By Beppe Colli
Feb. 3, 2008
As I argued in my reviews of said albums,
the recently released Numero D'Vol and Clear Frame put the fan of the music
we could (quite scientifically) file under "Canterbury, etc." in
the pleasant position of being able to enjoy what s/he's listening to without
having to fear the intrusion of the terrible "nostalgia" factor
as a co-motivator of her/his favourable response.
What better occasion, then, to ask a few
questions to the musician who, alongside Charles Hayward, is the only shared
element of both albums?
The interview took place last week, via
As a first
question, I'd like to ask you about Charles Hayward: When did become
aware of his work? I remember both him and Chris Cutler playing with
you in Lindsay Cooper's Oh Moscow group (though on the released album
from 1991 the drums are played by Marilyn Mazur).
Yes, Oh Moscow
had several drummers: Marilyn Mazur, Chris Cutler, Pete Fairclough, Charles
Hayward... Charles did a couple of gigs with us in Berlin (east and west)
just before the Wall came down. That was the first time I had met him or
played with him. I didn't know much about his bands - This Heat and Camberwell
Now, although he and I were on parallel tracks, I think.
times, two albums by two different quartets have been released: Numero
D'Vol, by a line-up comprising you, Simon Picard, Steve Franklin and
Charles Hayward; and Clear Frame, where you and Hayward play alongside
Lol Coxhil and Orphy Robinson. Does the Numero D'Vol quartet actually
precede the one that's on Clear Frame? Please, clarify this for me.
Yes, Numero D'Vol was recorded at Delta Studio near Canterbury, around 2002
I think. The band never played together apart from that one studio session
- I wanted to record with Simon Picard, a sax player who is one of my all-time
favourites, and so I set up the session, inviting along Charles and Steve,
with whom I hadn't played for some years (with Oh Moscow, and with In Cahoots
respectively), and whom I respected equally and wanted to play with again.
I had the ADAT tapes in a box unmixed for a long time before I had time or
money to work on editing them, also at Delta.
Clear Frame is from 2005.
D'Vol and Clear Frame appear to differ quite a bit when it comes to their
recorded sound, and also - I think - to the general idea behind the groups/the
sessions. Would you mind talking about this? (Ha! The cover of the Clear
Frame CD doesn't say where the album was recorded, and by whom.)
D'Vol was recorded at Delta and Clear Frame at Gateway, Kingston University,
London, but Robert Wyatt's cornet and tenor horn on the Clear Frame CD
were recorded separately at Robert's house and then dubbed on, looped and
sampled. I wouldn't say the "concept" of the two sessions was
at all different as far as the original playing goes - in both cases, we
just improvised totally without any preplanning. Of course both sessions
were edited afterwards, to get the "best" sections, and in the
case of Clear Frame, to add Robert's contribution.
you say, I understand that Numero D'Vol is a group that exists only "on
paper" - I mean, on that one CD; while I think I'm not wrong if
I consider the Clear Frame quartet to be a touring entity. Would you
mind talking about it? And also about the reason(s) why the Numero D'Vol
quartet doesn't play live?
Yes, we have
played several gigs with Clear Frame since 2004 - mostly in London, but
in 2007 we played also 3 gigs in Austria and one in Switzerland. But Numero
D'Vol was really just a studio recording idea. I like to do one-off projects
as well as trying to establish regularly working bands... And Steve Franklin
lives most of the time in Switzerland and Germany, so he is not readily
available. Also, he has a large keyboard set-up, which makes it less easy
Lol Coxill go back quite a bit - I remember him playing on your album
1984 - but (unless I'm having a blank right now) it seems to me that
you two have not played together that often, at least on record.
We have done a few gigs over the years - Monster Band in France in 1974 (but
he was not at the concert where the live side of the Monster Band record
was recorded), a gig with Mark Hewins and Dave Sheen in London in 1985
(The Mad Axe Quartet)... there are probably a few others I have forgotten...
of keyboards, besides the piano, does Steve Franklin play on Numero D'Vol?
And were those keyboards processed in post-production?
at least three keyboards and lots of effects, but in fact there is no piano
at Delta Studio! That convincing piano sound is from one of his keyboards.
I can't tell you what the keyboards are. I think there is one big midi
master and an analog keyboard and another digital one. Arp? Prophet?
bass players all over the world will be glad to read about what instrument
you used on those albums, ampli vs. direct, etc.
I have used almost always my Peavey Foundation bass for live and studio
work. I very occasionally bring out my old Fender Jazz bass, but I like
the Peavey so much... And I only bought it because I wanted a cheap bass
as a reserve in case anything happened to the Fender. In studios, I usually
go direct into the desk and maybe have an amp as well, just to give a warmer
sound if necessary.
Frame there are, think, quite a few overt jazz gestures - Robert Wyatt's
playing, of course, but I'm also thinking of Paperweight, which reminded
me a lot of Out To Lunch, with those vibes. How important is jazz, right
now, as a source of inspiration for the quartet?
Well, we all
have been influenced by the great jazz musicians. But also by the great
rock musicians. And the great classical composers, and the varied ethnic
you've gigged quite a lot in a trio called Brainville 3, where you play
alongside Daevid Allen and Chris Cutler. How did this trio come into
version of Brainville was formed in New York at the Knitting Factory tribute
to Robert Wyatt in 1998. The line-up was Daevid, Pip Pyle, Kramer and me.
Of course I had played with Daevid first in 1963. Kramer had the plan to
record a CD with that line-up ("The Children's Crusade"). Then
later, in England, we did a short tour as a trio without Kramer. Meanwhile,
the next year, Chris Cutler and I played with Daevid and others as part
of the Gong Global Family tour. In 2006 we resurrected Brainville as Brainville3,
the current line-up of Daevid, Chris and me. Pip Pyle died in 2006.
that Brainville 3 are about to release an album. Given the current situation
when it comes to the market, what kind of expectations do you have for
Cutler is releasing it on his ReR label. I suppose it will tick over, selling
steadily but not making us into millionaires!
© Beppe Colli 2008
| Feb. 3, 2008