Read the full transcription from Daniel Spicer's interview with the quixotic New York saxophonist
Daniel Carter: Now, I want to ask you about that England, man. I want to ask you something. I been hearing all kind of horrible things about England, man.
Daniel Spicer: Come on, ask me. England’s alright.
DC: Well, I know, if it wasn’t for England I wouldn’t be so mixed up in this language I’m trying to speak.
DC: Well, I don’t know where to begin, man. All I know is, OK – Heathrow, man. Really, I think it’s about the worst that I have to go through in airports in Europe. Of course, England doesn’t even consider itself to be part of Europe. So, there’s that, right. After 9/11, you know, at first, you couldn’t even fly at first, but then after you could fly, I mean I used to carry a lot of instruments that I wasn’t even authorised to carry before 9/11, but then right after 9/11 I just took an alto saxophone, but then, you know, months after that, and years after that, I took five instruments, man, and put them up overhead in the bin. But then, leave it to merry old England, and 7/7 and those so-called terrorist bombings, can’t carry nothing nowhere in the world no more, you know?
DS: Yeah and make sure you haven’t got too much shampoo in your bag as well, right?
DC: Right! Nothing like that! But listen, that’s just the lead up to the question. I started hearing some things that since the 1700s, England – I don’t know, maybe France too, but certainly England – already had – you know we talk about global government? – they already started to have a concept of taking over everybody.
DS: Yeah, well, the Empire was a good go at that. You take India and you take bits of Africa.
DC: Yeah, and I already heard some ironic things about India. I don’t know if you heard this before but you know the tried and tested divide and conquer technique, right? But they also had the idea of unifying India so that, when they left, maybe they weren’t so unhappy, you know, they say, they left it Anglicised.
DS: Yeah, ‘we’re sorry about all that but we’ve left you bureaucracy and trains.’
DC: Well, yeah, and you’re part of the Empire – or we can call it the Commonwealth.
DS: Yeah, the commonwealth, that’s a sort of ‘kind Empire.’
DC: [Laughs] Yeah, so it makes me wonder about the Revolutionary war. Did Washington and those people really win? Because, if I’m not mistaken, I guess it was England was the power on the high seas, right? So, whether they’re here bodily on the land or not, nobody can really do anything unless they’re halfway cool on the high seas. You know, they used to tell jokes that Tony Blair was the poodle to… you know, but I’m not quite sure [laughs].
DS: Well, they’d both be members of the same secret organisation, whether it’s the Freemasons or whatever, man…
DC: That’s what I figure. But, of course, if you talk to certain people then their eyes roll up in their head, you know, it’s all conspiracy theories.
DS: Well, you see, conspiracy theory has become like a dirty phrase.
DC: Right, like liberal or communist in this country.
DS: Yeah, it’s become like an expression, people say ‘oh that’s just a conspiracy theory,’ but there’s room for conspiracy theories.
DC: Yeah and then that other fantastic thing – to me anyway,
maybe you’ve known for quite a while – I had heard that when Lenin
left England to do the Bolshevik thing, he left with $5 million
worth of big British bankers’ money. So, you’ve bet on both sides.
You heard of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, right? I
guess that was set up by Rhodes and some other, I forget the guy’s
name. You know, big dudes, Cecil Rhodes all the way back from South
Africa. He had the idea that he was inspired by Weishaupt or
whoever the Illuminatus guy back in the 1600s or whenever it was.
Because people can say ‘oh, there’s no Illuminatus in the sense of
a family line,’ but whether there is or not, there’s an English guy
who was inspired by the dude, like we’re inspired by John Coltrane
or Bach, you know? Like Roundtables, you heard of those? You start
a circle – like the people in this room, right? – and we get along
and say ‘hey, let’s start a little club,’ but one guy actually is
part of another thing and we don’t know that he is, and he keeps an
eye on what we’re doing, he might make certain suggestions. And
then the group that he’s part of, there’s another guy or two people
who are part of that who they don’t even know… and it goes on and
on like that.
DS: You’ve got cells of people who don’t know who the other people are connected to. This is interesting. This ties into some of the stuff I was hoping to talk to you about anyway, which is about the idea of unification. You actually brought this up already, in a negative way – you talked about unified Government – but you’re interested in the idea of unity.
