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London Calling

Evan Parker

By Published: March 9, 2003
AAJ: I want to talk at some length about Psi. Firstly, why was there so long between the end of your involvement with Incus and the start of Psi?

EP: There have been lots of things going on in my life, so some of it was to do with that. I started to make tapes and assemble ideas. I was thinking about it all the time as something I would have to do eventually. Once you have had that feeling of complete control, it is very hard to beat.

I have been extremely fortunate in the support I have had from Leo Feigin [of Leo Records], Martin Davidson [of Emanem Records], from FMP, from Okkadisk, from various labels. They have all been a delight to work with. I suppose it is a testament to the community around the music. You just don't find many people that are not a pleasure to work with. In the case of Martin and Leo, you are dealing with two guys who have been there effectively from the beginning. I knew and got on well with Leo for years before I recorded for him. And I was always in touch with Martin whether he was living in America or Australia. Wherever he was, we stayed in touch. In fact he helped organise the first solo tour I did in America, when he was living near Philadelphia. Martin has always been an excellent friend of the music and the musicians. Leo's impact worldwide has been very significant in making people in different parts of the planet aware of what is going on, making people in America hear Russian music, people in Russia hear American music.

Another thing about all these small companies is that they are all honest, and on the artists' side. And polite. If they reissue something, they send you a copy. Even if there is no money involved, they are polite enough to send you one, which major companies are extraordinarily inept about. When they reissue things, they don't let the sidemen have copies of anything. Very strange. The very people who could afford to, and have the administrative wherewithal to behave decently are the ones who don't, and the people who are really struggling, working fourteen hour days, have good manners.

So, eventually it became clear that Martin was ready to really be a partner. Effectively, Psi is a sub-label of Emanem. Although when things get that micro, I don?t know if it matters. I can do things that Martin would not do himself, such as the Gerd Dudek record. He likes it very much but he just says that it wouldn't be something that he would do because he is specialised. That is the same reason that FMP gave for not wanting to put that tape out. It has existed as a production for a while before I put it out. At one stage I was thinking of having two labels. One called Psi for the free stuff and one called Phi for the stuff that I love but was not especially close to what I am associated with myself personally. I will carry on doing those things. There are several more projects like that. It works fine for Martin this way, because it is not confusing the image of his label. It is a model of a good working relationship. He is fantastically equipped technically. He knows computers much better than I do. He knows the various ways of mastering, mixing, restoring old tapes. All these things he is very adept at. And he is very together on the logistics side of things, moving things around, numbers—just a perfect complement, all the things that I'm not much good at he is great at. Somehow we have worked out an understanding that makes sense to him. Notional profit sharing and that kind of thing.

AAJ: I was going to ask about the Dudek album. Of the seven releases on Psi so far, it is an obvious anomaly, not least because it is the only one that doesn't feature yourself, and it is more in the jazz tradition than one might expect. So you are saying that it is not going to be a one-off?

EP: Definitely not. I have got so much Kenny Wheeler material that sooner or later we will have to come to the end of the project [to make a CD that Kenny Wheeler is happy with] and we will have to put something out. And I have just embarked on what could be an even more complicated project, which is to make a Ray Warleigh record that he is happy with. We have quite a lot of stuff recorded already and we will probably need to go back into the studio and do a bit more. I don't play on it; I am just in the box, listening and trying to say some helpful things, making a fool of myself most of the time. The producer's role is a very difficult one.

I'd rather not speak about too many other things, but there is a whole chain of possibilities there. In fact, there's a trio with Kenny, Stan Sulzmann and John Parricelli that actually grew out of one of the Kenny recording dates, and they have done a record for another record label, in between. There are other things in discussion, but I don't want to say anything indiscrete.

AAJ: So far, there has been a balance between new stuff and reissues, particularly Incus stuff. Would the expectation be that eventually all of your old Incus stuff would come out on Psi?

EP: Yes. The place where I see massive potential for significant difference from the original is an obscure thing called Circadian Rhythms [This was originally released on LP as Incus 33. It was recorded in 1978 at the London Musicians? Collective and features Paul Lytton, David Toop, Max Eastly, Paul Burwell, Annabel Nicholson, Hugh Davies, Paul Lovens and Parker.] There is hours, hours, hours of material. Lots of it needs careful restoration because it was recorded at quite conservative levels, partly because the engineer kept falling asleep. But it is the kind of material that I think could repay some careful work with Pro Tools and a lot of re-editing. So I'm quite looking forward to that. But when will the time ever come up when I can do that? There is about thirteen hours of that.

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