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Derek Bailey Interview: September 2001

By Published: March 24, 2005

AAJ: Going into a situation like that, how much would you research what he is about?

DB: I don't research anything. I just know that we have played together before; we have done one gig, which is interesting because he doesn't perform. He won't sit on the stage, he sits out of sight somewhere and he also treats my stuff. That is interesting because as far as the audience is concerned, they think I'm doing it all. But in recent times, a lot of it comes through Zorn; he suggested Jamaal and Calvin, for instance. But I have suggested things when people have asked me, and they are not that keen, actually. Some of the records I make are just people approaching me about making a record; for instance, there is a whole bunch of electronic guys in Vienna who produce this whispering, and one of the trumpet players, Franz Hausinger, asked me to make a record with him, which I did. That was an unusual playing experience. Someone in New York asked me about making a record, and I said I thought it might be interesting to play with Wynton Marsalis's rhythm section. (Laughs) I don't know how far they tried to take this, but it didn't get anywhere.

AAJ: Where you surprised?!

DB: No, but I thought it might be interesting just to poke that area and see what came out of it. I just meant the bassist and the drummer. You never know. If the guy had got some money, they might just want to do it. Usually the things I suggest don't get very far, I have to admit.

I'm quite happy working here actually. I have been here most of the summer since July, I think, putting out these CD-R's; putting them together.

In Bailey's hallway and elsewhere throughout his home, there are stacks of boxes containing CDs ready to be mailed out if required. Like many independent labels, Incus Records has run as a cottage industry for decades. Recently, this aspect of the operation was emphasised by the release of two CD-Rs, Chats and The Appleyard File, available only from Incus. Both feature lo-fi, home taped pieces that mix guitar and speech from Bailey, often recorded as audio letters to friends and associates.

AAJ: What prompted you to release these CD-Rs?

DB: I've been doing these for decades. I've done hundreds of them. But I don't have copies of most of them. I enjoy doing it, and it gets me playing. I find playing and talking has got a certain interest for me. It doesn't matter what I'm talking about, that is more or less irrelevant, for instance, the Fred Frith thing [on Chats ] about the rain. As a means of communication, I just like to do them. Most of the things on Chats started off as one-of-one CD-Rs. Before that technology, I used to record on DAT and then make a cassette copy and send it. That is how I come to have copies. Before that, I used to record onto a cassette and send it, so I didn't have a copy. I've got copies of one or two, or sometimes I'd make two versions.

I've never got around to putting them out before apart from an occasional one on record. Martin Davidson [of Emanem] put out a CD of audio letters I sent to him when he was in Australia in the 1970s. On Playbacks there is a chat piece, but that is different because I don't play on it, just talk. The first chat piece I put out was in 1973 on a solo record called Lot 74 that has been out of print for years. They were never intended to be put together. There are lots out there. I still send them out and don't keep copies. I do about one a week, so there are hundreds of the buggers out there. I've sent three in the last month, and two I don't have copies of, because I recorded them straight onto cassette. When I put Chats together, there were 21 of them, which I thought was a bit too much. [The final version has 13 tracks.]

I have always been attracted to the cottage industry side of this business. To make it work economically is not easy. But I can start upstairs [in his studio] and record it, then come down here [to his computer] and put it on a CD-R. I can sometimes get [his partner] Karen to do a little package, because she does the artwork, and then I send it to somebody. I take great satisfaction from it; and it has nothing to do with the whole music wrapping thing. I've always enjoyed that. I've done a lot of it this summer.

The other one, the whole Charlie Appleyard thing is just personal stuff. You'd have to hear it. There are about ten people in the world who know who Charlie Appleyard is. There is no Charlie Appleyard but I've used it as a - what's the word - an alter ego. I don't know; sometimes it's other people. Charlie Appleyard can be anybody; but I've used him sometimes in chat pieces, and these are all chat pieces about the history of Charlie Appleyard. It is made up of one-of-ones that I have sent to other people; I didn't record them to make this record. I just thought I'd bring them all together. But it was satisfying doing those things.

I also get to record quite a bit here [at home]. People come to visit, partly because of Karen's cooking which is widely admired. For instance, J D Perran, the New York flute and saxophonist, who was part of the St Louis equivalent of the Chicago AACM, he's a friend of George Lewis. He was in London recently and he wanted to come over for a chat, and I said, "Yes, come up but bring something, an instrument." Then we would just record ten or twenty minutes, longer if it's going OK. I've got lots of those, I thought I might make a CD out of that, if they all agreed and didn't want huge fees. But I like working here. I worked in London a lot this year, usually depping for someone else. I've done three deps in the last couple of months, which is a bit odd because I would work on average about once a year in London. For me, I either work here [at home] or I go to the airport. I don't like travelling, but I do most of my playing in other places. I'll go somewhere if there is the chance of staying for a week or two and doing some playing. That's why New York is very attractive to me, because that's a town where you can do that, go and work for a couple of weeks without having to shoot off somewhere doing overnight gigs, which has become really unattractive.

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