DC: Yeah, right, and that gives a whole 'nother take on, you know, when Hegel and Marx talked about the dialectic where, you know, you have somebody sets up a situation that will actually cause me to take a particular position and the same person sets up a situation so that you’ll take a certain position even though, initially, I’m coming from somewhere that’s not quite cool to these people and you are coming from somewhere that’s not quite cool, but they kind of get us to fight and through that fighting and the negotiation, like a chess player, they can sort of see where it’s going to wind up. And that’s going to be called unity [laughs]. You know your guy over there, David Icke? He talks about ‘problem, reaction, solution,’ you know what I’m saying? I’m a neophyte! I’m a sophomore at this stuff.
DS: But it’s exercising your mind these days.
DC: Really, to say the least. I really love the British are so understating [laughs]. We go over the top: ‘man, can’t you see this?’ You just go, ‘I believe this…’ [laughs]. But I didn’t know nothing about David Icke before 9/11. This guy that I played with all the way back in the 70s, in fact I don’t know if you know about this group we had called Music Ensemble, Roger Baird, a drummer who lives now in the Vancouver area, we had William Parker, we had Billy Bang, a bass player called Earl Freeman who’s since passed away – and, anyway, Roger, right after 9/11, he called us up because we were pretty near the World Trade Centre, to ask if we were alright. He told me about David Icke and this whole ‘problem, reaction, solution’ thing. Just that simple thing sort of twist my mind up a little. But then it reminded me of when I was little, you know, little kids are not like just divine little creatures, they’re also evil, you know? I remember that I was frustrated when I was – I don’t know how old I was – maybe 9 or 10 or something – that I couldn’t get this girl to be my girlfriend. So I said ‘oh, I know what I’ll do,’ I had this plan – or maybe it was a metaphor for a plan – that you take the damsel and you throw her down the cliff and then you run down real fast and catch her so then you become the hero. It’s almost exactly the same thing! You create a problem and then you pose as the one who solved the problem. I think that’s what we have with Obama, that’s what we had with Carter. Carter was supposed to be the benign peanut farmer. And they billed him as being an outsider. You know, you can trust him because he’s not a Washington DC guy. But the thing a lot of people don’t know is that he was presented to us by the same guy: Brzezinski, the National Security Adviser of Jimmy Carter. So these guys come in and they are the cabinet members who are appointed by the President but they actually are the President’s bosses. And another thing – I’m running these things by real fast, I mean they can be gone into if your stomach doesn’t hurt too much from it – you know the idea of Fabian Socialism, I guess Bernard Shaw was a Fabian Socialist – and so, many of us who haven’t dug too much either the Republicans or the Democrats have maybe, either we’ve become extreme right-wing, you know white supremacists or whatever, or we’ve become socialists, Marxists, Communists or Anarchists, you know?
DS: I know Anarchism is something you’ve spoken about before.
DC: Yeah, as having a surface acquaintance with it.
DS: You’re on record as saying it’s an ideal you can see as being attractive, yeah?
DC: Yeah, and I think the labels are unfortunate because if a person hears the label they can have associations in their head. I would imagine that something like ‘anarchism’; would certainly be a word like that. If you think of anarchy you think of disorder and even violence, and in the history of anarchism there have been anarchists who have been violent.
DS: You could probably use the term ‘utopianism’ instead of ‘anarchism.’
DC: Or you could use ‘free-associationist’. Or you could even use the word ‘democratic.’
DC: As is ‘anarchism.’ But what’s interesting is, if people take the best of many of these things – say, a democratic spirit, and anarchistic in the sense of peaceful, non-impositional – and they don’t even call themselves anything but they just sort of act that way, I think most people would think, ‘yeah, he’s a pretty groovy guy.’
DS: Like, not a bastard – just an ok person.
DC: Yeah, a non-bastard type person.
DS: Exactly, but this is relevant to what WAKE UP! are doing.
DS: Because you have a leaderless band and you play democratic music.
DC: Right, but I’ll confess right away that these three guys do the lion’s share of the work. I mean, brother, I couldn’t even see myself doing the amount of work these guys are doing. In terms of trying to make sure some kind of word gets out, and the business aspect – particularly [bassist] David [Moss] and [drummer] Federico.[Ughi] And [trumpeter] Demian [Richardson] too. Demian has really been a big, big inspiration. I met him when he was playing on the street. And – I don’t know if you’re familiar with [pianist] John Blum – well, they go back a long way – well more than ten years, maybe 15. When I met Demian just in the last two and half or so years – I met him on the street, heard him playing trumpet and I was attracted to it – so, after we got talking for a while, we realised that we knew John in common and he said that John had said, like 10 or 12 years ago, ‘hey, man, you need to get in touch with Daniel Carter and y’all be buddies,’ [laughs] so, you know, Demian took his time [laughs].
