A Fireside Chat with Thurston Moore
TM: As a record archivist, there was a young French guy who was working at Charly, which is a big European distributor of different titles and the guy who ran Charly, not this guy, but the guy who ran Charly was one of the partners in BYG in the late Sixties. He had started Charly as a distribution house and I think a lot of the jazz artists who recorded at that time, the ones that I talked to, it was a sort of time when everybody was in the sense of grow your hair, get high, and play music and fight the system and make records that are for the people. It was a very heady time and they all did that. There was these three guys in France who created BYG to be a label that would release records from a lot of ex-patriot free jazz musicians who were over in France and they did. One of them sort of held onto the masters and he is the guy who started Charly. The guy working there said that they had all these master and they had heard I was knowledgeable about the BYG label called the Actuel series. He said that they were going to put them out and he wanted to know if I would do liner notes. I asked what they were putting out and they said that they were only putting out the popular titles, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, and stuff like that. I said that that was ridiculous because what is interesting about that label is that it documented a lot of players that would be looked on as secondary, people like Frank Wright and Alan Silva and they made incredible records on that series. Alan Silva did a triple album of this huge, free symphonic jazz piece on that label that at the time was going for three hundred dollars to any collector that could find it. I wanted to do a record that samples all the records or at least a good amount of the records, but it was going to have to be a four-CD set because a lot of those records are full sides of music that are unbroken. It got to the point where I could do a three-CD set. I just did a lot of research. I found out about a lot of the sessions. I talked to people that were involved and I did it in collaboration with Byron Coley, who was a friend of mine that is a complete historian of that music as well. So together, we really dug in and they gave us like two hundred bucks (laughing) and a couple of CDs. We had a little problem with it because none of these artists got paid at the time and you are putting out these records now and I am sure you are not going to pay them again. A lot of it has to do with the fact that nobody has representation anywhere. I talked to Alan Silva about it and a lot of them were very uptight about it. I know Sunny Murray was livid. I said, "Look, if we don't do this, they will do it themselves and it is just going to be shoddy. It is going to be crap. All I want to do is people to have the literature of what was going on," and we even put in the liner notes about the relationships that exist unprofessionally. We sort of hint at it. We don't harp on it, but it is there in the liner notes. We put together a really nice package. We got together with the original photographers from the sessions and got work from them that was never seen and we made a really nice package out of it. I think they released a lot of the single CDs. They have certainly licensed a lot of them to different labels here and there. That wasn't our concern. Our concern was to do something that was respectful. It was a difficult situation because I know a lot of the artists felt like it shouldn't happen to begin with.
FJ: You are a noted record collector.