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Eddie Prevost: Looking Back, Looking Forward

By Published: March 17, 2010

AAJ: What about the choice of what you play? Sometimes you play a full kit, other times not. What determines that?

From left: John Butcher, Eddie Prévost

EP: Well, I wouldn't play a kit with John Tilbury. I could do it, perhaps, but I'm very unlikely to do that. I might have done it more often a few years ago when he was in a more robust frame of mind. We've got too much history of that for it to be a problem.

AAJ: Is the workshop self-perpetuating now?

EP: Last year [2008] we had the month off, we had August off. And since that September, numbers have been significantly higher. Before then, it was a good nine to a dozen; there might occasionally be a few less than nine, or occasionally stray into more than a dozen. Now we are into between 16 and 20. Nineteen, last week.

AAJ: Someone coming into it for the first time—what would they experience?

EP: How would I know what they would experience? It's such a familiar situation. I am conscious how difficult it might be for someone who is totally unfamiliar with us as people, so it could be a daunting experience. But it is a sympathetic enough environment. It is quite a focused evening. There is no mucking around. Most people there are not playing most of the time. It says an awful lot about people's commitment to it that they know they are going to spend most of their time listening to someone else. I find it encouraging. I know this may sound odd, but I wish there was more time for everybody to play. But given the numbers, it has become impossible.

AAJ: How is it structured? You can't have 20 people all playing at once.

EP: Once in a blue moon, it happens. It happened last week. It is extremely rare and only for a short period of time. It was probably the case that all 19 of us were playing together last week for about a minute. What normally happens, at any of my workshops here or abroad, is that we are sat in a circle—this happens every week at workshop. As the opening sequence there is a series of duets, moving duets, so that everybody plays with the people on either side of them. And it shifts, so when somebody stops, then the person on the other side of the person they were playing with comes in.

After that, when we had fewer people, there used to be time to do other things, but sometimes we hardly get any time left after the opening sequence. It is all a bit silly. I say to people, "What do we do? You know, if you take a long time doing the opening sequence, there'll be no time for anything else."

I'm not an authority figure; I just say it as I see it. If they want it, they can have it; I don't mind one way or the other. I'm happy to sit there, not playing myself most of the time. They seem to want to do that. So it has remained. It is quite within their power to do it practically by playing shorter, or by saying we don't want to do this. As they haven't done either of those things, I can only assume it is what they want to do and to keep on doing it. Having said that, I'd be very sad if they did decide not to do it.

The opening sequence now can last for an hour and a half. If you sit for an hour- and-a-half and know that, of it, you are only going to be participating for 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour, you realize that you are listening, looking and learning. So it has that effect. And people seem to be respectful enough of everybody else to do that. Given the general culture, it is something quite enough. Nobody wants to be up and doing it, putting another record on or whatever. It is not as though they are all old geezers in their dotage like me, falling asleep. They are young enough to be my children, most of them.

AAJ: Presumably there is a core who have been going more or less since the start or for a very long time?

EP: Seymour and Ross are probably the longest-serving ones. It has always been ebbing and flowing. The workshop itself is an uncertainty; you never know who is going to be there. I guess it has never been the same, never exactly the same again, never an exact repeat of a grouping. I'm sure of that. Always someone missing or some new person turned up, and the dynamic alters as a result. That has always made it a bit interesting. People turn up who we haven't seen for years, which is lovely, or somebody new turns up—no idea where they came from or how they found out about it. But Ross and Seymour are probably the two long-serving people. There might well be someone back in again after a while who hasn't been in for a year or so. It happens.

It is predominantly a male-dominated thing. We have some women come, which is great. I wish we could get them all to come on the same night. There are generally only two, occasionally one on her own, occasionally three or four.

AAJ: Then there are the monthly performances at Café Oto. Does the group decide who is part of those? Is there a team captain who decides, or does that role rotate?

EP: It rotates. We take it from the register, in reverse alphabetical order. So whoever is next on that list is responsible for organizing the programming of the next event. They can choose whoever they like; the only proviso is that nobody is left out and they don't repeat someone who played last month.

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