Pe 13 mai, Sir Richard Bishop a susținut un concert chitară solo în Control club. Interviul a fost realizat în backstage, la scurt timp după concert. 

Richard Bishop a fost membru al legendarei trupe Sun City Girls (în care a cântat timp de peste 25 de ani), co-fondator al label-ului american SUBLIME FREQUENCIES, unul dintre cei mai mari inovatori ai chitării de la Jimi Hendrix încoace.


BS: This won’t be a typical interview, anyway. Do you think I am going to ask you – ‘so how did you start?’

SRB: Well, I hope not.

BS: No way man… I wanted to ask you about improvised music.

SRB: Well, what about it? If you ask anybody that question, you will probably get many different answers, like ‘what is improvised music?’. I improvised a lot tonight, but there were a lot of songs that had open spaces. So, it’s different every night, but they can be the same songs; you have an outline. You have certain things you know you’re going to do, you have certain places where you know you can try something different in a night, or you can play the same kind of thing every night. And sometimes I do both. It depends on…I know what works, but sometimes… I like to take some chances and just make mistakes, and see what happens. Just let it go somewhere.

But that’s solo improvisations. It’s not the most difficult, but you don’t have anything to work out of. So, you have to provide all yourself, whereas playing with other people, is not really important what you play as much as what you hear. You have to listen. You have to learn to not play sometimes and just listen, and then work out of that, or work into it, or work around it. That’s why sometimes I have trouble improvising with other people that I’ve never improvised with, because they don’t know how to listen. They just want to get as much in as they can. But I think that’s common, because most people think when you’re improvising with somebody else, you have to prove yourself. If you can do that – that’s great. But in order to do that right, you have to know what’s going on and you have to be able to – sometimes – just shut up and not play. Or play something minimal and just work with that and listen. Listen to what the other people are doing. A lot of people just don’t do that. When I was with Sun City Girls, I had to play for so long, but we had no problem with that. We loved to improvise together, because we kind of knew each other. We kind of learnt how that works.

BS: What it is when it’s working? What’s working?

SRB: It’s telepathy. At least with Sun City Girls, we knew when it was working. But we didn’t question it, any further than that. We didn’t analyze it. It was just like ‘it’s working’.

BS: When you think it’s working the best – sometimes – they might think it’s something totally weird.

SRB: That’s totally true. Because it’s usually just to the people who are used to that, it’s just random, it’s scattered; sometimes, to other people it’s noise. And that’s ok; it always has been like that. And I think – early on – we realized we don’t care what others think about it. If we know we’re doing something that we’re supposed to be doing and it’s working, that’s all that matters. And some of that ends up on records, but there are mostly the live shows to where that just happened all the time. It’s hard to capture it on record, because you get the energy of the room and the energies between the three of us. And it’s the same way when I play solo. It’s based on the room.

BS: You just interacted with the tap drummer guy in the audience.

SRB: Well yeah, I mean, I could hear him. And I didn’t know …at first I thought maybe it was that guy from the first set, I don’t know (e.n. – Mitoș Micleușanu).

BS: No, it wasn’t him.

SRB: I couldn’t see who it was and I didn’t want him to know that I knew he was doing that. Sometimes that could be distracting. But sometimes, he’s listening to what I’m doing, and trying to follow, and then at some point, I am listening to what he’s doing. Here it was nothing fancy, or anything. I was at least aware of it, and I didn’t know he knew I was aware of it. So yeah, this is just one of those things.

BS: Sometimes, when you have a group improvisation you can reach some places that are impossible to be reached if you would try to compose.

SRB: I agree. That’s a good point; using Sun City Girls as an example, there are things we would play…Frank Zappa is a perfect example – what he used to do, during improvisations at a live show, he would record everything and then it would be this great long improvisation with whatever instruments. Then, he would take that recording and have somebody transcribed it to where then you could get the music to somebody of that improvisation. It’s kind of amazing, if you don’t know that.

BS: So he turned improvisation into a composition?

SRB: Yeah, kind of; to where it could be played by other musicians. And I think there’s a good side to that, but I also think that’s kind of cheating, you know? Because is no longer an improvisation. It’s turned into a written piece of music; so then, it becomes the same thing every time. But that’s how composers work. Everything is written down and you play the same way every time. I’ve never been able to write anything down. I don’t know anything about writing music or anything – on paper. So, I’ve had to do it the other way. But on that same note, there are songs that I do, that they start as improvisations. There are a few songs like that; I play them the same way every time now. But it started as an improvisation, and now I filled in with notes that work. But it’s not written, it’s just memorized I guess.

DR: What about Sublime Frequencies? You’re not involved anymore, but you were, at the beginning.

SRB: Yeah, I was at the beginning. It was myself, my brother Alan and Hisham Mayet.

DR: Did you have like a plan when you first started the record label?

SRB: Well, it really grew out of this idea that myself, Alan, Hisham and some other friends (who are now more involved in the label, even if they’re not part of the business) are all travelers. We always traveled and always collected video and audio. And so we would always get together – you know – once a month; just hanging out and listening to what anybody had. And then we realized, over time, that a lot of these other labels didn’t really cover certain things that we had. It wasn’t out there. So – I think – Alan decided to start a label and just do it our way, put this stuff out and see what happens. It was very slow and hard at first, because things didn’t really sell fast. So, for the first years, there was no money to be made, it was just like a labor of love. Everybody was just doing it because they wanted to do it. I got out of it because I couldn’t put the time on it, since there was no money, I had to pay my rent, and those guys had other income, which I didn’t have. So, it was in 2003-2004 that I decided to just go for solo guitar on tour and make records. Because I knew I could do that, I could make money doing that.

But I’m still part of the collective. When I go overseas, I still collect music and video, and if they want to use it, they can. Now it’s several people – most of them are friends – who have put out a number of releases through the label. I know they work very hard at it; it’s like a full time job now, because they just keep turning it up. I don’t know if the label makes a tone of money now, but it makes enough money for them to keep going and cover some travel expenses, which I think it’s great.

BS: What about some of your worst gigs?

SRB: Oh boy. Solo, I’ve had gigs where nobody shows up…Solo, I haven’t really had many problems. In the early days of Sun City Girls, every gig was a question mark; you didn’t know what is going to happen. And I think that was great. That was kind of cool, because there were always punk crowds, people usually younger than us, just smart-ass kids who don’t know anything, but they’re playing the punk game. In the early days, they just hated us, because we didn’t play music they liked. We didn’t play music they can trash to. We played shit that fucked with their heads. Once we realized that, we just loved it, so we just kept doing that. Years later, some of these kids have grown up and I’ve heard from a few of them, over the years, ‘man, we didn’t get you back then, guys, but now I get it’.

DR: One day you’ll understand.

SRB: Yeah, kind of. I think that’s funny, but I also think it’s pretty great. At that time, it just wasn’t cool for the punk kids to like what we were doing, because they had all these other punk bands that they could identify with, that were kind of…predictable…You knew it’s going to be 3 chords over and over; we just never did that. We could have done it, we just never wanted to. We were weirder, for sure.


Puteți citi partea a doua a interviului pe The Attic Magazine.

*de Dragoș Rusu și Bogdan Scoromide


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