This part of the interview, is on a bus, in a journey in Laos, between Vientiane and Luang Prabang, heading towards the north of Laos.
Why did Cosmosis stop existing?
Wow.! 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.
You had a motorbike accident then, you mean?
Yes, one of the experiences of that time.
I heard that you had a bad accident, that affected your back, how did you handle that?.
The 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. You mean the pain prevents the flow of thought and decision, on matters?. Yes 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 talking about.
What helped at that time?
I 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.
It must have been difficult not having the band there?
Well, 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.
Is it not around this time that you first went to Nepal?
Yes, 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.
Then 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?
These are where they dropped bombs during the Vietnam war.
But this is Laos, I did not know about this, at that time. I thought the war was in Vietnam. Did you?
I 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.
I 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 you too?
Yes, 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.
Reminds 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"?
Really, 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.
I like to come back to Amsterdam, Paris, and Spain, and ask you what it was like, being in these places and cities. What took you there?
I 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.
You 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?
It is really beautiful the way you are involved 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.
I see that there is the French colonial influence still here in Laos. Did you also experience that in Malaysia?
There was Malacca, that I as a child had to learn about. Then came in the Dutch there at somepoint I think, or....? Actually, 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.
Seems to me like the original version of Piracy and Pirates, or do you feel it otherwise?
Well 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 that.
But their version of it, and not that of the local cultures, religions, or people?
That 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. Today, the new Colonialism seems to me to be the Arms and Weapon stranglehold, do you notice that too?
That 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. Then came Berlin. What took you there?
I 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.
This was the time of the Wall coming down, wasn't it?
I 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 "Father Mucker".
This must have been a really creative period for you then, or what do you think?
Yes, 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.
I 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?
I 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.
Is this not a problem that has to be solved by the leaders of all these countries?
Sooner or later, Nature will redress any imbalance. There are some decent and caring people out there, who have compassion.
But there were musicians and artistes like Lennon, Picasso, etc who spoke out, did they not?
I 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 permits.
What about artists who protest against racism, and discrimanations against races and minorities?.
Every 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.
You have left me, with lots to dream about. Do you dream?
Yes, 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.
What do you think of death and dying?
It is the same melody that starts with birth and ends, with the body stopping to function further.
Do you believe that there is a world after that?
No 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.
Thanks for this, and I hope, there will be other times of feedback and revelations.