ANNETTE PEACOCK reading (interviews, letters, reviews, photos, etc) PT I
Posted: Aug 25, 2013
Reprinted from www.imtheone.com
Felix Jay, a versatile musician who runs the London-based Hermetic label was at one time a journalist for ZigZag magazine and New Musical Express. One artist he both interviewed and reviewed recordings by was Annette Peacock. Felix kindly granted permission for anunpublished interview to be used on the I'm the One website. What follows are extract from the interview -- at the time she was recording Sky-Skating in 1980, or '81.
AP: I've got a brilliant plan, but I don't want anybody to do it before I do. That's always what happens, you know? Very few people have fresh ideas.
FJ: In a way I imagine you're at your best when you're pushed to the limits, really forcing your voice to very interesting extremes. You said Paul Bley used to ask you why you didn't write something you could sing. It's quite nice when your voice is pushed; you get this lovely feeling of danger -- will she make it or not?
AP: I have really smoothed out so much from that on Perfect Release, my last album. I didn't really take any vocal chances. I just wanted to make a very, very smooth album for me.
FJ: But then for the length of the second side you're not really singing at all, and that makes people sit up, not sit back.
AP: That was not about the music, essentially, but about the lyrics. I had this whole rap I wanted to do, so I set it to fit a nice groovy, funky background. "The Succubus" is an experiment with funk music. "Survival" is a funk tune which is an experiment with time. On each one I decided to take one little risk at a time, not to take it too far and just see what happens, what the reaction was. In fact the reaction was split -- some positive, some negative.
The interesting thing for me is to solve problems in music. The whole concept of improvising seems like an easy way out, but it isn't. To improvise with a group of musicians... I found when I first came to England, to do the music I wanted to do would have taken 3 years of working with these people, and I expected it to happen like magic, like it was in New York where there was a common language. In England they had missed a whole lot of it, they had moved from 'Trad' right through total freedom, and had missed the evolution.
When I came to New York there was this frenzied energy that was just happening, people were going crazy, and what I wanted to do was to create some order and balance it.
It's a adventure to move into uncharted territory, the whole process of discovery, but at the same time it's not any fun in the long run, if you can't take your audience with you.
FJ: Do you have mental picture of your audience?
AP: Yes. I've noticed one common denominator. They're intelligent people, and seem to lean towards being individuals and making their own choices about the things rather than being a sheep. Any contact I've had with them I've enjoyed talking to them. They're all artists in the sense that they're all in a continuous state of growth and discovery. I think that will continue.
FJ: How are you going to sell a lot of records then?
AP: That's the problem. There aren't that many of those people in the world! What I have to do is clarify what I'm saying, which is also a danger to an artist. Because artists should never be totally aware of what they're doing. They should only realize this after it's completed; if they know beforehand they run the risk of producing a product for specific result.
Nowadays the state of the music industry and the rock press and so on forces one to think about the results. You adapt or you don't survive; and fortunately artists tend to be very flexible people. So, it's a test. I've been able to keep my head above water. I'll continue making records, either within a record company or by myself. I'm not going to do the same thing I did last time, which is to stop making records for seven years. At the time I felt it was all right for me to wait for an audience to catch up. X-Dreams and the Perfect Release in a sense were a going back over past territory -- the intermediate territory to the album I'm working on now.
I'm not going to make it a totally pure album, in the way I'd like to make it totally pure. What I'd love to see happen is: the kind of music that is made in the pure sense of the joy of creating -- without compromise -- to reach an audience. I want to be able to communicate. You'll find that each song will be varying degrees of freedom with the song form. Maybe I'm playing it safe, but I don't think in this day that one can be so extreme any more.
I remember how started I was the first time I heard Bob Dylan just playing guitar and singing, and that's the kind of quality I want to get back to -- the individual expressing and communicating. I couldn't do like I saw happening in New York where artists turned their back on the audience and said 'We're just going to do the kind of music we want to do.' [note: Might she be quoting about the famous/infamous PIL incident at Ritz?]
New people coming up want to make it, they want to make money. They're not so interested in a sense of individual, personal expression that they feel compelled about. They want to be a star but it's only because they've been so totally corrupted, and because the machine itself won't give them any choice. It's all down to accounting. Record companies just market what is already commercial. We've come to an age where the plagiarists do extremely well and the originals get overlooked.
I'd really like to sell some records on America. I'm big in Tucson and Arizona, Chicago. Not California, they go for a specific kind of music, laid back. I'll tell you from the business end of it. One can't possibly have all the information, right? So you speculate, like gambling.
I feel desperately that the age of the individual is over. There are so many people on the planet right now. There will be a lot of mistakes, a lot of catastrophes, sudden shocks threatening our existence. The government that are in power aren't interested -- they're only interested in the immediate problems during their term office.
Interview excerpts from New Musical Express - December 1, 1979
AP: I never get bad reviews for my records. Only for my live performance 'cause I don't give a damn. I just get up on stage and if I don't like it a tune I'll make the band stop and then start again. Or, I'll stop in the middle of a sentence and roll a cigarette. I just can't get into this whole thing of performing, 'okay, folks, here we go: show business!' Show a bit of leg, show a bit of tit, show a bit of ass, get the band really hot and work up these tight arrangement. It's discovery. You work with really good musicians but you don't rehearse'em too much and then you just do what happens.
