Malcolm Lane interview (unpublished)
13 April, 1981
At the time of this interview, the group METABOLIST was in a hiatus,
BRIEF HISTORY OF METABOLIST
The group started in 1977 with me and Anton (Loach), a year or two later joined by Simon (Millward). In between that time we had Jedd, the drummer, for a couple of years, and then we ended up with Mark Rowlatt, which was the full group at the time of the LP. Simon had been in a few local groups before Metabolist, I'd been playing in clubs and things like that before. I'm the oldest member of the group. Anton left the group in April 1980. Mark hadn't played with anybody else, he's very young compared to us. He's about 22 now, I think.
When we started, we did very small gigs, very obscure avant-garde gigs with very few people at them, then we went on to do the usual venues like Moonlight Club and Rock Garden and all sorts of funny little places. We did a gig with Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire around 1979, and one with This Heat at about the same time. The one with TG was run by Final Solution.
Then we didn't want to do any more gigs for a while because it wasn't really worth it for us, because we didn't have enough money to promote ourselves properly. So we thought we wouldn't do them and save money because it was costing us quite a lot of money.
The last thing we did was 4 or 5 months ago, a brief tour of Holland which was very successful. We got paid, not that we're moneymen but it was nice to actually get paid for what we were doing. And the audience liked it quite a lot, we got recorded on the radio and all sorts of things like that. Quite exciting.
The last thing we did in England was Acklam Hall. Since then the group decided to leave it out, not do anything for a while. The group's been going on for a long time, and everybody was feeling that they were losing identity, becoming too much on the margin in the group, so it was getting a bit silly. That's why Anton left really, and the three remaining members decided to take some time off, so we can restate our personalities. And if we wanted to get back to the group in September or October this year, we'd do it, and hopefully it'll be much stronger because everybody would be much more happy doing it, instead of putting on a role.
You see, in a group, after it's been together for a long time, everybody gets a function. Like, Anton was the singer, and he was backed by Simon, Simon played bass quite a lot of the time, and Anton played all the synthesizer, and I played guitar solos and things like that. The music worked, but individually, you'd find the more successful the group, the more you've got to narrow down your field of what you do. You find something very successful, you find it very tempting to, say, do odd guitar solos in special way and do these sort of chords. It means ultimately you'd end up becoming a complete automater. And you start having a notion of career, like making money and being a career musician, it starts taking over from your needs to be creative. So rather than having a job satisfaction, you become someone who works on a production line, just doing the job, and knowing if they carry on doing that they'll have a pension at the end of it.
So we decided to just give it a break and see what happens. So far I've been quite successful in what I'm doing, I think. Simon is doing all sorts of little things, he's bringing out a cassette by Camera 3. They had a single out called The Russians in Space, which was made at the Metabolist studio we had in Charing Cross Road. Mark at the moment is just starting, like I was a few months ago, to try and find what he can do creatively, because he just used to be a drummer in the group, so trying to see if he can write songs and sing and play the guitar (he has a bit of guitar background.) He didn't have a chance to play the guitar in the group because he felt he'd be laughed at. So it should be a very positive experience for everybody concerned.
Our aim? It's basically, I don't know if you've heard of Bauhaus? When I was at school I was very interested in art, and I went on to art college. At first I mocked about playing blues and things and I just enjoyed doing that. Then I started thinking about implications of playing music. If you have that Bauhaus theory, about looking in every single creativity you have got inside you and trying to expand it and trying not to be too affected by fashion. I suppose there's also kind of Renaissance principles like Leonardo do Vinci, where each person has a responsibility to grow as much as possible, not only for themselves but for people around them, because if they're successful themselves, then regardless of what happens, all the people around them will benefit because it encourages them to be more creative and more active themselves.
What I'm saying is, you bring something about to stimulate all the people around you, by thinking about exactly what you do. Like Buddhists, you've got this thing called Mindfulness, haven't you? I saw a programme on TV the other day, and they've got this principle that, even if they're just washing their socks, they're mindful of what they're doing, they're not switching into zombie state; they're remaining in touch with the world in which they live, and activities like washing socks are supposed to be mundane but they're making it into a significant part of their existence. It seems to me this Buddhist thing is much more to do with what's going on around you instead of separating yourself and having a false idea of yourself.
