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London Calling

Evan Parker

By Published: March 9, 2003
AAJ: Does that notion of the psi phenomenon apply mainly to established groupings? Would it be more applicable to the trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton because you have a common history?

EP: I wouldn't say there was a hard and fast rule, but activity which is not rewarded—even if you are dealing behaviourist levels of psychology—or, in this case let's say rewarding, doesn't get reinforced. So there is probably a good reason why some groups stay together and some groups don't. Now, you're probably right in saying that intuitive or psi-like activities play a huge part in that reinforcement. The desire to carry on playing is to do, in a very simple way, with whether you feel an understanding with other people. Even at the conscious level, if you send out cues, you are looking for a response. You send it round the group, you send out a little signal. The other night, [at the Vortex] Mark especially was sending a lot of stuff across. It is almost like a secondary level of activity inside the music; there is the flow of the three-way or four-way thing, but inside that you can have one-on-one specific messages being sent. The direction changes. "If you listen to me saying this, we two can make those two come this way." That is not even especially at the psi level or even the unconscious level or the intuitive level. That is just about trust among the players, that everybody is intending well by what they do. That is another very important factor for me.

So there are a lot of layers of givens or what should be givens before you get to the really finest layers of intuition and psi. When those givens are there and the above-ground materials are clear, then it is almost as if you dug the soil, applied the compost, got the fertiliser in place, OK now something can really grow. Or in the old Arabic dictum, "Trust in God but first tether your camel." There is a lot of tethering of camels that needs to be done. Then having done that, you can trust in God. Allow those otherworldly functions to come in.

AAJ: When you are playing solo, you are not interacting with anyone else, but is there any sense of possession, of it being out of your hands?

EP: Absolutely. But if you start to talk like that, you get a very poor reputation. "God plays through me." That type of thing. Except, the fact is that if you are not in conscious control of what is going on and you don't have a plan that you follow, then there must be some explanation for why things happen the way they happen. And they must therefore be beyond your conscious decision-making. I think you can hear the switches. I have talked a lot about left and right brain levels of consciousness. I think they are important. Steve Lake talks about the higher magic sometimes not being there. I think what he means is that sometimes I don?t get from the left-brain to the right brain, probably. So you hear somebody working but that is about it on a duff night or in a duff room.

AAJ: While it was in progress, would you be conscious of it not getting to that level or would it be after you heard it back?

EP: By definition, if you are thinking that way, you are not in right brain. So, yes, there are times when you are thinking that. When you are more aware of that mantra—"Higher magic, where are you?" They are like prayers, prayers to be released from the burden of knowing what you are doing, in that critical way. Because it doesn't help to be critically aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. It doesn't help. You have to get to a state where you are at one with the work, not judging it.

AAJ: When that happens, are you still in real time? Are you conscious of duration and so forth?

EP: (Laughs.) I used to be very good at duration but I've lost it a bit lately.

AAJ: The state you are talking about would seem to imply that you do go into a state beyond consciousness of real time.

EP: Except that there are little anchors, as it were, which, although the soul is suspended above the bed there is that silver thread that keeps it tied to the body. It is a bit like that in the playing. Certain things do remind you. One of them is the state of my bottom lip, which after a certain time will always need a bit of a break, especially in solo playing. And there seems to be another part of your brain that is simply watching. Not necessarily interfering but watching. And it knows its job is to say, "Time. Time, gentlemen." That is pretty much all it does. And it is all right if that is all it does. It just says, "Time up. Take a break." It is not really saying, "Oh this is going terribly. When the fuck is something going to happen? What is this shit about? How many times have you done this before? Are you still happy with this rubbish?" There is a guy that does that, but he is not terribly helpful. What you have to try and do is get him out of the way quite quickly.

AAJ: It sounds like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, with the demon on the shoulder?

EP: It's worse than that ... and funnier probably!

For access to a comprehensive Evan Parker discography, a biography plus MP3 sound samples, visit Peter Stubley's excellent website at:

The Dedication Orchestra—a 25-piece orchestra including Louis Moholo, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill—play London QEH on March 20th, Brighton Dome on 21st, Basingstoke The Anvil on 22nd, Birmingham Adrian Boult Hall on 23rd, Kendal Brewery Arts Centre on 24th, and Poole Lighthouse on 27th.

Government risking huge unpopularity again

As if Tony Blair and his government were not already unpopular enough for supporting a war that few people in this country want, they risk alienating even more voters with their proposed changes to the licensing laws in England and Wales. Currently, a pub or restaurant does not need a license for two musicians to perform, only for three or more. This is widely known as the "two in a bar" rule. The Licensing Bill proposes to liberalise opening hours, but to make all music-making a licensable activity. So "two in the bar" would become "none in the bar." As this change will hit folk and jazz particularly hard, some readers may wish to protest. There is an online petition to the government at
As to the war, I leave you to protest in your own way.

Curator for Meltdown 2003 announced

The last Meltdown festival at the South Bank, curated by David Bowie, was one of 2002's big disappointments. Given his musical history, one might have expected Bowie to be adventurous and innovative in his programming. Instead, it came across as one long ego trip. Consequently, I am reluctant to hype this year's curator too much. However, the appointment of Lee Perry does show a pleasing sense of daring and adventure by the South Bank. Incidentally, Lee Perry plays at the Jazz Cafe from March 23rd to 26th.

Only Connect and Barbican Jazz seasons

The Barbican continues its imaginative programming of music, with its Only Connect and Barbican Jazz seasons both containing fascinating, boundary-blurring events.

March 21st and 22nd. Kronos Quartet. On 22nd, they give a European premiere to Terry Riley's Sun Rings, featuring sounds from space.

March 23rd. Guy Barker. Featuring music inspired by author Rob Ryan's book Underdogs and from Barker's album Soundtracks (Provocateur), which pays tribute to film noir.

March 24th. Wayne Shorter with his much-acclaimed acoustic quartet with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade.

April 6th. Conjure. Kip Hanrahan's unique ensemble including poet and writer Ishmael Reed, Taj Mahal and David Murray, from the 1984 recording.

April 21st and 22nd. The Film Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard. Lee's films have powerful, noticeable music. Here various guests join Blanchard and his jazz ensemble, in an evening hosted by Lee.

Pinski Zoo are back

After a short tour last autumn, Pinski Zoo undertake a longer tour over the next couple of months, confirming that they are well and truly back. London Calling hopes to bring you an interview with Pinski Zoo leader Jan Kopinski soon.

March 12th. Midland Arts Centre, Canon Hill Park, Birmingham.
March 15th. The Lawn, Langworthgate, Lincoln.
March 22nd. The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley.
March 29th. The Shed, The Shed, Brawby, Malton, N.Yorkshire.
April 2nd. Susumi, The Wardwick, Derby
April 3rd. The Wardrobe, St Peter's Square, Leeds.
April 12th. Phoenix Arts Centre, Newarke Street, Leicester
April 29th. The Cluny, Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.
May 2nd. Union Chapel London.
May 10th. Lighthouse, Kingland Road, Poole.

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