Saturday, April 28, 2007

Daevid Allen

@ Calyx Club
Born : January 13th, 1938 - Melbourne (Australia)
Past Bands : Soft Machine (1966-67), Gong (1967-75, 1991-2001), Planet Gong (1977), New York Gong (1979-80), GongMaison (1988-91), Magick Brothers (1992-), Brainville (1998)
Current Bands : University Of Errors, Acid Mothers Gong, solo

A Short Bio:
A unique character, Daevid Allen, guitarist, poet and singer, was a founder member of Soft Machine before forming his own band, Gong, creating a unique musical and lyrical environment which later saw the birth of many different bands and musical ventures, within what can truly be considered a family of artists, including Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Tim Blake, Steve Hillage, Pierre Moerlen and Harry Williamson.

Daevid Allen was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1938. As a teenager, he developed a strong interest for poetry and jazz music, while soon getting fed up with the educational system. Soon confronted with the difficulties of having to earn his living, and unable to cope with archaic social rules, he decided to flee his country, embarking on a boat to Europe in March, 1960. In the following twenty-one years, he never once returned to Australia, and when he did, it was out of fear of a nuclear war in Europe... "I had a very unhappy schooling and childhood because although it is now a very nice place to raise children, in the early '50s and late '40s australia was probably 10 times more redneck than the most redneck place in America. And it was a very repressive space for somebody like me who I guess has always been a freak and a wild card. I had the shit beaten out of me endlessly all through my childhood so this has left a lot of scars there that I found very difficult to confront. So this was the time for me to go and confront these things".

Disembarking in Greece, Allen travelled up to London, stopping off at Paris. Already a guitarist in several jazz combos while in Australia, he sat in with various musicians on the then-burgeoning London jazz scene. In 1961, he met Robert Wyatt, the son of his landlady in Lydden, near Dover, and subsequently Wyatt's schoolfriends Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge and Kevin Ayers. After about a year, he was asked to leave ("they thought I was too dangerous for the boys"), and moved back to London. There he played several gigs with 'Live New Departures', a poetry/jazz outfit fronted by Peter Brown and Mike Horowitz, culminating with a performance at the prestigious Marquee.

In 1963, Allen played a few gigs in London with Hugh Hopper and Robert Wyatt under the name Daevid Allen Trio, with Mike Ratledge occasionally sitting in on piano, to more than skeptical reaction from the audiences. Later that year, he moved to Paris, living for a while at the Blue Motel where he met William Burroughs, who asked him to provide music for one of his performances, and Terry Riley, who turned him on to the making and usage of tape loops. Around that time, Allen met and married a rich Australian girl and moved onto a houseboat on the Seine with her. Their relationship was shortlived, though, and he later described his first wife as "a crazy and alcoholic woman".

Sometime in 1964, Allen met Gilli Smyth, a Welsh poetess who had previously lived with a Dutch buddhist and had a daughter, Tasmyn. She had also worked as an English teacher and written poetry. They soon began a relationship and moved to Deya together the following year, where they spent 18 months of "an idyllic life, writing poetry and songs". In the meantime, Hugh Hopper had dropped by Allen's place and the two had worked extensively on experiments with tape loops.

Around Easter 1966, Daevid Allen experienced what he later called his 'seed vision', a quasi-mystical experience in which he mentally saw his future life mapped out in detail - Soft Machine, Gong and everything else. Around the same time, Kevin Ayers had managed to coax an eccentric American millionaire, Wes Brunson, into funding a band project of his. In August 1966, Allen and Ayers formed Soft Machine with Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge. For Allen, the experience lasted just over a year, as he was forced to leave the band on their way back from France and relocated in Paris to launch the Gong project.

Gong didn't become a real band until 1969. Following the May 1968 riots in Paris, Allen and Smyth relocated in the South of France and subsequently Spain, with the recently formed Bananamoon band, consisting of Allen with bassist Patrick Fontaine and drummer Marc Blanc. They recorded demos which were issued many years after as the Je Ne Fum' Pas Des Bananes CD. After spending the Winter of 1968-69 rehearsing the songs that would later form the basis of Gong's first album Magick Brother, Bananamoon split up with Fontaine and Blanc going on to form Ame-Son and Allen reactivated the Gong project.

Between 1969 and 1974, Daevid Allen's story was largely that of Gong, although he did release a solo album in 1971, Banana Moon, during this period, with Robert Wyatt, Christian Tritsch, Archie Leggett and Pip Pyle. The high point of this period, though, was the creation of the Radio Gnome trilogy and the albums Flying Teapot (1972), Angels Egg (1973) and You (1974).

Daevid Allen split from Gong after an incident where he was literally physically blocked from going onstage on the subsequent tour, and Gilli had already left to look after their two sons Tali and Orlando. They returned to Deya, leaving Gong in Steve Hillage's hands, and later in the jazz mode of Pierre Moerlen. Several years later, Allen explained his departure from Gong in the following way : "I've always had a very particular conception of music. In my point of view, there is no reason for making so-called 'popular' music, simply for personal glory or financial reasons. That is not enough of a motivation for me, I need higher aspirations. I need to feel that my music helps society and the human race in general to move forward. When Gong started becoming famous, especially in England with Virgin, a lot of people started coming to us, most of them professionals whose principle motivation was money and power. This had the effect of splitting the band in two halves, one that was attracted to the material side of life and the drugs (sometimes we were offered suitcases of coke as payment for the gigs!), and another that had the same vision as mine, that thought we should stay as clear and clean as possible to be able to keep pursuing the musical direction we had chosen. The use of drugs made us lose touch with our positive energy, which became negative... Music is a power; I was a medium transmitting this power, but I was no more able to use it as it should be used. So the only solution for me was to escape from this situation. That's what I did. I left for Deya where I had a small house, thinking I could make a new start there".

Allen still had a solo contract with Virgin and released Good Morning, recorded on a 4-track Teac and featuring the Majorcan electro-acoustic band Euterpe. This comprised individual songs instead of a grand concept, as did Now Is The Happiest Time Of Your Life, which featured Pepsi Milan and Joan Biblioni from Euterpe and another lot of Catalan musicians. Also while in Deya, Smyth's thoughts about different aspects of motherhood were channelled into a solo album, Mother, which was produced by Allen. This happened during 1976-78. In May 1977, a Gong reunion gig has organised by the original French fans at the Hippodrome, Paris. This included the entire trilogy band, who played in various combinations for 12 hours to eight thousand fans who'd come from all over Europe.

Not long before this, Allen had started working with Here & Now, a punk band whose beliefs mirrored his ideas to strip away the pomposity of the alternative movement - they did free gigs where the hat was passed for petrol money for the travelling bus they used. The Gong reunion was their first performance as 'La Nouvelle Planète Gong', soon to become Planet Gong. They issued the single "Opium For The People", which attacked all sorts of everyday drugs and not just medicinal ones. This was followed by Floating Anarchy, which involved Allen, Smyth and Here And Now under the collective banner Planet Gong, and was largely recorded live in Toulouse during the grouping's inaugural French tour in November-December 1977.

Allen split up with Smyth shortly after the tour, and flew to America. In the midst of a very confusing period, he recorded N'Existe Pas!, a very obscure album using elements of free jazz, art-rock, bag pipes, and bluegrass banjo released in 1978. Whilst in America, Allen took part in the Zu Manifestival set up by Gong's former manager Giorgio Gomelsky, getting to know and record with Material, who became New York Gong and subsequently went on an ill-fated French tour that led to its premature breakup. The bass and drum tracks from this album were copied and re-edited for a backing tape which Allen used for the Divided Alien Playback performances, which were solo shows - this was as much about performance art as music.

In 1981, Allen returned to Australia after a 21-year absence. "I hadn't been there for half my life, I had to go back to check out and see what Australia was. So I went back to find my father, who was actually on his deathbed, and five or six days later he died. Nobody could understand why I had shown up. They'd sent me telegrams, none of which I'd received, and they said why did you come now if you hadn't gotten the telegrams. And I said, well, it was time". Once he'd settled in Australia again, Allen recorded the Ex; Stop/Don't album, with performance artist David Tolley, and the album previous to that was The Death Of Rock And Other Entrances, the title track being a farewell to a number of dead stars which has been reworded as "Hey You Kids Of The Future..." and become an apocalyptic poem which he did on Street Poets Vol.1. He abandonded music for street poetry (it was then that he first met Tom The World Poet), busking at markets and fairs, taxi driving, and hosting a weekly radio programme of other acts' alternative music, Radio Brainwave.

In 1982, Allen's new partner Maggie gave birth to his third son, Toby. "It wasn't a very good time for me. I felt that the bottom had dropped out of everything, I think it's what they call the long dark tea-time of the soul... In that time I really contemplated suicide, but this was brought to a luxurious end by the birth of Toby, which gave me some degree of inspiration about life, ongoing life, and so on. So I proceeded to split up with his mother, and we went and lived in separate places in a corner of Australia, a place called Byron Bay". The following year, he began a spiritual retreat in the rainforests of Northern New South Wales, where he was initiated into various 'new age' consciousness therapies, and studied intensively in a mystery school. During this period he composed a series of seven single note compositions called 'drones' for use as therapeutic tools and aid to meditation. Eventually, he came back to music, working with Gilli Smyth and her new partner Harry Williamson at their house in Melbourne. "We recorded Stroking The Tail Of The Bird, which was one of those miraculous group improvisations, that we did at full moon after we'd been chanting for about fifteen hours at an ashram in Melbourne for a perticular Hindu festival".

In early 1988, having met a new partner in life and music, Wandana Turiya, Allen returned to the UK, and more precisely Glastonbury, to run with her what he called 'play-shops' for adventurous spirits who would wish to speed up their personal evolution rates. "And people came from all over the place to this workshop. After it, we tried a concert, and so many people came to this concert that I was astonished. I had been in Australia so long I fugred that Gong didn't exist anymore. But to come back and so a concert and find that that whole family was not only still intact but enormously well organized, it was a tremendous surprise ! So from here I started doing concerts, just myself and my friend, and then I found three other women to join us and it was called the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet. We circled around England for about a year, sowing seeds...". Allen's new music, very much in the acoustic vein which characterized Good Morning and Now Is The Happiest Time..., was warmly received.

Acoustic gigs in Exeter, London and Glastonbury that Autumn were well-received, as was a brief visit to France. "We joined up with Didier Malherbe and Shyamal Maïtra, and we all performed together, which was recorded as a tape called Daevid Allen Live 1988 that was released by GAS". Allen then went back to Australia for a few months, and when he came back early the following year, having signed with Dave Anderson's Demi-Monde label, he headed for Foel studios in Wales to recorded what would become the Gong Maison album. "Harry Williamson came over from Australia, where he was living with Gilli, to join us and this was the start of Gong Maison. A solo album of mine, Australia Aquaria, was recorded at the same time, which is I think one of the really magical ones I've done".

Joining the existing nucleus of Allen, Wandana, Malherbe, Maïtra and Williamson were violinist/guitarist Graham Clark and Mother Gong bassist Conrad Henderson. In the meantime, there had been a UK tour, French dates and finally, just after the album was completed, a successful appearance at 1989's Glastonbury festival. "Gong Maison is the new dispensation of the Gong vibration", Allen said at the time. "It's called Gong Maison partly as a reference to house music, house jazz and so on, but mostly as a reference to the sorts of houses we find ourselves living in, which are like lunatic asylums of hermits who are trying to live together. In other words, houses with all these rooms with different trips going on in each room - the house of Gong".

In the following months, fans who attended Gong Maison's performances started requesting all Gong numbers, which led to an increasingly electric music, with Maïtra adding conventional drums to his percussion setup and sometimes triggering electric drumbeats. "Harry left after a year, as did Wandana, who went to Sydney to become a commercial artist [she and Allen were reunited a few years later and had a child, Ynis, together]. Then Keith Bailey of Here And Now joined on bass. At that time Gong Maison had really taken off and we were playing to 1000 and 2000-people venues, with 80% under 25". In April 1990, Gong was briefly reformed for a televised concert on Nottingham's Central TV, with a line-up of Allen, Gilli Smyth, Didier Malherbe, Pip Pyle and Here And Now members Steffi Sharpstrings, Keith Bailey and Twink Electron Flo. A further UK tour was undertaken in the Spring of 1991, and towards the end of that year, the project had evolved to a new version of Gong. Midway through the recording of Shapeshifter, former Gong drummer Pip Pyle was asked to contribute drum parts to the album, and ended up joining the band permanently.

In 1991, Allen launched a new musical project, the Magick Brothers trio, named after the very first Gong album. Joining him in this more low-key venture were Gong's Graham Clark and multi-instrumentalist Mark Robson. The latter, who played keyboards, didjeridu, flute and whistle, was born in Sussex but his musical career had blossomed during a trip to Australia where he'd joined the "peace train", a round-Australia travelling demonstration for world peace organised in 1987. During this itinerary he played and sang with the band Dreamtime. It was there that Robson met Allen, who was immediately impressed by his song "Isle Of Glass", and asked him to join the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet. Robson returned to the UK in 1990 and promptly set about working with Allen. The Magick Brothers made their debut performance in Oxford at the annuel Winter Solstice celebration held there. Later, they performed at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms at the Summer Solstice, and in March 1992 embarked on an 8-date tour of the United States.

So in the 1990's, Allen has kept busy on the live front with an alternation of solo concerts and tours with Gong, The Magick Brothers, the reformed Planet Gong, duos with Graham Clark and Russell Hibbs. He has also written and started publishing his three-volume autobiography, "Gong Dreaming". In October 1994, the 25th anniversay of Gong was celebrated by a two-day event uniting past and present members of the Gong family, and launching the reformation of the classic Gong line-up, which toured internationally from 1996 to 2001 in Europe, North America and Japan.

