December 20th, 2011 | Published in Blog
A couple of weeks ago we asked people we liked to contribute their reflections on 2011, and given that we began the year (and this site) with Daniel Spicer’s excellent interview with Ken Hyder it seemed fitting that we begin our round up with his thoughts on George Clinton, Ziggy Modeliste and the late Paul Motian, as well as a glimpse of his 21st anniversary tour of Russia and Siberia with long term collaborator Tim Hodgkinson. Click the link below to read what Mr. Hyder had to say.
This is personal.
I don’t buy many albums these days. I use WE7 to be surprised at tracks which pop up that the site thinks I’d be interested in. Consequently I’ve been listening to a lot of George Clinton.
I went to see a panel-rabbit event at the British Library where Clinton and Nona Hendryx were talking about black science fiction… questioned by a woman who was very serious, and who assumed that Clinton was into this very seriously too. So when she asked him about the deep influence of science fiction on his work, I smiled… hoping, almost knowing what the answer would be.
Which was – really, we were just having a party.
Suddenly the po-faced sensibilities were in the potty. If I had spoken to him afterwards, I would have said how much he reminded me of my grannie. But
that would have meant an explanation and a definition/translation of the gallus concept. From Wiki:
Gallus, a British dialect word, chiefly Scottish, derogatory in origin and meaning “wild, a rascal; deserving to be hanged (from the Gallows)”; later meaning self confident, daring, cheeky; stylish, impressive.
Gallusness continues to inform me, and Clinton fits the bill.
Another highlight of the year was an unusual gig – Ziggy Modeliste at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. It was a gig where I expected to see a lot of hip musicians hanging out. But I met just one – Pete Brown. It was years since we had met, and we went back to the old days and our mutual connection, Mal Dean the man who set up The Amazing Band. I took over the drum chair from Robert Wyatt who had become rather busy with Soft Machine, and it led to my first broadcast – on the John Peel Show.
So why was Pete at this gig then? This gig in the unlikely setting of Croydon, with, in my opinion, the world’s greatest living drummer – though my assertion sparked a debate with Pete who put forward Bernard Purdie. And I wasn’t arguing all that strongly. Pete was well into the Meters from way back, and I thought I had come to them later, but somebody pointed out that they were name-checked on my first album, out in 1975. And that was a long time ago.
So there we were in Croydon, watching Ziggy Modeliste driving a UK-band with the utmost panache, energy and intensity. Stretching time while staying in the pocket. Being accurate and loose at the same time. A lot of people missed this gig. It was the live-playing highlight of the year for me.
Then another under-rated musician… another drummer… passed. I say under-rated because this guy was so subtle it passed too many people by. But those who knew hired him to leave spaces of pregnant silences all over the place. Musicians like Bill Evans and Charlie Haden understood what Paul Motian was about. He was my last major drumming influence, alongside Ziggy, Elvin, Art, Plilly Joe and so on.
From watching him, listening to him and talking with him when we bumped into each other at festivals, I learned about space, and keeping things fluffy-buoyant with the minimum of strokes, often brush-strokes.
So finally, because this is personal, my own highlight was doing a 21st anniversary tour to celebrate the first of many incursions Tim Hodgkinson and I made into Russia, and in particular, Siberia.
In Tuva we got to hang with teachers, musicians and pals, including our brother Gendos Chamzyryn who played some of the anniversary dates with us. We played Kyzyl, Abakan, Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, Akademgorodok, Sverdlovsk, Moscow and Leningrad (1990 names, you see).
The last notes are to be heard here –
It was great to be back, because although we go regularly to Siberia, we usually go directly to Tuva because we find it so extra-special. Moscow’s traffic was mental, but it was a surprise to be playing in a dark club, singing through a stack taller than myself, and able to trigger a smoke machine with a pedal. Post-soviet gallus, I thought.
We met a lot of good people…eccentric people, one of whom converted his home into a castle…and we revisited the K-Space time machine in Akademgorodok, only to find that they had installed other additional time machines since our last visit there.
Of course they gave us free reign to try them out. We had passed the cosmophobe test on the original visit.
Roll on Hogmanay.
Ken Hyder, December 2011