Interviews

INTERVIEW  by DAVID ROTH

I want to ask you about "Sell Out Joe". Why did you not use vocals in your Father Mucker CD?

Well 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.


You mean you were also on the acoustic guitar.

Yes, 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.


Why?

Because I wanted Father Mucker to be instrumental, then. Even though there are a few tracks there with vocals, that was how it was.


What made you name the song with that name?

In 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.


There was also at this time in S.E.Asia the Vietnam Refugee nightmare.

Yes, you are right- you are very much aware of what was going on then, and also now.


Was that the only song you recorded in London at the time?

No, I also recorded three other tracks.


Why were they not released?

Come 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.


Is that why you decided to have your own label GSP?

I 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.


It was during this period that you went to Nepal?

I 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.


You were studying Tablas there with your teacher.

Yes, 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.


Not many great musicians turn out to be good teachers. I wonder why.

Yes, 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 disabilties.


What is that due to?

On 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 tenseness.


Recently, 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?

When 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.


You used fourteen Tablas on it. Was that difficult to record?

Well, 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 actually.


What about the Sam Gopal Dream in sixties, that made the most impact on you?

It 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.


Around 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?

When 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.


I 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?

I draw a clear line between my private, and the other side, of performing in public, and the studio process. But 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.

Sure, 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.


How 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?.

It 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.


In 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 powerful?

There 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.


In 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 years later?

Escalator 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.


You 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?

It 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.


Thanks for the observations, recall, and your time.