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29th July 2018

John Etheridge – guitar

Theo Travis – saxophone, flute, piano

(Plus a brief word with Roy Babbington – bass)


Hidden Details


Q: Recorded at Jon Hiseman’s studio in three days, how much rehearsal and preparation did you do for it?


JE: Two days recording actually and we did two rehearsals. Some of the older tunes we knew already, The Man Who Waves At Trains we had played many times and…(turns to Theo) What’s the other old one on the album?


TT: Out Bloody Rageous


JE: Out Bloody Rageous, we had done that.


TT: We had done those two live and there are a few band improvisations as well but the more written ones we did rehearse.


Q: Fourteen tracks on the CD and there’s a limited edition double album vinyl release with I believe an extra six tracks.


JE: The vinyl has got an extra six tracks?


TT: Yes it’s a double vinyl and side four is an extra six tracks. There is one alternative take, a drum solo, a guitar solo and then some improvisations. They are good but for the fourteen we wanted to be more select.


Q: Does that amount to everything you recorded at this session?


TT: Pretty much.


JE: For the vinyl, yes.


Q: I had a listen to Fourteen Hour Dream on Bandcamp. It sounds live, nicely recorded and very deserving to be labeled a Soft Machine tune…


JE: Oh thank you. That’s the late Jon Hiseman who recorded it.


Q: Is it fairly typical of the other recordings?


JE: Well too me, the opening track – Hidden Details – why I like that track as the opener is because I think everything on that track represents what this band means to me (apart from the free improve thing). It’s quite a rough sort of sound, grungy-jazz-fusion, Theo’s tune but it’s got a slightly seventies throwback feel to it and even though he (gestures towards Theo) isn’t from the seventies, we are and one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed playing in this line-up is because I feel like I’m able to play like I’m back in my young persona. (big smile) That’s a great thing because we’ve all done lots of other things and worked in all sorts of areas but it’s great to be back. To me there was no question that Hidden Details would be the opening track because it has a theme – and I know Theo doesn’t mind me saying this – which has a slight seventies music feel. Then there’s some great blowing from Theo, hopefully from me, the rhythm section is cooking with Roy’s incredible fuzzy bass through everything…


TT: It’s also important to say as well that when we recorded it, we did all play together in the studio. Most records these days, they are either completely separate or you put something down to a guide track and then someone else puts their part down to the click…this was all played together, even the complicated parts.


Q: That’s why I mentioned the live feel to it; that does come through.


TT: That’s good.


JE: Well when you’ve got an engineer like Jon Hiseman that can handle that…


TT: Yeah.


JE: That track is completely live but there are one or two tracks where we dropped in the odd thing.


TT: An overdub on top maybe…


Q: Which one do you prefer to play; vinyl or CD?


JE: Ah…I haven’t heard the vinyl. (Turns to Theo) You’ve heard it haven’t you?


TT: Yeah. I’d probably play the CD because we selected what we think is the best package of tracks with a clear running order from beginning to end. For thefirt time, you don’t want to sit somebody down and say ‘Now pay attention’; you want to play them something that is strong, focused and says what you want to say.


JE: This is probably old school thought but to me the opening track of a CD, nowadays, in the modern world – that’s it! It has to define the whole thing. Whatever you open with, defines the album and everything else becomes a variation of that. The last album I did was with a singer and we didn’t want it to be Jazz but we did do some Jazz tracks. We opened it with a sort of World Music track but then it becomes World Music CD…with some Jazz! Hidden Details is a Soft Machine band, blowing hard and that really defines it. It says exactly the right thing.  


Touring, Tunes & Titles


Q: These dates are called rather ominously the Farewell Japan Tour….really?


JE: Yes that’s right – it was Leonardo’s (manager) idea. It is a bit ominous isn’t it? I’m notsure it’s true and I said last night that Au Revoir would be better. In other words, hopefully we’ll see you again. You know the last time we came, which was three years ago, I remember saying to Gary Husband ‘We’ll I’ll probably never come to Japan again’ but here I am, here again.


Q: You’re doing a lot of shows in the next nine months or so…a real world tour.


TT: We seem to be yes. Because there is a new album, there’s an extra input of energy and Leonardo when putting it together has gone to town on it.


Q: Are you finding the new tracks are morphing a bit as you play them live?


JE: Well last night was the first time we played them.


