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Sunday, June 9, 2024

John Butcher - Sunday Interview

Photo by Cristina Marx/Photomusix

  1. What is your greatest joy in improvised music?

    You mean apart from the money and garlands …..? I’d say it’s when you have that feeling of creating, perhaps simply uncovering, something that wasn’t really possible to imagine, or plan, beforehand. Beyond the basic nuts and bolts of how things work, I mean. It could be conceptual, or emotional, or relational or technical - all of which are obviously interdependent. The feeling is not as straightforward as joy. It often seems that I’m moving towards something that’s always going to remain slightly out of reach

  2. What quality do you most admire in the musicians you perform with?

    That they’re working with music that comes from themselves, that’s not generic. And that it’s not hermetic or fixed, so they can really shape their playing in collaboration.

  3. Which historical musician/composer do you admire the most?

    An impossible question. There are so many and it changes over the years. I wouldn’t like to try to rank them.

  4. If you could resurrect a musician to perform with, who would it be?

    Seems a touch macabre … and music’s so tied into time, place and culture. Maybe I could go back, as a different person, and play a little drums behind Lester Young.

    I would enjoy the chance to talk to John Stevens and Derek Bailey again. In the light of what I’ve learnt since the time I played with them.

  5. What would you still like to achieve musically in your life?

    Playing music is, for me, a continuing process and not primarily goal oriented. Mind you, “When I Paint my Masterpiece” I hope I can recognise it ……
    I guess we all want to keep making music that connects to our history but still feels fresh and relevant. Staying enthusiastic about experimenting and working in new situations is important. I’ll see what comes from that.

  6. Are you interested in popular music and - if yes - what music/artist do you particularly like?

    Yes - isn’t that where most of us start from? My likes are scattered pretty incoherently around the place but with the 21st Century noticeably underrepresented. Recently I’ve listened to Jeff Buckley, Ray Charles, Roza Eskenazi, Karen Dalton, Spiritualized, Bob Dylan, Low and Sly Stone.

  7. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

    Date of Birth.

  8. Which of your albums are you most proud of?

    Records are just a small part of the musical work. I can’t really judge them like this. Some of the distant releases - my first solo “13 Friendly Numbers”, the “News from the Shed” group, “A New Distance” with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble for instance - take me back to a vanished world. I like the new ones “Fluid Fixations” - a piece for large group, and “The Very Fabric” - the latest of my responses to unusual acoustics. But there are some pretty good ones in between too.

  9. Once an album of yours is released, do you still listen to it? And how often?

    Not usually for some time - but when I hear old tracks (especially unexpectedly) it’s intriguing how I usually hear it quite differently than I did at the time. One has no choice but complete immersion in the work when you’re making it. Then time lets you step back and you can feel a bit like a listener to someone else’s music. You care less about the how, and more about the what and the why.

  10. Which album (from any musician) have you listened to the most in your life?

    Probably the Beatle’s “White Album” - but I got it for Christmas in 1968, so I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from that.

  11. What are you listening to at the moment?

    The last three records I’ve sat down with and listened to all the way through are Tony Oxley’s “February Papers”, “Cat Power sings Dylan: The Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert” and John Tilbury playing John Cage’s “Sonatas & Interludes for Prepared Piano”.

  12. What artist outside music inspires you?

    Like most of these questions, this one would have been easier to try to answer 40 years ago.

    Remember the list of inspirers (sounds unfortunately like influencers …) on “Freak Out”? So much enthuses you when you first encounter it. Over time it gets more amorphous. Maybe the inspirations have had time to sink in deeper, and you don’t quite recognise them anymore.

    I find I’m interested in looking at an artist’s work over a long period - how they change and how they stay the same. Recently I’ve been thinking about this with regards to Yasujiro Ozu, Philip Guston and Yoko Ono, for instance.

John Butcher on the Free Jazz Blog: