|Interview date||1st January 0001|
Interviewer: So, if we could just start right at the beginning if you could please tell me your name and spell your name for me please.
Alan: So my name is Alan Clarke A.L.A.N C.L.A.R.K.E
Interviewer: Thank you and could you just let me know your date of birth and where you were born.
Alan: Yes, 31st May 1948; in St Pancras, London
Interviewer: Oh ok, and if you could just expand that a little bit about your background, your childhood and your parents as well please.
Alan: Yes well my parents were just an ordinary type of family really. My father was a fishmonger by trade but he was a semi-professional drummer, just before the war and during the war years he played a bit of drums, but yeah so when I was born we moved out of London when I was about three, and came down to Southend. My father didn’t really play much after I was born – not doing gigs out but he used to sometimes on a Sunday afternoon get his old drum kit out and practice in the lounge in the house on Sunday afternoons to these old records, these old 78’s, Jazz 78’s that he had and I used to hear him practicing, I used to hear him playing, cause that’s what got me interested, I’d go in and listen to him playing, and I thought ‘this is alright, I wouldn’t mind having a go at this’ so I started trying to play a beat - he showed me a few things but he wasn’t very advanced as a player, so that’s really how I started to get in to it there.
Normal sort of schooling, in the local area in Southend, I went to a local infant school - Westborough, then Westborough junior school and from there went to a school called Fairfax High School in Southend, and there until I was fifteen. Music education in those days in the schools round here was non-existent, probably the most you’ d ever learn was what Mozart had for breakfast but as regards anything else it wasn’t much for music education it was very much in the background. I didn’t glean much music knowledge from schooling but some of my school friends played instruments, so I met a guy who became a friend of mine – bass player and a couple of guitarists, of course in those days we decided to form a band and started practicing as a band but always in the background, Jazz was my thing, I think that’s probably the influences from the early days of my father because he didn’t have anything else but Jazz in the house, all the 78’s were of Jazz or Jazz material
People like Benny Goodman of course and Art Tatum, some of the great big bands, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, all the sort of stuff that he had, so really in my early years that’s all I heard was that type of music, and I was very influenced by it, so I liked Jazz which made me a bit weird with my friends cause they were all in to the Blues or Rhythm and Blues as it was in those days in the early days, and I was trying to quote all these Jazz people to them now and again, and they just used to look at me as if I was mad, and I remember playing a great record that I had of Benny Goodman – Live at Carnegie Hall, with Gene Krupa on drums and they thought it was complete nonsense; they didn’t understand it all but that was that but yeah, I always had Jazz in the background but I went through all the normal early years of playing in what we used to call Beat groups in those days, sort of emulating the Beatles and all those sort of bands – The Stones [The Rolling Stones] and whatever. So I went through all that doing lots of local talent competitions and things even doing small gigs - we used to do gigs at the various youth clubs with the bands – did quite well, with some of the bands.
One of them we did a big Saturday morning gig at the Odeon cinema at Southend on Sea, and it happened to coincide with – I think the following day was when the Beatles were coming to the Odeon to do a big concert there and they had in those days what was called ‘Beatle Queues’ where people would camp out for about three days before the - to sort of get tickets, and things like that and whatever, I can’t exactly remember what happened but there was a big queue and people were camping around the cinema, and they heard us playing in there and I think they got the idea that it was the Beatles just rehearsing and they crashed through the doors and came and mobbed us, and we got our ties torn off and everything and I thought that the guy who was managing us at the time thought that all his Christmases had come at once, I think he thought we were famous but I’m afraid it was a case of mistaken identity, [laughs] they didn’t really know who it was but that’s happened, sorry to throw that in by the way.
Interviewer: No, great story.
Alan: So through those years it was just mainly Pop groups and things like that and I started branching out a bit more and when I was in my late teens – 16,17,18, I started doing local Jazz gigs, playing with some soul bands, and also I was out doing functions – dinner dances, masons, ladies nights, stuff like that playing in a lot of local function bands which gave me quite a bit of experience of playing commercial music and all sorts of different types of music, so that was good, that was a good learning curve for me but again, all the time I was playing Jazz in the background.
Interviewer: So, were you mainly self-taught then?
