Thursday, September 15, 2005

Maggie Nicols Interview Continues!

One of the great delights of the last Vancouver International Jazz Festival was seeing Maggie Nicols, Phil Minton, Torsten Muller, and Peggy Lee perform at the Ironworks -- a show I had to cut short to get over to the Subhumans' reunion at the Brickyard, but which I greatly enjoyed. I've known of the work of Phil Minton since my early 20's, when I bought Voice of America, with Fred Frith and Bob Ostertag, a noisy improvised piece themed on Reaganite interventions in Latin America. I was not so familiar, though, with the work of Scottish-born Maggie Nicols , whose work, unlike Mr. Minton's, contains a great deal of "singing," reminding me more of Meredith Monk (at times) and Lauren Newton (at times) than, say, the more sound-poet Paul Dutton-ish types out there. I was delighted by what she did, and by her subsequent performances with the Dedication Orchestra and with Paul Rutherford at the Roundhouse (I missed, alas, her workshop). Since she's more approachable than the serious and intense looking Phil Minton (who, through my long knowledge of his work, has a huge aura, too, which kept me well-back), I approached her, and managed to sneak a five minute interview behind the scenes; it was my first interview for this blog (and this is my first link to my own writing). It was cut short by a pending bus departure, but picked up via e-mail, itself complicated by computer problems on my part and Maggie's own need to settle in after the tour. It proceeds now, though alas, I no longer know what, exactly, my questions to her were -- about early influences and whether she can support herself through her art, apparently:


dear allan,

I am still intending at some point to answer your questions but i seem to be overwhelmed with unanswered correspondance. Vancouver was such a buzz for me.I suppose the singers I've been most influenced by, are Ella Fitzgerald (when I was sixteen) then Annie Ross; so original. I didn't hear Billie till much later but of course I love her. I've always loved soul singers like Aretha Franklin and one of my biggest passions, Otis Redding. I also love Joni Mitchell. There's too many to mention. From 16 onwards, I was very influenced by instrumentalists like Bill Evans, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane (a huge influence) and Scottish trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar who started off my intense love of jazz. I even liked Glen Miller cos I got a crush on James Stewart in the film 'The Glen Miller Story' One of my most favourite musics is Ska. I love dancing and I used to go down all the dives in Soho from the age of 15. They had great sounds on the juke boxes, Ska, Soul, Tamla, Afro Cuban and Jazz. I was very lucky to hear such great music while I was growing up. I suppose I'm answering your second question now. I love so many different kinds of music.I don't listen to music nearly as much as I used to. I love most sounds except warplanes.

Re Q.3 Maybe it's because the human voice is so original without even trying, unless people are trying to imitate, which some singers do but generally if a friend phones etc, you usually recignise their voice immediately. I think there are a lot of instrumentalists too with a personal sound but it's not as pronounced as with the voice maybe.The voice is so intensely personal for all of us, as long as we're not trying to be clones.

Q 4 It's an up and down living. As an improviser I find it easier to live on variable amounts rather than a much bigger but fixed wage or salary. You can get a well paid festival which keeps you going for a while and then a load of badly paid door gigs, then some workshops, then nothing for a while . I don't have to look for work cos I'm a Carer and get a small Carer's Allowance. Over the year, including my Carers Allowance, I earn between five and seven thousand pounds. I'm allowed to earn around £80 a week after work related expenses. It's hard for a lot of musicians otherwise cos there's pressure on them to take any job and be actively seeking work, if they're on state benifits.

Q5 I started as a dancer in a Revue show at The Windmill Theatre when I was 15, then I sang in a strip club at 16 and started meeting musicians who turned me on to jazz. I got into improvisation through John Stevens in the late sixties. I also remember talking in tongues, or what we called gibberish, with my mum when I was a child but that's another story. I didn't intend to answer the questions tonight but it's just as well cos I would have probably left it for ages again. Sorry if it's too late to use, love, maggiex


Thanks, Maggie, for getting back to me. Listening to Les Diaboliques as I type this, actually (the same disc that accompanied poet friend Elizabeth Bachinsky and myself as we drank wine and played with anagrams for "The Wasteland," now published in her book Curio: Grotesques and Satires for the Electronic Age, through Book Thug). I'm focused more on concerts of the future -- I wonder if you listen to Meredith Monk, soon to come to Vancouver? There are moments that remind me of her in your music. But I guess I'll e-mail you that question! Hope you come back here too, someday. I'd be all for it if Coastal Jazz brought back the whole dang Dedication Orchestra next year! Heck, I'll even write' em and suggest it.

Apologies to the site I lifted the pic off... I assume its public domain; the photographer is Ilka Schuster, and since the site is in German, and has no contact link, so...

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