Don't you think it's pathetic that someone like you goes to such length to write brilliant music and the people like The Sex Pistols just scream and shout and they can't play and they make millions?
AP: You never get what you deserve in this world. You get what you can get. The Sex Pistols represented a lot of people at that time who wanted to scream and shout about a lot of things that were wrong, and they did.
They were expressing feelings.
AP: That's right. What they were doing was valid, so how could I get uptight about that? It's nothing to do with what I do, but I'm interested in expressing my feelings too. It's just that people get confused if the music's too good; they don't see that you're saying something as well. I've always tried to do too much at once.
Excerpts from New Musical Express
September 7, 1974
Primitive bird tries new thing. Annette Peacock, erstwhile prisoner in theBowie/DeFries camp, reveals big plans for what you're all been waiting for... Yes folks, it's the New Music.
"Do you think there's going to be a revolution here? I was contacted by the Worker's Party to do a benefit for the Worker's Revolution with Ornnette Coleman. 'No, no' I said of cause. But I sure told them I wasn't convinced it was the right step politically. But it's not happening... once they get momentum at least they're making progress."
And to explain this current interest in performing as often as possible, she recalls tales from her spell under Tony DeFries's management.
"He said no to everything for about a year and half. He turned down a Newport Jazz Festival, and a supersession with Al Cooper and Mike Bloomfield, a Radio City with Bowie and recording session with him. Which I didn't really want to do anyway. It just went on. So now I'm saying 'yes' to everything, just to balance it out. Because 'no' doesn't get you anywhere." "I'm the first female innovator to be involved in music as popular art form. And I'd like to be the writer of classic songs."
It was however, a result of becoming involved in the jazz of Albert Ayler ("a very big innovator", she says, "and the first person to have a totally free band") and then with LSD, through her interest in Timothy Leary, that her own music began taking shape.
"Then I started to write music, and it was just trying to describe the place that existed in my mind. I was trying to manifest it in a symbolic way through music. But there's no explanation for my music and songs. I can't explain why they happened, except that I felt there was a need for them at the time. There was no body doing it, I'd probably have made another music.
"I've always been confused between the evolution of music, and the market place, so consequently there's been a very big gap between the kind of expression that I was interested in and the kind people were ready for. But now I find it a challenge. I really do want to make a hit with a single. I think I can take my music now -- because I'm skilled enough -- and contract it into something, very very simple that'll work. And that's what I've gradually been working on for a year and a half. I've never done that before, so it intrugues me."
One is naturally enough, intrigued to inquire just why she didn't discover success under the guiding hand of DeFries, and how that unlikely liaison came about in the first place.
"Well, y'know David Bowie and I were recording for the same label and he came up to the studios when I was recording. But I have this policy about not having people there who're not necessary to the music, because musicians get distracted and it's very hard to create the right feeling on the studio. He was with Mick (Ronson) and I asked them both to leave. And I didn't think anymore of it. Then I was here in London to see Clive Davis, because they were having a Columbia convention at one of the hotels... and DeFries was there, y'know. He asked me for my phone number and he called at my hotel the next day, and I'd forgotten about him completely. Then he just started contacting me saying he wanted to manage me. And I met Bowie and he was like a fan of the music.
"He bought me an awful lot of equipment and took care of al the expenses for a year. My problem was that I was a jazz artiste, and had that image. He said he wanted to erase that. He said I was a torch singer."
But didn't DeFries have any plans to launch her?
"Ahhhh. Well, he said it was going to take a long time, but he added that I was very important to music. More Important than other artists. But I don't think he had any specific plans. He just wanted me to wait. He was very nice guy, but he's got Bowie and he was breaking Ronson then, and he didn't really have the time to devote to me. It was all right for Annette Peacock, but it wasn't all right for music. In the end it just became a deteriorating thing for me. It was like having my hands bound."
The problem that Annette has encountered throughout her career, and which she is now reviewing closely, is how to apply her unique song structures and unusual and often synthesized vocals to a commercial format.
"Everybody says I should just concentrate on one thing and not do everything at once. So my aspirations to be great are just unsuited for this era. But for me it's like a kick in teeth to have to have to work really hard and lug around all my equipment myself.. and nobody really likes it. I was very ,very surprised when I made that album ("I'm the One") that I had such a good response from the musicians. Perhaps there was basically a poverty of ideas around. When you have difficulty it either destroy you or makes you stronger. I've learnt about patience , haaaaha. And I found out that I believe in myself. Because I couldn't have survived if I didn't. But I sorta feel the reason I'm here in London is because I operate by instinct and intuition and I really feel there's change in music. And it's going to happen outa London, again. Because what's been happening is that has amassed thousands of dollars, which is all fairly similar, and they're just putting it out. It's not human. It's not real. That's the first step. there's going to be a lot of reality on records which come out in the next six months or so."
Excerpts from New Musical Express/May 3, 1986
"NO NOOKIE till the nukes are gone..."
Pardon? Annette Peacock is disappointed: she'd hoped to sing that song, 'A Personal Revolution' from her current album I Have No Feelings, at one of the Albert Hall Greenpeace shows.
