Thursday, 24 December 2015

Charles Hayward: still exploring, still committed.

Photo by Lewis Hayward.
When I mentioned on Facebook to a couple of musicians I know that I was hoping to interview influential musician Charles Hayward one of them responded that they had seen him recently with Anonymous Bash and that it had been 'really good', the other messaged 'One of my favourite British drummers. This Heat and Camberwell Now (were great) bands'. This Heat's first eponymous album was released in 1979 (1), their second 'Deceit', described by Leone in Pitchfork as 'a confrontation of prog, free-jazz and contemporary electronic music', came out in 1981 (2). This Heat-1979; the Anonymous Bash gig-2015. Charles Hayward has spent over 35 years involved in ground breaking post-punk, experimental and art rock bands including Camberwell Now, The Raincoats, Massacre, Hot Chip and Monkey Puzzle Trio (3). Alongside his involvement with these and other bands Charles has also been involved with youth and disability music projects, community workshops and art installations (4,5,6). To be honest it would be ridiculous to NOT interview him!
Q: In 2014 you were the first musician in residence at 'Samarbeta', based at Islington Mill in Manchester. What is 'Samarbeta' and what was the experience like (6&7)?  

C: Samarbeta is a label and residency programme put together by Emma Thompson from Fat Out and The Burrow at Islington Mill and Riv Burns from Sounds From The Other City. I was the first residency so it was like new territory for us all. I’d played and hung out at Islington Mill a few times, and I’d always been knocked out by the whole creative vibe there, which seems to be in the brickwork. I wanted to sort of make a record which allowed me to be the outsider but to be close with the artists, like some sort of anthropology thing, like I was investigating a tribe or something and trying to make a panorama of that. There’s more than 20 musicians involved. 

Q: You recently played London with 'Anonymous Bash' which also includes some members of Gnod. Is Anonymous Bash connected with your time at Samarbeta? 

C: Yes, the record was called Anonymous Bash and a group has evolved out of that, seven or eight of us, we played the record which was a collage of the 5 day recording session, like folding time in on itself and then learning the result. Since then we’ve developed some new pieces and will record a second album in May.

Q: I noticed on  Facebook that you played a fundraiser for the PSC and commented 'This has to be done otherwise my music is empty.' In what ways do your politics shape your musical choices and involvements (8)? 

C: Usually I try to make my politics implicit in the music, the process, how its constructed, the lyrics, the technologies used; every so often I have to be explicit and ally my music with a specific cause, it almost always feels uncomfortable but it has to be done. 

Q: In 2008 'Drowned In Sound' named This Heat's 'Deceit' as one of their 'Classic Political Records' (9). We live in societies that are often an expression of the interests of the elite-would you see your music as a contestation of that, as an act of resistance?  

C: Absolutely, yes, while also realizing that the electrical supply, the manufacture and distribution systems are part and parcel of the problem and that it’s not a question of pointing fingers because we’re all compromised. The way forward is the important thing.

Q: Over the years how have the creative and recording processes you've been involved in tended to evolve?  Is it a balancing act between improvisation and structure? 

C: I think a successful improvisation constantly has its eye on structure, like the design and the execution are the same thing. My duality is more between order and chaos, and for me that can occur both inside strict composition and total improvisation, and finding ways to stay human within those 2 extremes, that seems to be the challenge for me.

Q: Have changes in technology affected the way you operate or is it much more about the mix of people

C: It's mostly about the combination of people but the technology obviously has a huge effect, especially in recording. My solo zigzag+swirl uses technology to open up uncertainty inside heavily organized songs, that’s the most pronounced influence of the technology in the music I make. 

Q: Western Society promotes a sense of self based in consumption, John Holloway talks about our sense of self emerging from our acts of collective creativity (10), as someone who lives in the UK but is immersed in the latter have you felt those opposing forces? 

C: If you mean some people don’t understand me because I live in so called social housing and don’t drive while at the same time I find people doing jobs they hate so that they can afford stuff very hard to understand too, although its definitely my job to try to understand them, as a songwriter I need to listen to people and to feel their sadness and joy.

Q: In 'Lipstick Traces' Marcus connects Dadaism, the Surrealists* and early Punk as movements that creatively disrupted and exposed (11). Would you be OK with being included in that lineage?  

C: Yes, Surrealism and Dada were massive teenage influences and I still love Duchamp, Ernst, Magritte, Tanguy, Schwitters.

Q: You have played in, and with, quite a range of bands from This Heat to The Raincoats to Monkey Puzzle Trio (3). How have these different collaborations changed the way you play and interact with other musicians? 

C: I usually try to build combinations that will bring out something new and special from each of us, so that there’s a feeling of discovery from the start. Each new exchange and project extends the possibilities; the challenge is to not become constrained by what is learned, to try and maintain a sense of not knowing.

Q: You have also worked with people with learning disabilities, in disability arts projects (4), how did that come about? Are you there as facilitator, as teacher or is it a learning experience for everyone involved? 

C: I taught for a long time at a music project, Lewisham Academy of Music, teaching drums, and that opened up a lot of connections, including with disability arts projects, especially a group called Entelechy, with which I’m still involved. We all consider the sessions a level field, using improvisation and an open aesthetic to eradicate the division between arts practitioners and the participants.

Q: What bands have you been listening to recently? What current musicians/bands excite you? 

C: Blood Sport. Barberos. Merlin Nova. Harmergeddon. Housewives. Snorkel. Negra Branca.

Huge thanks to Charles for his time and answers. 


(2) Leone, D. (2002) 'This Heat; Deceit'




(7) Charles Hayward Anonymous Bash  


(9) Tudor. A. (2008) 'Classical Political Albums; This Heat. Deceit'

(10) Holloway, J. (2005) 'Change the World Without Taking Power', Pluto Press, London and New York.

(11) Marcus, G. (2011) 'Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', Faber and Faber, London. (* Apologies to Marcus; 'Surrealists' should have been 'Situationists').  

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