Gwilym Simcock: It's All Just Music
AAJ: The sound on Blues Vignette is wonderful; it's not overly produced and it sounds so clear. I also like the way there are between five to ten seconds of silence between the tracks which kind of frames them. Was that something that was thought through?
From left: James Maddren, Gwilym Simcock, Yuri Goloubev
GS: It's funny you should say that because the whole thing for me, my big mantra about making music is that everything should come from silence; silence is the starting point. You have to start from absolutely nothing.
Curtis Schwartz, the engineer who's a very close friend of mine and whom I absolutely love working with, sat down with me at the beginning and we worked out what we wanted in terms of the sound. Surrounding yourself with the right people is so important. I feel very lucky to have found Curtis because I feel really comfortable working with him.
Feeling comfortable both recording and performing is so important for me. Recording can be a very restrictive process, psychologically, because when you're on stage you're just going for it and you've got that energy and you're in the moment, but it's a very sterile atmosphere in the studio because you think, "Crikey, every single note I play is going to be documented until the end of time," and that's quite a stressful thing to think about.
I'm quite a nervous performer in many ways, which is a bit of a hangover from classical music school and worrying about making a mistake. I'm very conscious of that fear of doing things wrong, especially in the studio.
AAJ: Do you think losing that fear is part of finding your voice?
GS: Maybe, but whether or not you're happy with the direction you're going in worrying about doing something wrong is always a very restrictive feeling.
I guess being a fan of Jarrett and this very lush sound world is something I feel a lot more at home with because I guess it's more similar to the classical side than say some of the young New York guys who have a very dry, in your face sound which is nice as well but it's not really what I hear. But each track has to start from complete silence.
AAJ: Your music sounds very impressionistic and lyrical and I wonder what music has influenced that side of your playing.
GS: For sure on the jazz side I'm a big fan of Keith Jarrett. I'm also a big fan of Chick Corea and John Taylor, a wonderful English pianist who is very original and unique.
On the classical side I'm into more contemporary music which has rather more interesting harmonic palette. I never really got into Beethoven or Mozart because, whilst obviously you can appreciate the beauty of the music, there's never going to be any surprises because they worked in a harmonic world which was quite prescriptive at their time.
Once you get into the latter half of the twentieth century, where you have Bartok, and a wonderful French composer called Henri Deutilleux, here you're getting into multi-layered harmony, which is the thing that really appeals to me because it pricks my ears up and I think: "What's going on there?"
I don't think I listen to enough music. I think when that's what you do sometimes when you're resting the very last thing you want to do is listen to more music. When I'm in my car I listen to football or spoken word, or comedy or something just to have a break.
AAJ: The Spanish have a saying which is: "In the ironmonger's house, wooden spoons." The last thing he wants when he comes home is to see or touch...
GS: More fucking iron [laughs]. When I do listen to music it'll be Earth, Wind and Fire or Michael Jackson, something completely different. If it's too close to what you do then you end up going into an analytical mode. I have a terrible problem in that I find it terribly hard to listen to music without analyzing it.
And I've got perfect pitch which is obviously brilliant for jazz but it means that there's a score in your head when you hear any music; even the birds singing, I can hear what notes they are. In a way it would be nice to have a more plaintive appreciation of music sometimes and just be able to enjoy it. But I would never complain as it's so important to know what everybody else is playing when you're improvising.
AAJ: Going back to Blues Vignette and the piece for piano and cello featuring Cara Berridge, did you consider using Yuri Goloubev to play that part on double-bass? When Yuri plays arco he doesn't really sound like a bass...
GS: He sounds a lot more like a cello, yeah. That piece came about because of the opening of King's Place, a new arts space in London near King's Cross and they did something like a hundred concerts in ten nights. I did an evening of four different concerts one after the other in about a four-hour period, but one of the things I did was this suite, for cello and piano
It seemed to go down well and people seemed to like it, and I think it fits in with what I'm trying to do on the rest of the album, so I wanted to document it. For me it's just music, it's not classical or jazz and you've just got to think of it as music.
Some lazy journalists have commented on the great cello playing on the second CD but of course that's Yuri playing bass. I guess it never even crossed my mind that it could be done on bass because it was written specifically for cello. I do hope there's a nice development from the solo to the duo to the trio.