It comes back to the creativity thing. That idea of sweeping all the cupboard out of your head, and trying to have a fresh outlook and having responsibility to the time which you live in. If you take a movement like Punk, it tried to pretend there was no past, which meant it didn't have power. It was limited to things that shocked in a sensational way, like Malcolm McLaren attitude... which is all right for them, but lot of people were disappointed by the ideology of Punk because it hasn't made the changes everybody expected it to.
Does those principles actually work in the group?
You are being practical, aren't you? (laughs.) It works up to a point but also, say someone like me who's got a kind of intellectual bias, imposing an idea like that on the group, and up to a point Anton was in agreement with me, but as more people got involved, like Jedd and Simon, and Mark in the end, it was much more difficult to keep that principle, especially as things are changing around you all the time as well. But that theme did drive us all the time, it made us make most of our decisions all the way throughout the group . It also meant the group couldn't be commercially successful, because, say when punk came along, it would have been easy for us to become a punk group, which we couldn't do because of those principles. And it made us, for a little while, be stuck in a little hole somewhere, without any significance to other people.
So it put a bit of strain, but I think it worked reasonably well, except with time everybody becomes narrowed down, as I was going on about, and they start fitting into a role. To have freedom creatively you've got to fight and think about it all the time. Anton and I were conscious of that, and others in the group were less so, but it meant that eventually we were going to get to a stage where unless we fought against it, it was going to blow in our face, which I think it did when Anton left, really.
Anton basically got tired of feeling obscure. So he's trying to get some singles together with Mark Bear. They did something under the name Silent Types, released in Belgium. It was the Record of the Week in NME, but it didn't sell many, as they only pressed 1500 copies. Mark Bear has done something with Rough Trade recently, and it means if it's good, it'll be heard this time. Anton at the moment is on his own working in a studio in Brixton. He wants to be more commercially successful than Metabolist was. But then Metabolist, in its own sense, had that kind of growth as well. Metabolist have done well, the actual record sale has got to such a pitch now, and we're much more in touch with what we're doing. We've got part-time jobs so it gives us a lot of autonomy.
Anyway, I was going on about autonomy business, when we started in l977, punk was happening but it didn't really relate to groups like us, we were between them, punk on one hand, which was a free and anarchic organisation, and the other thing that existed at the time were groups like Henry Cow, Magma, Gong and things like that. Spiritually I've quite liked Gong for what they stood for, which was good feelings and vibes and all that.
I've read somewhere you were influenced by Amon Düül?
Amon Düül? No, not at all. I've never heard Amon Düül until recently, What l've heard is after all loads of rubbish, basically. One of my favourite groups has been Magma, because their conception is so big.
Once you get past the age of, say, sixteen, you become part of the older generation as far as the music press is concerned. It's all 'music by young people, for young people, with young people'. It was important for us to see that rock could offer more than just a cheap thrill. So many groups coming on the scene, they've got a few shocking ideas like the lead singer goes on stage with bollocks hanging and things like that. They come and they go in something like three months, because they don't care about the form of rock music. I think you've got to offer some opposition to things like classical music because, as far as I'm concerned, the actual idea of doing classical music these days is dead to a great extent. I'm not saying that classical music is crap, I really like a lot of it, but we're here now, the form in which we work in is something like rock. It's not enough to just come up with some latest fad like Gothicism or something (he means New Romantics), that's not enough to offer in opposition to things like classical music or jazz. Rock is capable of a big spectrum of feeling and expression, rather than just being geared towards Radio 1 exclusively. I'm not trying to make it a pompous thing, but obviously you've got people trying to make rock pompous, things like Yes and Genesis and all those people. They get obssessed with what they call 'being deep' or something like that. That sort of music, to me, doesn't challenge yourself enough.
I'd associate myself more with mainstream, rather than avant-garde. I think the concept of avant-garde is finished, it's washed out. Even people like Stockhausen, as far as he's concerned the idea of avant-garde is washed out, because in the end you're playing the avant-garde role. You're deluding yourself saying avant-garde can actually come up as something completely new. Over the years I've seen so much avant-garde coming and going, they ceased to have any significance. So you have to emotionally, as a grown human being, you have to search for something more than just the latest thing that says it's avant-garde and just chase after it. It's all right if you want to make a career out of it and survive everything. I'd say something like Bowie is very interesting because whether you like his music or not, he's able to develop all the time and listen and choose out of specific trends or latest fashions to get certain facets of that so that he can grow his own environment, which is a good thing. But just the idea of something being avant-garde seems to be a waste of time to me. How would you say?