Q: Having no lyrics means the titles must come from the music and I presume you could all explain your titles but I am curious to know if when you record someone else’s tune – Mike Ratledge’s The Man Who Waved At Trains for example  - if you ever ask what inspired their titles?


JE: Yes. The Man Who Waved At Trains was a real person apparently. You should ask John Marshall as he was there. They were staying in a hotel and at the bottom of the hotel was a railway line and there was a guy and every time a train went past, he would stand all alone and wave at it. All alone, it’s got a sort of connotation of aloneness, waving at trains, on your own.


Q: That’s lovely; the last of the Railway Children*


TT: Yes.


JE: Yes it is lovely isn’t it?


TT: With titles, there are different processes to titling tracks. One is to say ‘What does this picture look like?’ and then we’ll make a title up that describes the picture that the music is and obvious in a way. Another is word play – things that read nicely on a page and in Soft Machine’s history there is all sorts of word play and the title may not sound like the music sounds but it’s a thing in its own way. If it marries up and feels right, that can be it, the music doesn’t necessarily have to conjure up the image of what the title is and there are other schools of titling instrumental tracks. Sometimes people just have cryptic things that no one understands but it doesn’t matter if it becomes the titles of the track.


JE: I have two ways. When we recorded Grape Hound, we were talking about the Grey Pound**; Hugh Hoper was particularly interested in these areas. The ones on the new album that I did, I used my anthology of poetry and look for phrases that have something to do with the music. Now, although the phrase I feel is mirrored in the music, it’s not the music giving me the idea, it’s just a phrase that I think suits the music. In other words, I don’t have any pre-conceived idea what the music is about.


TT: Sometimes it’s nice if the words sound good and it fits the thing, not to explain where it comes from.

JE: Yes. Oh no! I’ve ruined it! (laughs)


Music Then and Now


Q: You come from an era when popular music was exploding in a dozen different directions.


JE: Yes it did and I think that’s the USP (Unique Selling Point) of my age of people. Theo’s a bit too young but you didn’t appreciate it at the time - you never do. Looking back on it, I was a bit of a snob as a young man because even though I was playing in Progressive Rock bands I did look down my nose at them because I was a John Coltrane man. I was a bit snobbish about the people I was playing with but now when I hear the stuff, I think ‘Wow!’ It can be pretentious but that’s the risk worth taking because there’s always this feeling that you can incorporate anything.


TT: There was musical ambition; you wanted to do more than a three minute song.


JE: Yes.


Q: Where do you think popular music is it heading now?


TT: It’s fragmented into a million places and each of those million places, anyone can go on the internet and find all of the things that they want, in that fragmented line so there is no one scene or mood or fashion really. When I was growing up there was the Punk thing, the New Romantic thing and obviously before there were the Mods and the Hippies, etc but now there is no clear thing – there’s lots of different things so there’s nothing social to it. It’s going everywhere.




Q: Have you read William Burroughs’ The Soft Machine?


TT: Ermm…no.


JE: No. I’ve read The Soft Machine by Graham Bennett. (Soft Machine biography)


Q: Is it good?


JE: Good.


TT: Very good in fact. The book itself is really rare – like £60 - but you can get it on Kindle for £3.


Q: Ah I’m not a Kindle person. I can’t use them.


TT: Why not?


Q: I like the physical thing, tangibility, plus if you ever meet the author, are you going to ask them to sign your Kindle?


JE: (laughs)


TT: Yeah but for three quid…


Q: I’d rather spend the sixty Theo but that’s just me.


TT: That’s good. (smiles)


JE: Good for you! (grins)




Q: Just wondering...have you ever met a Beatle?


TT: No. I share a birthday with Ringo. (grins)


JE: I said hello to John Lennon at the Bob Dylan 1964 Albert Hall concert. *** I was sixteen, I went up from school to see it and in the foyer John Lennon passed and I went ‘Hello John!’ and he went ‘Hello’. That’s not really meeting a Beatle is it?


Q: It’s good enough.


JE: If he was still alive he’d remember it. (grins) Roy must have met a Beatle – ask him.


Q: You jammed with Hendrix as well didn’t you?


JE: I knew Hendrix…and Clapton. I played with Clapton but I didn’t play with Hendrix. He came and saw me play and he was very nice to me. He came up to me, was very complimentary which was very sweet.


Q: Gentlemen, thank you very much.


JE: Thank you that was good.


TT: Thank you.


