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London Calling

Evan Parker

By Published: March 9, 2003
AAJ: How much of that would you envisage emerging?

EP: Until I actually start to blow the dust off the boxes and to poke around, I can't say. But even if it were just transformed into one seventy-nine minute full-to-the-brim CD, it would be a very different experience in terms of coming closer to the feel of the original event than two twenty minute LP sides where you have to jump up and turn the thing over. But it could very well be two CDs. I don't know. It would be out on a limb somewhere. It wasn't the best selling Incus record of all time, by some margin. But I don't think it was quite the worst either. (I won't say what that was.) Yes, most of that will come out. When I left Incus, we agreed that my copyrights and recordings were mine to do what I like with, and that the projects that were neither Derek's nor mine would revert to the leaders of the dates, effectively as tapes that had been licensed to us.

So I am gradually reassembling a corpus of work. I like to do that. It seems a good time to be working on that kind of thing. And Psi is a perfect vehicle for that. And I must also do more recordings of the kind that people would expect me to do. I can say one because I'm going to talk to Martin about this later this afternoon. I would like to do a London Improvisers Orchestra improvisations-only record. That would probably be three or four improvisations from three or four different Sundays over the last three or however many years it is. They have all been recorded and I would like a CD that was just the pure improvisations. Martin might say that should be on Emanem or he might say, "OK." We'll see.

There are things like that. On down from there—starting at the big end of the scale, right down to solo projects of people I feel are more than ready for a solo record. I think this afternoon I might deliver enough material for a two CD set on the free zone at the Appleby festival last year with Sylvia Hallett, Philipp Wachsmann, Neil Metcalfe, John Rangecroft, Marcio Mattos, John Edwards, Mark Sanders and myself. That should be nice. Recorded by Chris Trent, the Sun Ra expert. That is pretty much ready to go. Then there is material from Japan, the tour I did there with Paul Lytton, Lawrence Casserley and Joel Ryan. All those concerts were recorded. Then there is a great quartet from a year later, also in Japan, with Otomo [Yoshihide], Sachiko M and Ichikawa Ko. I would like very much to bring one set of those two sets out. We did two sets at a place called Pit Inn in Shinjuku. The second set was about an hour long and I was very happy with that. I love the sound of the sho. Ichikawa Ko is an excellent exponent of that.

Then there is a bunch of studio trio things that Steve Beresford produced in the dark period between the end of Incus—the down period, as it were—that I recorded for myself with the intention of starting something, but they just languished for a bit. But they are good. What else? There is plenty of stuff, I can assure you, but of course, the stakes are higher now. For me, the things have to make a space for themselves. There has to be a need for them. Not just, "Well here's a tape so therefore there is a CD."

AAJ: I wanted to ask about that. You are infamous for the number of CDs you release. Does Psi come with a special seal of approval, what you see as the best available?

EP: People might make that assumption, but the fact is that you can make just as bad a mistake when you think you are doing absolutely the right thing as you can when you just make a mistake. These things take a little bit of time to shake down. There probably will be Psi records that, with the benefit of hindsight, you might say, "Well, there wasn't really a need for that because of X, Y or Z." But you go into a project with some sort of clear idea about why it makes sense.

AAJ: What about the name, Psi? You have made comments about the psi phenomenon and all of that. And about the golden ratio. Psi is a whole mass of things.

EP: Yes, yes. It is a core belief of mine that group improvisation works partly because there are intuitive and telepathic understandings between the players. At its best, there are psi phenomena at work. But then the other stuff—the ratios, the mathematical symbols—it makes a nice kind of feel. I am interested in all those things, and I wanted something different. That is why it's Psi.

AAJ: Could you say a bit more about the psi phenomena in group playing. I know that, at one level, it is not accessible to being talked about...

EP: You know that thing that people sometimes say, "That was so good, it could have been composed." Well I've given up saying "Thank you" to that now. My response to that is, "It was." "Composed" only means "put together." We put it together. It sounded put together; it was put together.

AAJ: Put together as we watched?

EP: Well, no. Yes and no. If all there was was the time that the performance had happened and the time in which it was perceived, on the clock, measuring about the same duration, you wouldn't make any sense of it and we wouldn't have been able to do it. The reason we were able to do it is that we carry a lot of information with us from other times and places, and so did you the listener. And the more you get into the music, the more specific that kind of knowledge you bring with you. And we play to that; of course we play to that. We play to the informed listener. We don't play to the person who's tumbled in for the first time. We're not looking to make it easy. There are plenty of people out there playing music like that. People who drift into these darker corners where we operate are interested in pulling people with them. We want listeners to do half the work. That is often used as a criticism of the music, but I think it's a fairly superficial criticism. I'm not sure what improvised music with a touch of popularism would sound like. Tricky?

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