"We have learned to live with the treat of nuclear annihilation. We have no personal control over our survival: we live in a Christian society and Christianity's only effectiveness is as a wedge for economic exploitation. That's what the album's about politically, musically it's about the right to be genuinely different. It's not difficult music; it's merely unfamiliar, but then it will be if it's genuinely new. Our only choices -- what we spend our money on, like a condemned prisoner ordering his last meal."
"I'm making music for the day on my calendar: everything else redundant, I can't understand why everybody else is in the '60s and '70s unless it's because they lack imagination, talent and guts."
Annette Peacock sung in British composer Andrew Poppy/Alphbed ('87) 'GOODBYE Mr G'. David Teledu, a writer and a fan, kindly gave me a permission to use his correspondence with Andrew Poppy who talked about the session with Annette Peacock.
From apoppy Thu Dec 17 05:09:24 1998
Thank you for your letter of 7th December about Annette Peacock's appearance onAlphabed.
It wasn't really a collaboration as such although I think Annette's contribution is wonderful and invaluable. 'The Songs of the Claypeople' started of as a long quasi prose poem cum collage piece of writing that I made in about 1982-3. At about that time I was beginning to work on dance and experimental theatre projects. I began a dialogue of sorts with Impact theatre and we talked about working together in some way. I showed the director of Impact theatre 'The Songs of the Claypeople' and he thought it could be the basis of a theatre work. I then began a long period of writing and re-writing text and music. The first version was very simple with a lot of music. Some of it just piano and voice and some of it for fairlight MK1 one of the very first sequencers. I worked on that with the keyboard player and programmer Blue Weaver. The first version of the show opened at Leeds University Theatre in May 84 or it may have been 83.
As you can probably hear 'Alphabed' is influenced by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass's work Einstein on the Beach although I did not set out to make a conscious copy. There are other theatrical modals. I've always thought of the text as being a sort of punk Eliot. A collage thing. Connecting ritual and religion and memory in a cut up kind of way.
Anyway I was never really happy with the stage production of the piece and to cut a very long story short a couple of years later when I was thinking about the second record for ZTT I thought 'The Songs of the Claypeople' could be developed with more musicians and singers. Some of the text in 'Songs of the Claypeople' is spoken and some is sung. I think that spoken texts in something like Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex are fantastic. And of course there are the text spoken by Lucinda Childs in Einstein on the Beach. The ritual of the year announced in '91 'Goodbye Mr G' needed someone who could speak over music in an unselfconscious way. I knew a couple of Annette's records and had seen her perform at Ronnie Scots. I thought everything about her was wonderful, interesting and exciting. And she sometimes does that speaking thing. So eventually we got to speak on the telephone and I sent her some of my music. The record company and her management did the deal and she came to the studio. That was the first time we met. The session was actually very simple. There were no rehearsals. I had written out a score with the texting roughly the place that it needed to fit. At this time almost all the other parts were recorded. There was a middle section where there were a few melodic lines for her to sing. After getting a level and sound on her voice we did a complete take. I'm not certain if Annette has seen the text before she came to the studio if fact I'm almost certain she didn't. What appears on the record is the first take. I remember that one of my strategies was that I didn't want her to find or make too much meaning in it or to try and express something but to just do it but not completely flat. We did a second take but it wasn't as interesting as the first. I think that you can hear Annette exploring each line as it comes. She does not really know where they are going but that's cool with her and I think this lends a wonderful and mysterious quality to the articulation. Of course Annette is a fantastic improviser and so she is very adept at moving through things spontaneously.
Dave Meegan and I mixed the track a couple weeks later. Dave's contribution is very important. The way in which the voice is process in exquisite. It retains the beautiful quality of Annette's natural voice while at the same time taking some of the upper frequency resonance and colouring it.
Annette and I have kept in touch over the years. She has been very supportive of my work. Recently she has asked me to work on a project with her which I probably should not speak about here so I won't.
As I'm sure you know she recently (last year) has a record out on ECM called 'Music of Annette Peacock' [Nothing ever was, anyway. Music of Annette Peacock, '97]. Which is all her music but performed by the pianist Marilyn Crispell with Gary Peacock and Paul Motian. Annette sings on one track and it's very beautiful.
With best wishes
From New Musical Express ('86)
STAMP OF THE VAMP: Annette Peacock, London Ronnie Scott's
>>>IN HER first performance for ages, Annette Peacock proceeds like nookie in reverse. As slender as an After Eight Mint, she sits a ramrod-straight sentinel at her electric piano and conjures a mood of post-coital tristesse, a softly dappling blue-note hued Debussian reverie like pebbles tossed wistfully into a millpond.
>>>The former Queen of Out-ness meditates on the failed promise of 60's swing in the cold light of dawn. A packed audience, mostly too young to recall those liberated days, settles down to an hours or two of serious business, of business, of which Been In The Street Too Long sets the tone. But Annette is a woman of many moods, and not for nothing is her record company called Ironic.
>>>The tish-tash of Simon Diamond's brushed drums, and Gary Jones' hovering bass sonorities, shift the show up a gear, and centre-stage is taken by Annette's black-clad and piquantly beautiful daughter, Apache. She variously doubles up on Annette's singing and taps a cowbell before differently sidling into the spotlight on her own account to sing with much of hr mother's glassy assurance (even though she betrays a few nerves when dancing).