In 2003, Allen decided to get together with members of the Japanese psychedelic collective Acid Mothers Temple to form a new version of Gong, appropriately named Acid Mothers Gong, involving Gong regulars Gilli Smyth and Didier Malherbe, as well as Josh Pollock from Allen's California-based outfit, the excellent University Of Errors. UoE has been in existence since 1998 and has so far released three albums, the latest of which (Jet Propelled Photographs) consists of the entire Soft Machine 1967 Gomelsky demo plus other early songs - and many will agree these versions are often superior to the originals.

At the time of writing, Daevid Allen is enjoying a sabbatical in Australia, but hopes to return to regular live work in 2006. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Planet Gong
Born January 13th 1938 in Melbourne, Australia to parents Walter and Helen Allen.

Was a child radio actor on 3DB. Trained as a cadet executive and interior decorator where he met David Tolley (of whom more later). Daevid attended national Art Gallery School whilst studying electric guitar with Bruce Clark and acting in a review at Now Theatre in Flinders St. Joined ABC TV as a scene-painter. Trained as a TV graphics artist and Studio Floor assistant.

Moving to London in 1960, Daevid met 14 year old Robert Wyatt while lodging with the Wyatt family - he was eventually suspected of being a 'bad influence' in Robert's life, intoducing him into 'beat' sensibilities. Met and jammed with George Niedorf in Paris Clubs and brought him back to England to teach Robert to play drums. Daevid married Art Groupie Kay Calvert and moved to Paris to live on the houseboat he'd just bought from Gilli Smyth.

In Paris Daevid met and experimented with tape-loops with Terry Riley and also performed with William Burroughs as a part of the 'Machine Poets' exhibition at the ICA and the American centre in Paris and also at the Paris Bienniale '63. Daevid wrote and performed in dramatisations of 'The Ticket That Exploded' in Paris at La Boheme.

Jammed free Jazz with the Daevid Allen Trio - early recordings released as 'Live '63 (Voiceprint VP112 CD). Other recordings were made of these early bands but are sadly lost in the mists of time, as are the legendary 'Musical Theatre of the Pacific Rim' recordings Daevid made whilst busking the length of Europe with Painter/Musician John Howley in 1964 (see later). Daevid had turned down the chance to work on 'Chappaqua' in its favour.

Daevid was commissioned to make a tape work/collage for the BBC Radiophonic workshop in 1965 - whilst writing Poetry in Deià (Book of Chloroforms) - this was not broadcast until '67 as 'Switch Doctor' .

In Easter 1966, Daevid had a vision which was to change his, and many other people's lives. He saw his whole life mapped out before him and had an experience that put him in touch with a brotherly Inner voice and past life in which he had played Atlantlantean Temple Music. This vision spawned the entire mythology around which the band was based. Within hours of this vision Wes Brunson, a millionaire cowboy spectacle dealer from Oklahoma who had taken far too much Acid, put up the money to form Soft Machine. The concept of playing anything as remotely fashionable as 'Pop' music was a radical step for Daevid –He says he would never have considered playing pop songs if he hadn't heard the Yardbirds 'Still I'm Sad'. Daevid perfected the art of Glissando guitar, which involves stroking the strings with something like a scalpel handle and processing the sound through an echo box and other effects. Daevid claims to have been inspired by watching Syd Barrett playing at early Pink Floyd Gigs. Using the combination of Daevid's glissando guitar and Gilli's space whisper, they began to realise the concept of total space music that they had been hearing in their heads, with a loose line-up that was to form the prototype for Gong. In the aftermath of the l968 riots Daevid and Gilli fled France pursued by police who considered them to be Insurgents. They returned to Deià , narrowly avoiding expulsion from Spain due to a provocative interview Gilli did with the Barcelona Tabloids.

Once the heat had died down they smuggled themselves back to France with Banana Moon Band briefly, to fulfil commitments they had with the 'Living Theatre'. Banana Moon recorded demos - 'Je ne fume pas des Bananes' - for Pathe Marconi and Barclay but turned dawn the deals offered on the grounds that the terms were too old fashioned.

Daevid and Gilli spent two months in Deià , working on material that became "Magic Brother..." There they met Didier Malherbe who was living in a goatherd's cave on the side of a mountain in Robert Graves' back garden, which had a miniature reproduction amphitheatre next door in which they staged poetry readings involving local poets and musicians. Gilli wrote 'The Mind Book' at this time.

Film-maker Jerome Laperrousaz gave them the excuse they needed for their official return to France, by inviting them back to make a series of film music's. Gilli and Daevid bought a ruined Millhouse with an adjoining plot of land in Montaulieu with money that Daevid had been given by his parents. One of their visitors that summer was swashbuckling entrepreneur Jean Karakos who had started an anti-music biz record company called BYG. He advanced the money to record 'Magic Brother' , and 'Banana Moon' before hearing a single note! . The latter was purportedly recorded after several cases of Fosters and 'loads of black hash'.

Daevid wasted no time in pulling together a team of virtuoso musicians to form the first proper Gong band. They acquired the services of Bob Benamou as Manager alongside Karakos, who also managed Magma, who seemed to be Gong's shadow or flip-side in the French alternative scene. Karakos set up the Amougies Jazz Festival where Gong played their first gig, billed as the first-ever French festival, it was actually held ten miles across the border not far from the historical site of the Battle of Waterloo. Laperrousaz gave them free use of his haunted Normandy Chateau, built, oddly enough, by the inventor of the Curling Tongs –where Gong lived, wrote and rehearsed.

Daevid finally left Gong in April '75, having experienced a wall of force which prevented him from going an stage, he hid in the bushes most of the night and then tried to hitch home in the rain still wearing medieval jesters costume and running stage make-up! Fortunately a van full of hippies who'd just been to the gig took pity and gave him a lift

Daevid and Gilli retired to Deià once more and teamed up with Majorcan Band Euterpe whom Allen discovered playing versions of 'Stairway to Heaven' and 'Thick as a Brick' alongside their own songs.

Virgin Records offered Daevid a solo contract with which he bought his own studio equipment and set up the Banana Moon Observatory in Deià . Virgin released one very obscure promo single 'Fred the Fish/It's the Time of Yr Life' (Virgin VS123) '75. Daevid finally gave up smoking Dope and Cigarettes

With 'Tubular Bells' droping out of the charts Virgin plunges into crisis and drops Daevid sharpish. He then re-connected with Jean Luc Young once of BYG and his new Charly Records company.

At this time Daevid also produced 'Licors' by Pau Riba (Movieplay 171178/9) and 'Brossa d'ahir' by Pep Laguarda and 'Tapineria' (Ocre BOL003). With the lucrative advances thus received from Charly Records, Daevid begins recording 'Now is the Happiest Time of Your Life' .

Mike Howlett gave Daevid a tape of a squat punk band from London, who had formed at Watchfield Free Festival earlier in the year. They had begun to make a name for themselves, attracting people like Reebop Quaku Baah (ex Traffic) and Arthur Brown to jam sessions.
They provided Daevid and Gilli with a riotous four bar monotone crash course in anarchy in action!

