by DAVID ROTH
want to ask you about "Sell Out Joe". Why did you not
use vocals in your Father Mucker CD?
actually, Sell Out Joe was first recorded in 80/81 in London
with Alan Mark (Graucho) on Vocals, and different musicians on
guitar, bass, and drums. Then when I started recording Father
Mucker in Berlin, there was Sandro Ricciarelli on guitars, and
we recorded the first tracks with acoustic guitars, and tablas.
mean you were also on the acoustic guitar.
I did the rhythm guitar, as also Sandro. He was the guitar
specialist. And as we progressed and the electric guitars came
on, it seemed to me a matter of time before I brought in the
vocals. Andy Clark did the vocals a bit later, though when I
mixed the album in Munich, I decided to pull the vocals out.
I wanted Father Mucker to be instrumental, then. Even though
there are a few tracks there with vocals, that was how it was.
made you name the song with that name?
1979, I was for about nine months in South East Asia, and there
I was confronted with the genocide in Cambodia. About two to
three million humans were murdered. It was a horror filling
situation and on my return to London I decided to record the
number with vocals, which I did.
was also at this time in S.E.Asia the Vietnam Refugee
you are right- you are very much aware of what was going on
then, and also now.
that the only song you recorded in London at the time.
I also recorded three other tracks.
were they not released?
on. No label big or small was going to bring that out. Another
track was called Showdown and the playing was simply great.
Though I had the feeling that they wanted lyrics like "the
sky is blue, I love you, how do you do", at that time. I
did check out a few labels.
that why you decided to have your own label GSP?
was always very interested from the late sixties/early
seventies in having a studio set-up where I could record. But
it did not happen, or was not meant to happen. GSP is there for
me to do whatever I want, and whenever, without being told to
do this or that, because that is how it is "supposed"
to be done.
was during this period that you went to Nepal?
had been going to Nepal from the early seventies, usually for a
few months at a time, and then back to London. It was in the
early eighties that I started spending more time there.
were studying Tablas there with your teacher.
though I had started early as a child, it was at the beginning
of the seventies that this teacher came into my musical life. I
had been looking for a while, for someone mature who had the
essence of the the instrument at hand from it's earliest roots.
Someone who had the awareness of the instrument from the last
century. And this gentleman was not only a great player, he
also knew how to teach.
many great musicians turn out to be good teachers. I wonder
that's a fact. The art of teaching is another level of music.
One must also gauge, or be able to gauge how to bring the
student to a standard, where it makes fun to want to learn the
instrument. I think many a student has given up learning music
because it was turning out to be difficult and too serious.
Which music on it's highest level is-it is the most difficult
profession in the world. Takes a lifetime. Some musicians,
later in life end up with some serious injuries and
is that due to?
many an occasion, it can be the wrong position of holding an
instrument, overdoing, doing what has to be done, perhaps also
because the musician is actually not that fit and healthy.
Fortunately here in Germany, there are doctors specialised in
handling problems arising from playing a musical instrument.
Another fact is that the teacher, or the teaching process does
not come down to the levels of where the student is at. If one
cannot climb Mount Everest and ski down it like a Ferrari, it
is also fine, to play music on a lower level. But our demands,
the demands of the achievements of the instrument, the heights
attained by some brilliant musicians, can also be a hindrance
to the musician. If only it was possible for the teacher to
bring across a piece of music composed, to the level of the
student, and allow it to take it's musical process and
progress, it would be okay. But we humans want to hear
flamenco, or the raga, or the guitar boogie, etc, played as
fast as that,that had been done before, by some great
musicians. And if some student cannot reach that level, then
there are very few in tune to say,"Hey, it's fine, there
is no problem driving your musical car with only three wheels.
Take your time".That helps to take the hectic out of the
there was this Tsunami, that started in Sumatra and went across
Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, and I thought about your number
"Solid Water Blues" on Father Mucker. Did you have
that in mind when you recorded it in 1999?.
I was in Nepal, I used to go quite often, treking up the
mountains. Not beyound four thousand meters or so, used to talk
with the locals, and those arriving from higher heights, also
regions like Tibet and nearby. Way back it became obvious to me
that there was something not being as before, with the nature.
