Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Derek Bailey • guitar, drum 'n' bass

This interview with Derek Bailey was undertaken by Stefan Jaworzyn (of Shock records) in mid-1995. It originally appeared in the magazine Music from the empty quarter (an irregular publication), no. 12, 1995. 

Derek Bailey:
Well, I did some recording... The jungle music's by Ninj - a beautiful piece, about 50 minutes - in fact it's five pieces I think. He does mainly studio work I believe - an interesting character. So he'd done his thing... I got to the studio - all this had been arranged from New York by Zorn and Laswell - the day before we were supposed to tape it. The studio was run by Mick Harris, a nice little place... I set up and tried a few things, then said to him, "Have you got a chair because I sit down to play.' And he said, 'No'(!) then, 'Well, there's one in there' but it was no good because it had arms. So he didn't have any chairs - but there was his drum stool. So I said, 'Well, I'll try the drum stool' but the drum stool was broken and it kind of weaved around. It spun round, but not only did it spin round but it conducted a circle in which it would spin - it would spin round in a circle, if you see what I mean - the upright was not upright...

Stefan Jaworzyn:
It swooped...

Derek Bailey:
Yep. So it was a fairly skilful business just keeping upright on it. (I should have asked Zorn for a chair. I realise now that when I got to Birmingham I should have phoned him and said 'There's no fucking chair here John - get a chair!'). We got talking about the way to record, and he played me a bit of the jungle stuff and I said, 'Don't play it just now.' Then I went back to the hotel, and I remembered about the chair, so I rang him up and said, 'Tomorrow, get a chair'. And he said, 'It's impossible.' So I left it with him anyway... I turned up the following day and there's no chair! I used the drum stool. It turned out that the drum stool wasn't really a problem. What was a problem was that Mick didn't seem capable of mixing a DAT and a live instrument. There were also some things that went on that were somewhat in the chair vein - like I played with the first piece then said, 'I'll just have a listen to that'. he replied, 'I didn't record it.' and I said 'What the fuck do you think I was doing?' and he said 'I thought you were just getting used to it.' So we started again. Anyway, we finished after about 40 minutes - by which time I'd been into the control box a few times. And by, let's say the third take, it was possible to detect that there was a guitar player. Now I was playing comparatively loud, but that doesn't mean anything if you're mixing - you're at the desk with a DAT and a live instrument - but there was nothing there (on the DAT). Eventually, as time wore on, I could hear some plinking and plonking behind this very nice jungle stuff - a bit like rain falling on a roof, very softly. I said, 'Just turn the fucking thing up Mick, don't worry about what it sounds like.' but we never made it onto the tape; after about 40 minutes my spirits started to sag...

Stefan Jaworzyn:
Uh...(Longish pause) So...

Derek Bailey:
(Laughs) Ninj was there - I have to say his enthusiasm was the only thing that was sustaining me - he seemed knocked out by what was going on. It's just that none of what was going on was making it onto tape! So I finally said, 'We're going to stop this now.' And Mick - it seemed with some relief - said, 'Yeah. Maybe you could record it at Laswell's studio.' I bet I could. And they've probably got chairs too... So the two lads helped me down with my equipment and I got a taxi back to the station and that was the end of that session... It just completely baffled me - he seemed so relieved when I said 'Let's pack this up'... It was getting louder, but I was getting exhausted - when it finally got to the point where it was starting to register on tape I thought it should have been over!
Anyway, I've got the Ninj DAT and the aborted DAT, so I'll probably take it over to New York with me in September. I've talked to Zorn about it and the arrangement is that we'll do it with Laswell.

Stefan Jaworzyn:
So it's not as imminent as I'd originally thought...

Derek Bailey:
Oh well, these things... Zorn's releases are backed up to the turn of the century...

Stefan Jaworzyn:
So Laswell will engineer it?

Derek Bailey:
No, it'll probably be Bob Musso - he's very good. Plus I can borrow his amp - he's got a fantastic old amplifier...

Bailey says that what he'd really like to do most is play a concert with 'live' jungle (ie: with a couple of DJs and several turntables for an uninterrupted flow of music), but there are obviously many attendant problems - not least the (presumable...) incompatibility of jungle and improvised music audiences, not to mention the difficulty of finding a suitable venue. I find this idea most appealing, and it strikes me as closer to Bailey's aesthetics than producing a CD with specially composed jungle. Well, I guess it now just remains to be seen what actually emerges from all the apparent chaos...

1. N/Jz/Bm (Re Mix)
2. Re-Re (Up Mix)
3. Dnjbb (Cake Mix)
4. Concrete (Cement Mix)
5. Ninj (De Mix)
6. Pie (Amatosis Mix)

Derek Bailey

D.J. Ninj
drum programming

Bass and drums recorded spring 1995 in Birmingham, England.
Guitar recorded September 1995 at Bill Laswell's studio, NYC.

Label: Avant ‎– AVAN 060
Format: 320
Country: Japan
Released: 1996
Genre: Electronic
Style: Noise, Drum n Bass, Experimental