The band gave up all chemical and herbal stimulants at Daevid's insistance, and plunged into a free tour of Engand. No fees were charged and the hat was passed round at evey gig. Daevid collapsed on the eve of the second tour, so Here & Now carried on as before...

Daevid returned to Deià and got into excessive partying and drinking, bringing the entire structure of his life upon his head.This was the last straw in their relationship for Gilli, so she split back to England to get on with her own career.
Amongst all this chaos Daevid managed to record n'existe pas Charly (Charly CRL5015) '78, one of his finest and most poignant albums. It was a radical plunge away from anything remotely fashionable. The only favourable reaction it got was from US reviewers, so off to the states it was...

More information on the early period covered here is available in Daevid's book - Gong Dreaming part 1 - Soft Machine '66-'69
Michael Bloom: "People started coming around to Zu House, especially musicians. I introduced Michael Beinhorn, at the time a 15 year old kid desperate to get his hands on a synthesizer (he soon bought a Micromoog from Joe Gallivan), and he in turn brought his friend Fred Maher, an aspiring drummer. Gomelsky found this bass player who'd been doing some work with an ethnic dance troupe, and who claimed to have been playing with Ornette Coleman; this was Bill Laswell. They started rehearsing in the Zu basement, trying to learn Art Bears tunes and evolving their concept of urban funk with mutant excrescences. When Daevid came back to start rehearsing, they became his New York Gong band, accompanying him not only at the Manifestival but on his 1979 American tour. Somewhere along the line, they started recording as Material, but they were New York Gong first. (For a while they were calling themselves Zu Band. They went through several guitar players; the guy who did most of the Gong activity was one Cliff Cultreri, subsequently an exec with Relativity Records, working with guitar 'heroes' from Joe Satriani to Adrian Legg.)"

"Tina Curran, also appeared on stage with New York Gong in costume as part of an ad hoc pixie auxiliary, several adults and children traipsing about in green outfits."

"New York Gong played a long set comprising most of the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, introduced by the relevant Camembert Electrique material. I think the band was Allen, Smyth, Cutler, Laswell, Cultreri, and a saxophonist named George Bishop; maybe Beinhorn made some Moonweed noises too, and there might have been another drum kit for Maher. They were almost done when, at about 2 o'clock in the morning, the police showed up and insisted that it was time to shut up. ("Cops at the door," indeed!) The cops pulled the plug, and Gomelsky urged all the drummers to come out on stage for a climactic percussion jam on the rhythm of 'The Isle of Everywhere'.

"Oh yeah, I also remember Beinhorn telling me how much fun he had wandering around the neighborhood with Daevid to spray bright green Gong graffiti. Afterwards, Daevid made the 'n'existe pas'! album with Cutler (performing under the name Brian Damage) and Bishop, then came back in 1979 to tour America with New York Gong, by then composed of Laswell, Beinhorn, Maher and Cultreri. Part of his idea then was that the spirit of Gong should manifest in a multiplicity of bands all at once: New York Gong, Here and Now Gong, Pierre Moerlen's Gong, whatever Hillage wanted to do, the meditation circle in Mallorca, and anything that might be going on around him in Australia. Other than the Zu performance, however, this was the first appearance of Gong in America-- and the last with a band, until the Magick Brothers toured in 1993, or whenever it was."

Harry Williamson:
"It was very like Ken Kesey, The bus was Graffitti'd head to foot with slogans and filled with loads of musicians stumbling bleary - eyed into the snow. People would arrive at the gigs wearing conical knitted hats with bobbles on the top, all the right colours and funny curly toed shoes, out of the wood work, as it were. And suddenly here was Gong but it was nothing like the Gong they'd got to know, it was much more brash with trendy NY session musicians forming the backing band"

'Alien in New York' (CYZ 101) was recorded around this time - in Jamaica (where else?). Financed by the black American soap star and devote Gong fan from California, ?

Winter '79 - Winter '80 Daevid did Divided Alien Clockworks Band solo tour - with Elisabeth Middleton as support - using cut - up backing tapes from New York Gong album - released as 'Playbax '80' (Charly CR30218) with accompanying Video. It combined all the tricks Daevid had learned over the years and represents the peak of this musically experimental period - A willfully obscure but bizarrely brilliant masterpiece

The Astral Alien Years
In 1981 Daevid returned to his native Australia, and re-established old contacts with family and friends, finding more than the "blue eyed emptiness" that had prompted him to leave the country over two decades earlier. The immediate factors facing him when he arrived were the death of his father and the fact that money had completely dried up. Daevid started driving Taxis for a living and formed EX with David Tolley an old friend from Cadet Executive days. Began hanging out with Thom Kelly and the Melbourne Street Poets, performing in venues such as Cafe Jammin' and Metro Poetry Cafe.

'82 saw Daevid's brief return to England for a few poetry dates, as he got into the cab to catch the plane back home, Jean-Luc Young presented him with contracts that had to be urgently signed before he left, on his way to the airport Daevid read the contracts properly and realised he had just signed away everything to Jean-Luc and Charly Records! Returned to Mullumbimby and set up Studio in Banana shed. 1983 sees Daevid presenting an FM Radio show from Byron Bay- Radio Brainwave - 'The Death of Rock' (Shanghai HAI 201) is released from New York era - Other recordings from this period were included on 'Australian Years' (Voiceprint VP101LP) '91 which involves Bart Willoughby, Young singer and didj player with Australian Aboriginal Band NFA - He also appears on the 'C Drone' and The Invisible Opera CD.

daevid allen with a tree growing out of his headDaevid adopted the name Ja-am and recorded 'The Seven Drones' (Voiceprint VP102CD) '90 - A series of ambient meditational pieces and discovers the wonders of rebirthing - Daevid spent 1985 in a kind of spiritual retreat doing Rebirthing then Mystery School Trainings The only musical venture at this time was jamming with the Peace Training Dreamtime Band which also involved one Mark Robson, it was a kind of precursor to The Invisible Opera Company of Tibet and Kangaroo Moon. Daevid enjoyed hanging out at 'Hakim's', an octagonal jamming space cum recording studio which was part of the Narada community somewhere in the Australian Rainforest near Mullumbimby where he lived. It was there he crossed paths with a young(ish) Gong fan by the name of Russell Hibbs. Hibbs had just shacked up in the Rainforest, growing his own veggies, doing a degree in Oriental Therapies and starting to write songs of his own. They made an immediate and deep connection, Daevid suggested that they should work together using his old tascams from Deya days which he had installed in the new Bananamoon Observatory - Before long they pulled in Evan Heaven - a cosmic bespangled busker, complete with flashing lights and a home-made guitar, and drummer Neil Cairney. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Wiki
Daevid Allen (born Christopher David Allen, January 13, 1938 in Melbourne, Australia) is an Australian poet, guitarist, singer, composer and performance artist best known as co-founder of the psychedelic rock groups Soft Machine (in the UK, 1966) and Gong (in France, 1970). He is sometimes credited as "Divided Alien". He now lives in Byron Bay, Australia.