Also in my visits to Islands in S.E.Asia, I started noticing
over a period of years, that the water was eating well into the
coastline. When the glaciers start melting in the Himalayas,
which is the roof of the world, then a huge disaster is not to
be avoided. So coupled with both these factors, and also seeing
the polutions levels, in the Himalayas, and the regions around,
getting dangerously high, it was that which made me record
Solid Water Blues.
used fourteen Tablas on it. Was that difficult to record?.
every track on it is a first take. I feel if you are going to
do a number with that kind of name, then it requires it's own
identity. One cannot fine tune something after say ten or
twenty or more takes. Perhaps in films that can happen, and one
can edit it later, but a professional approach from a
director, will ensure, that the pruduct is as real as it can be
made. With this number I was very emotionally there, though
being my own album, I was also professinally aware of what was
going on in the control room, with the Tablas, the other
instruments, and myself. The Tablas are in front and leading,
and the guitars, bass and percussion are backing it. That's it
about the Sam Gopal Dream in sixties, that made the most impact
has to be the music made by the musicians. It was unique, with
Mick, Pete and me to start with, Tablas, Guitar, Bass and
Organ. We were growing, these were wonderful times with them
and I am happy that it occured then.
this time Jimi Hendrix jammed with the Sam Gopal Dream. I read
in an interview you gave to a magazine in Singapore, that asked
you why did the world not know that you had played with
Hendrix. Why have you not mentioned this before, and also let
your fans and readers who come to your site, know about other
great musicians who have jammed with you?
Father Mucker came out, it being my first album on GSP, I was
trapped, erroneously, in the usual demands of publicity with
the release of the CD. This magazine in London reviewed it, and
in return, asked me about that jam at the Speakeasy, in
1967 where Hendrix sat in with us. I think Pete also added
something on it. As for mentioning, or dropping names, to
induce other people to buy my music, or listen to me, is for me
not on. I do not have to do that to bring my Tablas to other
people's attention. The fans out there, and music lovers
are hip and cool. What has "Mighty Mike" or "Blazing
Joe" got to do to bring the tablas and my music to the
attention of other people?. If others are doing that, then it
is okay for them. Either one has got it in oneself or one has
not. Simple as that. It is no use going on the runway like a
brand new airliner, going round and round in circles, unable to
take off. No amount of make-up and glitter can make it take off
realise that you rarely give interviews. Is there something
about the "dentist drill" or the "extraction
process" that makes you feel uneasy, or do you see it as
an intrusion into your life?
draw a clear line between my private, and the other side, of
performing in public, and the studio process.
much as you want to feel free to express yourself with music,
thoughts and the current of words, I too want to feel free in
being able to ask what I think and feel will bring wisdom,
curiosity, and strike a flow in communication.
but the private area of my life, my personal relationship, my
friends, my family, you do not have to penetrate into that.
There are certain acceptable areas, and also there some
undesirable directions. It is fair to mention that, I feel.
do you feel about relationships between men and women. What are
the things that are important, you find that can make a
relationship between a man and woman work?.
is important to have love. I feel trust is also an essential
ingredient. Though the most special thing is to be able to talk
and communicate. Sometimes we humans talk to each other, but we
do not talk with each other. It is when we leave ourselves and
our thoughts, in the library that we always carry with us, and
get into sharing and caring, with the other person, then the
music will start playing. I feel sometimes, we humans meet
someone and are knocked off our feet, but in a strange process
later, they want to change the other person. To accept the
person you love, or who loves you as he or she is, now that is
going places. I know it is easier said than when one is in the
middle of it, but maturity is also needed. One does not have to
be one hundred to arrive there. Some in their teens, twenties
and thirties and so on, are also there with their kind of
maturiry. The human has got to work it out with the one he or
she is with. There is no fixed mantra for happiness. Though
quite often, the lack of an identity, or understanding oneself,
can become a burden to the other. It is like there are a few
different people in one person.
another interview with a reputable newspaper here, you
mentioned that you were interested in the workings of the left
and right sides of the brain, and how music could help damaged
people and those with Alzheimer or depressions. Also that
strong rhythms do have some input with muscles. Is music that
are today many specialists working on how the brain reacts with
the use of music as a therapy. I think it is great that music
therapy is in use for patients who had strokes, heart attacks
and other illnesses. When one is aware that out there, there
are many who might have had problems that arise in being sad
and depressed, then I feel that music that is made specially to
help others to relax and lay back, is indeed a must. In our
world out there, some cannot be reached. There is simply no one
there at that particular time to reach out and give that person
a hand to console, calm or take the edge out of that tense and
unbalanced situation. Perhaps the others do not notice, or do
not want to get involved. Perhaps in their world of I, Me,
Mine, there is no place for anybody else. Music can relax,
stimulate, and also cause reactions. Depending on the type of
music. I feel that when one can combine the muscular factor and
also the workings of the brain to induce a desired result, then
one has got started on something. Sure it can take time, and
perhaps we humans want everything quick and served as one
wishes. With treating illnesses and other ailments, time is
always one of the essential factors in recovering.
