Shabaka Hutchings interview

First published in 2013. Shabaka Hutchings talks to marlbank about his brand new band The Comet Is Coming ''The Comet is Coming is Danalogue (Dan Leavers) and Betamax (Max Hallett) who usually play in a duo group called Soccer 96. I met them …

Published: 16 Dec 2019. Updated: 7 months.

First published in 2013. Shabaka Hutchings talks to marlbank about his brand new band The Comet Is Coming

''The Comet is Coming is Danalogue (Dan Leavers) and Betamax (Max Hallett) who usually play in a duo group called Soccer 96. I met them through being a fan of their band and checking their music out. They bring so much energy live that the first time I heard them play I was pretty much blown away, and said to myself: 'I've got to work with these guys'. That led to me guesting on a gig and sitting in with the group whenever I was around for the last couple of years. I guess you'd call what Soccer 96 does experimental popular music, though a lot of what emerges musically can be linked to directions pointed towards by modern players of 'jazz' music also. The thing that attracts me to their style is the driving intent whenever they play. There's a feeling there of really losing themselves totally in the music to the point of nullifying any genre association which could be placed on it.

The name of the group comes from a BBC Radiophonic Workshop piece of the same name. Once we heard this piece, with its allusions to sci-fi, cosmic remembrances and general space, it instantly struck a chord. We're exploring new sound worlds and aiming to destroy all musical ideals which are unfit for our purposes so the name stuck.

We rehearse in a warehouse space in Dalston called the Total Refreshment Centre which is an artistic living space with rehearsal facilities, studio and general great vibe. We decided to go into the studio for four days and create an album's worth of material that we compose together on the spot, then take some time producing, then rehearse the resulting tunes extensively to create a live set.

All the improvising is intuitive, in that we all play to the service of the mood or the vibe of the moment. The pieces we've created have scope for improvising either as extensive soloistic excursions or in the service of the song which might not sound like typical jazz soloing but still retains an element of freedom to make spontaneous decisions as to how far to push the pre-planned material.

The ensemble is very different from say Sons of Kemet in that it is less rootsy, has less of an earthy sound. We're trying to take the listener into a futuristic world as opposed to reaching towards the earth in our sonic journeys. Cosmic. Sci-fi. Hipster. Punk. These are the first words that spring to mind in the general description.''

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Mark Lockheart interview

First published in 2018. Loose Tubes, Perfect Houseplants, and Polar Bear saxophonist MARK LOCKHEART introduces his “concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra” – Days on Earth. So disregarding any commercial or logistical factors I’ve always …

Published: 16 Dec 2019. Updated: 7 months.

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First published in 2018. Loose Tubes, Perfect Houseplants, and Polar Bear saxophonist MARK LOCKHEART introduces his “concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra” – Days on Earth.

So disregarding any commercial or logistical factors I’ve always been interested in writing music for large ensembles but once I started experimenting with some initial themes I soon realised this was going to be quite an ambitious project.

For 12 years I’d been enjoying making some amazing music with Polar Bear and over that time learnt so many things about texture, musical pacing and form. We would often play over a bass line for a long time developing textures and soundscapes I used to love this approach, the last album Same As You has a lot of this going on.

My 2013 adventures deconstructing Ellington tunes (Ellington In Anticipation) was all part of the journey leading up to this album and a lot of the writing techniques I discovered with the Ellington project were utilised here.

Two albums with my trio Malija with Jasper Høiby and Liam Noble were sandwiched in-between and the fun we had exploring quite a different sound world without drums I’m sure influenced the music on Days On Earth too.

With Days On Earth I wanted to explore some long expansive forms and let the music unfold gradually. I suspect this is maybe not such a popular idea nowadays with all the emphasis on single tracks and Spotify playlists but this was how I heard this jazz music unfolding — a sort of concerto for jazz sextet and chamber orchestra.

I guess I’m hoping people will listen to the whole thing a bit like I use to when I got a new record; I was always interested in the order of tracks etc and how the album unfolded and developed.

‘A View From Above’ is a bit like an overture to me introducing the sound-world I’m about to explore. It’s a little quirky in places and contains quite a lot of thematic material (fairly disguised I have to admit) that crops up later on.

‘Brave World/This Much I Know Is True’ is one of the most expansive and gradually unfolding pieces on the album and the bulk of the piece (after the long intro ‘Brave World’) is all based on a 3-bar bass pattern. The tenor solo unfolds gradually I like this solo which is rare for me!

‘Party Animal’ the idea here was to have lots of fun in the studio and the piece is a bit silly in places. The core of the first half of this is the 4-way improvising dialogue between the saxes, flute and trumpet. I wanted the busy conversational feeling of people all nattering in the kitchen at a party.

‘Believers’ is probably the most challenging piece in terms of playing and in form too. This piece gets more contrapuntal as it goes on I love the guitar solo by John [Parricelli] and the alto solo by Alice [Leggett].

‘Triana’ features the solo violin of Jackie Shave and the stillness and poise was important in this.

‘Long Way Gone’ is built on three contrasting section and the form is just made up by returning to each section throughout for the power. This was very vibey when we recorded this and I like the way it grows and develops. Beautiful harp playing by Helen Tunstall in this.” Photo of Mark Lockheart: Dave Stapleton.