After the interview, I managed to have a quick word with Roy Babbington and I asked him about meeting a Beatle…


RB: No. I did some work for Paul McCartney once but I never met him. He had done a concert somewhere in London with a load of people from Nashville. Their age group varied, right across the range. Some of the players were a bit ancient and some of the recording was a bit duff and he wanted a lot of the bass lines redoing. So I got the call and took a string bass and a bass guitar to Mickie Most’s studio where they left me alone and I redid the parts. I replaced the bass parts and went home.



*The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit first published in 1905

** An expression in the UK referring to the economic power of elderly people.

***Actually 1965, May 9th/10th.

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『Hidden Details』



ジョン・エサリッジ(以下JE):実際には2日間だったんだ。それで、2回リハーサルをした。全員が馴染みのある古い曲をいくつか。「The Man Who Waves At Trains」なんて何度も演奏してきたからね。(テオに向かって)アルバムには他にも古い曲は入ってたっけ?

テオ・トラヴィス(以下TT):「Out Bloody Rageous」だな。

JE:「Out Bloody Rageous」か。ああ、あれもやったな。











Q:バンドキャンプで「Fourteen Hour Dream」を聴いたのですが、ライブ感があって、とても洗練されていて、ソフトマシーンらしい出来でした。




JE:僕にとってはそうだったね。オープニング・ナンバーの「Hidden Details」なんて、アルバムの幕開けには相応しいものだった。あの曲にこのバンドの真髄が宿っていると思うからね。即興部分以外だけどね。粗っぽいサウンドなんだけど、グランジ風のジャズでもあり、テオらしい曲でもあって、何となく70年代を想起させるような感じなんだ。(テオを指差して)彼は70年代にはメンバーじゃなかったけど、このラインナップで凄くプレイを楽しめているんだ。まるで若い頃に戻ったようにね(笑)。とてもいい経験だったよ。いろいろな曲にトライして、垣根をなくして仕事できた。またこんな経験ができたことは最高だったね。そんなわけで「Hidden Details」はオープニング・ナンバーに決まり、だった。これがテーマ曲みたいなものだったからね。テオも反論しないと思うよ。70年代の薫り漂うナンバーだからね。テオもいいプレイしているし、僕もそのつもりだし、ロイをはじめリズム・セクションもそれに応えてくれたんだ。













JE:このアルバムは古き良き時代の薫りを持ったものだと思うけど、CDで聴くと、オープニング・ナンバーなんてまさに現代の曲だって思えるものね!これこそアルバムを象徴するものでないとだめなんだ。この曲が象徴で、その他はそのバリエーションってわけ。僕が最後に作ったアルバムはボーカリストと一緒だった。ジャズっぽいものにはしたくなかったんだけど、ジャズをやったんだ。ワールド・ミュージックぽいナンバーをオープニングにして、ワールド・ミュージックぽいCDにするつもりだったんだ。ちょっとジャズの入ったね!「Hidden Details」はまさにソフトマシーンというバンドらしい、ハードで象徴的なナンバーなんだ。あれで正解だったと言えるね。













Q:歌詞のない曲はメロディそのものからタイトルが付けられますよね。タイトルすべてについてそう付けた理由を説明してもらえると思いますが、他人のレコーディング・セッションとかで、例えばマイク・ラトレッジの「The Man Who Waved At Trains」なんかで、どうしてこのタイトルにしたのかなんて気になったことはないですか?

JE:あるよ。「The Man Who Waved At Trains」はどうやら実在の人物のことらしいんだ。ジョン・マーシャルが目撃したことだから、彼に訊いてみるといいよ。あるホテルに泊まった時、1階は電車が通る構造の建物だったらしいんだけど、そこにある男が立っていて、すべての列車が通るたびに一人ウェーヴしていたそうなんだ。一人でね。これは一種の孤独行動じゃないかってことでね。電車に向かってウェーヴするのは、自分自身に対してしているんじゃないか、って。






JE:僕は二種類のやり方をしているよ。「Grape Hound」をレコーディングした時、僕たちは「Grey Pound」**のことを話していたんだ。ヒュー・ホッパーは特にこの分野のことに詳しかったからね。僕のニュー・アルバムの曲には、僕がかつて書いた詩の中から音楽にそぐうようなフレーズを探したんだ。その音楽を表現する言葉があると思うんだけど、音楽を聴いているだけじゃ浮かばないんだ。僕が見つけてこないとね。言い換えれば、音楽を作る前には何のイメージもないってことなんだ。

























































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