In 1960, inspired by the Beat Generation writers he had discovered whilst working in a Melbourne bookshop, Daevid Allen travelled to Paris where he stayed at the Beat Hotel, moving into a room that had recently been vacated by Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. While selling the International Herald Tribune around Le Chat qui Peche and the Latin Quarter, he met Terry Riley and also gained free access to the jazz clubs in the area. After meeting up with William S. Burroughs, and inspired by philosophies of Sun Ra, he formed the free jazz outfit, the Daevid Allen Trio, and performed at Burroughs’ theatre pieces based on Burroughs' novel The Ticket That Exploded.

Allen travelled to England, renting a room in Canterbury where he met his landlord’s son, 16 year old Robert Wyatt. They formed the band Soft Machine in 1966 with Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge. Ayers and Wyatt had previously played in Wilde Flowers.

Following a tour of Europe, Allen was refused re-entry to the UK due to overstaying his visa on a prior visit. He settled in Paris where, in May 1968, he took part in the protests which swept the city. He handed out teddy bears to the police and recited poetry in pidgin French, and now admits that he was scorned by the other protesters for being a beatnik.

Fleeing the police, he made his way to Deya, Majorca, with his partner Gilli Smyth. It was here that he recorded the first album under the name Gong, entitled Magick Brother (released on BYG (Actuel 5) in 1969). They were joined by flautist Didier Malherbe, who they claim to have found living in a cave on Robert Graves’ estate.

In 1971, Gong signed with Virgin and released Camembert Electrique. Gong became somewhat of an anarchist commune in rural France between 1973 and 1974. They were joined by Steve Hillage to record the Radio Gnome Trilogy of LPs, consisting of Flying Teapot, Angel's Egg and You.

Allen left this incarnation of Gong and formed Planet Gong, followed by New York Gong in 1980 (with Bill Laswell). More projects followed, including Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet, Brainville, Ex (not to be confused with the Dutch punk band The Ex), and Magic Brothers.

In 1981 Allen returned to Australia, taking up residence in Byron Bay where he worked on performance pieces and poetry. He performed with performance artist David Tolley using tape loops and drum machines. He is currently involved with a project entitled you’N’gong (a play on the phrase “Young Gong”) with his son, Orlando, and members of Acid Mothers Temple (the collaborations are performed under the name Acid Mothers Gong), as well as an improvisation outfit entitled Guru And Zero. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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Daevid Allen's University Of Errors
established 1998, San Francisco, Ca.
Professor Daevid Allen, Headmaster

@ University of Errors

"......can't be classified as rock or fusion or Krautrock or psychedelic, etc - rather, it has elements of all of this but comes out melodic, dynamic, accessible fascinating and entirely fresh." - Dead Earnest

The University of Errors is Daevid Allen's new band. It is a modern extension of the Principia of Psychedelia born back in the 60's. Walls of guitars: melodic vs. angular, a simple rhythm section, and some of the finest lyrics are the ingredients of this pan-generational rock band.

Daevid Allen is well known as the founder of Soft Machine and Gong. This is his first US based band since New York Gong in the late 70's (which launched the careers of Bill Laswell and Kramer). The faculty of the University of Errors grew out of and around the San Francisco neo-Krautrocky space improvisers MUSHROOM. Angled guitarists Josh Pollock and Erik Pearson , Jay Radford -synthesist with an endless supply of sounds to sprinkle in the mix, and a rhythm section devoted to simple grooves: bassist Michael Clare and drummer Pat Thomas.

The University was founded on a Saturday night in the Fall of 1998 in San Francisco. It was a night that defies logic. Five musicians who had never played together before showed up at a studio with no other idea than a night of fun jamming. 24 hours later they had an album: "Money Doesn't Make It" (Innerspace 7707). There was no intention of starting a band,just to have a jam: but the chemistry of the musicians was so good that a month after his return to Australia and absorbing the tapes, Daevid sent a message: "We must do this live!!! We will be University Of Errors!!!"

March 1999 the band debuted live at Bottom Of The Hill in San Francisco and the following night at Spaceland in Los Angeles. Rave reviews followed each and the faculty was convinced that this was meant to be. Recording the second album was done the next week and plans made for a US West coast Tour in July.

September the band opened the New York campus with a sold out performance at The Knitting Factory during the CMJ Music Marathon. Back in San Francisco work on the second album was completed in time for the winter hiatus.

2000 saw the faculty commit an error the equal to any. A planned European Tour was cancelled on its' eve. While rehearsing in Ghent, Belgium it became obvious that the tour could not proceed. Many theories have surfaced as to what happened, but it remains for historians to sort out the mystery. Was it all a hoax? A disaster? or just a gRAND ERROR?

A limited edition pre-release of the bands' sophomore album e2 x 10 = Tenure (GAS 0 No) has been made available through GAS (Gong Appreciation Society) as a relief fund for the aborted tour and will receive a worldwide release by Innerspace records in the spring of 2001.

A four member faculty toured in the US in August of 2000: Professors Allen, Pollock and Clare along with new drummer Professor Jason Mills of Brooklyn, N.Y. The tour began in New Haven, Ct. and looped to Chicago and Milwaukee and back. Highlights included sold out shows at The Knitting Factory in New York with the Dylan Group and at Schubas in Chicago with Euphone, headlining Friday night at The Strangedaze Festival in Ohio, and two shows with Need New Body in the P. cities of Pennsylvania.

An equal opportunity institution , The University accepts students of all ages from all walks or runs of life. Prepared to approach the new millennium with enough psychedelic rock music, humor and wisdom to spread the credo of the University: The more errors you make the higher you are regarded in The University Of Errors. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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@ Richie Unterberger

Daevid Allen has been an institution of the progressive rock underground since playing guitar in the original lineup of the Soft Machine. Since then he's done numerous albums and tours, often as part of Gong, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s, sometimes backed by the University of Errors. Although he is not featured in Urban Spacemen & Wayfaring Strangers, he had much to say about a producer/impresario who is the subject of one of the book's chapters, Giorgio Gomelsky. Gomelsky produced some early demos for the Soft Machine, and was later involved in recordings by Gong. I also took the opportunity to ask him about his one-time associate (and fellow one-time Soft Machiner) Kevin Ayers, another guy who wasn't in Urban Spacemen & Wayfaring Strangers, but could have been.

How did the Soft Machine get involved with Giorgio for those demos he produced in 1967 [subsequently released as an album, in numerous different titles and packages]?
We had Chas Chandler [involved in our management], who'd left the Animals to become part of the management thing with Mike Jeffery. They were managing Hendrix and the Animals. Everybody was sort of in that Animals thing. Chas Chandler was looking for the right producer for Soft Machine. They didn't know what to make of Soft Machine. So they figured that Giorgio might be a good candidate. They tried Mickie Most, they tried all these other dudes.

So we were taken to this office called Paragon, which was part of Polygram, but I suppose it was like the promotional PR company. But in fact, Giorgio had sort of set the whole thing up himself with two friends. It was sort of like part promotional thing, part kind of finding girls for, like, rock executives. (laughs) But it was a magnificent office. It had an incredible theatrical effect when you walked into it. Giorgio would be sitting there...he also had a pretty healthy expense account from Polydor. Our first single, "Love Makes Sweet Music," was out on Polydor, so I think there was this connection.

