Interviews w/ Malcolm Mortimore and Daevid Allen [Listen 23:08 S02 Ep2] ProG-Rock Special!! GonG (written) / Pulling off the whole composition with Malcolm Mortimore (audio)
Interview Date: November 29, 2011 @3:30pm EDT
TWO Special Guests this week: Written: Daevid Allen (founding member of GonG) and Audio: Malcolm Mortimore (of Gentle Giant). Malcolm Mortimore is the drummer on the album "Three Friends" by Gentle Giant. He has gone on to play with some of the top players in the world; people like; Van Morrison, Tina Turner, Mick and Chris Jagger, Tom Jones, Oliver Jones, and many more. In this interview Malcolm and I talk about what Prog-Rock is, the Gentle Giant fans, what it was like back in the day and the new reincarnated band Three Friends.
I am also really excited about or written interview with Daevid Allen of Soft Machine, GonG, and uN1vER5itY of 3rroR5. The questions were sent to him and I received his replies. I'm a big fan of his, so this is a thrill for me to have had the opportunity to ask him these questions. I have broken up the interview to coincide with my two Gentle Giant guests Malcolm Mortimore and Derek Shulman. I hope you enjoy it.
Lastly, before we get too far into it I thought I should say a word or two about my "Prog-Rock Special"(Progressive Rock). I am at a little bit of a loss as to what to do about my use of the sometimes limiting label of Prog-Rock. You see, there seems to be a real negative association with this sub-genre called "Prog-Rock." I both understand why my guests might want to distance themselves from this label and yet don't agree with the negative press this sub-genre has gotten in the past. I have asked all my guests their thoughts on the subject so that they can explain their thoughts in their own words. I think there was a moment in history when there was a ton of original UK bands that were really unique, highly entertaining, and skilled with their instruments. I would guess that most of the "UK Punk Rockers" (where I think most of this negative press came from) would really have second thoughts about criticizing these talented bands today.
LONG LIVE PROG-ROCK!!!
The GTV and Daevid Allen Interview (Part 1 of 4)
Daevid Allen is a true innovator who for the past 50 plus years has creatively taken inspiration from the best artists in the world, steeped it in a tea pot, sent it to the Planet GonG (situated in the seventh Sky), and given something back as creative space-Jazz brilliance. Getting inspiration from people such as Terry Riley, Sun Ra, Charlie Mingus, Ornette Coleman, and Jeff Beck, as well as writers from the beat generation like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, Allen was able to create amazing soundscapes with tripped out lyrics and a historical epic mythology of musical worlds that included little green men and other planets.
This Australian started off his career in Canterbury, England with “the Daevid Allen trio” which quickly morphed into “The Soft Machine.” The Soft Machine were instrumental in creating the Psychedelic, Jazz fusion Prog Rock scene which became to be known as, “the Canterbury Scene;” inspiring other bands like Egg, The Wilde Flowers, and Camel.
But some might argue that the adventures really took off for Allen when he brought together his most trippy, ever-evolving, pot smoking, LSD taking band ever, GonG. After being denied re-entry into the UK because of visa issues, Allen left Soft Machine and put together the first lineup of what became the immortalized band “GonG”; releasing Magick Brother/Mystic Sister followed by Camembert Electrique. By 1973, Daevid Allen and his wife Gilli Smyth were ready to embark upon their greatest challenge and their best-known work, the “Radio Gnome Trilogy.” This three part record release had been something that the two had obviously been secretly working on and piecing together since at least 1969 (GonG’s first Album to mention a Pothead Pixie). All three albums (Flying Teapot, Angel’s Egg, and You), tell the story of Zero the hero and his adventures and the wonderful world of Planet GonG.
He has gone on to work with some of the coolest and forward thinking bands today like Acid Mother Temple and his new band Un1ver5ity of 3rror5. I was unbelievably fortunate to have this great artist agree to do a written interview with me.
Thanks for your time.
GoingThruVinyl: Take me back to Australia, when you were a child, first starting to learn to play guitar. What age were you when you first picked up the guitar? Do you remember the first song you learned to play?
Daevid Allen: I started on a green and white plastic ukulele when I was seven.
In behind its soundhole, there was a cavernous soundspace where I could hide. I soon became jittery in there because every sound was rumpled by a Chuck Berry short repeat echo circa 1959.
The problem was it was still 1945 and I was being bombarded by popular country music. But George Formby made me laugh like a drain. English <Music Hall> was a hoot.
Spike Jones also lit up my life. Then, like all of us, I was intrigued by my first experience of electric guitar with Les Paul's "How High the Moon" single. A guitar revolution was nigh.
My father (who was an atheist and an aesthete, rare in rural Australia) played piano so my childhood was filled with passionate drunken choruses of the most elegant songs of the time.
We were all entranced by the great musicals of the thirties, the music of Percy Grainger and Classical Choral Music. I was pretty keen on Scottish marching bands as well.
One dusty summer evening in Horsham, the Australian town I grew up in, a truckload of fabulous Irish musos descended on the main street and good naturedly started to busk. They were a huge unruly family all of whom had a song to sing and a part to play. I was riveted. I began to understand that this was to be my destiny too.
GTV: Soft Machine was an epic band and seemed to touch upon other famous bands that put out important “mainstream” work (you opened up for Jimi Hendrix and were the backing band for Syd Barrett’s solo albums.) How important is fame and/or being recognized for your achievements to you?
DA: Fame is an ego virus. You have to know how to dance with it.
It can be seen methodically as a means to an end. But I have seen so many friends squashed by it, I have adopted a strategy of fame limitation. Whenever it gets over a certain danger level I drop out, vanish, do the least popular thing.
The timing of one's return is the next most important thing here.
By editing fame I believe a band can survive at a good subsistence level for a long time.
DA: I am not naturally paranoid, I have only been educated that way. Thus I may be relatively clear of it. However it is difficult to disguise my pleasure when I am confronted with an occult truth, however curiously phrased.
GTV: How did the other members of the band (Soft machine) react to you not being allowed to get into the country?
DA: With unforced delight I imagine.
Come back next week when we continue our interview with Daevid Allen!
This week, I thought I might highlight an amazing and cool website called Voices of East Anglia. It's a daily blog that has some of the wickedest articles and retro images on the web, really! What can I say but that this is the place where you should get your regular dose of Pop culture!
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- Ron Carter Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 22:25] Hooking Up A Nice New Turntable S04 Ep10
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- Ted Gioia (written) Interview & John Scofield (audio) Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 15:00] Listening And Trying To Figure It Out With John Scofield S04 Ep09
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