Courtesy of Paul Rogers
CHAT WITH PAUL ROGERS
JUNG: Let's start from the beginning.
ROGERS: It was that being allowed to hear it on the radio really. Bass
was my first instrument and it is the only thing I play. I have changed
the instrument now. I have got a six-string bass, which I got a guy to
make to me in France, where I live. And I've got sympathetic strings on
it as well, so it is really not a double bass now. It is another instrument.
It is like I am a string quartet now. That is the way I hear it. I really
love string quartets, whether it's Mozart or very contemporary and that
is what I hear now. I realized this these last few months. The way I want
to play is I want to be a string quartet. For me, it is all about the
process, the process of doing something, rather than the end result.
FJ: How was the musical scene in London in your youth?
ROGERS: I first moved to London when I was eighteen in the early Seventies,
'74. There was music everywhere, pubs, concerts, all sorts of things.
I started to play with people like Mike Osborne and Evan Parker almost
immediately because they were playing in pubs, John Stevens, Derek Bailey
and everybody. Just have a room in the pub, no money, but you just go
and play. It was just part of the nature of the music. It is not a job,
it is a life. You just do it, In England, it was possible to do that in
those days. Now, it is more difficult. Business has taken over.
FJ: When did you begin collaborating with Paul Dunmall?
ROGERS: We first played December '79 with a drummer called Nigel Morris,
who we both knew and from then on, we have played fairly regularly ever
since. We really started to play a lot after 1982.
FJ: Then the addition of Tony Levin.
ROGERS: Levin, we started to play with Levin in 1984 in a band with Alan
Skidmore on saxophone.
FJ: Lastly, the addition of Keith Tippett and the band became Mujician.
ROGERS: (Asks Paul Dunmall) When did Mujician start? Was it '88? Yes,
1988 was the first concert. I lived in New York for a couple of years,
'86-'88, but I went back to England and we did a gig as a quartet in Wales
and that was it. We were looking for a name and Keith had already used
Mujician as one of his solo records and we thought that that was a good
name to use as a group and that is it. We try and keep working.
FJ: The band has quite the recorded discography.
ROGERS: We've got the first six or seven years, every concert was recorded.
So there is like hundreds of tapes of recordings of the concerts. We had
a friend who used to come to concerts and record them on cassettes. They
are all different, which is amazing. We are still working. We've got some
gigs coming up. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we don't
work everyday together. I think if we did that, we would probably kill
each other after a couple of weeks. The fact that we don't work that often
means that every time we see each other, it is like the first time and
then we have two weeks together or five days together and we build up.
We build on it and we keep building and every time, it is different. We
are all progressing in our own individual ways as well. We are all getting
older and stuff, so the music has developed separately and together.
FJ: But it is not necessarily free jazz.
ROGERS: It is improvised music. We draw on all the music that we have
ever listened to. We don't just listen to jazz. We listen to all sorts
of music, ethnic music, Indian music, or British folk music, especially,
now because we are doing his bagpipes and things. That brings in another
aspect and the fact that we don't really talk about what we do. We just
play. When I am at home, I practice all day. I practice scales. I work.
I write music. But when I am at a concert, we don't need to talk because
we know. It is on another level. It is on another consciousness. It is
a collective conscious. We don't have to talk about it. We just play.
FJ: Martin Davidson's Emanem label released Listen, a record of various
double bass solos.
ROGERS: That's right. It is in two bits. The one that I wanted him to
release was from 1999. Then a friend of mine, who records all these Mujician
gigs, he had a concert I did in '89. I remember that in fact. It was in
a little pub somewhere and I think Derek Bailey was in the audience. He
played that and, "Fuck, it sounds OK." It was a four-string
bass and the five-string. That was nice. I enjoyed that. But of course,
it progresses. It is not like we play set pieces, where we play the same
thing. It is always different, hopefully. We are always looking for something.
What? I don't know. Of course, you are free to do whatever you want. You
are free to play the right notes and that is what you do, hopefully. You
don't play the wrong notes. You play the right notes. You play the right
music. If you are free and you're open to the moment and you don't think
about it, you just play the right things. You can only analyze it afterwards.
You can't analyze it before. Once it is already gone, I don't bother analyzing
FJ: And this tour?
ROGERS: We've got about seven gigs and then two days in the studio. We
will be recording with Kevin (Norton). I think the way play, it is all
familiar and it is not familiar. Even when I play with Dunmall, it is
familiar, but he has never played like that before. He doesn't play the
same every time because he can play whatever he wants. I am so involved
in it in a playing way, not in an intellectual discussion. If I start
to analyze it, I can start to get brought down and think, "Oh, my
God, what is this?" And that is not what I want to do.
Fred Jung is the Editor-In-Chief and is Wang Chunging tonight. Comments?