DS: I heard that WAKE UP! spent the summer playing every day in the park, getting it really tight.
DC: Yeah, I couldn’t keep up with them. I already spent a lot of years playing in the street and in the subway so I really wouldn’t have gone out there if it wasn’t for these guys.
DS: You mean because you’d had enough of it.
DC: Yeah, pretty much.
DS: Because you had another band like that – Test – which was all outdoors wasn’t it?
DC: Right. But 15 years before that I was playing by myself out there. I dreamed about it would be nice to have people to help out. And then I was part of the Music Under New York program, which authorises musicians to play in the subway. I got to be part of that program and Tom Bruno, the drummer in Test, he had gotten back from Europe – I think he might have gone to Denmark, he might have gone to Italy – and I think soon after that he called me up. I knew this guy named Kent Simon, a tenor player, and he knew Tom – Kent had already told me about Tom, but we really hadn’t played together, but at a certain point Tom called me up and we got together with this bass player from Seattle – a guy called Dan O’Brien.
DS: But, this band [WAKE UP!], sounds pretty exciting. [Bassist] Gene [Janas] was playing me some stuff earlier.
DC: Did you hear any of the more recent stuff? Because this band has gone through cataclysmic changes since summer time. You wouldn’t necessarily know it was the same band, because, when we’re playing in the street and the park, primarily it was playing free. Demian had a beautiful way of throwing in maybe snatches of his tunes or tunes that he knew of other jazz players or maybe even some klezmer he would throw in – and not just throw in, I mean he would put them in with a vengeance, not just quote it but use it to affect the structure of what’s happening, and very effectively. We had played with other groups, other drummers, in the park. We had played with as many as 14, 15 people. Are you familiar with [John Zorn’s music venue] The Stone? We played at The Stone and we called it the Tompkins Square Players and went in there with maybe 15, 16, 17 people – with that same spirit of free-associational, no leader, people just playing free.
DS: So, here’s a question I wanted to ask you – you’ve been playing around town for a long time…
DC: My wife and me came here [New York] in 1970.
DS: … yeah, and you’ve played with some heavy cats over the years.
DC: Some of them, yeah. And I’m playing with some of the heaviest right now.
DS: Yeah, but you know what I’m saying. I’m talking about people like Cecil [Taylor] and Sun Ra and stuff like that. You’ve been around. People know who you are, but…
DC: Well I don’t like necessarily saying it but de facto I guess you’d say I’ve maybe been a bit of a nomad, a bit of a migrant.
DS: This is what I’m saying. You could have had the chance to lead a band…
DC: Well, I don’t want to be presumptuous because it was the path not taken. Certainly, ego-wise in the early 70s, during that time, our heroes, so many of them, were leaders, so, just coming up, you sort of fancy yourself, primarily musically, getting something from them, but then you say, ‘hey man, maybe I could…’ you know, because you know when Miles was playing somewhere, it would say ‘Miles Davis’ – that’s all it would say – it wouldn’t even say the other people, right? And sometimes I’d picture it saying ‘Daniel Carter’, right? But it didn’t take long for me to realise what a responsibility that would be, even if I philosophically went that way. If I had the means to do it, I probably wouldn’t do it. I mean if I had the money and production, I still would produce a group which wasn’t like that.
DC: Yeah, and I think it’s far from an altruistic or selfless thing. I’ve done it long enough to be able to feel the difference in the sound of the music. Even in this group where everyone is writing, except for me – I’m not writing any of the music in this group.
DC: It’s kind of scary.
DC: It can be. For me it would depend on the kind of things that are written. Like, for example, if you take J.S. Bach and you sort of picture… I mean, the music that’s much later that sort of goes like Bach, because if you listen to Bach, there’s a great degree of complexity and polyphony but there’s also the simplicity of the way the harmonic progression is. After a while you could improvise something in that and not mess up too much without knowing the changes.
DS: It’s said that Bach created his music through improvisation, isn’t it?
DC: That’s what I heard. I think, back then, you had polyphony, you had counterpoint, contrapuntal periods before him and I imagine that there were improvisers among those people. The thing that I got when I went to school, from the polyphony thing was that it was important that voices in any local situation where you have voices, that they combine in a way that they eventually codify and I would imagine that maybe some of the ways that people found that notes were pleasing together might have been a lot from improvisation, but I have a feeling also that with the real development of that polyphony, by the time they’re really getting rolling with it, and this is just a vague memory of when I studied it, my guess would be that it was very much both. It was just as much the theoretical and knowledge, you know, being taught how these things go together. And Bach is too, but Bach is a later period, even more harmonic progressions period, and not as much counterpoint but I imagine he had to know a certain amount. Bach is celebrated so much now but I don’t think he was thought of as being the hot thing then because there was already a tradition. I’ve heard that his sons were more progressive in many ways.
DS: Did you start off playing straight-ahead?
DC: Nope, I always admired it, always felt intimidated by it.
DS: So, you went straight for freedom?
DC: I think the irony to that is that since I wasn’t free enough, I ran towards that which is called freedom. But I wouldn’t say that other people who went into free jazz suffered that. You know the familiar accusation that free players really don’t know how to play, don’t know how to play standards? I’ve never really taken a survey but I would imagine there might be a grain of truth to that. But, then again, I’ve been surprised sometimes, running into people, with how much stuff they knew.
DC: The younger guys, I think it’s less segregated, less dichotomous. I think a lot of the younger guys are more versed, some of them went to school. As far as I know, Federico played in a well-known hardcore punk band in Italy as a teenager, he’s played be-bop gigs, played funk gigs, rock gigs.
DS: And is that mixture of styles something that appeals to you? Because you’ve played with some rock guys like Thurston Moore, and with Yo La Tengo – and there’s the Ghost Moth stuff with Todd Brooks, which is electronic. Do you like that mixture of styles?
DC: I was just crying the blues to somebody last night that I wish, I hope, you know, before I have to, like, go out the exit door, you know, that I would be able to be in a group that had strong influences of Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Bach, Indian music, African, rock, hardcore punk, jazz, Noise – but in a synthesis. Not like a dish-rag synthesis but a really vital thing where each one of those kinds of influences emerges when that particular influence can do something that the others can’t. To some extent, that happens with this group, or there’s some beginning of that. But I find a lot of times – 9 times out of 10 – one thing that’s really always left out, because I’m the so-called free jazz side of things, is straight-ahead stuff, you know, people playing chord changes. I would think that part of freedom – and this is what I meant by ‘because you aren’t free you can run towards freedom’ – how come if I’m playing free jazz or freely improvised, freely played, freely conceived music, then how come I haven’t numbers of times played with a pianist or horn player who introduced ‘All The Things You Are’ or ‘When I’m 64’? I think that would be maybe even more free. This one idea of free is basically that’s vanished. We’ve surpassed that and it’s used up or whatever.
DS: There’s a long history of a political aspect of free music isn’t there? In the 60s it was very political and in England the free Improv was all deeply socialist.
DC: Yeah, and there was the Black Power thing, militancy…
DS: And still in Improv circles it’s seen as being a socialist – Marxist, even – statement.
DC: I think in many ways – I don’t know if this is happening in Europe or in England – the people are becoming less ideological. Of course, when it comes to election time then all of a sudden, somebody’s a Republican, somebody’s a Democrat. I don’t know if it’s a thing of living in New York for 40 years. Maybe if I go out to Iowa or somewhere… but I don’t picture a bunch of Iowans being all that ideological either.
DS: Speaking for the UK, there’s a lot of apathy about politics.
DC: And I think even someone like Federico, I don’t want to quote him wrong but he was saying something like Italians wouldn’t be Italians if they didn’t discuss hard and long, politics, among other things, but he told me that things are getting so hard and so rough in Italy, economically, that there’s been an attenuation of that. You’d think maybe it would increase that but I guess things could be so oppressive that you don’t even have time for that because you’re just trying to survive. That’s more recent with Italy but I think in America it has to do with the weird way we’re educated. I feel in a sense we’re educated to become professionals if we’re lucky. And, you know, you got your expertise here, you teach in a particular university this particular discipline or this particular discipline, and then once you get home from the job, once you get home from the classes, people are gathered around the dinner table and there’s no discussion of any of that. I mean, hopefully there is somewhere, I don’t know how systematically I’ve been able to avoid it [laughs] when I didn’t even want to avoid it.
DS: You’ve been hanging around with the wrong people, man.
DC: Right! [laughs].
DS: But, I suppose what I’m getting at is that, to a certain extent, the music you’re making…
DC: I think it exemplifies some of those things more than it necessarily consciously is about those things. In the case of Federico, he comes from that tradition, you know, the left in Italy. Of course, all those things have taken a beating in Europe. The Communist parties renamed themselves after the fall of the Soviet Union. But that gets me to something that, what I’ve heard and that’s pretty slick is that Lenin had said even right about the time of the beginning of the Soviet Union that this would last maybe 60 or 70 years and then it would be melded into the US and England, Western systems and there would be a, you know, dialectic. I don’t know if that meant that he was what people might call some kind of sell-out…
DC: … or a visionary, and that melding, that unification, from what I’m seeing is not a benign one. And that’s the thing that’s so tricky because this unification and this melding is so appealing to people, just regular, decent people. For example, the UN. Here in this country, if you argue against the UN then you’re associated with being a Republican – a certain brand of Republican. Or, if I criticise Clinton then my mother says, ‘oh, my son the Republican.’ But I’m saying ‘no, how come the Haitians aren’t pleased with the UN, how come they want the UN out?’ Or ‘how happy are the Palestinians about the UN having granted a country to the Israelis?’
DC: Very selective! So selective that what goes along with it is a depopulation plan to reduce the population to between as little as 2 billion, max, and 500 million. And we’re already up to 6.8, going towards 7 billion.
DC: Hatchets. Axes.
DC: A combination. And already there are some sites in the internet that say that some 50 to 57 million unnecessary – that is, not of old-age, not of natural causes – deaths a year, which dwarf, numerically, the holocaust, which – through not the fault of the Jews – I think the commemoration, the remembering of the Holocaust is being used for other purposes, almost as if there’s no other holocaust.
DC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And these kind of things that have interested me, really, I guess somebody could say have made me a fanatic or taken me over, or whatever…
DS: Well, this is it, if you mention David Icke in the UK, like you did earlier, instantly people go [rolls eyes], because he went on telly years ago and made a fool of himself and people weren’t ready for him and all that, so now it’s like ‘ah, whatever,’ you know?
DC: And, you know, I’m not even sure about a lot of the things he says because some people will accuse him, some people will agree with half of what he says, that is very, very radical and insightful, will disagree with some of the other things he says – and disagree with him, ultimately – because they feel that he has been sent there to associate ridiculous things with things that make sense. So, then, when someone says the things that make sense, they’ll think of the ridiculous stuff. Now, I haven’t sussed that out yet. See, that’s another thing. Would you say that there’s probably a lot more discourse in the UK about politics on a certain level than there is here?
DC: And then among others not.
DS: Yeah, absolutely, and I think most of our mainstream media and entertainment – and I’m pretty sure it’s the same here – is designed to stop people thinking about that sort of thing, to keep people stupid, keep them entertained in the least thought provoking way. You know like American Idol and X-Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent and all that kind of thing.
DC: Do you have the kind of phenomenon like we have – you’ve heard of National Public Radio, NPR? You’ve heard of Stephen Colbert? He’s a comedian who does political stuff, a satirist. And there’s a guy named Jon Stewart. I feel like it’s the kind of thing where, OK, like Jackson Pollock and De Kooning could have indirectly been funded by the CIA, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where they’re coming from. They don’t even necessarily know about it.
DS: But you have to be a force of nature not to be co-opted if people want to co-opt you.
DC: Right, right, exactly… I was trying to draw some parallel… sometimes the parallels I try and draw leave my mind.
DC: Yeah, OK, so I’m saying I believe it’s possible that some of these people like Jon Stewart or many of the reporters on NPR… I mean, NPR, they’ll say ‘listener supported’ but that’s like a half-truth – which is a lie – because it’s also corporate sponsored.
DS: It’s like you’re allowed to see a little glimmer of the truth and that’s seen to be enough.
DC: It’s enough to, I believe, feed the ego of the listener, to think that they’re educated, progressive, humanistic, liberal or even left-leaning… ‘oh, hey man, I’m checking out NPR, therefore I’m informed.’ Have you ever heard the term ‘limited hangout’? You could imagine a term like that could apply to these kinds of people or even movements: they say that certain kinds of protest groups are, on the one hand they seems vigorous, but they’re only going to go so far. Now, you’ve heard of [journalist and broadcaster] Amy Goodman? Since 9/11, she basically won’t touch it. There have been one or two exceptions and she made sure she had somebody on there who could roundly ridicule the 9/11 person and it certainly wouldn’t be her who is sanctioning the idea that it could be – probably is – an inside job. I heard recently that she had another guy on who was very much of the inside job direction and she was showing some consternation and some, you know, discomfort. And then I thought, she might have the kind of audience or syndication where she has to play that role because it’s very hard for me to believe that she doesn’t have some questions about, like, the official story.
DS: OK, so we’re talking here about the fact that people are kind of blinkered and asleep. So, it’s interesting that you’re in a band called WAKE UP!
DC: Well, that’s these guys, man. Like I said, I had a hard time keeping up with them, and still do. They were out playing in the park and some days I couldn’t make it. One day I came there and they said ‘hey, man, we come up with a name. So I braced myself and I said ‘what is it?’ and they said ‘wake up, with an exclamation point.’ I said ‘oh my Lord, this is going to be a tall order.’ All I could imagine, man, is we got our name, our very name is like the command form, the imperative. I said ‘what if some of the people out there can see right through us and see that we aren’t even awake?’ [laughs]. We’re not taking strong enough, you know, strides in that direction.
DC: It’s an aspiration. Like in a way I think it’s a… in an American language kind of way… an idiom kind of equivalent to an Islamic name or an Arabic name or an African name or a Jewish name, you know, divine attributes or whatever. Like Barack, I think it has to do with blessings or something. So, you know, we might have a divine name here! [laughs]. It sounds vernacular.
DS: We’ve talked a little bit about how you enjoy playing in different genres and avoid being in the spotlight. I also get the impression you like playing with younger people as well, the energy of it.
DC: Well, you know, I mean, hey man, if I could be playing with 95-year old people and the music was not only vital but also something that I could function in … because I feel like there is plenty of vital music that wouldn’t want me to be playing with them, not just for being choosy but just the thing that there’s certain technical requirements for certain musics, or certain experience that you have to have had … but, yeah, I enjoy the vitality but, like I say, I wasn’t exaggerating, it’s scary, because, one thing, not everybody is fearless confronting the mortal coil. I’m not fearless confronting that and things get more dramatic the less time you have left, because you realise that there’s just a fraction of what you wanted to do has gotten done. I mean, Tony Williams was playing with Miles Davis at I believe around 17 years old because he had accomplished that much. In many ways I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished what he had accomplished and I’m 64. I’m not talking about recognition, just the ability to do stuff. Or Coltrane was 40 when he passed. 40’s like a kid almost to me [laughs] but look what he was doing! I mean, really, honestly, in the last couple of years I feel like, if I haven’t grown that much, I’ve gotten a glimpse or a glimmer in what I’m doing, what I’m working on, of the promise of growth. In a way it’s allowing me to maybe have a certain… or at least imagine a certain confidence or agility that maybe players have coming out of their teenages.
DS: When you’re playing in all these different contexts, are you taking a bit from here, and a bit from here and a bit from there and it’s making you bigger?
DC: I hope so. But I’m the kind of person… OK, like, Stockhausen: when I used to read a lot about those guys and listen to their music, one of the things that I read about Stockhausen is he’s the kind of guy where every composition that he wrote was very different from every other composition he wrote. I think I’m more the kind of person that accomplishes almost, you know [laughs]. I mean, composing is one thing. I’ve noticed, when I’ve composed pieces, they do have more individuality with respect to one another, maybe you could tell that they come from the same person. But improvising is another thing, a more glacial thing, for me. I mean, basically, there’s stuff I do for years before they kind of flush out and become truly transformed or transmuted into something else.
DS: So, when you’re playing in all these different contexts, do you feel like it’s always your essential voice that’s coming through?
DC: Yeah, and that’s maybe more from limitations than from
strength. I don’t know how to do anything else! [laughs]
DS: [laughs] You’re imposing your stamp on everything!
DC: Yeah, but I hope that… if I play the same four, five notes that I have been playing for longer than I would like to admit, in these different contexts, it’s just like if I’m walking down the street my body’s going to do certain things, but if I’m, say, walking in water up to here, my legs and the rest of my body are going to be affected, how I can negotiate that. If I’m hang-gliding to the earth from an airplane or something, or jumping out of an airplane with a parachute, you know, it’s the same body, it’s the same person that has to function a little bit different, even if I have the same impulses. That’s what I like about different contexts.
DS: Do you ever say, ‘no, I don’t want to play with you?’
DC: Largely, no. But I think, largely, the others would say ‘I don’t want you to play with me.’ Or don’t even think about even considering me to play. However, there are situations and the main issue there that I have to look at and if it’s not dealt with right, these days I’m getting to the point where either I’m about to say no or I recall now I actually sort of faded out of a band, amicably. It was miraculous, I’ve never seen anything that smooth. All the guys, nobody said anything, and we’re all very friendly.
DS: Like when you stop feeding a cat and it just doesn’t come back any more.
DC: Right, right. You know, I was really grateful for that, but
I love that because…
DS: Hang on, which band are we talking about?
