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Fred Frith

by Anastasiya Kostyukovich and Andrew Mikryukov

Fred Frith was born in 1949 and raised in Yorkshire, England in a household where music was considered an essential part of everyday life. After starting violin lessons at the age of 5, Frith taught himself rudimentary piano technique, sang in the church choir, lurked at the back of the school orchestra and eventually picked up a friend’s guitar which changed everything. There followed a period of exploration of any and all forms of guitar playing, from The Shadows to Villa Lobos via the Blues and Flamenco. Learning tunes from a Yugoslav schoolfriend gave him a life-long interest in the music of the Balkan countries.

At Cambridge Univesity in 1968, Frith co-founded the group Henry Cow as a Dada Blues Band, but sudden exposure to all kinds of exciting new music from Berio to Beefheart caused a radical shift in direction. The group eventually became an enduring and influential rock collective, touring Europe more or less continuously and providing Frith with a formative musical and political education. Meanwhile, in 1974, he released Guitar Solos, a collection of improvisations now recognized as a landmark in the history of the electric instrument. Since that time he has led parallel lives, one as improviser and the other as composer and songwriter. In the former category there have been hundreds of concerts ranging from the solo guitar-on-the-table approach to work with large groups such as Derek Bailey’s Company or Eugene Chadbourne’s 2,000 Statues. Frith can also be heard in duos with John Zorn, Hans Reichel, Tim Hodgkinson and Tenko on an intermittent but continuing basis.

You are today barefooted on a concert. Why?
It is peculiar practice. The base surfaces mine boots are too high-gravity to be in footwear on the scene. You see it is necessary much to move. Though it and is rather dangerous, especially on such scene, as here, where there is no carpet cover. I simply can slip and can fly out from the scene. But when I'm barefooted I have capability more to move and to be more technical.

You created music for theatre and movie a lot. Had you to compose music under an impression of the book or picture sometime?

Not absolutely so. I can say, that only when I began to write music for films, I had understood that, how I write instrumental music, I all time attempted to follow to any image. So should not be. Music it's more than image. It is a process, which one creates definite atmosphere. And this process is pleasant to me very much. All time I attempt to leave from a today's situation, when music is not only notes, together with visual perception. You see now frequently, when we listen to rock music, we look in video. I attempt to set free music of this imposed video series. It is necessary to listen to music, instead of to look at it. And to imagine, instead of live under a press of a video. The classic music, vice-versa, I use in mine films to be making it more popular.

Let's talk about partnership on the scene. Say, please, how you select the musicians and instruments for your projects? And how often you change them?

The selection is not present at this process almost. I don't select the musicians specially. My partners on the scene are my friends, which one I know very long time. For example, Chris (Chris Cutler — a comment of the writer): with him we play so many-many years, from times «Henry Cow». In that sense mine casting is a time... Sometimes people come to me and talk «I want to play it with you». If I like this person -- why not? Well and recently — (It was happened for the first time in my life!) -- in a time my work with « Ensemble Moderne», I have a problem with instruments selection. Earlier I thought only on the people, with which I create music: we met, were locked in studio, we had general ideas, and we played... And I was pleased with it. Now I perceive, that actually I don't want to play, say a flute or any other instruments. But it's me necessary also this instruments is irreplaceable. It's new to me also I need to change my view on a world and on this thing...

Many your projects were made in the co-authorship with Bill Laswell and John Zorn. How you were worked with them?

It was fun!

Sometime composed you the music with so personal nature, that you had doubts to demonstrate it on audience?

Do you think if it was, I would tell to you about it? Yes, was a pair realises very personal for me. The one, who heard it, didn't understand this music. Well also is fine...

The Soviet propaganda introduced the group «Henry Cow» as the aggressive and anticommunist command. It is the truth, that the "Henry Cow" recordings were limited on the radio in Great Britain for return motive: because about left-social position of its participants?

I never was the communist. Oh, no! As to a radio, I can say, that we have begun to enter the name after we were heard with John Peel — very known in Great Britain radio-D.J. It was alone journalists, who has decided, that we are enough interesting to radio. Due to this event we have received our maiden contract.

Your albums have always very curious design of covers. Whether you receive participation in work on by design? What is for you the visual image of albums?

Already for a long time I work with one interesting artist and stylist from Switzerland Peter Beider, creating covers, posters. Our co-operation began after my arrival on studio «Recommended». Last time I a lot of attention give photos and I shall use a photo in design of the albums. My wife is a photographer, so that special problem does not arise. On a last album cover is my photo.
Many my colleagues also participate in work on by design of covers of albums. We discuss photos, general view, we work together...Yes, it is very important for me.

Many young musicians working in a modern jazz style, in the forewords to the albums refer to you, thank you for inspiration...

Yes? Is it truth? Where are these people? Meet me with them!

How you fall into to this?

I am happy, of course...

This fact inspires you?

No, it isn't so necessary. But I am happy, that to the people am pleasant my music.

Also many musicians, let alone audience, call you the cult person of a modern music. Interestingly, whom you personally could call as the cult person?

Chris Cutler (Indicates on drummer, your scene partner. — a comment of the writers.)

Only him?

Not only. But it isn't so correct to call some names. Earlier on me, certainly, the miscellaneous people exerted influence, but it was earlier. Today me inspire unless reading "Silence» by John Cage...

Your music is full different melodic of interlacing and heterogeneous designs. Frequently it is pleased atonal. Say, please, your relations with yourself are so atonal like your music?

I don't think. I don't think, that it's so. I hope, that isn't so...

What projects you work now?

It is my work for «Ensemble Moderne» from Frankfurt. This music is dedicated to mine colleague Tom Cora, who died April 9, 1998. (Frith partner on group «Skeleton Crew». — a comment of the writers.) And consequently this music is full by samples from Tom compositions. Besides I also write music for many other European ensembles. Already there was a new disc «Funny Valentine» by groups «Massacre»: maiden after a rest per almost 20 years. I also I work together with Bill Laswell and Fred Ìayer much.

published 15.04.2005© 2005 jazz news :: home page

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