This interview was a bit last minute and so was done by email. That initially bummed me out, I’ve been keeping my vinyl greedy eye on Mr Catto for quite some time, at least since he flummoxed me with his breaks (breakbeats that is not the turgid music style so beloved by our trans-Tasman cousins) album on Mo Wax, if not before. Thankfully he was generous with his answers via the interweb, I don’t bother posting some of the email interviews up here but this’un is well worth it.
Hanyways his name in the credits and on the pots and pans, is invariably a portent of a soon come, fiscal exchange and happy challenging listening in my book.. what more can I say. Read on, links and stinks at the t’other end.
How did the project come about?
The project came about after a session, which myself, Jake and Lloyd recorded about a year ago for Gerald .The session was subsequently released on the Jazzman label, although me and Jake felt at the time a little cornered into playing straight Swing / Jazz, which by our own admission was something we had neither really played before or expressed an interest in. However Lloyd was encouraging enough and seemed genuinely pleased with our efforts. Two things were apparent to us on that first meeting with Lloyd, firstly his undoubted musical abilities and secondly the ease in which he could overdub various exotic Eastern instruments over the top of each other. We had several hours of recorded material that was not wholly representative of the Heliocentrics collective, but material we knew would both benefit greatly from and compliment Lloyd’s musical style. We selected and sent Lloyd 10 backing tracks which were mainly Jazz or World orientated as a starting point and he initially seemed quite excited by the project though not without certain reservations.
How was the experience of working with Lloyd, he seems a singular man!
Lloyd, Jake and myself are all fairly pig headed and there were times when the clash of musical ideologies left us all feeling a tad compromised and mentally drained. However, there is know doubt a great deal of common fertile ground between us, particularly in our appreciation of Modal Jazz and World music which was easily enough to get us through. Lloyd was a lot happier when we moved onto creating music from scratch having got the backing tracks out of the way as a kind of musical security if needed. We definitely learnt a lot from Lloyd during those sessions and went along with most of his ideas even to the point of attempting some New Orleans Jazz. Lloyd on the other hand has stronger moral issues with music than us and when we get off into our thing like say “Lloyds diatribe”, we would at the end of the track find that if Lloyd had not indeed left the building, he had certainly left the room.
Was it very different to working with Mulatu? (we went to Australia to see him play with your saxophonist James Arben, and it was excellent btw)
Very different, Mulatu is perhaps Lloyds’ nemesis in that he is very open to experimenting and electronics etc, and except for a few of his own compositions he gave us carte blanche with complete freedom to produce the LP as we saw fit. With “OST” however there was very little production but a lot of editing as Lloyd is opposed to all things electronic and on the whole we tried to capture the sessions with a sort of Blue note transparency and purity, this comes across better on the CD.
Did the project stretch the Heliocentrics?
Yes, it made us think in different terms about music and our process in creating it. We have ended up perhaps with something more traditional and easier on the ears than we would have done with fewer restrictions, but by the same token there is a subtlety and certain beauty that pervades the release that we must attribute to Lloyds’ guidance.
Overall “OST” encompasses much of both musical parties, creating, as is the point of collaborative projects, something that neither of us could or would have done alone. It’s a bit like a mutually good deal where both parties feel slightly cheated: if one of us felt we had got totally the record we wanted it might have been one sided.
Lloyd was really enthusiastic about the other material that wasn’t released yet, how did the selection process work out?
Quinton who jointly runs Strut records had the very last say on what went on or off, though Lloyd and ourselves fought our corners for tracks we wanted on till the last. From our perspective there is a lot of heavier and darker material that Lloyd would not allow on that we wanted to include and some more traditional acoustic numbers he wanted on that we didn’t, for example the ‘New Orleans Jazz abomination’.
Lloyd was very complimentary about you all, especially you and Jake, but he said ‘you learned quick, but forgot slow’ referring to what he calls ‘jittering hip hop and rock’ -I thought it was a beautiful turn of phrase but what’s your feelings on that statement? (it’s all exceedingly smooth to my ears)
We were certainly not Lloyds’ ideal band, Jazz chops being pretty thin on the ground and what with our heavy use of electronics etc, though I guess he can do exactly the thing he wants with his guys in Salt Lake. There are quite a few of us and influences start from the 1930’s blues through to Drum and Bass. Lloyd music stopped on 1960, he is a living historical musical snapshot, a bit like the cars in Cuba. But because of that, unlike many of his more seasoned counterparts, he evaded the horrors of late 70’s & 80’s fusion and the likes of slap bass, gated drums etc, and consequently has an integrity rarely seen in musicians who consistently feel the need to be ‘modern’.
What else do you have coming up for yourself and the Heliocentrics?
We are working on our own album, experimenting with different sounds and home-made instruments. There are many musicians we would love to collaborate with in the future including possible further work with Mulatu, and Lloyd if he is up for it!
Heliocentrics are Malcolm Catto – drums & piano Jake Ferguson – bass & Thai guitar Mike Burnham – modular synth & effects Jack Yglesias – flutes, percussion & santur Adrian Owusu – guitars, oud & percussion James Arben – clarinet, tenor & baritone sax Ray Carless – alto, tenor & baritone sax Max Weissenfeldt – vibes & percussion Khadijatou Doyneh(K2 Wordplay) – vocals Neil Yates – Trumpet Byron Wallen – Trumpet Ollie Parfitt – Keyboards James Allsopp – Saxes, Bass Clarinet Shabaka Hutchings – Saxes, Clarinet