I'm not really sure what avant-garde is today, I mean I don't think it's appropriate to use that word for....
That's basically what I'm trying to say. How many times do you see it if you read Melody Maker, NME, Sounds, 'this is the latest thing going to uncharted waters' or something? Have you heard Nurse With Wound at all? All I've read about them seems to indicate they're new and avant-garde, and I think, so what? This is fucking...you know. Don't write it or I'll strangle you (laughs).
I think PIL are quite interesting. I haven't heard much of their stuff but what I've heard sounds a bit like Metabolist. But Metabolist hasn't got Johnny Rotten in it (laughs) so it makes a bit of difference. Very much like the area we've worked in.
You know Mark P? He wanted to do fanzines and things like that, and he was very annoyed because so many people decided to make it into a fashion and not think for themselves. His thing was that everybody should think for themselves, basically, and shouldn't see the latest thing and want to get in on that. I think that's quite good about PIL, Sex Pistols could have stayed as Sex Pistols and kind of modifying it slightly, but they broke it all up, Johnny Rotten actually had the guts to do things different. He risks, doesn't want to automatically be successful. It's quite good.
Has your approach to music changed since you started working in the group?
Well, it had to, in a sense. I'm playing synthesizer, whereas before I just used to play guitar. I had to learn all about mixers and power amps and DBX units. I didn't know anything about that when I started off. Also I've had to spend all my money I've earned in the past 6 months on this gear.
Also the group thing. What I like about working by myself, it's a bit selfish but maybe I'll get over it, is that it's very nice to have a democratic process but it always involves a lot of arguments in Metabolist. As you believed in democracy so strongly, it meant strong arguments all the time. So whereas I always felt like 60 in Metabolist, now I only feel like 15 or 16 (laughs).
I really liked going to Holland, one of my ambitions is, like TG's doing now, to go to Japan and America and explore the culture. Rather than as a tourist, I'd go there with purpose. It's an enjoyable experience doing gigs for people interested. It's pretty pointless to do a gig in England, unless you get the right promoters who pay you enough money to do it. Metabolist could get loads of gigs like Moonlight Club, but you can't do it forever, you're just doing the gig for the sake of it. Whereas (in Holland) you relate to the audience, people you're playing to, that is the situation you had. They're not going there for a night out to talk, they're going there for the experience, basically. If you're doing a gig here and not getting paid as well, which cost me a lot of money, then it's a useless experience.
When l went to holland it was very nice to have all those people who didn't respond to you like every English person responds. You get very cynical in England because most people you deal with are business-minded and very unrelaxed. In Holland people'd be quite polite to you, and we get a dressing room. We've had a dressing room once or twice at Rock Garden, but... have you been to the dressing room at Rock Garden? Yeah.
When we went to Holland we got on well with This Heat for the first time, we'd met them before but it was the first time we felt relaxed and they felt relaxed, it was friendly, whereas in England you've got this whole atmosphere of competition which is very distructive, it's very difficult to operate with other groups. Like we put on a gig with This Heat which was a co-promotive thing, and because of that competition thing, it didn't really work. The same thing happened with another group at Acklam Hall. Also you just get that thing, everybody's out to make it, they're not interested in anything more than just becoming famous.
What about promotion, do you feel you've been doing as much as you can?
That's a very good question, actually. Right. If we had money behind us, obviously we could have sold a lot more records. Say TG's been very successful and it's got to such a pitch now, I think they've had to... they've licensed all their LP's to someone in Japan, haven't they? I think that's great, I'd like to be in that position myself in the money point of view. But all the time we've done everything ourselves, we've tried to do as much as possible, which has been a very interesting experience, like selling and things like that. Jacky and I have gone to record shops, and I still deliver to places like Caroline for export, I take the records and lift them up. I think it was good part of experience because it stops me getting this idea of being a special person, treating other people with disdain. I think it's important to keep in touch with reality.