Basically, he had various golden chairs in most of the main clubs around London, including particularly the Speakeasy. He would take us there and ply us with whiskeys on the expense account. We'd meet all the big stars at the time. It was like being at court, only a rock'n'roll court. 'Cause the Beatles were there, the Rolling Stones were there--everybody, all the big names, would gather at the Speakeasy at this particular time. He got us in the studio and recorded those tracks which came out as the only Soft Machine tracks that I'm actually on besides the single [the 1967 single "Love Makes Sweet Music/Feelin' Reelin' Squealin'," recorded before the Gomelsky demos].

He didn't do the single. Kim Fowley partly did the single, the B-side. The thing about Kim Fowley was, he was a complete codeine freak. So he never stopped talking. But secondly, he astonished everybody by taking the eight-track master tape, and cutting, splicing the eight-track master tape. Which nobody had ever seen done (laughs). It was really wild, to make "Feelin', Reelin', Squealin'." So he made these huge massive splices, right across all of the eight-track. Because if you fuck it up, that's it, that's the end of the master.

Anyway, Giorgio was supposed to promote us, and he also produced those tracks, Soft Machine at the Beginning I think it's called. It's out on Charly. I was always very unhappy with those myself, because I didn't like my guitar playing. It was very hard for me, because I never got good guitar playing recorded, as far as I was concerned. All my guitar solos and stuff that were recorded then were all shit. And there was Jimi Hendrix using the same studio all the time. They'd keep playing me Jimi Hendrix and saying, "come on, man, this is to inspire you." And it would, like, completely paralyze me.

Anyway, Giorgio would get us into the Speakeasy, and got Soft Machine a residency on Tuesday nights. He also got us involved in crazy promotional things for the Speakeasy. Japes, like complicated japes, featuring different people. He commissioned me to write a poem called "The Death of Rock." It's a poem that's on record. It's been printed around and so on. Essentially, I wrote it in an afternoon, at behest of Giorgio. Because Giorgio wanted it to be a central part of this thing whereby Brian Auger was brought in--or was it Zoot Money? I think Zoot Money was brought in in a coffin, carried by everybody. And then he used to spring out and be the living dead, while Brian Auger was playing music, while I was proclaiming this poem. Well ,the poem was like..."it's good night the old rock, good morning the new rock." Quite a few people got upset by this. Basically it was pro-psychedelia, anti-, sort of, traditional pop. I remember Georgie Fame in particular got very upset [with] me, and wanted to have a fight right in front of the stage. But it was good, it was fun.

What were the primary assets Giorgio gave to the acts he was involved with?
We did all this stuff. He was an incredible oiler of wheels, Giorgio. Extraordinary social genius who could sort of like really connect people up, one of the great connectors. He got me involved with doing some kind of loop project with Paul McCartney that never really finished up getting anywhere, but still it was interesting to talk to him about it. So I saw Giorgio as this marvelous, somewhat devious, brilliant, witty, charming, middle European gentleman of the type I've always loved all my life. [I've] always liked this kind of strange hybrid cultural beings that seem to be able to move easily in any circumstance, and get the best out of any circumstance. That's more or less the way I see Giorgio to this day. He's still got that ability. He's an incredible creative wheeler and dealer.

He also has ability with money, but he doesn't waste too much time with money. He mostly uses it in a good sense, in the sense of creativity, ideas, inspirations. He always seems to be able to add some kind of extra energy to any idea you've got, just in terms of the wide range of his knowledge and understanding of the entire scene. He really does deeply understand the way of money. So that's an advantage. But really, I think his true value is just creatively, in terms of creative inspiration.

But he's kind of impatient sometimes. He's driven. If his vision doesn't come through, he gets impatient with people, because he wants to see that vision, just like I do, like anyone else does who's driven by an idea and determined to see it through. He's very very passionate about all those things. To begin with, starting the club in Richmond [the Crawdaddy, in 1963], getting involved with the Rolling Stones, he had this kind of magic touch in the early days, where he got involved with almost everybody that was going to shake the system. So in a sense, he had a real natural attraction to anyone who was fundamentally revolutionary. That's what made him so interesting.

For example, later on, after Gong, he came across to France with Brian Auger and heard Magma. When he heard Magma, he thought Magma was really exactly what he wanted to do. It fitted in with all his Swiss-Italian-French cultural sophistication. He had a kind of Stravinsky aspect, he sort of had this profoundly kind of Jewish middle European deep cultural understanding that the Jewish race seem to bring to the world. They have this incredible understanding of music. I've always gone to hang out with Jewish friends to listen to music. That's how I learned about some types of music, simply by going and hanging out with these guys. So Giorgio confronted all this, saw all this in Magma. The fact that Christian Vander had swastika flags all over his bedroom and pictures of Hitler and would leap up and do kind of imitation Hitler speeches in the middle of his drum solo didn't seem to faze him all that much. It fazed everybody else. But Giorgio just loved the music, and loved the cultural impact of the music.

So he managed them and got involved with Gong again in the second time through. He really, with Bob Benamou, who was the Gong manager, who'd done all the basic spade work, was a great combination. Because Bob was one of these people with details who was a terrier, who'd go in and do all the little bits and pieces. And Giorgio was the man with the grand vision. This basically revolutionized the touring situation in France by connecting up with students and all the faculties, and teaching them how to put on gigs. Because before that, there was only what they call French verite, which was really commercial Johnny Hallyday-type stuff. Like big showband type things. But there was no genuine creativity. There was no outlet for musical creativity at all in France when Gong and Magma were born in France. We were like the alternative, had no road to follow. And they basically created this incredible network throughout the whole of France, and allowed a whole generation of very interesting bands to come up.

That whole scene is still pretty unknown to people in the States.
I think that the French bands of the seventies are probably one of the most unknown, outside of France anyway, and undocumented movements in music. I think they were fantastic. Some extraordinary bands, the like of which you could not find anywhere else in the world. One of my favorite is called Albert Marcoeur. Still existing to this day. Crium Delirium was this other one, insane bunch of guys. Brigitte Fontaine was always sort of like bridging the gap. She was always in the tradition of the theater and of the verite. She was a revolutionary, but stayed in the sort of form of the verite, didn't really abandon the form of the verite. But everything that she did inside that form was revolutionary--the words, the attitudes, the way she was when she spoke about the way she lived, the way she felt. But she stuck with that form, whereas these other bands left--they went right off, into a whole new territory. And it was because of, basically, Giorgio and Bob Benamou, who was the Gong manager.

So Magma's manager and Gong's manager combined to make this crazy combination. And two of them revolutionized the system, and created a whole new touring circuit, which they put Gong and Magma down with huge energy, and which basically put Magma and Gong in this situation of being the sort of leading new bands in France, sort of the revolutionary bands everyone followed on the coattails of. Giorgio will be able to tell you billions of names of bands that were around at that time, that he likes too.

