 1943 - Maidstone, Kent (England)
Past Bands : Soft Machine (1966-76), Adiemus (1993-95)

A Short Bio:

A most enigmatic figure of the Canterbury scene, Mike Ratledge largely remains a mystery. During his ten years in Soft Machine, he supported the band's musical evolution from a psychedelic/eccentric rock group to what many considered a technique-oriented jazz-rock band. Leaving the band in 1976, he has since embarked on a reclusive career as composer, arranger and producer for advertisements and theatre plays.

Michael Ronald Ratledge was born in 1943. He started learning the piano and musical theory as a child and grew up listening exclusively to classical music. While attending the Simon Langton School in Canterbury, he became friends with Brian Hopper, which resulted in the pair playing piano/clarinet renditions of classical pieces at Mike's house on Saturday mornings. Mainly under the influence of Daevid Allen, who arrived in Canterbury in 1961, Mike subsequently developed an interest in jazz. From the avant-garde works of pianist Cecil Taylor, he worked his way backwards and discovered Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Discovering a common interest in that music with other school pupils, he then started playing jazz with Robert Wyatt and the Hopper brothers.

Contrary to his friends, Mike Ratledge had a view to pursuing secondary studies, and subsequently attended the University College of Oxford. There he studied classical music, also working with avant-garde musicians such as Mal Dean and Rab Spall, and gained academic credentiels in philosophy and psychology. Applying too late for a grant in graduate studies at an American university, he found himself available when asked by his Canterbury friends to join a new band venture in August 1966. In the Spring of 1963, Mike had sat in with the Daevid Allen Trio (featuring Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt) in London. The new line-up, later called Soft Machine according to a suggestion of Mike's, included Allen, Wyatt and Kevin Ayers.

In many respects, Ratledge's subsequent career merged with the history of Soft Machine. He stayed in the band through its countless personnel changes. By 1973, he was the only founder member left, and when he left three years later, Karl Jenkins had already taken over the leadership of the Softs. After his departure, there were rumours of Ratledge setting up his own studio, which he did, but the projected solo album never materialized. Instead, he concentrated on library music. Although he did take part in albums by Rollercoaster and Planet Earth (two combinations of British jazz-rock musicians, most of which later appeared on the final Soft Machine album, Land Of Cockayne), Ratledge was not heard of until the late 1980's, when avid fans first discovered his works with former Softs accomplice Karl Jenkins for the advertising industry.

In 1995, Ratledge and Jenkins released the album Songs Of Sanctuary under the name Adiemus. Mainly the work of Jenkins (Ratledge is only credited with arranging the programmed percussion...), it was an unexpected return to the spotlight for him, although the music had little in common with his, and even Jenkins', old work. Ratledge was absent from the London concert of autumn '96 and is reportedly working on non-musical projects, including a CD-Rom on arts and screenplays for television.