DC: It was three guys that had been doing a lot of rehearsing: a guitar player, drummer and bass player and they were doing a certain amount of vocals, they were trying out vocalists and it was really very rock oriented. It wasn’t like crossover, it was rock. But it was 50-year old rock players who had been through a lot of stuff so their music had a lot of depth, a lot of integrity to it, and a lot of adventure to it. But it was interesting because it was evolution within rock. It was just too loud for me, though. You know, it was challenging and some of the chord changes they wrote, man, were hard. I don’t think we usually associate hard chord changes with rock, but I think that’s taking a kind of stereotyped view, maybe a time-warped view of rock because I’m not real versed in all the stuff that’s going on in rock but I think that there is a lot going on in it in terms of composition, arrangement and stuff like that.
DC: Yeah. I mean…
DS: Is there anything you haven’t tried that you’d like to?
DC: Well, like I say, I never played straight-ahead, I never really negotiated chord changes that way.
DS: So, you’re going to do, like, an Archie Shepp and just drift into be-bop as you get older.
DC: I would hope, if it keeps going like this where more of the younger players can play numbers of different things – since some of them can play classical too – and they respect free jazz, I believe, more than some of the straight-ahead players of maybe 35 years ago. They might have respect for it but let’s put it this way: the younger guys not only respect it, but they will also play it and some of them also be playing straight-ahead gigs. So, I had to hang in there 35 or 40 years for that to come round like that. I never knew that it would come around.
DS: So, you’ve been waiting for everyone to catch up with you.
DC: [Laughs] Well, I never thought of it like that. I think I was waiting for somebody to come rescue me!
DC: They offered me one [laughs]. I don’t know how much I really took from it. It started… well, to really be real about it, when I was in Junior High School and even maybe Grade School – so even as early maybe as 6th Grade and 5th Grade, there were doo-wop groups that I was in. In fact, I have an acetate of me when I was 11 years old, singing doo-wop stuff. I didn’t possess it during all that time but one of the guys that I sang with, who was about two years older than me – a guy named Larry Mizell, he’s a producer, you know he worked with Donald Byrd and the Black Byrds, you know the Mizell brothers? – we were all from Englewood, New Jersey. We had a group. I couldn’t remember the name of the group but what happened was, I was looking on the internet because I really dig HipHop.
DC: Oh yeah, man. Most of my recent acquisitions of CDs, 99% is HipHop.
DC: Oh yeah. Most of the young guys, they dig old-school, they don’t dig the recent stuff. I dig the recent stuff too – I dig old-school and recent stuff. Stone commercial stuff, you know? Not all of it equally, but I dig, for example, I mean everybody knows who [rapper] Lil Wayne is now but before they knew who he was, like the Cash Money Millionaires…
DS: You’ve got to have some difficulty getting your head round some of the messages, though, right?
DC: Well, you know, no more than the difficulty of getting my head around when I heard that Churchill, when he was rallying the British against Hitler and the Germans, that he… I heard a story that he got really, really, really mad. If I was a cursing person I would use other words. Because we know by now that the Prime Ministers and Presidents are really just tools for much, much higher forces. And he was so mad at these people because he’s already been pretty successful in rallying the British esprit de corps, and he told these people – the higher ups – ‘why are you telling me just now that you’re backing Hitler?’
DS: OK [laughs]. Anyway, look, let’s backtrack. We were talking about doo-wop, your musical education.
DC: So, I was saying, I can put my head around them as easily as I can put my head around a story like that, you know, or that the British bankers were backing Bolshevism.
DS: OK [laughs]. From Lil Wayne to the Illuminati in one easy step.
DC: Yeah, from New Orleans, gangster rap, I mean, it’s very disturbing because, to think of young people, I mean I listen to a lot of these young guys as if they were my elders, you know, and there are certain things that they’re teaching me, in sound, in storytelling, in bearing – you know, the game-face or the poker-face. How do you present yourself in the situation you are in? I’m taking lessons from these guys. I mean I can’t directly apply… you have to metabolise whatever you learn, you just can’t immediately imitate it, I mean, I might feel in cetain moments… you know how they say ‘holler at yo boy,’ like ‘get back to me,’ you know? there are certain moments I actually feel that, I say ‘holler’ even though I’m not running with guys who normally talk that way. It’s another interesting language, man. Now, in mainstream American language – maybe even in England – you use the expression 24/7? See, that comes from the ghetto.
DS: And the word ‘bling.’ My son – 11 years old,
blonde-haired little English kid – talks about bling.
DC: Right. Language is fantastic. It reminds me of James Joyce, who, I guess certain Irish weren’t that comfortable with the imposition of English on them.
DC: But sometimes they found themselves, that’s all they spoke, so it’s kind of a love/hate. So, in the US, you got black folks, they don’t speak African language, so they make something else out of the English language.