It's meant, of course, because we haven't made as much money, because we haven't sold as much, we haven't got as much money to invest in things like... I don't know. How much more could have been done by getting a publicist, for instance, which would cost us a lot of money? Also, I think one of the difficulties is that you have to get into a very very pointed image, a very well defined image, to be able to surrvive. To me, I'm not careerist about it in a lot of ways, I've survived doing other things. It means I also realised that, for everybody in this world, music isn't the only thing. When you're in your room playing music all the time, you think it's the only thing important to anybody. For most people it's a small paart of their life, I think it's important to remember that. Now I think I might have the sufficient maturity to make a lot of money, I could handle it (laughs.) Now I could make better use of it rather than wasting it.
(It was designed by Jacquline Bailey.)
It's going for simplicity in positive ways. Also you've got the association with modernism, a bit like Mondrian. It's also a very strong image as well, which a lot of other groups have used since, by the way. I won't mention the name but I saw one the other day. I don't know if they knicked it from us, it's a pretty obvious idea. Also so many record covers l've seen in my time, you'd look through record racks and they've got these four blokes standing. Really it's irrelevant to the music, because where the music is coming from is not those plastic people wearing those clothes, it's coming from somewhere indide their heads.
Jacquline, by the way, has had a very big role in the group. Without her, we'd all have stayed very immature in terms of organisation and realising how to channel your energy properly. Like we had this tour of Holland and she did the stuff like financial things, and she's had clear-sightedness to help us. Like we all decided on our great role, and the theory was to become an independent record company, to which Jacquline said, 'how would you go about it practically?' and went to see the right people to get things rolling. So she's been quite essential to the group. If we'd been left on our own devices, we'd have been just a bunch of artists fighting about, and not got anything done, you know, we'd play a load of music that nobody had ever heard. She used to help us with gigs as well, she's pretty much the manager of the group.
WOMEN'S ROLE IN MUSIC
Sometimes I feel very strongly about it. When I was at college, mocking about with paints and that sort of thing, it was practically historical conspiracy, it didn't seem to me there was any woman artist. The only one I could think of off hand was Paula Modersohn-Becker, who was an Expressioist. And when I looked at music, what normally happened to women in music is, tie yourselves up in as lead singer in a group, that's the only way a female could have anything to do with music. I think one of the best things happened is, I don't know if it's got anything to do with punk, people like the Raincoats, all-women groups. I remember when the first group came along with a woman on the bass guitar, 'Christ, women can't play bass guitar, they haven't got bollocks' and all this kind of thing, that it's a masculine preserve. I think, group like Blondie, her influence is very strong, and you get towards much more democratic ideas of music, because it takes it all away from all this 'macho' kind of image, where it's all male ego.
My idea about making music myself, I couldn't see myself playing music at the time, which was in 1964 or something, because it was so much to do with having to be this kind of total male with great bulging muscles and a big voice. What is good now is, you've got women playing music and it can be a very advancing thing, because as soon you get a woman in a situation, it takes it away from that kind of brotherhood thing, it's much more progressive. Although you've got retrogressive things like Girlschool. Basically they are trying to be men at their own game, which I think is a waste of time really. They should be using their energy and their very very good ability to try and create something that's actually their own. They're not bad as a reflection of Motorhead or something. And you've got other people who've done that, like Suzi Quatro and.... Typical sexist crap, yeah, the other one is Funny. Basically what you get is a colourless imitation of what men do. Hopefully, for the future, women should be able to bring something fresh to music, even if just to disrupt the kind of stranglehold men have got on the actual business of playing. I think it's a very positive force for good.
Obviously I haven't seen anything in a large sense where, on a creative level, their presense is totally being felt. You've got female groups like the Raincoats, for instance, who've not made it on the media, while you've got thousands of groups like DEVO and Clock DVA or Pere Ubu... I mean Cosey's in TG, but the whole role in that doesn't seem to me to be... from what I've observed anyway, she's not taking the commanding role, it's basically Genesis's group. He's keeping the whole thing together, he's providing structures for other people to work in, which is all right, but I think Cosey's guitar is very important. The gig I saw I didn't really hear it. I think I've only seen them once, when we played the same bill as them, which was pretty crowded. The basics you get in TG, you get his vocal lines and synthesizer in the background. I think she's been more present on later LP's, from the third LP. I think she's done a lot more on that. It seemed to me, before that she was just, 'the situation was there, I might as well do it', or 'Friday night we've got a gig, I'll just go and get some clothes on and do the gig', you know. It didn't seem to me 'I'm here, I'm part of this, and I'm putting that much effort' which I think she now started to have.
