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John Etheridge: More Than a Legacy

By Published: May 7, 2013
Soft Machine Legacy might be the focus of this interview, but Etheridge's other projects are also close to his heart. Does any one of them take precedence over the others? "If I had to choose, it would probably be the duo with John Williams, although John would never force the issue. He's very organized, anyway; his dates get planned years in advance. I'd drop quite a few things for Soft Machine Legacy, but the problem there is the reverse. When we try to get dates in Italy, for example, they never get fixed up until a month or six weeks in advance, so often one or more of us can't do it. In 2005, we set off for an 18-date Italian tour. When we arrived, it'd come down to 12 dates, and we ended up playing just three! I like doing my solo stuff, and that also works well economically. Sweet Chorus trundles on, and that's pretty cool. My duo with Chris [Garrick] has just finished a new album: we recorded a set of really gloomy, maudlin, songs over Christmas."

Etheridge sounds very cheerful about such gloomy tunes. "The duo covers a lot of ground musically, more than we do in Sweet Chorus. We do some of that material, but we also do loads of looping and improvising. None of these things usually involve more than 10 or 15 gigs a year, which keeps my work varied. I've also got an organ trio with Pete Whittaker and Mark Fletcher. I really want to record that project, too. It's not even listed on the website, but it's the next album I want to do. In the end, what I really like doing is contemporary blues-fusiony electric guitar. I hate the word 'fusion,' but that's really what I enjoy doing the most. I don't do enough of it. I think I enjoy Soft Machine Legacy gigs the most, partly because it's a democratic band, and I'm not the leader. We do have very enjoyable tours. I like them all as long as I don't have to do too much of the same thing."

Etheridge's work continues to be viewed with respect, leading to a nomination for the 2013 Parliamentary Jazz Award for Musician of the Year. "It's my third nomination. It's always very nice to gain that type of recognition. The first two times, I was very pleased to be nominated. I wasn't too upset not to win. I like to be part of things; it's reassuring. I think the profile of these awards has gone up a bit, so lots of people know I've been nominated this year. It came out of the blue. I'll be going along on the night, and I'll be chuffed to win. But it'll be OK if I don't."

Selected Discography

Soft Machine Legacy, Burden of Proof (Moonjune Records, 2013)
Soft Machine Legacy, Live Adventures (Moonjune Records, 2010)
Soft Machine Legacy, Steam (Moonjune Records, 2010)
Sweet Chorus, Small Hotel (Dyad, 2009)
Soft Machine Legacy, Soft Machine Legacy (Moonjune Records, 2006)
Chris Garrick and John Etheridge, At The Dimming of the Day (Flying Blue Whale Records, 2006)
Soft Machine Legacy, Live in Zaandam (Moonjune Records, 2005)
Sweet Chorus, Tribute to Grappelli (Dyad, 1998)
Soft Machine, Softs (Harvest, 1976)

Photo Credits
All photos courtesy of John Etheridge

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