CHAT with Peter HAMMILL (15 November 1998)

 Hammill/Fripp - Calm/Loud series - 30 years of music - DGM - live releases - changes in style - main influences - records PH still likes or would rather not have published - his literary influences - his opinion on House of Usher nowadays - how does his family like his music - VdGG - the next experimental record - Safehouse - Robert Wyatt - change in lead vocals - tour lineup and plans for touring the US - rock music nowadays

Hammill joined the chat under pseudonym 'derbydazzler' (who?)

PH: it's my pleasure to be here

Q: what would it be an early influence about your rough style of vocals. Maybe Cpt Beefheart?
PH: It's been stated before but I was trying to do something with the voice equivalent to what Hendrix did with guitar or Coltrane with sax.

Q: Is it possible an album Peter Hammill/Robert Fripp?
PH: anything is possible! I suspect, though, that we're both people who like to have control over our own projects so shared ones are potentially problematic! Certainly, though, I hope to work with Robert againin some capacity or another in the near future.

Q: What has become of the "BeCalm" and "ALoud" series after "Fireships" and "The Noise"?
PH: I think that these have become (both of them) series of 1. The original idea was to delineate (some) of the divisions in my music but since then I've preferred to present a mish-mash (as per usual!)

Q: Did you ever imagine back in the 70's that you'd still be in the rock bussiness at 50? When did it first strike you it wasn't anymore just a young persons game?
PH: 1. It was absolutely beyond imagining in the 70s that, even if you were lucky you'd be able to do something for more than five years or so...  I'm talking, obviously, about the attempot to do something serious... So back then I imagined that I/we might have a decent run for five years or so and then I'd somehow transmute, thirty years later, into an acclaimed novelist on some Pacific isle... didn't quite work out!
as far as 2. (not a young person's game) goes that was never a problem for me, once I'd realised that I was definitely hooked on and fullfilled by music after all my ear had first been sparked by blues players who keep going until the drop  (as I hope to do)... In my view problems only come if you start trying to do work or write from a perspective or age which is false for you... Geddit?

Q: How do you like working with DGM? Is it a change over your past experiences with record companies?
PH: this kind of relates to the previous question.. It was an odd momnet for both Robert and myself to meet up again after several years as, effectively, record company moguls (albiet of singularly small & mobilely intelligent natures!)... who would have imagined that? A natural development, though. Anyway, my, or rather Fie's relationship with Discipline is tranpsarent and honourable. They release in the US and Fie releases most other places and of course the artistic decidions and copyright ownership are Artist's Own as it should be. This is not the way of the world with other record cos, even some comparatively benign independent ones!

Q: Peter, would you consider perhaps a regular fan release of live concert material ala Robert Fripp/King Crimson?
PH: Just before I reply I'd like to apologise for some of the typos, but I'm trying to get these answers out as quickly as poss! Well, there's the Collector's Club, but also Robert has a great fund of tapes from here and there, I belive, across the years.  I don't have an archive like that. So no such releases although something may emerge over the next years. I guess everyone here knows that I favour brutal representations of ...

Q: If you compare "This" to your works from the 70s, how would you say has your music changed?
PH: A truism, but I'm obviously older! Since I've always had a horror of repetition and a fear of boredom (of myself, first of all!). That means that I've always tried to do something new. At times, this means faltering steps  "Bad" albums. But without being too dam' Auterish about it, I have to say that the story (aural & otherwise) gradually accumulates. So I don't reject stuff from the 70s (or earlier); nor think that was The Best work. I try always to do the best work, but from the perspective and with the experiences of exactly how old I am now including all the past stuff. I would also say that "this" is some kind of statement of continued intent. Since I was recording it in the 50th year, after 30 yrs of doing this (-ish), it being the 40th album (according to my own, perhaps suspect numerology), I wanted to get some element of all the things in music which still interest me in there, rather than making a "coherent" piece per se - as in "Everyone", the last.  I think that's enough on that?

(mod): A nod towards the past as you walk to the future, so to speak.
PH: In the now, absolutely!

Q:  Who are some of your main influences and who do you listen to when you have the time just to listen to music?
PH: Second part first. I guess in common with other musicians one of the things which one relinquishes upon realising that this (music-making) is not just a passing fad but a career and a life is the ability to "listen" pure and simple. Anything which remotely approaches one's own area will be subject to a critical analysis of a somewhat dubious nature. So, for instance, I rarely listen to anything in the neo-rock arena as a "punter". In fact, it can't serve me inj that way, because, after all, I usually spend at least 8 hours a day working on the Stuff that *I* think this kind of music should contain. So to listen to it as a listener would not be exactly relaxing to me.
I also have to point out that as a family man and i guess there are a few family people out there?
Grabbing 45 minutes of aboslutely undivided attention of an evening would be a task worthy of Hercules!
OK, part 1. Influences at the start were (stranegly enough) R'nB; Chicago Blues; Hendrix; British groups, esp Animals, Who, Kinks; Beatles to an extent; Soul Music. Then I got exposed to jazz & classical in all their manifestations and since I believe that the absolute virtue of rock music is that one can bang all of these things together and produce something new  I/we did! But this is a long time ago.. and  I refer you baxck to my previous answer m'lud.
Once you're actually doing something influences become more like perfumes in the air than themes you follow.