In the early 1970's, when things started to change, a lot of feminist groups thought things had got to change overnight, but it's going to take a little bit longer. I'm aware of it because I've been taking interest in things like feminism. Well, not as a thing but say, when you're trying to get gigs for instance, right? You phone up and you speak to a bloke, and you've got an immediate conflict and ego situation, which is completely negative, there's no possibility of communication. All you've got is a battle over the phone. But if you talk to a woman, you can have a dialogue. Like in my teaching job, I go from school to school teaching guitar to kids, and people in the authority - if you're working with a woman as your boss, you've got an immediate possibility of getting the best out of the situation, not just for yourself but for the kids as well. If you want to get some equipment, you immediately begin to talk with that woman like that; whereas with a male, he knows what is required in the situation, and you don't. He's got the seniority, so the immediate conflict like that, which is negative and people suffer in the end are the weakest people. Prejudice against female workers disgusts me, seems unfair to me.
Do you choose the words because of their meaning or because of their sound?
Generally speaking it's because of the sound. But it hasn't just happened like that. Most of the group has got a history of listening to lyrics and sometimes you get someone coming up with very very emotive text, like John Lennon's Imagine or something, which is a very very very powerful lyric, really the modern version of poetry, if you like. It seems to us, you either did that, you either was successful with lyrics, or you didn't settle for less. Like you didn't do American-syled lyrics, which is 'going with my chick, going down the Sunset Boulvard' type of rubbish. Also the earnest lyrics like Henry Cow lyrics which were politically biased, which usually sound - unless you're socialist or communist, which they seem to be - it sounds stupid really. They sound so heavy and very lumpy, they don't really mix in very well with the music.
Also l've got another principle about words. I think a lot of the time, as somebody who really believes in the actual power of music, instruments and things like that, I don't like the vocals always dictating, with the music as a blind backdrop. It's good if you do that sometimes, but I like to feel that... It's like Picasso things, he's a very good line drawer. He doesn't do much shading, he can do things like draw horses in one line all way around, and get density and everything like that. But when he uses colour, he uses colour to suggest mood. l think music has got to do that, also add a little bit more as well sometimes, the actual instruments. In Metabolist, I don't know if you've noticed about the bass guitar, it's very important to me. You wouldn't notice it necessarily, you wouldn't think about it. But when I started to play guitar and bass and all those things, bass guitar was very much the instrument that plodded along, like bong, bong, bong, bong, it just gives you a repetitive thing, and the bass player was very much like a drummer, no personality or anything. What I've quite liked with Metabolist was, to get the bass out to front sometimes, the drums as well.
Elvis Costello's band, Attractions, is quite good. If you listen to the drums on Watching the Detectives and things like that, they're very up front and very powerful and simple. Which is also another thing for me, to go back to Bauhaus, the idea of simplicity being very powerful, you know like the LP cover, for instance. Not having a lot and lot of detail which doesn't really communicate.
Another thing about words: if you want the words to be concentrated on, you shouldn't have too much music, in a sense. The music has got that power to communicate directly. Words, once you start writing a song that is very powerful in words, they don't listen to the music any more.
What is TIZ HOZ NAM about?
What it's about? Fucking hell.
Well, what is it anyway?
Trouble is, when Anton's left the group, he knew what Tiz Hoz Nam was, and I don't. I think, Anton liked playing with words, the actual sound of it. Tiz Hoz Nam, the flow of it appealed to him. Also the tune is very abstract as well, isn't it? What I think is funny is, if you take things like Tiz Hoz Nam, it hasn't got any words in it, but what l'd like to feel is, it might be a subtle thing, but to me it's very pictorial, a tune like that. If you allow yourself to be sensitive to it, it's got a lot of movement in it, it's like a moving picture, that's a big fucking cliché to say (laughs.) It feels right. I think a lot about our music in terms of time, things last and the way they move up and down is an extension of body rhythm or something. Metabolist used to do three or four cuts a week, playing a lot of time, very tensely. I've got a cupboard there full of Metabolist tapes, which is shit, most of them (laughs.) And gradually, the group as a whole began to have a feeling of structure, rather than than just one person having a structure in the head. It became part of the whole thing, much more successfully. So if you take Goatmanaut, which is one of the things I'm proud of, the Zordan Returns track, that one was completely improvised, and to me it's got a whole logic combined in it, it's the movement from A to B. It's got a lot of context in it, and it's, to me, almost like some of all those years of actually working in that medium. You could just come in one day, stick all the instruments in and start to play, and you came up with a number that actually had a whole structure to it.