1968 you recorded Escalator with Lemmy, Phil Duke and Roger
D'elia. How does it feel to be part of something that is still
regarded as something of a collector's album more that thirty
has escalated, and is still escalating. I am living in a new
century, and do not look back that often. It can be a strain on
the neck. It was a very nice experience and I have fond
memories of the great times with Roger, Phil, and Lemmy.
also had a Band with same name, with Alan Mark, Mox Gowland,
and Freddy Gandy. I gather later you called it Cosmosis. How
was that experience?.
was great with Graucho(Alan) Mox and Freddy. Beautiful times.
When we changed the name to Cosmosis, Bernie(Holland) was on
guitar. Isaac Guillory(guitars) entered the picture a little
bit later, and also played with us- Amsterdam, London, and so
on. That's it for now. Let us take it further, the next time.
Very nice to have this exchange with you.
for the observations, recall, and your time.
part of the interview, is on a bus, in a journey in Laos,
between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, heading towards the north
did Cosmosis stop existing?.
To talk about something from 1971 in England, here in Laos, and
to travel back ,rewinded, to an experience, is something one
does not go through, while travelling forwards in a bus, that
often. It is so real here, the view looking out, the people
going about life in such a natural way, simply because, that is
how it goes on.....We came to a halt through circumstances,
had a motorbike accident then, you mean?.
one of the experiences of that time.
heard that you had a bad accident, that affected your back, how
did you handle that?.
truth is that one cannot handle, something that had not
happened in one's life before, that is a painful experience in
itself. Something ,one's mind has to cope with, a process, that
is disturbed, by not being able to handle matters.
mean the pain prevents the flow of thought and decision, on
my brain, mind, soul, or whatever, was blocked, being able to
reason reasonably, and logically. Pain registers on the brain
like a constant tone, and anything else does not have a sense,
to it. Sure I was aware of matters going on, but the reality of
it all was different. I had two vertebraes or so, not in
harmony with rest of my spine. And this can lead to what we are
helped at that time?.
started spending a lot of time in the studios. This was a
beautiful experience, not only as a learning process, but also,
the studio being soundproofed, was a calming enviroment. It is
great when silence can prevail occasionally. Plus, I had a few
really dear family of friends, who were there.
must have been difficult not having the band there?.
actually I was not there myself, and sure it was not easy to
accept, that I had to come to terms with all that. During this
time I recorded an album"Building B", with Mox
Gowland, Isaac Guillory, Andy Clark. That was, on hindsight,, a
positive experience, that I felt was due to the power of music,
as a drive, a healing emotion, one is unaware of it at that
period in time. Something that is unknown, till one comes to be
aware of it, usually much later, in this instance.
it not around this time that you first went to Nepal?.
initially it was to have a change, and to let the injury heal.
Though, the first time I was there, I was drawn totally to the
country, cultures, language, music, the foods, the mountains,
the smells were also Nepalese. Also there I met my Tabla
teacher. So that is how it all came about.
there came the periods in Amsterdam, Paris, Spain?. What are
those craters, where nothing seems to grow around, I keep
seeing out of the window every now and then?.
are where they dropped bombs during the Vietnam war.
this is Laos, I did not know about this, at that time.I thought
the war was in Vietnam. Did you?.
came later to know about it. But we cannot expect, to be told
everything that happens in our world. The newspapers, radio and
TV stations have other considerations, like profit, sales,
vested interests, the quote, and so on. Quality and Truth can
suffer occasionally. You yourself as a writer and journalist
must be aware of that.
want to know the truth, and I work on it. I am someone who
believes in the good of man, and will continue to do so. Don't
of course. But there are all these other areas, like brain
-washing, disinformation, misinformation, constipated
information, and after a while, I do not know what the news is
trying to tell me, if anything.