But Giorgio was only involved with Gong for a while, right?
That was my second lot with Giorgio. That kind of faded out when I got burned out by all the touring, and by the hard work involved. The stuff that was going on in my life--I had my first son. I had no idea what this entailed until I had a son and I was touring and it was all very complicated, quite difficult. Then I went to England and met Richard Branson, and then Gong had this transfer over to England, which meant that we left Giorgio and Bob more or less behind. Because once we went to England, they were not--for some reason, Giorgio didn't really want--Giorgio was more obsessed with Magma, and he kept driving Magma along. And Bob got fed up with Gong, and he was basically an antique dealer, and he'd been an antique dealer before, and he ended up being an antique dealer again after. He's a great hustler. He's very wealthy now. As soon as he dropped Gong, he became very wealthy. Good karma, probably, but it cost him money.

How did you come to work with Giorgio again later in the States?
Gong went to England, and we didn't see Giorgio for a while. The third epoch with Giorgio was, when he'd arrived in New York and got involved with Bill Laswell's Material. We wanted to come over and tour, and he the French record companies that we had dealings with. [He] suggested that we come over and do a festival in New York, and perhaps even touring across the country. Which he did--it all came together. It was too expensive to bring the whole of Gong, but I had split from Gong by then anyway. What he suggested doing was creating an American Gong, using Laswell and the guys as musicians in the band, and having them as a sort of central group, and having sort of visiting people. We could do Gong, we could do Mother Gong, and Material, playing as Material.

And this turned out to be pretty successful, but the first one wasn't. The first one was a whole bunch of bands, it was an extraordinary range of bands he had. A lot of the hip bands in New York at that time --a whole new cycle with Giorgio, because I didn't move to the States. We did two tours right across to San Francisco, and came back again twice. That pretty much burned out the relationship with Giorgio in the process of doing it. That's the third cycle.

Then I sort of got burned out, and went back to Australia for about seven or eight years. I lost contact with him. Then the most recent cycle of me meeting Giorgio again was about four or five years ago, when suddenly I saw him in the audience at a solo gig, 'cause I was trying to invade America in my own way. I figured the only way to start in America without doing the big commercial route was just to come and do solo gigs, and then increase that to duo, and then to trio, and finally reach the point where we could bring Gong, have somebody crazy enough to bring Gong. So he'd just been around. I just reconnected with him and we reunited our friendship, just based on the years of knowing each other. So at the moment, we're not really working together on any particular projects. But we just hang out a lot together. When I'm in New York, we go and drink together and just hang out. We just enjoy each other's company, like old friends. So that's the basic parameters of my relationship with Giorgio.

When Giorgio was working with Gong in France, what was his exact role? To what extent was he involved in management as well as production?
During the period when Gong and Magma were creating the new circuits in France, you could say he was the manager, because Bob Benamou and he created a combined management team. So to that extent, he was manager at that point. He was like the grand design manager, and Bob was the details manager. And both Magma and Gong were managed by that team. So you could say he was manager then. In the early days of Soft Machine, he was more like a fairy godfather-stroke-record producer. That was his relationship to us then. It was like PR-fairy godfather-record producer. Then, the second run-through in France, he was manager. Third time through, yeah, well you could say he was manager of the Gong, he was the manager and promoter and agent and everything of the Gong maxi-mini-mega festival.

Why do you think it is that he was able to spot and work with so many interesting people in the 1960s and 1970s?
He's fundamentally a rock and roll visionary. He's a creative visionary. He can see the grand picture, and he can see where the grand picture can go. So he's very valuable to everybody in that sense. Because he can always say, "Okay, this is where you could go if you want to go. And this is the channel you'd use to go there." That's enormously valuable. It's like some kind of adviser. What do they call those financial advisor-type people, the people you go to and ask them for advice about how to do something? The guy gives them this kind of huge sort of vision of where they could go and how to get there. Well, that's what Giorgio's so good at doing. He's not all that good at getting his hands down and doing it. He needs to find people to do that for him. He needs a manager (laughs). Giorgio's one of these managers that needs a manager! [To] take care of the details.

He's tempestuous by nature, and I think quite often he got up people's noses, simply because he had this kind of impatience that wanted to keep moving on. He could see the vision, and because he could see the grand vision, he'd be impatient with people that couldn't see it in the same way that he could. I can really understand that. He had this kind of genius for the vision. But as I say, if he'd had a manager who could then take over and facilitate it for him, he'd be fine.

But very often, he got caught up in trying to actually be the facilitator, and he wasn't all that good at that. Nor did he really have a passion for it. What he had a passion for was seeing where to go and how to do it. And overseeing it, he didn't have a passion for getting on the phone and doing all the details. And he'd get sick of that, bored with that, I think, that's my feeling. And as he had minions to run around and do that with lesser visions --when he had that, he flourished. But when he didn't have people working for him, who were practical where he wasn't practical, I think that probably he gets stroppy. He's very passionate about his beliefs. And if people disagree with him, to some extent he'd go with them, but there would always be this point where he'd offend them, or he'd be offended by them, and there'd be a falling out. He's a strong character, with strong views.

I completely forget that he actually came back and there was another epoch with Giorgio, when he produced Flying Teapot. It was the first album of the Gong trilogy. Not only did he produce the Soft Machine thing, but he also produced the first album of the Gong trilogy.

As a producer, what did he add to that project?
I remember in the Gong trilogy, he was sitting in the studio with the engineer saying, "Look, look. It's the beginning of the record, right? It's dark. There's a desert. Look, over here, the sun's coming up. Here comes the sun. Okay, in comes the synthesizer. The sun's coming up, first rays of light hit the mountain. Okay, here comes the little bit of guitar there and the first cymbals." This was his thing. He's a very visual, pictorial person. The other thing was, he introduced Francis Moze, who'd been one of the Magma bass players, a complete madcap of a man. Brilliant bass player and a great musician. Sort of half-Apache, half-French. He was very warrior-like. He'd totally lose it, and explode, and throw things around. He was just completely mad. Giorgio always seemed to be associated with passions out of control. People with passions out of control, you're attracted to very passionate people who were just hanging in there, or in control by the skin of their teeth.

Going back to the Soft Machine demos that he produced, what do you recall as his specific contributions to those sessions?
I'm not 100% sure that with us, that I totally liked what he did in terms of the production, of the Soft Machine. Because I was dissatisfied with my guitar playing, and I thought a good producer might have wheedled some better guitar playing out of me, rather than--I felt sort of as if I'd been closed down when I was very dissatisfied with what I'd done. And also, maybe it's just that lack of attention to details, that he needs someone there to take care of the details for him. Again, he's the visionary. He's a true visionary.

The reason I got shut down when I did, because they were like demos. We just went in there and played, basically. We just did the tracks, and then he would say, "Okay, that's fine, now we'll put the vocal on." I think he was real limited by time. But just the same, how many demos end up on record? A lot of them do. I guess nobody really realized at that time how valuable all this stuff would be in the future. It's just a demo. It was like a one-off. I didn't get a chance to do anything [with Soft Machine] again.