Do you improvise a lot of time?
No. The thing I said about growth, right, that was the instance the whole thing came together like a flash of creativity, which is very rare, like they old idea of being inspired, which is a bit cracked out now. Most of the time what happened was, you get an idea, that only lasts for seconds, and over a period of a year, like Curly Wall which was the most popular of Metabolist live, it would develop and get longer and more scope to it. So it becomes part of your history. Rather than being off the top of the head thing, like a load of improvised music which sounds thin, you've got a lot of perspective as time went on as well, but also kept the freshness because it always had this thing of change. Things had to be able to change, but not slung it all one day, it just grew and grew and grew. Like we started oft with a two-note riff four years ago, and we were still doing it when we played in Holland.
SIMPLICITY - ETHNICITY
That's very important to Metabolist, the ethnic, the being in touch... Also the idea, the most important thing about Punk, to me, was it broke tradition with (???), you could now walk down the street, looking exactly you felt like it. John Lydon isn't a sort of bloke who you'd think is great looking, he's got a certain amount of ordinariness, he's on human scale, which I think is very important. You're away from this idea of having gods, media gods. It also said you can swear on stage, you're not like Pink Floyd where you've got these big banks of keyboards and things, you just go on stage and sweat pours off you, and you don't call them great anymore. It's contact, rather than living in an existentialist vaccuum.
We've got lots of West Indians in Balham. You see someone walking down the street and they'd actually move in time, do a little dance now and again. That feeling, as far as I'm concerned, is part of human existence. You start off heart throbbing and all this kind of business.
The thing about classical music, for a lot of people, like avant-garde classical stuff of the Sixties; when you hear somebody that sounds rediculous, it all lacks rhythmic impetus, I don't think it's really talking to people. You need that thing which Adam & the Ants are about, really. You know, Dog Eat Dog and the two drum kits and things. Gong used to have two drum kits on stage, and they used to have people like Louis Moholo, African jazz man. He was very much into the ethnic side of things. Just that feeling of warmth coming out of the music, which is something. I think perhaps that's where Metabolist differ from groups you've mentioned, Crass, or Joy Division. I'm not that acquainted with their stuff but what I've heard is slightly cold, whereas Metabolist sounds warm and human - I hope it does anyway.
What do you think about the music scene at the moment?
You've got all this thing happening at the moment, and I think it's one of the most healthy phase it's ever been, because you can go and see so many different groups, all doing different things. So it's a kind of Golden Age. You can go and see Bowie, you can go and see Frank Sinatra but also independent music, you've got such a colossal range. You've got tings like This Heat that's independent, you've got stuff like Normal, who also does Silicon Teens, it's a very commercial side, isn't it? You've got David Cunningham as well, you've got all those things, so much happening, whereas before it all seemed to me, in the hippy era when I used to like groups lime Gong, they used to exists as alternative and there wasn't as much variety as snobbery. If you liked something like Henry Cow, you couldn't like Top of the Pops music, if you like. But now that's possible. So someone like me can exist in music, whereas ten years ago, I'd have had to give it up because I wouldn't have a record deal. Now I can do what I want to do and TG can do what they want to do. It's very healthy. And even Nurse with Wound can bring something out (laughs.)
So the scene now is more suitable for you to achieve your purpose, recording wise or live?
Someone like me, working by myself as Catabolist, you've got to do pretty much like Robert Rental and Thomas Leer, or the Normal. You've got first to find your language. What I mean by that is, I've been in a group for such a long time that I've got to find out channels I want to communicate in. Basically that's got to be recorded really, because I haven't got the money to muck about with other musicians at the moment, so I can't buy studio time or anything like that. And then bring out a record, I would then have money to justify getting involved with other musicians, which costs a lot of money. So mainly, it's going to be recorded to begin with.
Getting a group together is very very constricting in a lot of ways. But like TG, you can never really call them a group in a sense that Bee Gees are a group. The TG way of doing things is to have these individuals who co-operate, but allowing them to be themselves within the group, allowing to be individuals, which I think is a new thing. I'm hoping to meet people as I go on now, whom I can collaborate with, I don't actually have to marry them.