DS: Which is what HipHop was to music. You know: ‘we can’t afford guitars, we can’t afford saxophones...’
DC: Right, ‘so we’ll turn the tables – literally turn the tables – on the situation.’
DS: So, you admire the resourcefulness of that.
DC: Definitely. I mean, I hate that the resourcefulness has, in many cases, taken the form that it had to take. I like to think, like, say, in the case of [rapper] Jay-Z, that he no longer has to do the things he did when he was a kid. The painful irony of that is that he could be indirectly doing even worse things because of the way money is invested – you know, corporate – and the way that ties in with the New World Order.
DS: It ties in with what we were saying about the satirists being allowed to show just a little bit of the truth. So, you’ve got these rappers who are speaking the truth and then get to be so popular and then they’re given all this money…
DC: Right, and then… like, I remember one time…
DC: Well, yeah. This group right here has been probably the first group since the Music Ensemble that I’ve had to be so plagued by [laughs].
DS: You mean they’re pestering you, knocking on your door?
DC: No, no, I mean, this may not literally be true but these guys are so tough and so mean, in the best sense, that they probably wouldn’t take the time to do that, they just be up the road, they be gone!
DS: But you want to keep up with them, right?
DC: I’m struggling to.
DC: Yeah, I do. Sometimes I wonder but I always end up thinking I do. It’s hard. I mean, for me it’s a little loud. I don’t think that’s just old age. But that’s another one of my feelings that people might label conspiracy theory and all. I believe that it is a desire on the part of the powers that be, that people play too loud. There was one guitar player that I met who was a genius intellectually, as well as a very good guitar player, but he played too loud.
DS: You’re naming no names.
DC: Right, I’m naming no names. But he told me where that came from. It was weird, he was telling me the poisonous sources and he’s still…
DS: He’s happy to go along with it.
DC: Stranger things have happened. He told me that a lot of it comes from the military, like, ideas for huge, oversized Marshall amps.
DS: Yeah, sonic weapons, I read about that, man.
DC: And, you know, they used that stuff at Waco, they used it in Iraq.
DS: Yeah, when they’ve got a siege situation they’ll fly around in helicopters playing Heavy Metal at them until they can’t take it any more.
DC: Isn’t that weird? Imagine that guys playing music together have been used to put people under siege.
DS: Is it the same as we were talking about entertainment being used to squash people down?
DC: Yeah, and if you give people enough of a sense that they’re vital and that they’re successfully rebellious and successfully cutting-edge.
DS: I get the feeling from you that if anything starts looking like it’s going real good, you start going ‘yeah, what’s wrong with this picture?’ you know?
DC: I think, largely, the answer is no. What I’ve found, experientially, before we even have to get to ‘ok, if it’s successful then I’m going to be suspicious,’ so many successful things – and the little part of a glimpse of success that I’ve had, those kind of gigs, that give you a glimpse – have, in many ways, been at least almost more trouble than they’re worth. I tasted that pudding, you know what I mean?
DS: In what way? Give me an example – if you can.
DC: Yeah, I’m trying to do it without mentioning names [laughs].
DC: Well, I’ll tell you. A person also whose name I’ll leave out was saying ‘they get us cheap!’ which is not an original idea. You know, they get people to get up into airplanes, risk their life, and they’ll do it in a second for a thousand dollar gig. One reason they’ll do it is because if they’re at home, they’re not going to make anything like that money. I got the image years ago, when I wasn’t travelling when a lot of guys were on tour before I was on tour, and it was a bit, sometimes I didn’t know if it was sour grapes on my part or if it was actual insight. And I think, now, it could have been both but it’s also an insight. They were almost, like, herded. You see them in the airport. I would rather, hey, man, if I feel like playing in Paris, I’ll call up someone to help me get a gig in Paris because I’m feeling that, I’m inspired to do that. When I go there, I go there with my wife, she may or may not want to see the gig, but we’ll meet up at a certain point, I’ll play the gig but I would love to enjoy two, three weeks in Paris. But, when I play a gig, I don’t get a chance to enjoy Paris the way I love it.
DS: What you’re saying is you want it to be on your terms.
DC: Well, on my terms, but I think my terms are really, like, human terms. I mean, I don’t want too much more than that. To me, it means that human beings are routinely being subjected to inhuman and dehumanising terms – and they’ll rationalise it: ‘hey, man, I got this good gig, I’m working fifty weeks a year!’ or whatever, you know? [laughs].
DC: Yeah, yeah.
DC: Hey, man, thank you.