AAJ: Just to finish that off, it seemed that fifteen years ago, it wasn't just the practicalities of what was available. It almost seemed like an ideological position.
EP: Yes. I think that would still be my approach to a live recording. I think so. I would want location recordings of a group to represent fairly strictly what happened on the gig. Even though you have the problem of which gig. Many gigs get recorded. Many recorded gigs get quietly slipped on the shelf and forgotten ...
AAJ: ... or edited down?
EP: Let me finish! [Laughs.] Even the ones that are issued are often edited. Maybe it starts with the rationalisation that you have two hours of music but only seventy-nine minutes of disc space, so which bits should you leave out? Of course, they are the bits that you think are not as good as the best bits. So that whole question of documentary purity starts to look very shaky anyway. It always did. There were always constraints. I have spoken before about the most radical edit of all being the edit of complete omission. You can join things up together, but at least you are admitting those things happened. When you record something and don't use it at all, then you are almost trying to say it didn't happen. Again, you see how slippery it is? You're not really doing that. You are just trying to make a record. And there is no intent to deceive. There is simply the best intention to work within the constraints of the process. That means making choices, post facto choices. But you are right to shine the light in these dusty corners. Let?s see what we can find there. Let's clarify a few things. But I am still pretty purist in that sense. If the thing is supposed to be a live recording, then I probably won't snip anything out, unless it is some preparation noises where somebody thought the piece had started and somebody else didn't, or there is just an obvious place, structurally, where one thing stops and another thing starts. So, for example, on Live at Les Instants Chevires, with the trio, there were two sets. And the option is to put out a double CD and include everything. But that everything was designed as two sets in a jazz club, not to be a CD. And anyway, there were one or two little technical problems and dropouts. But apart from that, it is just which bits do you chop, which do you leave out. I think that has always been true of even the purest documentary recording. Except, say, the direct to disc thing that I did, Monoceros, that wasn't a live recording. But, in effect, that is as close as you can get to making a live recording in a studio, playing straight to the cutting lathe. Even there, I recorded two sides and those were the two sides that came out. I could have carried on recording sides until I was happy and thrown away the sides I didn't like, and it still would have had the air of something absolutely unedited. But there would have been that fact of what happened to the stuff you didn't like. I don't know if it was stubbornness on my part to just do the two sides, so I could say, "Well, that's it. That is what I did. I played one side, had a break and then played the other side."
AAJ: Interestingly, that is a studio recording. You still seem to be prepared to make the distinction between purity in the live context and impurity (or whatever) in the studio context.
EP: Don't forget that you are talking about work over a span of over thirty years. At a certain point, I suppose you feel that nearly everybody knows pretty well what you stand for, and if there is too great a contradiction or fall from grace, then somebody will remind you of it pretty quickly. I hope I am making sense in terms of my own work, and in terms of trying to explain it.
[ Passage to Hades by Jah Wobble and Evan Parker is on the sound system.] This music in the background is an example of how complicated things can get. Jah Wobble's engineer, Cai Murphy, is a guy who goes for broke. Jah Wobble uses him on gigs and on recording, which is quite unusual. He is a phenomenal risk taker. Sometimes things can go completely mad, because he drives things so hard. But when it works, I think it is extraordinary. This record sounds to me like somebody spent five months in production. Actually, Cai works so quickly, he was almost itching to begin the post-production before we had finished playing. He was already playing us back stuff with bits of dub-type interactive engineering while we were supposed to be listening back to what we'd done. "Let me at it. Let me at it." This thing was worked at very quickly. He is an improvising engineer. He wants to get involved. He takes chances that sometimes produce howling feedback; everything has gone for a moment. But the payback when it works is extraordinary. There is a depth to the mix that is extraordinary for something that is done so quickly, so spontaneously.