>>>Thus is laid a thinking-person's funk base for Annette's raps, including numbers from X-DREAMS, The Perfect Relapse and her new LP I Have No Feeling. She is very funny -- a woman's sexual, social and existential lot is bemoaned, yet often with a Spartist overkill of seminar-speak that slyly mocks her own preoccupations. The Revolution will not be on Open University, yah?
>>>And getting down to the humpi' funkin' nitty-gritty, 'My Mama Never Taught Me How To Cook' smolders and hollers in the sweatiest, vampiest of depth-charges. As a passing Charles Shaar Murray pronounces "Astrud Gilberto sings structuralism!" Great show.
::: Excerpts from
IMPETUS No. 8, '78
AP: My mother was a classical musician so I was into hearing chamber music playing me to sleep at night, which was quite nice. Then I discovered jazz at an early age and got into that. Then I met Gary (Peacock) and was exposed to all the latest avant garde sounds and I found that was like my 'home'. That was it for me. In New York at that time there were Paul and Carla (Bley) and Paul Haines. At that time I wasn't composing professionally but I was composing and it was Paul who found the need to have some problems solved. At the time I came to New York there wasn't anything but a lot of energy -- a lot of screaming in the lofts; it was just sheer anarchy. This was about '64 and there was this situation with all this freedom and lots of possibilities for the composer to resolve for the musicians. With Paul (Bley) it was a question of providing an environment for him to create in.
>>>So I choose to go in the direction of ballads, which was a lot of space and a lot of peace and quiet. It was very difficult at the time to get musicians to play this, they hadn't done that. Drummers, for instance, would say, "Well, what am I going to play on this?" -- drummers want some motion. So a different style developed: the waves (like Barry Altschul developed), space and silences, and the whole sole thing that Paul (Bley) got into and then the ECM label. That was the concept that I worked on exclusively, it was the contribution I made for free music. In fact I worked on it so exclusively that Paul would say to me, "Aren't you going to write anything else but ballads?" That was all I really wanted to write.
>>>I would imagine that it came out of being a woman and being feminine you know. Having this feeling of subtlety, this feeling of the possibility and freedom of space, and gentleness. Eventually, after six years of concept that's found on those ECM albums and the albums that Paul is putting out on his own label (Improvising Artists, Inc.)
Had the group line-up remained constant during those six years?
AP: Except for the bass player. The bass players kept changing. But the role of the drums was more important -- much more important than the role of the bass player to define that music.
At what stage did you become involved in the electronics that one associates with much of your early work?
AP: We want over to a critic's house -- Don Heckman of the New York Times -- just to hang out with him and we asked him if he'd heard anything new. He said, "well, there's this one by Walter Carlos of synthesizer music," and he played it for us. I fell right in love with it; it was the first new instrument in three hundred years. I just kept asking Paul about it, but he wasn't too enthusiastic about it in the beginning...
>>>There's quite a funny story... on the way over to see Robert Moog I psyched out exactly the take with him in terms of interesting him in giving us a synthesizer because we didn't have any money. So Paul said, "We've got to take the synthesizer away; if we don't take it away with us then was won't get it," so we went over in the station wagon we got all Paul's publicity and press and went over there. We thought that Walter Carlos was getting a lot of attention and credit and we felt that as Robert Moog had invented the instrument he might like a little bit of it himself. So we took the tack that we were going to create music with it rather than just use it as a 'jingle'-type instrument and we ere going to incorporate it into the main field of music, give it some dignity and the respect it deserves. So we went up there and Paul did the rap and I just stood around looking charming and lovely... and we drove away that night with a synthesizer.
>>>We took it back to New York where nobody knew what a synthesizer was. Not only that, but anyone who did know what it was, or who had been working on it -- the commercial people -- wouldn't tell you anything about it, and there was no information out about it. So we had this thing that looked like an air-craft cockpit and it was just sitting in our bedroom. We just looking looked at it every morning for about six months saying "What are we going to do with it?" Then we had it in the closet in the hall, behind some curtains, and didn't tell any musicians. Finally Gary came to visit one day and I drew back the curtains and said, "Did you ever see anything like this before?" and he said "What the fuck is that?" I said "A synthesizer." He said, "A what?" Then we decided to set it up again and I started fooling around with it and patching. We had to make all these charts -- I drew the way it looked and noted the patching so we could find the sounds again. I actually invented a way to graft the voice onto it.
>>>The First gig we did was at the Village Vanguard, and we had to make the audience wait twenty minutes between tunes while we changed the patching. It was ridiculous. Anyway, it went on from there. We toured Europe and carried the stuff around. the Europeans weren't very happy because they were used it Paul as an acoustic player. We had a lot of trouble with it and it didn't go down very well.
>>>Then my father died and left me five thousand dollars and I produced a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. I had Leonard Bernstein's dressing room -- it was great. We did the first live concert with the synthesizer and voice. I used late night TV to promote it -- it was very cheap at the time -- and we flashed pictures of synthesizers and things on the screen. And I didn't make any money, we broke even. When I drew back the curtain on the first night there were some people out there : I was really astonished. I got some very good reviews and then we went on to do the albums and things.
>>>But the only problem with the synthesizer is that it is such hard work. It's like making love to a very, very, large person: it's just really difficult. Every sound you get in order to change it you have to move so much. I wasn't really a live performing instrument, it was really behind the state of art. We invented a way of using pedals and things like that so that we could keep our hands free. We had a lot of problem to solve. It was very difficult.