Alan: Yes, really my father showed me very little because his knowledge was quite little, he was only semi-professional and he didn’t t play very much really, just a bit - mainly for his own amusement, so what he could teach was very little as regards technique, so yeah I was basically self-taught, I had no formal music education whatsoever, sorry to say because that would have been nice and a big help, and less of a struggle because it is a bit of a struggle when you have to teach yourself.
I went to a local drum tutor for a while but it was very much just playing on a practice pad, reading drum rudiments, and they’re just basic things you play on a snare drum, so went over those with him which was good for my technique, learning a few technical things and also start me on the road in learning to read music cause I couldn’t read music. So that was a bit of a struggle as well, when I decided I had to get better at what I wanted to do because I wanted to make more of it I realised I had to read music and get in to it more, so that was basically self-taught which was hard going.
Interviewer: Were the other members – you mentioned you were in some bands and stuff through your early years, were they usually self-taught as well or?
Alan: Yes, all of my friends at that time, the people who I associated with are all similar people to me, so they had no formal music education, so they learnt to play guitars themselves and by listening to records and hoping to God they got the chords right, half the time which they didn’t most of the time, but that’s the pitfalls of listening and trying to learn by ear but yeah, some of them were quite good. They had a natural ability and at that time in Southend, there was a lot of very good musicians which eventually came out of Southend and did very well for themselves - people like Gary Brooker who was with Procal Harum and things like that and other people. Robin Trout played in Southend and he was called the English Jimi Hendrix at one time he did very, very well in America, I worked with Robin and did two albums with him, one of which did very well. Is it ok to talk about that now? Ok well this was just one person I worked with, this was a Rock thing not Jazz, I did one with him called ‘Back it up’ which was with a singer – a Glaswegian singer called Jimmy Durr who’s a bit of a cult figure – great, great Rock singer which a lot of Scottish guys are, because they have got that raspy voice and make good Rock singers. So Jimmy was a great Rock singer and held in very great esteem by lots of people who like that sort of thing, so he was quite a famous person who became quite a cult figure, and the album I did – ‘Back It Up’ with Jimmy, I think was one of the last ones he ever did, which was quite something so I did that one with Robin Trout, it’s called ‘Back It up’ and it got to number 15 in the American Rock charts which was quite good at the time. But that was just an aside as that was in the later years… So going back to my younger years, Of course this was just getting to a point where I was trying to learn more about the drums and to understand more about the playing and the rudimentary playing of everything, and more of the technique and the reading, and to read music. [09’35”]
Interviewer: Have you always had different projects in different genres over the years, so like dipping in and out of different things?
Alan: Yes, many. Yeah, I mean as I say my first, foremost love has always been Jazz that’s cause of my early influences – I was totally besotted with it at one time – just the sheer groove and rhythm of Jazz, and the feel of it. I was just absolutely addicted to it. But the problem was, I think probably quite a few professional musicians find this – it’s hard to make a good living in Jazz unless you’re really top of the tree but when you’re just starting out its hard going, so if you find you want to be a professional musician you have to branch out in to other genres of music as it’s the only way you can make a living – basically that’s what I did, so I was doing lots of other things as well. I did quite a few Rock things, I worked with several other people in the Rock business as well, and all sorts of things – West End musicals but Americans I worked with – I did the Kenny Rodgers tours – who’s quite a well-known Country/Rock artist – I did Wembley with him and all the major arenas in this country – G-Mex , NEC with him, and then I did the Glen Campbell tour, he was another Country/Rock style player – American – I did his tours over here. One of the big gigs I did which I’m really pleased about – one of my old idols years ago is Bob Hope – I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bob Hope – the American comedian – yeah he was doing his last ever gig and he did it in this country, at the Albert Hall and I was lucky enough to be guest drummer, so that was phenomenal to meet Bob Hope, I think Bob Hope was about 93, 94 then or something but he did it. The Albert Hall was sold out standing but it was a fantastic night – did one gig at the Albert Hall, another gig the following day at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, so we did two gigs, so that was a thing, I know for a lot of people would think ‘that’s a weird thing’ but it was great to do - it was quite a big gig to do, and it was with a band called The Squadronaires who were probably the cream of English musicians at that time.
