It’s happening to me a lot of late – hearing things I haven’t listened to for a while, and realising how formative they were in me getting the ideas together to do what I do solo. Hearing Iona again was one, and seeing the Doug Wimbish clinic at the Bass Centre at the end of last year was another.
And now I’m listening to Iona again, and hearing Robert Fripp‘s parts on one track, and having a vivid flash back to his opening soundscape set at the ProjeKct one gig at the Jazz Cafe in London back in, er 98? 99? something like that… Anyway, he came down 40 minutes before the rest of the band, and set up all this soundscaping stuff, overlapping asynchronous loops of mainly synth sounds. The effect was mesmerising, and as someone who was already experimenting with looping (at the time, all I had was my old Lexicon JamMan, and an ART Nightbass processor) it was a big inspiration.
Not long after that I got one of his solo soundscape records, and was a little disappointed. Not in the musical ideas, but in the synth sounds, and it swore me off ever getting a MIDI pickup fitted – I’d had one for a while to demo it for Yamaha, but ended up sounding like a bad keyboard player. Fripp sounded like a much better keyboard player than I, but it still sounded like keyboards a lot of the time, and that to my ears lost much of what is magic about stringed instruments – the attack, the decay, the way we can keep moving the note after it has happened (especially if you’re using an Ebow or the Fernandes Sustainer circuit that Fripp uses in his guitars) – to use that to trigger a synth seemed a little disingenuous.
Still, it meant that I was less likely to end up sounding like him, which was a good thing I guess, but the influence is undeniable, and that gig was a pivotal moment for me. As was the rest of the night – watching the free improv of Fripp with Trey Gunn, Tony Levin and Bill Bruford, I got a glimpse of what was to become one of my main ways of making music – just getting up on stage and playing. The sense of each sound evolving from the last, in an instantaneous thought process, with the intentions of the players meeting, combining, clashing and melding into one another. It’s a magical thing, and the direct descendent of that gig (and in no small way, the interview I did with Tony Levin and Trey Gunn after the gig) is the Recycle Collective.
Soundtrack – James Taylor, ‘Hourglass’.by