>>>Even when I heard Weather Report in their concert last year -- and Joe Zawinul is excellent -- there was one particular loud note that was really just painful. Did you ever hear San Ra live? He solves the problem. He has like twenty horn players, all acoustic, and the one synthesizer mic-ed up. And that balance works beautifully. He plays slow, he plays very long things against the very fast moving horn lines, which is really successful. If you're going to do that then you've really got to deal with the contrasts: the fast against the slow, the loud against the soft. You've got to use those dimensions. You have to create everything you do with it. It's not like a piano where you sit down and get some response. Synthesizer don't respond, they just do what you tell them to do; it's like a machine. After a while you feel like you're losing humanity, you begin losing the quality of being a human being when you are working with them. So both Paul and I felt like moving back from them.
Since that time Paul Bley has been quite vehement in his criticism of the synthesizer. But I also get the impression that there is a side to Paul Bley that responds to the piano, which you are aware he knows intimately, but that he never achieved that through understanding and intimacy with the synthesizer. After all, the synthesizer was a much more unwieldy and primitive instrument at that time. One sense Paul was struggling to master it, but never quite succeeded.
AP: No he didn't, that's just it. It was a power game, which he's very good at playing. He's a very powerful person and he likes to take control and command. Did you see his concert at the Shaw theater? It was brilliant. Although it was a terrible piano and out of tune, he just took control and mastered it. I think it was the thing with the synthesizers. It was: "I'll get on top of you yet -- I'll take control of you yet." But it was a constant battle. I think he enjoyed it at the beginning, but it wears after a while.
>>>But still -- it opened up a lot of horizons. Everything you experience affects you including working with electronics you can really play slow, you can really get into sustain. You can take a note and change the whole thing: the decay and rise time, the timbers, everything. I think that opened up his head quite a bit, in fact his playing did develop really quick. I think it was a very positive thing.
>>>I think eventually people will get into that kind of thing again. I always felt that people would again start treating voices electrically. Now I hear there's a group called Suicide that does something like that. I think it's an inevitable kind of avenue to take.
>>>It's not always good to be first. It's maybe sometimes better to be last, so everyone else makes the mistake and then you come along and do it best! I'm not so into being first as I used to be. At the beginning of a career artists want to make an identity for themselves, they rush to be first. That's part of one's evolution, and I'm not sorry that I did it, even though the album are a little rough and primitive. It was a lot of fun doing them.
But I think the rough edges are part of the appeal of those early records; there's a lot of honesty about them that often the more polished articles lack.
AP: That honesty is part of my philosophy -- and I don't want to get too far away from that. That's the thing I find, you know, although I can appreciate very polished things, and I can enjoy playing them, it doesn't excite me like when you hear a record that somebody's taking chances on. It would be nice to have a balance of both things, which is what I've started trying to do on this album X-DREAMS. It's organized, but it's got people really playing and improvising and stuff.
>>>The thing that interests me at this point in time, coming from working with all the freedoms where you can do anything you want to do and take as much time as you want to take, is to work within traditional forms and see just how free one can get them. That is, without losing the character of the blues, a country and western, or whatever it is. The main thing is to be imaginative and creative with it. That's what's so depressing: you find people reproducing the same formula over and over and over again, with one little wrinkle in it pariahs. But music isn't about that, then it's not a personal expression, it's a product like cornflakes. You've got lost the whole individual expression, communicating with people, you've lost the artist -- the artist doesn't exist any more -- and then there's no reason to continue. They're the reason that I was in it in the first place. That I find very defeating in the whole business.
It's a trap that so many people fall into. You can name dozens who just defeating in the whole business.
AP: And then they can't get out of it. the people won't let then get it out of it. Everyone says to you "Do this way, and then when you get successful you can do what you want." But it doesn't work that way.
>>>What destroy the creative impetus in an artist is the fact that they lose their imagination. The whole system prevents them from continuing: you can't then grow as fast as you want to grow, you have to grow at the speed of market place. The market place is very big and takes a long time to grow, it's much slower than the individual who can quickly assimilate a lot of information and experience. So when they keep doing that one thing over and over again and suddenly they find out that their muse, or whatever it was that worked for then that made them creative, is lost. And they just can't get it back again.
That's one of the refreshing things about Bowie, that he's constantly changing direction.
AP: He stays very much in contact with people. He's a very social creature, he's always hanging out and getting experiences. He likes working with good musicians. This is a thing Brian Eno claims he doesn't like doing, he says, "Oh, you like working with good musicians, but I don't." I don't know why.
It possibly has something to do with his ideas on chance. A good musician is less likely to make mistakes than less accomplished musician, so perhaps he feels that from the chance interaction of mistakes some interesting new possibilities might emerge.
AP: I've dealt with the mistakes already, in the compositions. Too many mistakes would make it completely inaccessible, so I like musicians who can smooth it out a bit. It really helps to get that kind of sound, Plus the fact that with good musicians it's easier getting things together: it takes less time, they're sensitive, they can get around their instrument, they don't have any blocks about it, they can play whatever they hear...
Isn't it also a part of not having recently worked with a band such, but always having been 'Annette Peacock plus musicians'. If you're not working with a regular musicians who can find out where you are and what you can find out where you are and what you want form a particular line and instrument and equate the two quickly. 'whereas if you had a regular band then the musicianship wouldn't necessary have to be of such a high caliber because you could work things through together, and have time to do it.