Interviewer: Where you’re going through different genres and different things completely how do you make those connections to get those gigs, when it’s such a range of areas?
Alan: Well mainly by word of mouth because the more types different types of gigs you do, the more people you work with so really it’s like throwing a stone into a pond – the ripples go out and as the ripples go out, you meet more people all the time and then those people talk about you, hopefully if you’re any good and they go out and tell other people about you, and if they need a player, they call you, they tell other people, and so it goes on like that, and you eventually build up quite a wide contact base of other musicians, bookers, agents, artists and things like that, who hopefully keep calling you, so basically that’s how it works, and you get your name out there.
Interviewer: So that’s what I was wondering, where you haven’t just stuck with Jazz, you are branching out in to a lot of different venues, and artists and areas, and where you’ve mentioned the West End as well – getting involved with that, so how has that developed over the years, was that something you always intended to do, all different things or is that something that developed over time?
Alan: It really developed, probably through a lack of money to be honest with you. I would loved to have just been a Jazz musician and that’s what I wanted to do – I really like Soul music and Blues, I suppose they’re all inter-connected to a certain point, but I love improvised music, and particularly Jazz – I wanted to concentrate on it but the usual thing happens – you meet somebody and then you get married, and then also you’ve got horrendous bills, you’ve got mortgages to pay and all the sort of usual rubbish, life suddenly leaps upon you and gets in the way, and you can’t just really move around, doing what you want to do, earning very little money. If you’re going to make a proper profession out of the music business you start having to look at other places where there is bigger money, and the bigger money is in studio sessions; shows if you can stand them, cause its eight shows a week when you go in to the West End, I mean when I did ‘Jolson The Musical’ that ran for nearly two and a half years - eight shows a week.
Interviewer: So when you were doing things like that were you still doing gigs elsewhere or did you focus on one thing at a time?
Alan: Yes you try, sometimes it was difficult to get out of the shows, because the producers and the people - they tie you in there, and they don’t like you to go off and do other things but you have to now and again, otherwise if you’re doing eight shows a week, you go mad, so you still do other things but those shows doing things like that, can have a detrimental effect. Financially its ok because you’ve got a full wage packet, at the end of every week you know how much you’re gonna earn just like everybody else working in an office, so it’s good from that point of view but from the other point of view, people rapidly forget you if you're tied up in a pit, so I did a bit of acting in ‘Jolson’ [Al Jolson] as well, a little bit of extras for doing things like that but musically just playing drums for the show, but that was a big, huge thing - got a Laurence Olivier award so it was called ‘Jolson The Musical’ so it was good to do that. [15’42”]
Interviewer: And if you could just go through a little bit then - what your main activities have been in Jazz over the years as well then - what you’ve been involved in.
Alan: Yes, with Jazz it was as much as possible, and I was playing quite a bit of Jazz even though I was doing all these other things, I was still playing a lot of Jazz during the week, even if I had to go away and do things, tours and other stuff. I did as much Jazz as I possibly could. I worked with a lot of great people. The main sort of place I’d be playing were mainly small clubs, Jazz clubs down here - we had a few Jazz clubs at the time round this area, there was quite a few over in Kent, used to play Jazz clubs in Kent and of course in London as well- Ronnie Scott’s, things like that so there’s quite a few Jazz clubs to play at, so that’s where I went around doing Jazz clubs and small venues and thing like that.
Interviewer: So has it mainly been, cause I think I read on your website, sorry, also you teach a bit as well. – Do you teach Jazz or is it drumming more generally?
Alan: Yes drumming in general, but if people want to learn Jazz, I have had students who just want to play Jazz so we’ve just done Jazz studies, but mainly with the teaching thing it’s an overall thing. People want to learn all different styles. I’ve always been interested in music education – trying to put a bit back, so I’ve done quite a bit of teaching too, on and off, quite a few private pupils, and then I used to do what we call ‘drum clinics’ that’s like drum workshops where people come along and sit – not much bigger rooms than this - small theatres, and might be on stage with a drum kit – play a bit and do some solos, people would also questions and we’d try out different things and that used to be good, I used to enjoy those, that was good music education, I did many of those from Ludwig drum company and another American drum company was the Gretsch drum company, did for them too, and Sona which is a German drum company, so I had endorsement deals with those drum companies, in other words they gave me drums, and I just gave my name to say that I played them. A normal endorsement deal that you get. So that did a lot in that way but too many to remember them all if you know what I mean but there were lots - I had some private pupils as well. Now in the latter years I’ve stopped flying around the world so I don’t do that quite so much. I still do lots of Jazz gigs every week; still do a lot of playing. Mainly sort of Jazz now more than anything.