I think what's good now is you've got a whole lot of musicians, people like Fripp for instance, you can go and play with all sorts of different people and you can take his knowledge and mix with theirs on equal terms, which I think is a very positive side. That's happening now. Because music isn't now just the province of people who are very young, everybody's doing it. Both of me and my brother have been playing for years and years, and we've started getting affected by the youth cult. It's like the Gary Glitter said the other day, he said when he first went to re-surface, he tried cabaret and didn't have very much success. So he'went back to the kids, which I find a very offensive term, he's appealing to the kids. He basically wants to keep pretending he's like Picture of Dorian Grey, that kind of concept. You're always trying to pretend something you're not, which is a young person, you're always deliberately making your music appeal to this section. You're frightened to let your music grow and to develop because, you see this concept of 'making it', which is being on the front page. Someone like Bowie had the guts to do Low which horrified all the music executive kind of people, because it wasn't what you'd expect from David Bowie.
The art thing, there's reality in art, it's about being creative, not having to appeal to someone who's 16 or 35 or whatever. You've got something you want to do, you'll fucking do it. But in music it's never been like that, it's always been, you've got to look over your shoulder and say 'what do the music press expect me to do?' or 'will this appeal on Top of the Pops?' But I think music is getting healthier in that sense, I get on with what I do, I do what I do, that's it. That's quite good.
Does your attitude to music affect your daily life?
Well, I think the two things are closely linked. They've got to be the same thing, really, because I'm into being honest and having an integrity. I think music, in a sense, unlike photography, cannot lie. If you look at someone, a lot of people you sit opposite to on the tube but you don't really look at them. If you get into that notion of looking at the signs like the clothes they're wearing, you can tell what kind of people they are. If you start looking at music like that, it can tell you a lot about the people who do it, and their attitudes to life by implication, by what they don't do sometimes as well as what they do. I try to live my life like that, so therefore it's tied onto the music. Sometimes obviously you're tempted to put on an idea you know sounds really great, but artistically isn't justified. 'Let's make a pop single' for instance, that's a favourite thing of musicians.' When you're bored you just say that, but you don't do it. It's being dishonest, it's not what you do naturally. .
I'm lucky. For most of people, being a teacher is what people in tweed suits do (laughs) but I'm quite lucky in the area which I'm in, which is a music teacher. I'm able to put that energy and approach into what I'm doing. Children after learning for a few years how to play the guitar are getting good at it, therefore I can go onto the next stage and get them start writing their own material, for instance, rather than just teaching them classical music which would be easy to do. What I'm able to do is, start normally with acoustic instruments, and get them into electric instruments, get them experiment a bit, and eventually, hopefully, they will realise some of themselves through music. They can exist as individuals rather than versions of their parents, because most parents want kids to reproduce themselves, don't they? Music is a good way of feeling individual, or any art form.
When did you start playing music?
At 12. I had mocked about on piano since 8, which I didn't like at the time because of its snobbery thing with adults. But in the end, I think it's quite handy because with piano you do a lot more than guitar, you play the whole thing, the tune, the chords and the bass all at a time, so it gives you a much bigger understanding in music. Lots of guitarists get severely limited because they know few chord sequences, which means they're always cramped with this kind of idea every time they want to be creative. They just try to put chords to everything.
As I was saying to you before, how music can't lie, it should reflect relationships. Really most groups reflect a relationship that is all power-based. Most groups have some body who manipulates the whole situation, who picks up a load of people around his ego and who just do their part but no more, and don't want to risk themselves because it means the're risking shattering the illusion of their personality, which I don't see is very positive.
One thing you didn't ask me: influence. In addition to people like Ornette Coleman, Muddy Waters, Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist, he's been dead for thirty years now. l'm going back to all these people, because I'm thirty... How old are you? Nineteen? It's funny because I used to think age was immaterial. When I was 18, I thought I knew everything, and everything was worth knowing, I thought 'well, I know it all now'(laughs.) (laugh)......
When Mark joined he was 19, and I was at the other end, 27, we had all people of different age groups in it, so therefore bringing out different attitudes to life in it. Mark gave us something, he used to give me a kind of vigour, and also make you question things. On the other hand, I could possibly give him some experience.
© Akiko Hada 1981/2020