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Eddie Prevost: Looking Back, Looking Forward

By Published: March 17, 2010

AAJ: Does it feel more prescriptive about what you do? It has a structure, in that certain things happen at certain times.

EP: It has and it hasn't. You look at it and, if it didn't have the bar lines at the bottom of the page, anyone looking at it would say, "What is the system? Is it just a book of graphics?" There are occasional little notes somewhere tucked away, but it is just a graphic device. It does have an effect on the way you play, without a doubt. But it did take away some of the emphasis from AMM itself, I think, which is just part of the new musical world. I'm glad people are doing it.

AAJ: AMM now—the last couple of times you've played, it hasn't just been the two of you; you've had guests in. John Butcher

John Butcher
John Butcher

—is he a floating member at the moment? A floating non-member?

EP: Maybe "member" is the wrong word. He is just somebody we both admire musically and socially. We get on well. He's a joy to play with and to be with. It hasn't been a conscious decision. The Conway Hall [where Freedom of the City was held, in May 2009] was a bit like that. I was obviously a bit nervous about John [Tilbury]'s situation, with his illness. That particular day, he was literally coming back from hospital—I forget which, now. There was a pretty good chance that he wouldn't be able to do it, not because he didn't want to but because he was tired. It just seemed to make sense to have a contingency plan.

John [Butcher] was an obvious person, as he was going to be there anyway. And then I thought it would be nice to introduce somebody whose music I admire and who's from a younger generation; that's why I asked Ute [Kanngiesser, cellist]. I think she acquitted herself very well. And Christian [Wolff] was there as well. It was going to be a strange one anyway. I quite like the material. I might well release it—I haven't got my head around it all. Nice music, well recorded by Sebastian [Lexer].

AAJ: Do you foresee that AMM will be the two of you plus one or more guests?

EP: I think we're getting too old now. We don't have any ideas of foreseeing anything. We've never been particularly proactive; we don't look for gigs. We used to try that years ago, but we were useless at it and gave up. It is too humiliating. It comes, or it doesn't.

AAJ: And if there is someone else on the scene, they might join in?

EP: Maybe, yes. It depends. ... We're quite reserved about that. We're not likely to be too promiscuous in that sense. There aren't that many people we could work with within that sensibility—that's what I meant. Both John and I do other things and we can work on those things in other contexts. That type of relationship does seem to demand a certain sensibility. I wouldn't be happy to risk it with too many people, to be honest. John Butcher, certainly.

AAJ: That works well, very clearly.

EP: Yes. He listens. He hasn't got a great sense of his own ego. He hasn't got to prove anything. He just does it. We kind of know where we are, in that respect. At the same time, he is challenging. And I hope that we manage to do that to him too. Otherwise there'd be no point in doing it.

AAJ: It is now five years since Keith went.

EP: It must be. I'm very bad with dates, but it must be.

AAJ: Any thoughts about those five years since he left?

EP: In what respect?

AAJ: Is AMM significantly changed as a result?

EP: I'm not sure it is, really. It clearly is aware of the absence of a voice that had a very profound effect on the way it worked. But it is interesting because it is slightly more exposed, and that, in a weird way, is an interesting challenge. To put it at its simplest—and this is almost simplistic— there was always the cover of a continuum that Keith provided. Keith obviously provided many things, one of which was this basic elemental thing, this continuum within which you play. Without that, we have to somehow create a sense of the continuum, not necessarily with any audible stuff. So it is kind of a weird one. I'd like to think that we do it by simply holding our nerve and creating a certain kind of presence, so that if nothing is actually seeming to go on, there is. That absence of material has got a tangible presence in itself.

AAJ: So it is about not panicking and feeling that you have got to fill in every space.

EP: Exactly, which would be silly. But it does mean that we are both exposed more, and we both have to be rather more conscious of that. With two of us, if one of us falls asleep, the whole thing's gone. [Laughs.] With three of us, if one fell asleep. it wasn't so bad. [Laughs.]

AAJ: In your last book Minute Particulars (Copula, 2004), when talking about Duos for Doris (Erstwhile, 2003), you talk about your situation in AMM being between Keith and John. That was a unique position, which has now gone, hasn't it?

EP: Curiously, it has presented us with new musical challenges, really. We wouldn't be human if we didn't think, "Is this going to work?" But once we did a couple of concerts and we recorded Norwich (Matchless, 2005), I knew that it was there. People say to me that Norwich is one of the best AMM records so far. I can't argue with that. I wouldn't say that was the case. I don't listen to them. I get so fed up with them by that time. As usual, we haven't tried to make a whole industry of it. There are still a few years between releases. There has never been a rush to make stuff available. We have been doing other things. John has been focusing on his Feldman, which is good and is coming to fruition now. And the book. [Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981): A Life Unfinished (Copula, 2008)]

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