The sixth in an occasional series from Rick about his life as a musician – where it all started and what it has come to now
Part 6 Suitable Language
Suitable Language was my first solo album release on my newly created Third Force Records label. It contained a wide remit of compositional styles – possibly too wide, but reflecting my musical appetite. I played most of the instruments and, once again, invited certain musicians to play certain parts and / or improvise. I invested money in working in a good studio with an attentive engineer and a very capable individual, Tim Hodgkinson, a band mate from The Work, ultimately responsible for production duties. I was happy with the outcome. It even got a few reviews – The Independent called it ‘entirely winning’. My big idea was to get some effective distribution and to interest a larger specialist label but I had to settle for much less. But it was out there….
I had worked with Viv Corringham as part of Common Lore Storytellers and Musicians and wanted to make an album with her very distinctive vocal talents. Viv remains unique, to my thinking, in that she is the only singer around who can sing English traditional songs, and particularly those of her native Lincolnshire, Greek Rembetika, Turkish, Arabic and Japanese songs, is at home in any form of improvised music and works regularly live using her own battery of electronics. These days she is also well known as a ‘tradition bearer’ of the Deep Listening movement and has pioneered ‘Shadow Walks’, her own processing of sounds and conversations gathered during walks with individuals in their favourite landscapes.
With Viv, my emphasis was less on drumming but more on mood and atmosphere. The pieces tended to be elongated and uncompromised. We improvised a lot and I edited sections to create the compositions. We both brought words that created ‘songs’ in a wide interpretation of the word. Recording was shared between a limited domestic set-up and the wider open spaces of a good studio and an engineer with keen ears. I did take my first production responsibilities and credits here. We liked the outcome -‘Glimpses of Recognition’- and got a play on Radio 3 but didn’t set the world on fire!
My creative remit was significantly expanded when I was appointed Sound Designer for a production by the very inventive Theatre Rites. This company specialise in site specific, very interactive theatre for under 5s. I devised a number of very different pieces that occurred in the different spaces that the audience moved through. I was now using a proper multi-track digital recorder and was required to tailor the compositions to the exact length of each particular tableau. These were modified throughout rehearsals so I had to be able to respond quickly to shifting requirements. I was learning new tricks and demands on the job. Also, I had an actor’s duty in the production and played live music as well. When this production finished, I adapted my pre-recorded soundtracks to fit with the installation left in the venue for a month after. Scene from ‘Finders Keepers’ – click here for link
The success of this venture, the magical ‘Finders Keepers’, led to my appointment as Musical Director for the Unicorn Theatre London’s production of ‘Rama and Sita – Path of Flames’. The adaptation, from traditional Indian sources, was by storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton. I had worked with her 5 years previously creating the radio play ‘White Horse Hill’ for BBC Radio 4 so she had a good idea about my musical processes. My duties involved composing and recording the fixed soundtrack of the show as well as playing live and overseeing the other 3 musicians. This was a privileged position to be in but I knew my limits as 2 of the musicians were very skilled Indian experts well versed in their classical traditions. I bowed to their superior classical experience and encouraged them to make significant key decisions. We happily co-existed and made some wonderful music during the several week long run. This Youtube link gives a flavour of the production.