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Interviews

Davey Payne: Ready To Play

By Published: December 31, 2012
The Spirit of the Man

Payne regularly intersperses his thoughts and ideas with references to philosophical ideas and experiences. He has his own theories on how people should treat each other, share and interact. When asked to clarify his beliefs, he responded, "Hey, if the universe as we know it started with a speck smaller than an atom and was created within a second and there are eleven dimensions or possibly multiple dimensions, I believe anything is possible."

Payne's spiritual journey started when he was 18 and visited a friend's grandmother who was a spiritual medium. She was, he remembers, in her 70s, with a straight back, healthy complexion and wore purple and green. Payne joined the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain in Belgrave Square, London and became a vegetarian, but was advised not to "dabble," and live with his feet on the ground. Payne says, "In 1970, when I was introduced to Sat Sang (an Indian philosophical idea), the English representative was surprised that I had found my way to them as I had been a spiritualist. I was advised not to dabble with healing, séances, and trying to prove a world beyond and was told this is the way of Radha Swami. Also, live in the world, stick to the diet and meditate—no showing off with rituals, bells and incense, etc. I now follow a form of third eye meditation taken from the philosophy of Guru Nanak. It's called Radha Swami Sat- Sang. Basically you try and stay at the third eye, in the head, between the eyes, using a five word mantra to help focus, and hope to see the moon, stars and hear the celestial sounds. I'm meant to follow a strict vegetarian diet and not take anything that would give me an altered state of consciousness apart from meditation."

Payne summed up his take on the opposing arguments on this area in a poem he wrote. "The cosmic bagpipes or the primal screams of the devil? Are they the cries of help from our deepest neuroses or celestial sounds from our inner soul? Is it the divine music of the astral plane or cacophony from the ego? Is Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
or Kenny G
Kenny G
Kenny G
b.1956
sax, soprano
the road to hell? And Sanders, the divine transcendent music? Is one man's hell another man's heaven? Ayler's screaming for freedom, beauty from chaos may be whipping people into a false sense of spiritual attainment. So will we gain wisdom through the music of Sanders or be dumbed down by Kenny G
Kenny G
Kenny G
b.1956
sax, soprano
's 'Songbird'?"

When explaining how he feels about music and its relationship with the inner spirit, Payne's response is profound: "I believe there is a divine music. It goes on; it's automatic, without anger, greed, lust or attachment and egoism. I think I experienced this once with a free music blow at the Paridiso in Amsterdam, and I hadn't been taking drugs, just mu tea and brown rice."

Payne willingly shares his ideas on music and philosophy. His inspiration, he says is, "I enjoy writing and it helps me to take stock of where I am and what I believe. I've always tried to share my information whether it's about music, diet, macrobiotic cooking, or relationships. Most people are cool anyway; they know where it's at, don't they?" Payne did develop a reputation for being something of a loose cannon and he recalls one incident at a gig, "It was in the early Kilburn and the High Roads. After smashing my saxophone, the flute went, and half of the PA that went in to the audience. It was a gig at Hornsey Art College, and Kilburn and the High Roads were supporting George Melly. A very young Madness were in the audience. I was pissed off with the sound and flipped. I think Lee Thompson, Suggs and co were quite impressed with the stage show, which led them to be the masters of naughtiness on stage."

Payne on His Own

After the Blockheads' initial success, Payne recorded a single, "Saxophone Man," in 1979. He also recorded an album, provisionally called Blowtorch in the United States but it never came to be released, largely because the ideas of the producer differed from what Payne wanted to put across. He said, at the time, that he did not want people from the record company [Stiff] dictating what he should put on his album. Initially they agreed and Payne recorded most of the album, including some self-penned tracks, "'Home James," "Wet Streets" and "Razor Blades," as well as cover versions of standards like "Say a Little Prayer" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," but the album was never released. The disparity between the producers wanting to capitalize on Payne's popularity—produce an album with funky/disco grooves perhaps—and what Payne wanted to do was perhaps too great. He had decided to use Day as his drummer and Day, being totally free, might play drums at a session, squeak balloons or read poetry depending on the mood and occasion. Payne says, "The last thing they [the record company] wanted was a mad saxophonist and bonkers drummer [Day] on an album." He remembered ending up in a jazz club in New York with Day and The Sex Pistols and PiL singer John Lydon.

Given the time he put into the project, has he ever hankered after a solo career or hoped to convey his way of playing more commercially? His response: "We all have something to say, and spiritually I shouldn't be political but, 'live by the laws of the land.' However, I did feel I could reach more people with a spiritual message if it meant using backing singers and playing an off-the-wall Kenny G solo [on 'Saxophone Man'], but it wasn't to be. Thank God my ego's big enough already and really most popular music is just simple folk songs embellished. Tchaikovsky embellished them well but, at the end of the day, the verse, head, theme, chorus, middle eight, solo, whatever you call it; it's just a formula."


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