AP: The problem is finding players who have enough dimension. If you find players who can play free then they can't play rock and if you've got rock players then they can't play free. So I've been forced to emerge and express the things I want to express working with lots of different people who can do the different things very well.
>>>I originally wanted to come to England and form a band that played practically. But what happened in England is that they lost the whole middle period that happened in New York so they're torn between total chaos (that they consider to be free jazz) and trad. You didn't have this step in between like Jimmy Guiffre and Paul (Bley) were creating at the time. So they didn't know what was happening, and they couldn't relate, in a sense, to a music that was moving freely through chords and through time together, as a band. So maybe I tried to do it with too many players at once, too many instruments. But I found it was impossible to get that working so I had to take another tack.
Which was the solo approach... just you and the keyboards.
AP: I decided to do that. Just doing it solo, and trying to work some solo things out. Trying to put that out by myself, as I couldn't do it with anybody else.
And that was why this very low-key approach to gigs was adapted?
AP: All I wanted to do at the time was just to get back into performing. I did other things like performing at the Zanzibar, and all kinds of places that I hadn't played before, by myself. I just wanted to work solo for a while and see if I could hold an audience for forty minutes by myself. I did it just find it out.
>>>Also it's a good thing to listen to your music through your audience's ears, to hear it back. You can do that when you're playing, you can hear the audience reactions. Just to sit in a wine bar and play the piano and sing while everybody was chatting -- these experiences I had never done because when I'd been working with Paul we were suddenly on the big stage (like Montreux) and it was just case of 'do or die', just having lot of bravely and cheek and pulling it off. So I'd missed the whole intermediate thing that people usually do as clubs and work your way up. And since I hadn't performed for three years I thought that was what I wanted to do. Just getting back in the swing of things.
That early work with Paul Bley resulted in three collaboratory albums and eventually your solo record, I'm the One. Your lyrics are often printed on the record covers (and reveal themselves to be thoughtfully constructed, rather than the generally low standard of lyrics so often associated with jazz base material). Yet on the record itself the vocals are often overwhelmed by the electronic treatments becoming almost just a vehicle for the vocal line. However the fact that they have been printed on the sleeve suggests you see then as more than that. What sort of balance between the sense and the music of the lyrics were you aiming for?
AP: The problem was that at the time I was trying to perform two functions: as a singer and lyricist and in using the voice as an instrument. And that was a bit confusing, it was difficult to do both things at once but I'd always bite off more moderate these days and do a little bit less, The less you do the easier it is for people to relate it. Actually they pay you more to do less; you can't understand it, you want to give your all and do as much as you possibly can, but it doesn't work that way. But I was very young and very passionate, had all this energy and I just wanted to do everything all at once. I was trying to make several points at the same time. I had a rock background with the voice, a free jazz background with the lyrics. I was trying to cover many territories at once. Now it's getting a little bit more focused. I'm feeling clearer about what I want to do in creating an environment for the voice and lyrics.
DUAL UNITY found you working with Hans Bennink, a superficially unlikely combination. How did that particular grouping come out?
AP: What happened was that during the tour we were in Berlin and we went to hear them. We were just hanging out in a club and there was Han Bennink and Peter Brotzmann doing a duet. I was just holding my sides laughing, it was like he (Han Bennink) thought he was in a butcher's shop and they were cutting heads off chickens or something. Afterwards I just went up to him and said, "You're the most amazing drummer I've ever heard, " he was very sweet and said, "Thank you very much". I said, "Paul, we've got to work with him", and Paul said, "Are you kidding?.... He'll kill us." I said, " Don't worry, with the synthesizer we've got all the volume; we can wipe him out if we need to." So we did some gigs, which went really well. That's how we ended up working with them.
>>>The next thing with Han is that he's so powerful. The only way you can control him is to constantly throw him off guard, So the free-er you are, the more imaginative you are, the more surprising you are, the more he stays and relates. Otherwise he just goes off on his own and you're just left standing. We managed to psyche that out and I played that role while Paul solos, an intermediate role, like the bass player's. It went very well considering that was the first time together. Those tapes are the first time we played together.
>>>But Han is such an amazing drummer: he can do anything. Any way you want to go he can go, and he's ready and he's there. He was the first drummer I had heard who was, in a sense, an electronic drummer because he had so many sounds.
Following the release of those early records, and particularly I'm the One, David Bowie's management (at that time) Mainman, signed you up. What do you think attracted Mainman to you n the first place?
AP: David Bowie. David Bowie was crazy about me. He kept talking about me. I asked Tony (DeFries) what ad happened. He said, " David was talking about you for a whole year. I listen to everything; he has millions of ideas, but the things he talks about consistently are the ones I pay attentions to."
>>>The first time I met him was in the studio when I was recording the RCA thing, I didn't know he was David Bowie. I have this thing about not having anyone in the studio who isn't directly involved in the music, because I think it's distracting for the musicians. So I asked somebody to get him to leave and the next thing I knew he'd got a copy of the record and he liked it. He talked Tony DeFries quite a bit about it and then I met Tony at the Columbia convention and He eventually signed me up.
