I miss remembering that there is a full moon behind the clouds or the brightness of the night sky when I’m in the city and dazzled by the man-made light or of how much I enjoy sitting on the rocks by the ocean. I miss remembering the quiet thrill of reading. Are all the distractions in modern life worth missing these things. Should we let them interfere with our true desires? Not just missing the beauty of the world but simply not getting to do what we really want to do. It seems that it is one of our most dangerous hazards and if we weren’t so distracted, we might be able to stop for a moment and contemplate the issue and solve it. It happens before focus, before self-discipline, but the problem is that distraction is also life. You might call drinking your life away a distraction, but it’s still full of conversation, adventure, philosophical musings. Perhaps work itself is a distraction? You’ve heard people say ‘he gave it all up and moved to the country’. If everyone was searching for their soul and painting all day or dancing or making music then there would be no recording studios or Rickenbackers. There might be less tanks and weapons, too, but the world needs different skills, different philosophies to rub against each other, perhaps simply to find an agreed common good. The point is how do you make sure you are a doer and are not distracted from achieving your real desires?
There’s a lot of people out there that love their job, so therefore that is their desire and not a distraction at all, it might be the means to an end. It might buy you a house or a car or a great big TV screen. There was a girl I read about that had some success as a musician and felt like she had to stop just in case it worked out, it was the last thing she wanted to be, she had other dreams. It’s not the easiest life working in the arts and there’s a lot of unhappy artists. Ups and downs, uncertainty, lack of security. I just watched a ZZ Top documentary on Netflix, Frank Beard, the drummer (the one without the beard), said that after their biggest tour to date in the seventies he was given a cheque for $72,000. “What did you spend it on?”, the interviewer asked. “I spent it on drugs”. Maybe that girl was trying to avoid decadent temptation or perhaps she simply preferred the idea of business, music was a distraction.
I wonder how the billionaires aren’t distracted? Can you imagine being so rich that you could buy anything you wanted and deciding that once you had a house or a few houses, a car or a few cars, chef, housekeeper, you know, all those things, that you should generate more riches by simply investing and watching it grow. Wouldn’t you be distracted by the possibilities of your wealth? Wouldn’t you drive by the local shops and want to fix their broken signs, wouldn’t you drop a grand at the food shelter? I guess you would and we’ll never know who is a generous billionaire and who isn’t. Did you ever hear the story about Minnie Pearson who in July 1975 was there in Memphis at the same time as Elvis was looking at cars. As a random act of kindness he bought her a Cadillac, a total stranger, and when he heard it was her birthday coming up he also gave her a cheque to go and buy some new clothes.
Bono, Paul McCartney, Bruce, they probably give a lot of money to charities and probably anonymously. What else could you do if you’d got that rich from the arts? When you come from humble origins, I imagine you keep lots of it and give lots of it away. But what is happening outside the music must be a massive distraction. Is the old cliché of ‘do you have to be hungry to create great art’ true? The Beatles made amazing albums when they were rich, so I guess it’s not true. But they were eventually distracted. Is the general rule that the younger you are, the poorer you are, the better your music, because the goal posts change when you get more success, more acclaim, more money and there’s way more distractions. Plus the work load is much bigger. I remember when Starfish was a hit album that we started in Australia playing shows, toured America for weeks and weeks, toured in Europe, went to South America, went back to America and toured around again and by that time they wanted us back to tour in Australia again, before we went to Europe – again. There was no real time left, we were left distracted by our own focus on not being distracted.
There is so much happening in the world, especially with entertainment that everyone has to fight not to be distracted. It’s okay to watch Netflix, but the pure volume is a distraction. The internet is a distraction, Facebook is definitely a distraction (ha ha). I’m sure my parents thought my obsession with music was a distraction. So the definition of a distraction might be connected to procrastination. Don’t get distracted and procrastinate, if Netflix or Facebook is really what you want to do then that is your relief, your release, your hobby, it’s not a distraction at all, carry on.
