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Derek Bailey Interview: September 2001

By Published: March 24, 2005

AAJ: You're keeping the CD-Rs very low key, very cottage industry.

DB: We couldn't handle it otherwise. If a distributor said that they wanted fifty, I'd have to sit at this fucking computer burning fifty of them individually, and Karen would have to do the covers. It is OK because we get a dribble, more or less every day somebody from somewhere seems to want one, by e-mail, and I knock one off. I think it will die down. The first time I did anything like that, again in the early 70s, was when I put out these reel-to-reel tapes in little boxes. I used to make them and sell them for 60p. There was a bit of interest, and that was done just on word of mouth. That was OK, that was how it was supposed to be, but then it died away and disappeared. Then I did the same thing with cassettes some years later, at the beginning of the 80s. It is funny how they rear their heads later. For instance, Taps, the reel-to-reel tapes have come out on a CD from Cortical Foundation.

AAJ: And on vinyl as well.

DB: So at the same time I'm doing these CD-Rs, this box of hugely expensive vinyl turns up. In the shops they are selling for about £25. It's heavy vinyl, very posh. But they have reproduced the original artwork so it still says "60p" on the front. It seems ironic that at the same time as I'm knocking out these CD-Rs, there is a bunch of super produced expensive things that derive from the same kind of thing twenty or thirty years ago.

[ There are now eleven CD-R's available, including Chats and The Appleyard File. They are rarely reviewed and are only available directly from Incus Records, 14, Downs Road, Hackney, London E5 8DS, UK, for £10/$15 each. Details at the Incus website ]

AAJ: So, in twenty years, will Chats be on 200 gram vinyl? Funny old world, isn't it.

DB: It's like the empire strikes back, isn't it? You think you can fucking get away with this? Well you can't! When the guy who put out Taps first rang me up and said he'd like to put out these things, I said that would be nice, because he was waving quite a lot of dollars around. I hadn't listened to them for decades. But I said I didn't have the masters of them. And he said that he had them. You get these enthusiasts here and there.

Anyway, when this guy, Gary Todd, was putting Taps out, he said he would also like to organise a concert for the group Joseph Holbrooke that I used to play in with Gavin Bryars and Tony Oxley. I said that we hadn't played together for thirty-six years. I don't think Tony and Gavin had even spoken together in thirty-six years. Certainly the three of us had never been in the same place during that period. So I said I didn't know if it was possible. I gave him their addresses and he organised it. The concert was going to be in LA. We were meant to go out there, do a concert and make a recording. It was all set up and very handsomely rewarded. I was in New York, and I got sick. Gavin was in Hong Kong and got sick. So the only person who could go was Tony, who was with me in New York at the time. So Tony went and played with Fred Frith, out there. So that didn't work. But this guy has always had this ...I don't know if it is right to call it an obsession with Joseph Holbrooke. The name comes from an old English composer, late nineteenth, early twentieth century. When I first heard from this guy, Gary Todd, he said he'd got some records by Joseph Holbrooke. And I said there aren't any, we never made any. It turned out he was talking about the original Joseph Holbrooke. So it was all a bit weird. Then, because that LA thing fell through, we recorded over here for him and did actually get together. The idea was Gary's, but we got together for Tony Oxley's sixtieth birthday and did a concert in Cologne. So we'd actually done that. A strange reincarnation after thirty-eight years. It was kind of interesting play, I have to say. I guess that's the kind of thing you can only do once, have a thirty-eight year gap.

AAJ: I thought you'd said that the next time would be on your hundredth birthday.

DB: That's right, we're saving that. So shortly after that, Gary Todd came over here and we did three days recording for him. Two records. Now he has got that. But he has had a serious accident; fell out of a third storey window at 5-30am. I don't know who is handling it now. The guy has been advertising the records. There has always been something weird about trying to revive that group. One of the nights at Moat studio, we were having a sort of party and somebody let off a fire extinguisher. And in studios, the fire extinguishers are full of sand, so it was like being in a sandstorm. You couldn't see anything. We all got out of the studio. And when it settled down and we went back in, which took a hell of a long time, all the food and drink were covered in a layer of sand. It seems there is some... well let's not get into that oogly-boogly stuff. We did a concert earlier this year in Antwerp. That was recorded, but we can't get the tape. The guy keeps saying he'll give us the tape but won't.

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