It seemed at the time as if what he was interested in doing was withholding you from the public in order to build up a kind of mystique about you, which would have been fairly straightforward on the basis of these quite weird albums which bore your name when so little other information filtered through about you. But it seemed as if before he got around to doing anything the whole thing fell through.
AP: I think you might be right. I think he wanted to erase the jazz element in my background and that image because jazz wasn't selling at that time -- jazz records had very limited sales. That observation seems to be quite astute.
>>>What happened with Mainman was that he (Tony DeFries) was so busy promoting David (Bowie) that he didn't have time to work on anything else. So for a year he just paid all the bills, gave me studio time -- with a charge account at the Record Plant in New York and at the Lenny's Music Store. So I bought a lot of equipment and did some recordings. But he said no to a lot of things. He said no to a supersession with Al Cooper and Mike Bloomfield, and Al Cooper wanted to produce a solo album -- the first one on MCA -- he said no to that. He said no to The Newport Jazz Festival where we were going to do an electronic night with Chick Corea and Paul Bley and where I was going to play with my own group. As he was paying all the bills I felt that he had a right to make those decisions at the time. He was talking about that not being the right way to break me and I should wait until I had control over it, but he never had really had the time to devote it.
>>>So I finally said no to him. What else could I do? There was no activity at all. Then I came to do a tour in Scandinavia and came to England to get my plane back. I was negotiating with Essex Music to do a publishing deal and missed my plane back. I had no money, I tried to get some things to sold but it just didn't happen. I just waited around for things.
>>>I just couldn't get anything sold, it was as simple as that. No one wanted to buy any of my product. There was a depression in the record business during the seventies. I knocked few doors and when I saw there was no response I wasn't about to bruise my knuckles. So I came out to the country for three years, fell in love, wrote some music and just enjoy life while I waited for things to happen and waited for the phone ring -- which it didn't do too often -- but I got a couple of nice phone calls and landed up making another record.
>>>I had a feeling that a movement was going to happen out of England. And it did... the new wave thing happened. But that was the kind of tapes that I was trying to sell when I first came here '74. Those were the tapes that appear on the first side of (of X-DREAMS) that I'd done earlier in New York. But no one wanted anything to do with them. Record companies don't sit up and take notice of an individual, they take notice of a movement. Even with Dylan it was a whole movement: Columbia signed up a lot of artists who were in the folk thing at that time, and some of them broke really big. So I just sit around and wait for the right time. I've learned a lot about patience, let me tell you.
At the time there was talk of Brian Eno recording you for an album to be released on his Obscure label. Did anything concrete ever grow out of that?
AP: Brian came down and recorded the first solo gig at the Phoenix and we went to Island studio and we were going to do a solo vocal track for an album he wanted to do of vocals. We disputed over the fact that he wanted to do it with the voice alone. Then I think he got sidetrack from doing the album because he started at that time working with Bowie and then got in to doing a lot other things. I don't know what happened to his label, Obscure.
Management (with whom Eno is signed) moved over to Polydor. However, Polydor seen to have taken on Obscure and are slowly re-releasing all those albums.
AP: I think at that time he was negotiating between virgin and Island and trying to make up his mid about these things. Anyway, we'd done these studio things and I'd experimented around and I was going to come back and make decisions about some thing we were going to record but we never actually got back together. I didn't follow it up and neither did he. Anyway, I'm going to speak to him when he comes back and find out what he's going to do with the tapes, if anything. If not then perhaps he'll give them back to me. There's no point in them sitting around in his collection if he's not going to do anything. But he given me beautiful speakers to look after for him in the meantime, which I very much appreciate. He was going to open his own studio as well, which didn't seem happen either.
>>>But person like that he's got so many possibilities and choices if things to do, it's difficult to focus his attnetion.
Another recording venture had been your involvement with Bill Bruford on his solo album Feels Good To Me. How did you become involved in that?
AP: I met Bill and we went into the studio and recorded some things. We did 'Real and Defined Androgens', second track on the new album, and he really liked my voice. When he came to do his album (this is the story he told me anyway) he asked Robert Wyatt still wasn't doing anybody else's material and he said to get Max Bygraves to do the bottom notes and Gracie Fields for the top ones. So Bill immediately called me up, and that's how it happened.
>>>I can sing anything you know? Bill says I'm a character actor in that I don't really sing so much as act the parts, which is probably true. If you listen to the album the voice and the personalities change from track to track. So since I don't study music (like a 'Cleo Laine') and just work on my instruments and my lyrics that's what I have to do.
>>>Once I compose a song I have to find a way to sing it, Paul says, "Why don't you compose something that you can sing for a change? So that you don't have to figure out a way to sing it?" But as result of that I seem to have developed a style I can do pretty much what to do with my voice.
At your Roundhouse Downstairs concert with Pete Lemer you prefixed and suffixed your solo set with songs on tape that you'd recorded with other musicians. Are any of those songs on X-DREAMS?
AP: Yes. Different mixes and things like that, but they're there.
Were they originally recorded with a specific view to putting out an album at that time?
AP: No. I had no record deal in the offing at all. I had a couple of ballads... you know how it is, I had a couple of ideas and I just thought I'd try them out.
It seems very much as if you wanted to use this album to present the continuity of ideas that you have evolved since 1972 (when you released I'm the One) including material from your time in America.