Q: Do you have any particular favourites among those 40 albums - and any you'd rather sweep under the carpet?
PH: For me every one of the albums is not only a collection of writing, music & performance but also a period of time, both of recording/writing and fo life. So they're strange diaries for me, in a way... "Oh, *that's* the stuff that interested me then?"... As I said before, the process is cumulative. So I couldn't knock out any one album and have the others remain as they are!
F'rinstance, a lot of people don't "get" "In a Foreign Town" and I admit some of it sounds prettty clunky to me now too but if I hadn't done that there's no way I could have advanced into the worlds of Fireshhips or Everyone.

Q: Peter, you talked about your musical influences, but I suspect there are significant literary influences that have in impact in your work. Can you share some of those with us as well?
PH: I'm a bit of a scattergun reader these days. I was very keen on Norse Sagas/anglo saxon stuff in my teens... Njal's saga, Beoweulf & so on then Sci-Fi evidently came into it. And Shakespeare's obviously been around all my life!!! But I also have an affinity for the odd world of Pynchon & Borges... and many others.
But, again, "influence" is funny stuff when it comes to what actually goes into the work. I've managed to preserve literature as an are in which I can simply be a consumer... although I often argue back with the page, surprise, surprise!

Q: How do you regard experiments like "Fall of House of Usher" today?
PH: as a chapter of accidents which deserves a second look

Q: Taking up the 'family man' topic - and please forgive me if this is too personal - what do your family make of your work?
PH: do you want me to make this an all-round family show? LoL For them the fact that I am "who" I am and do what I do is absolutely normal of course. Holly(daughter no 1)'s first week at home was accompanied by my percussive efforts on pH7. After that *anything's* normal.

Q: Peter, are you still in contact with the other members of VDGG and will there be a project in the future with this guys?
PH: well we had a drink or fourteen together over the Peterfest last week.. I can't imagine that we *won't* do work of some kind or another with each other in various combinations over the next years.. but I very much doubt that it would be under the aegis of VdGG!!!!
But I think there might well be some good combinations to come.. even though this wasn't the question (we're hovering around an ocean of worms here...) I think it's evidence of our sense in packing up when we did that we *do* actually remain good if intermittent friends and the old days and the old music are unsullied by rancour. We never copped out. tha's why we had to stop

Q: Frozen place sounds like Eno's Music for Airports, will the next 'experimental' album be in that direction?
PH: If (whatever it's going to be) it's going to be experimental, it'll obviously have to be new to me as well. I'm amazed to find that combining things in different quantities and perspectives seems to, produce new results each time. If we're struggling for analogous world here I guess it's cuisine! I seriously I hope to get acquainted with the next experiments only in the thick of them and lets stop the 'foreign town' fireships and EYH trilogy where it is still attempt to come at things without too many preconceptions...

Q: What was the inspiration for the piece called, Safehouse?
PH: It's one of the "cinematic" songs.. that's not to say that it's intended as a soundtrack for an imagined movie, but as an encapsulation of "the" movie itself.. Just Good Friends & Don't tell me also fall into this category, among others, btw So I just had this cinematic feeling of The Last Survivors of The Resistance in a city being overrun, sending out messages to no-one.
I guess it's somewhere between Graham Green & Sarajevo...

Q: Peter, have you ever played with Robert Wyatt?
PH: no, never. Same stage, but not simultaneously.. a man to whom I doff my hat there aren't many of us left

Q: Why have you moved toward more layered vocals on your recent albums as opposed to the strong single lead vocals in VDGG?
PH: first of all they're difficult and secondly they're fun! Also, in Vdgg (see the VERY FIRST q/a)my function as vocalist was to cut through like a guitar or horn. So in that envrion one alone is best.. also, that was more-or-less a representation of what it sounded like live, so "real" I do have to say, though, that the multi-layered vocal thing is something that's been going on for a good many years, right back to the early 70s..

Q: Peter, you've got some dates coming up in Europe in December. I've had lots of inquiries about your next tour of the states. Anything you can tell us about that or any other tour plans? And which musicians might be accompanying you?
PH: In Europe in December I'll be accompanied by the impeccably unspeakable Stuart Gordon on violin and Noise It's a combination with a lot of continuing possibilities. Well, they all, are, frankly!!! AS far as the States goes, I beat my breats in humble apologies for not having given any of that stage-welly over there for so many years...
I can only tell you that it is an absolute Priority One for me to do so, somehow, somewhere, whatever, in 1999!

Q: What is your opinion of the state of rock music in general at present?
PH: interesting as in the Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times"

Wotan: Is there anything else you would like to mention before we conclude today?
PH: actually that last answer was a bit too flip. There remain people who believe that rock music is a form which is the equal of any other artistiuc one. I don't mean in being worthy of museum-isation, but of Statement. So it's possible to DO Stuff. But I have a lot of sympathy for people NOW coming in & trying to do stuff because the Industry (which it now is) is inimcally set against Actual Work.
I mean to say... Interesting!
It's been a pleasure to neo-chat with you all!

GaryArtistShop: Thanks for joining us, Peter.

PH: Bye It's back to the dressing room for me...

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