Do you know why Giorgio never produced anything else with Soft Machine?
I'm the wrong person to ask, because I got thrown out of the country. I was refused re-entry, and I had to leave the band. So I don't know what happened beyond that. I think that these decisions were not in our control. The decisions were usually made by [co-managers] Mike Jeffery or Chas Chandler, neither of whom really had anything like the same vision or ability to understand what Soft Machine was, that Giorgio had. Giorgio had a real understanding of what Soft Machine was and could be. These other guys that were really in power didn't, really.

But again, it's all down to personalities, it's all down to the alchemy of relationships between individuals. And at that point, I don't know whether Giorgio really had the right relationship with the other members of the band or not. I mean, the point about Soft Machine was, there was like four real heavyweight egos there. We were all four heavyweight egos, all battling for supremacy. It wasn't an easy band to deal with. That's why it blew up and went off and became four different bands.

It's interesting to me that while he was involved with British Invasion bands that had huge hits earlier in the 1960s--the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones--he worked with more esoteric and less commercial bands as time went on.

What fascinates him is not mainstream stuff. What fascinates him is new ideas. You gotta remember that what he saw in the Rolling Stones at that point was something radically new. It was so different from anything else that was going on. I mean it's mainstream, it's the second biggest band or whatever now. But in those days, it was radical. The very first time I ever saw Rolling Stones on television, they stood out like in five dimensions compared to everything else. They were so scary compared to everything else, all the pretty little Tin Pan Alley-controlled bullshit that was going on. These were real people. And they were like picking your nose and spitting in your lap and fighting your fights. They just didn't give a shit. They were so radical in those days.

So Giorgio always went for that thing, that was really radical. Rolling Stones were extremely radical. The Yardbirds were radical. They were the first to bring in Indian music, into the hit parade. "Still I'm Sad," I'll never forget, I heard that single called "Still I'm Sad" and I thought, "Wow! Listen to that. That's in the hit parade? Man, there's hope for us!" That's what actually made me feel that Soft Machine would be a good idea, to do Soft Machine or a band like that, gave me some thoughts that maybe I could get involved in that. That was his production of that thing.

So I think one forgets that he's always gone for the radical revolutionary things that are happening. That's his particular genius. And he's never been around when the big money came through. He's always been the one that saw it in the early days, and poured the right fuel on the flame. And gave them the vision to go on, and encouraged them. He's always there at the right spot, gives people the right encouragement, whether they remember it or not. It's happened to me so many times that he keeps catching up with me. Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe I'm always somewhere out there on the front edge, and he knows it, because that's where I keep running into him, cycle after cycle after cycle. But whenever I do run into him, he always encourages the most radical aspects of what I'm doing, and shows me how to apply it.

I'd like to ask you a few things about Kevin Ayers, whom you played with in the Soft Machine. What were his main contributions?
He had this wonderful songwriting ability. He wrote beautiful songs. He was the best songwriter in the band, in the sense of just good pop songs, interesting pop songs, that had the flavor of the time. He also had a very good rhythmic right hand. When he was playing bass, he played bass in a really interesting way. I really liked his bass playing a lot. His guitar playing--well, he's not very good at playing lead or anything like that. But he's a good right hand. He really knows how to kick out rhythms. He's got just a good old 4/4, but it swings, and has a feel to it. And of course his voice--but his voice, as all of us in Soft Machine, has this sort of organic, wobbly quality about it, sort of one too many cocktails, you know. Who gives a shit anyway, you know (laughs). That sort of thing, that endearing quality to it.

I think probably his downfall was, that somewhere along the line, someone persuaded him, or he persuaded himself, that he could be a kind of a big-scale rock star, sort of in the traditional sense. Almost like Bryan Ferry. He sort of saw himself like a possible Bryan Ferry, or Frank Sinatra, or whatever. I think this was his downfall. Because I think he had more to give than that. When he actually moved into that realm, he also started to overdo the stimuli--I mean, he's got an incredible body. I've never seen anybody take so much alcohol, so much damage. It would kill anybody else. I've never seen anyone drink like him. He's got an extraordinary ability to drink, and an extraordinary ability to rejuvenate himself. He goes right to the edge, and then he goes swimming and runs around for a week and then comes out and starts again. I've never seen such an extraordinary level of ability to drink so much, and get away with it. He's gotten away with amazing amounts of stimuli. He really put it away.

Have you worked with him at all recently?
Yeah, I did a tour with him about five years ago, where we just did two solo things. Did about ten gigs. We'd alternate--one night I'd go top he'd go second, and so on. That was probably the closest I've been to him for years. But he's kind of wobbly. You never quite know whether he's going to get through the gig. But he always gets through, one way or another, but he may not sound too good in the process.

Did you know him well before joining the Soft Machine?
He basically convinced me that it was a good idea to start a band by bringing me the Yardbirds single and all that stuff. And Revolver and Beatles albums and various tracks that were like sufficiently jazzy or interesting or unusual, or outside the parameters of the normal Tin Pan Alley thing, so that I could get interested in it. He got me enthusiastic about that. But even before that, we were pals. He would come and stay there, and we'd go out and misbehave and carry on and do stuff. This is when I was living in Spain, come stay at the house. Then, little by little, his songs grew on me, and I started writing songs, and we started thinking about starting a band.

When he left Soft Machine, we stayed friends. Also he had Lady June, who recently died, by the way. He stayed in her house, and I stayed in her house. She was like a central place where everybody stayed. It was like a doss house in the middle of London, Maida Vale. There was David Bowie living in the same building around the corner, and that's where Robert Wyatt fell out the window and broke his back. So we saw quite a lot of each other. Julie and I bought a house, and he bought a house, and we'd hang out there.

But our ways were diverting the more he became the sort of rock star, the more we were involved in different types of music. Professionally, we didn't really meet all that much. From time to time we'd be shoved together. People was always trying to bring Soft Machine back together. From time to time, he'd sort of join Gong for a few gigs and it wouldn't work out, and he'd get pissed off, because he wasn't being treated like the star, and he wasn't the boss. And he wanted to be in control, completely in control, and want us to do what he said. And that didn't work. Gong was a communal thing, and he couldn't that. It was just different. We were going on different paths.

So little by little, our paths diverged, until in recent times we don't see each other as much. But when we see each other, we have that history in common. But we don't actually seek each other out particularly any more.

I think probably Pete Jenner was the best manager he ever had. Seemed to do the right thing by him. Seemed to know more or less what to do. He appreciated his eccentricities, and they sort of waffled their way through the resistance relatively successfully for a while there, anyway. He had those two or three albums out that were really good, with Archie Leggett playing bass, when Archie was supporting him too. I think they were really funny albums. And after Soft Machine, when he had the Whole World with Lol Coxhill and Mike Oldfield and David Bedford, that was a great band.

I'm really grateful to him. Because what he brought to me was the possibility to go out of rather a strict music and poetry that I was practicing, and show me a way in that I could actually get involved in the rock scene, without really particularly changing what I was doing. And he encouraged me to do that. He was the prime mover in getting me to do that, I think. It was he and I that started Soft Machine. =>>>>>>>>>>>

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