AP: The first track was recorded in America in 1972, the rest was recorded in England. If I'd recorded a completely new album those tapes would never have been put out. Record new material is what I want to do now. But a lot of people felt that those tapes were worthy of coming out, that they were definitive tapes even though they were very spontaneous. That do accomplish something in that there isn't any thing like that really. Ideally of course one would like to stay with a concept long enough to make one album if the total thing. However, I'm very happy with this album as an idea -- I think it's quite interesting to be able to show that much dimension on an album. Present continuing ideas rather than an isolated facet. I'd like to record another one right away, that's current.
Would that be AURA again?
AP: I don't know until we work out the terms of the contract -- and you can print that! I really don't know, but some friends of mine (some nineteen years old friends) have a really great philosophy: just take it as it comes. This business is very uncertain any way unless you have total control over everything, which is of course ideal, but not easy to get.
If you feel ready to make a new album can you visualize what directions your music might take?
AP: I always ready to make a new album. I've just so much material. But I'm not going to do hard rock anymore, I'm not interested in doing that. The only way I'll do hard rock is for someone like Bill Bruford. I'm just crazy about his drumming and working with really good improvising musicians.
>>>I'd like to deal just deal with the philosophy of the songs. I want to just take all the forms I can think of for songs and just be as free as I possibly can with them. I want to incorporate all the things I was doing with Paul -- but not the totally free things -- I want to incorporate time changes. I don't want anything free, I want the illusion of freedom without it being totally free. I want changes of tempi and mood in ways which sound very into the lyrics at the moment in terms of philosophy, people, relationships and things like that.
>>>I think I'd like to make alternative kinds of singles. I'd programme songs to be singles -- but not in the traditional sense. They'd be just exactly the way the singles go, with a hook in it and all that kind of things. I can never do anything really straight anyway, no matter how hard you try, so it doesn't do me any harm to do it.
You said you that you're not really interested in working with the hard rock format any more. Why is that?
AP: Well, I don't really like the louder sorts of music you know. If I'm here at home and I listen to music I'm either going to dance to it (in which case it's going to be the disco music and stuff like that) but if I just have music playing I prefer something a little bit more delicate and gentle. I think a lot of people feel that way, and that's why ECM had sold extremely well.
>>>I think that's going to be a trend -- I can feel it. I'm usually ahead of my time so maybe I'm not right. But I think that inevitably there will eventually be a trend back from all the hard, heavy things to something that is easier. Especially if you want to say something that is meaningful and profound: people take it so much better if you're not beating then over the head with it, if you say it gently and softly.
You said earlier that bringing in this gentler approach to the free music in the early days was possibly a result of your femininity. What effect do you think that being a woman has played on your career in terms of both you music and the way that the business had reacted to you?
AP: It is very difficult. Men have an attitude towards a woman based on their own personal experiences with woman (who may, or may not, be artists); their attitude is based on their own personal relationships. Men naturally -- according to the nature of the creature -- feel that they must have control. Of course, with my nature -- being a woman -- is to let a men be in control. Once you realise that you find a way to work with them.
>>>What I usually do is that I just let them have the power, and let them shape things. As they're shaping things I get an idea of how to pull it all together at the last minute and then I stand very firm on a few points (which they're not prepared for because I haven't taken a strong stand before) and that pulls it all together. But I like to work cooperatively anyway because I don't really like to have power and control. It's not on my nature say, "OK, now this is how it's got to be done". I'm not into that; I'm into a more relaxed kind of a way to make things happen. I find even in the studio when I work with musicians, if I let them have the freedom to express themselves within a song, then once they understand what the song is about they give an inspired performance which I'm always very happy with. They are more involved , so they enjoy it more and it works out for the best.
>>>Of cause with Paul (Bley) when we started off it was very difficult because we were together and we were living together. I had a lot of very unhappy experiences trying to get the music done. But that's only natural; working and living together is very, very difficult.
>>>The business people don't dig it, they don't take you seriously. They do now because I've been consistent long enough for them to know. But they think you're going to go off and get married and have kids and forget about your career. I don't really come on like a businesswoman or terribly outrageous or shocking; I just appear very relaxed and sensitive. Then I can have problems, because they misinterpret me and start relating to me as 'a-man-and-a-woman', and that's confusing because you're trying to do business with them. But that's not their fault either because they're man, they can't help it and I can't help being the way I am. That gets sorted out after a while. Once you understand how a man is naturally, and how you are naturally, it's easy.
At the moment there is a fairly strong corpus within the women's movement that is concerned with the feminist music. Part of the argument being that there is a feminine music which has not had a chance to flourish within the context of our male-dominated societies. There is an argument which continues that this music must be allowed to develop its form and vocabulary in isolation from males because the presence of men encourages women to fall into the behavioral patterns created by the male-dominated society. Do you find yourself in sympathy or argument with these views?
AP: I disagree. I think that a woman can only be really feminine while she's relating to a man and -- just as with a man relating to a woman -- her music is a manifestation of the relationships which she has and her experiences. And that's very important. In everything there's a series of aesthetic balance and its a dual kind if existence of all the opposites. I think there's a danger in getting too far away from your nature. If I'm alone I find that my music becomes so personal and eclectic that it's not going to relate to anyone. I do that quite frequently, I have long period if time in total isolation, and I might just as well make the music for myself. So I think it's very important to continue to be alive and relating to your experiences. I think men play a very big part in women's music just as women play very big part in men's music.