Thursday, October 25, 2007

wyatt and ayers

Although it's not in the least bit surprising that Robert Wyatt's new album is a work of typical, understated beauty, and a record I've been listening to a lot lately, it has been surprising the extent of press it's had, I think. Of course, an artist of Wyatt's stature and inescapable talent is always guaranteed good notices from the likes of Wire and Uncut, but it's been cheering to see him getting good reviews in the mainstream press too, and lovely seeing his endlessly fascinating face staring out from front covers (Wyatt has a face that looks carved from rock, and yet is perpetually welcoming and warm). So I endorse his latest, Comicopera, unreservedly.

More surpising is that Kevin Ayers, Wyatt's old ally and a man whose talent has been less well remembered, has a new album out and it is - apparently - rather stunning. I've not heard it yet, but Mike Troubled Diva's comments make me very keen to seek it out. His interview with Ayers on Stylus, meanwhile, is delicate, probing and fascinating - highly recommended reading.

There's an extract below; ordinarily I'd probably only highlight one short passage of an interview elsewhere, but this one only really reads well in sequence. Here's Mike asking Ayers about the 80s - not really Ayers' best decade, but a fascinating time.

Various albums then emerged during the Eighties, which are less well-known: Deia Vu [1984], As Close As You Think [1986]—which isn’t available on CD, and which few seem to have heard—and Falling Up [1988], which sounds like you’re just having fun. One of the Amazon reviews says it’s as if you’ve “just drifted up from the beach bar to the studio with old friends.” Was music perhaps less of a priority during this period?
I think Falling Up was a good record, though. [pause] I mean, hopefully what you said was right. It was coming up from the beach and having fun with friends? Well, that’s good then. Leave it there.

But there’s a track on there called “Am I Really Marcel” in which you seemingly hold your hands up to being lazy and lacking ambition, in a way that suggests that you’re very comfortable about it. Should we take that at face value?
Well, obviously I’m not that lazy, or else I wouldn’t have had a whole career in the business. But you have to be clear in terms of what “lazy” means. It just means that you don’t need to be involved in the day-to-day hustle, or hassle, of city life. You can actually exist as a person on your own, without all the trappings. “Lazy” means you don’t necessarily have to keep making an effort to make yourself liked.

Still Life with Guitar came out in 1992. Shortly after its release, Ollie Halsall tragically died—and then you didn’t release another album of original new material for fifteen years. It’s very tempting to draw certain conclusions from that.
Well, you’ve got it, yeah. [pause] I mean, you’ve answered… it’s a rhetorical question.

OK. Well, I could delve further, but I kind of don’t want to.
[evenly] No, I don’t think you should.

Let’s fast-forward to The Unfairground, which is being hailed as your best album in over thirty years. What gave you the impetus to return to recording after so long?
That’s a really tough one to answer. Firstly, I need to earn a living. Secondly, I need some kind of intellectual satisfaction, and life. I need to feel that I’ve been vaguely useful on the planet.

But there must have been a change in your general mindset… in your confidence, maybe, I don’t know…

Well, it’s probably been made more from a lack of confidence. I need to re-affirm that I still exist, you know? It’s my job; it’s what I do; it’s been my whole life. I kind of have to do it—otherwise I’m dead. Dead to myself.


Svenn said...

Well deserved fame to both of them! Next one out? I'm campaining for Peter Blegvad!

mike said...

Hey, thanks Jonathan - glad you enjoyed the interview! You've actually picked out my favourite section, as well... I spent a long time before the call deliberating over how best to handle that 80s/90s period, and I'm pleased with how it came out.