me of the lyrics in your song "Uhland" on your
"Father Mucker" CD. "What is the use of
listening to the news, when you do not understand the language
it is in"?
the lyrics were,"How can it be news, when they tell us,
what they want us to know"?. But in the process of
recording in the studios, one sometimes comes across the beauty
of language, prose, rhyme, musicianship, and so on .And what
comes out at the end, can also make sense, even when one did
not mean it that way, in the first place. The beauty of
creativity can be amazing sometimes. that is if one allows it
to take a hold.
like to come back to Amsterdam, Paris, and Spain, and ask you
what it was like, being in these places and cities. What took
love Amsterdam, and I was there alone, without a band, in '74,
for some time. It was a really nice time. I did "Sam's
Jam" at the Paradiso Club for a while, and then to
London,....there was some music to be played with Didier
Malherbe and Patrice Lemoine, on some sort of Gong renuion, in
Paris. Didier, Patrice and me played something with a
guitarist, whose name I cannot remember right now. He was good,
and I hope he forgives me for this lapse. There I met up again
with Daevid Allen, who I had not seen since the sixties, when
he was with Soft Machine. He was living in Spain at that time,
and asked me to come over, and play on a recording he was
doing, and also to play on something, his wife Gilly who,was
also recording then. That's how it all came about, in a few
sentences. Sure I was in Amsterdam for longer periods, like in
Paris too, growing and developing. Spain too had it's private
sides for me.
do say alot, but there again between the spoken word, and the
written sentence, you seem to let some space and silence come
through. Is this a way of not wanting to say too much, or are
you also trying to tell me something?.
is really beautiful the way you are invoved in this interview.
I feel this is more of a joint expression from both of us,
though you want me to talk about times and periods in my life,
that are differnt from, what I live in, and with, in this
world, now. It is fantastic how the brains and minds, can
recall, and go through experiences, but one is also put
through, having to digest all that, that has happened before,
once again. And there I feel, it is best to say what I feel,
and also allow the readers, to draw their own interpretations
from that. Words have pictures, emotions, knowledge, music.
They stimulate, and how they can hurt too.
see that there is the French colonial influence still here in
Laos. Did you also experience that in Malaysia?.
was Malacca, that I as a child had to learn about.
came in the Dutch there at somepoint I think, or....?
in the fifth century or so, the Indian princes came through,
took what was beneficial, then came the Portugese, the Dutch
followed, then came the English, and at some time the Japanese,
were there too, then came the English again.
to me like the original version of Piracy and Pirates, or do
you feel it otherwise?
they come in, plunder, rob and steal, kill, and go home, get
decorated for that, and make fortunes. That is one way of
seeing it. Sometimes, as with the British Colonial Rule, in
Malaysia, they do some constructive things, like architecture,
education, medical facilities, rule of law, and somethings like
their version of it, and not that of the local cultures,
religions, or people?
is how the dice rolls for those, who do not know any better,
simply because, they were never out of their own enviroment.
And the benefits of education, and sometimes higher education,
is denied to those, who are deemed not to be favoured for it.
Then there is the muscle playing it's role too.
the new Colonialism seems to me to be the Arms and Weapon
stranglehold, do you notice that too?.
is a never ending industry, which I find painful and sad, to
think about, and talk about it. I hope you can spare me further
involvement on this topic.
came Berlin. What took you there?.
was in Kathmandu in the eighties, and towards the middle of
that period, I felt like I needed a change, so I decided on
Berlin, as I had not been there before. It was '88 when I first
came there. I did something there with a band I put together
called "Sangit" with violin, flutes, sitar, tablas
and another instument. We did two gigs, one recording, and that
was it. The musicians were in London and I was in Berlin. Also
I wanted to get back to the rock/blues format, which I feel
good with. So I met up with Andy Clark again. I put together a
band called "Clark-Gopal", and we did many gigs in
Berlin, and also the old East Germany.
was the time of the Wall coming down, wasn't it?.
was there just before it came down, though with Andy, it was in
1990, that we first recorded, This was one year after the wall.
We did "Soap Opera", and the next year '91, we
recorded "Not for Sale". In between I had recorded
must have been a really creative period for you then, or what
do you think?.
it was really nice. It was fantastic and wonderful, to record
and play with Andy. He speaks a language, that we both
understand. I feel, an almost telepathic chord with him, it so
nice to be in tune musically on that level. And we also have
our own sense of humour, that takes care of the good vibes.
