So where did this story move to next? LP:
In October, I flew to North Carolina to attend the third prog festival of 2000, ProgDay, and had by this time also made plans to attend BajaProg festival in February 2001, in Mexicali. Through all this time, I continued to correspond with the aforementioned Andrea Soncini, and since I had made a number of contacts from Mexico at ProgFest, in LA, I decided to try to book Finisterreand actually succeeded! I booked them at BajaProg 2001 in Mexicali, for another big gig opening for the British prog icon Peter Hammill
in Mexico City, and for six more shows in Central and Northern Mexico.
So: I had never been to Mexico before. I had never met Andrea Soncini nor had I met the band Finisterre in person before. But thanks to a few guys I met at ProgFest in L.A., I booked Finisterre in Mexico. Thereafter, I negotiated their gigs, arranged and purchased their flights, and the rest. That was the first tour I handled in my life, and that's how MoonJune Music, my booking business, started. AAJ:
When and how did MoonJune Records follow? LP:
In the meantime, Elton Dean was asking me to help him with a live recording, a duet with the English midi guitarist Mark Hewins who I also knew from his association with the reformed Daevid Allen
. D.F.A. had just sent me the live recording of the fabulous performance I'd witnessed at NEARFest 2000. In April 2001, I made the decision to release those three live albums together, and that's how MoonJune Records started!
So, in May of 2001, I had three releases on MoonJune: Dean/Hewins Bar Torque
, Finsiterre Storybook
and D.F.A. Work In Progress Live
. That summer, I decided to go to NEARFest 2001. I rented a merchandise table on a whim and, accompanied by the curious 17-year-old nephew of a friend as my helper, MoonJune Records officially became a label! AAJ:
So how or where do the Soft Machine variations come back in? LP:
At this festival, I ran into many friends I had made at some of the festivals I mentioned from the year before. One was a friend from Japan, Tatsurou Ueda, and we started talking. I asked him pretty casually, "Hey, is Soft Machine popular in Japan?" He said they were, so I shared with him that story of Elton Dean, Soft Ware, and my dream and Elton's dream to reform Soft Machine or a sort of Soft Machine. It's hard to believe, but he informed me that he had a very close friend who was a major player in the Japanese music business market, and that he would introduce me to him.
He went back to Japan and then a few weeks later I received an eMail from Tatsurou, introducing me to Masa Matsuzaki. I will never forget his eMail: "My name is Masa Matsuzaki, my company is interested in Soft Machine reunion. If you can make it possible, my company will arrange a deal with Universal Japan, and give you big advances.
Well, I was very excited, and so I contacted Elton, even though we still hadn't recruited the fourth band member yet. Keith Tippett still wasn't interested, but Hugh Hopper and John Marshall certainly were.
The following month, July 2001, I met Ken Kubernik back in LA. When I explained the situation, he immediately became excited and suggested that he could contact his old friend in London, Dave Stewart
. When I suggested Dave Stewart to the other three, John Marshall, who was mainly a jazz drummer, wasn't very familiar with Dave or his playing. But Dave Stewart was "persona non-grata" with both Hugh and Elton. It is one of those things that only musicians knowor don't know, maybewhy they dislike or hate each other. But we were left still searching for the elusive fourth member to round out the group.
That November, I met Ken in LA yet again. Smiling from ear to ear, he gloriously announced: "The next time you are in LA, I will drive you to San Juan Capistrano and will introduce you to the greatest guitarist who ever walked the Planet Earth!"
I answered, "You mean, I will meet the mighty Allan Holdsworth, one of the all-time greatest heroes of mine?"
Ken answered, "Yes, sirand THAT will be the most amazing Soft Machine reunion humanly possible!"
So as soon as I got back to New York, I phoned all three. Hugh Hopper was evidently very excited: "Holy Cow! Allan Holdsworth! YES, I want to play with Allan Holdsworth ... he is a genius, I always dreamed of playing with Allan Holdsworth!"
Hugh and Elton had never played with Allan before, but John and Allan had a history together in Soft Machine and several jazz projects, back in the '70's.
So, in January 2002, I found myself back in LA, and Ken drove me down to San Juan Capistrano, where I met the mighty Allan Holdsworth. I immediately liked Allan's vibe, and he liked mine. It was our first personal encounter, even though I had seen him perform so many times before, and after about ten minutes of chit-chat and quality draft ale, I asked this mighty, gnarly geezer: "Allan, would you like to join Soft Ware, the Soft Machine reunion, with Elton Dean, Hugh Hopper and John Marshall?"
Quickly, he responded: "You mean John fucking Marshall? THE fucking John Marshall, one of the greatest drummers in the world? Oh yeah, I want to play again with my old buddy, the great John fucking Marshall!"
So, we toasted to each other and shook hands! I really didn't have any idea what I was doing, really. Again, it was my "improvisational spirit" driving me to something that would change my life forever.