I was distracted today by records from the ECM label. Modern jazz fans love ECM, it was founded in 1969 by a German aficionado called Manfred Eicher who saw the need for this outlet and turned it into a stylish and sophisticated home for artists who were not going to be topping the charts. The cream of latter day Jazz players, especially from Scandinavia, are on this label. The cover art to all these different artists usually followed an ECM mood theme. The records were quite different but the same – to outsiders, in the same way as my parents thought that Hawkwind and Black Sabbath sounded the same, in the same way that we thought that my Mum’s swing records sounded the same. It’s a genre and in this genre there are often different instrumentalists as the leader. It can be sax or guitar, bass or piano, flute or trumpet. For every potential bland Jazz record there’s many challenging and inspiring works and in Modern Jazz a lot of those lie here.
We started with Arild Andersen’s quartet, he is Norway’s most famous bassist. Then we went to Art Lande and Rubisa Patrol, he’s an American piano player. That album also featured American trumpet player Mark Isham. Then it was Dave Liebman who is an American sax player. Steve Eliovson is a South African Jazz guitarist and Colin Walcott accompanies him on tabla and other percussion (Walcott also studied sitar under Ravi Shankar).
I have a lot of records on ECM by Terje Rypdal, a Norwegian guitarist that I have cited as something of an influence for some certain aspect of what I do as a guitarist, although I’m as far away from Jazz as you can be. As a listener though, I always keep an open mind.
One last point, there always seems to be a massive imbalance of women in Jazz. Why is that?
Song Of The Day is Things To Do And Be from Noctorum’s Sparks Lane (2003). We certainly weren’t scared or distracted when we came up with this.
Things To Do And Be
A moment a second a minute an hour a day a week a month a year a decade a century a halfpenny a penny a shilling a florin a halfcrown a pound a guinea a monkey a ton a grand a pfennig an öre a centime pesetas and lire and Deutschmarks sterling dollars cents nickels and dimes francs and kronor guilder and roubles yen and Mazda Toyota Datsun Mitsubishi Mercedes Audi Simca Peugeot Renault Citroën and Buick and Dodge and Cadillac and Oldsmobile Pinto and Pontiac Dusenberg Studebaker Mercury Saab and Volvo and Fiat and Ferrari and Maserati Lambourghini De Tomaso De Lorean Jensen and Jaguar Daimler and Wolsely and Riley and Hillman and Singer and Humber Bentley Rolls Royce Marcus and Lotus and Holden and Maton and Fender and Gibson and Rickenbacker Hagström and Burns and Shergold and Hayman and Cayman and Scilly and Haiti and Jamaica and Fiji and Bali The Maldives Madagascar The Isle Of Man The Falklands The Isle of Aron England and Ireland and Bronson Pacino Keitel De Niro Lake Bergman Hayworth Davies Crawford Camus and Sartre and Cocteau Venus and Mars and Pluto and Saturn and Jupiter Mercury Uranus and Neptune Earth Sea Sun the Moon and wolves and foxes squirrels and badgers and otters and rabbits and hares crows magpies finches sparrows and eagles and vultures lions and tigers and elephants giraffes gazelles rhinos hippos cougars panthers and cheetahs hyenas and pigs foxes cows sheep cats dogs ostriches emus camels and llamas love and pity and war and tears and fear and happiness sadness mystery intrigue Typhoon Lancaster Wellington Spitfire Mosquito Kitty Hawk Heinkel Messerschmidt Dornier Zero 12345678 hunger obesity bulimia anorexia starving gluttony and Kings and Queens and Queens and Princes Earls Counts Countesses banks butchers bakeries bedrooms cloakrooms black and white photos posters pamphlets prisons judges and policemen murderers and vicars and nuns and guns and knives and forks and spoons trains and planes and caravans and spaceships buses and taxis yellow and green blue and red vermilion orange apples and peaches pears and cumquats and lime and lemons Muslims and Arabs and Jews and Christians Buddhists Agnostics Presbyterians Anglicans Children Of God
(Willson-Piper / Mason)
Noctorum – Sparks Lane (2003)