Recording in Hansa Studios was a beautiful process and
experience. There were some really special people there, who
will always remain in my thoughts, and memories.
see here in Luang Prabang, a wonderful place with special
pagodas, buddhism in a very original form, the Mekong flowing
with it's secrets under the currents, and wonder what you think
about all this as an Asian, or do you view it differently?.
feel more like a Musician, than as an Asian, though by birth in
Malaysia, I was blessed to have the benefits of Christianity,
Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other cultures, while growing up.
Though I also see what is going on here in Laos, and in Asia,
from that "Outside Looking In" viewpoint, and
sometimes I feel uneasy with the way it is progressing, in some
matters, like the way Nature is hammered at. The Mekong is
bringing it's poisons and chemicals from up there in China, and
then goes through, areas likes Laos, Cambodia, Vietnem, and
Thailand. There are millions whose livelihood depends on the
Mekong river, and what it throws up. The Timber logging here,
and in the areas around in Asia, like the Rainforests in
Borneo, (Sarawak and Kalimantan), is turning this part of the
world into a furnace of damage, that cannot be repaired
anymore. The underground water reserves, are being poisoned
with toxins, chemicals, fertilisers etc, in countries like
China and India. This will eventually have side affects,
particularly on people who draw from this reserves, and create
products for themselves, and other humans, to nourish and
survive. Most humans are in that daily "Inside Looking
Out" way of living. Next stage is, that one is not well,
and does not know what it is, Skin problems, breathing, nerves,
and other new permutations, of mixtures, of some kind of new
"additives cocktails", that spell damage.
this not a problem that has to be solved by the leaders of all
or later, Nature will redress any imbalance. There are some
decent and caring people out there, who have compassion.
there were musicians and artistes like Lennon, Picasso, etc who
spoke out, did they not?.
do not know what Lennon was doing in America then, what his
circle of influence was, and so on. I did like some of his
music. As to other musicians and artists, I can understand when
they stand up and voice their Voice against injustice or
atrocities. But then you are getting into the perimeter and
domain of politics. And a musician and artist must stay
neutral, even when voicing against unfair practices. Or they
should join some party, perhaps start one. Make your music,
create, but no violence please. That blows it all. What might
be politics to most, could be spiritual for me, or even
medical, on rare occasions. As to Picasso, I have here no idea
where he was at. I have none of his paintings, though I have
seen few of them. I will have to research on that, when time
about artists who protest against racism, and discrimanations
against races and minorities?.
one is free to like or dislike, in private. But to practice
racism in an open way, is a disgusting and despicable
prejudice. One should never take away the dignity and respect
of a fellow human, whether on grounds of race or sex, or for
any other reason. Racism is not an area that is exclusive to
the "White and Black" platform. There is racism in
Asia, there is racism in Africa, there is racism in South
America, and it goes on. The human has sometimes, this
mentality of exercising power, particulary over the weak, the
illiterate, the poor, and sometimes the unfortunate. But I do
believe that the majority of humans have good in them, and will
always come through to help out, those in need. Though the
Times are also creating a divide of a chasm, where the benefits
of having, works like a hypnotic blindness. The artist is also,
or was, for some, "The Eye and the Ear" of future
generations. I would love to play music, and hope some can
enjoy it, others can dance to it, and hopefully a few can dream
to it. Perhaps some can relax to it and forget, for a while,
whatever that needs to be put at rest.
have left me, with lots to dream about. Do you dream?.
sometimes they are clear, other times they pass by,
occasionally there is music,....it is such a beautiful process,
our bodies. You sleep, but there is a whole other world going
on. One is not consious of it factually, but one feels that
something has happened in one's sleep, one wakes up refreshed
and bubbling, or it feels like there were some mountains to
climb that night.
do you think of death and dying?.
is the same melody that starts with birth and ends, with the
body stopping to function further.
you believe that there is a world after that?.
one has come back and told me more about this. But all this
energy cannot just stop, when the body gives up. Some say this,
and others want it precise. There has to be another room
where,the next dimension exists, and can exist, and one is not
"aware" of this. It is a question of believing, and
with that, one can think, observe, and feel more about, the
unknown. It is a journey of discovery. That brings one into the
spectrum of curiosity. The Pure is always much more stronger
than the negative.That's it for now.
for this, and I hope, there will be other times of feedback and