Interviewer: Do you play with the same people?
Alan: No. No all different people, all different artists. I play with a regular trio down here, we try and play together as much as we possibly can and that’s with a Bass player called Roger Curphey and a fine piano player a guy named Tim Huskisson down here – be good for you to interview him one day - he’s got a vast knowledge of Jazz as well but yes so that’s a local thing to do down here. For many years I played in a trio with a fantastic piano player, a blind piano player called Peter Jacobsen, phenomenal jazz player just phenomenal just tremendous – gone now I’m afraid he’s passed on now - he was brilliant but many years I played in a trio with Peter and a Bass player called Rod Stathem and that’s where we backed and worked with a lot of different people with that trio, a lot of artists, just some of the ones I can remember – I mean the early days when I was playing I worked with Ronnie Scott, quite a bit, and when I was very young, in the early days before he died, I was fortunate enough to work with a phenomenal saxophone player – English saxophone player called Tubby Hayes, so only one or two gigs but it was great to do that.
Others I worked with were Jean Toussaint saxophone player – used to play sax with Art Blakey – Jazz Messengers – a famous American band and Art Blakey was the drummer and Jean Toussaint played with him for many years, and I played with Jean for a while. Ronnie Ross is a great baritone player, a great saxophone player, I worked with him. The great Dick Morrissey. Dick was a great, great player who I used to go and watch when I was 14, down here; he’d come down here and do gigs, with an amazing drummer called Phil Seaman – just brilliant. I was astounded by their playing and I didn’t think when I was that young at 14 that one day I’d be working with Dick, so that was great – Dick and another great guitarist called Jim Mullen and I did some gigs very recently with Jim and I formed a band called the ‘Alan Clarke All-Stars and Jim played guitar on that, and a very, very fine bass player called Andrew Clynedip. Andrew is considered one of the greats in this Country, probably in Europe - he’s a great, great bass player so they were good. Other people, I feel that I am name-dropping now – Don Weller another great player, did many, many gigs with Don. Many years ago but he’s a great player. Mornington Lockett, John Barnes. The great Tony Coe - all these people – Alan Skidmore, Simon Spillett just a couple of weeks ago – Simon a saxophone player, Bruce Turner, Barbara Thomson – Great Days Art Theme, well you could go on for a long time. All these names are great English Jazz musicians and still are. Steve Waterman is one of my all-time favourite trumpet players and I still love working with him – these guys are still busy now. [21’54”]
Interviewer: And do you still seek – say you really like someone’s work, do you seek out them to try and work with them or does it normally happen organically?
Alan: Well it sort of, kind of really happens you know. So I’m lucky enough to be asked to do a gig, I don’t always know – sometimes I know who the rhythm section is going to be but I don’t know who the front line is going to be. When somebody’s putting a gig together and they just phone you up – ‘are you available on such and such a date?’ and you go ‘Yes’ - ‘Well it’s a Jazz gig at such and such a club – these are the times’ and you just turn up and do it. You don’t always know who you are working with. It’s not a rehearsed band – tend to play lots of standards that everybody knows, so they just call the tunes on the day, but when you’re working with everybody who knows what they’re doing on the stand and they are really, really good players, you can do that sort of thing, and it just happens - it’s lovely when it works, it’s good but sometimes it doesn’t [laughs]. [22’55”]
Interviewer: Obviously you’ve kept with music pretty much your whole life in that case so what’s motivated you to- a) keep in investing in music, but also in Jazz?
Alan: That’s a good question. I think the motivation is just the love of the music, really because it’s not an easy life. I mean, it’s fun but, we’ve had a lot of fun doing it and had some incredible, funny times in my life and met some great people – been all around the world and somebody else has paid me to go, so it’s been alright really, so that’s been really good but the basic drive is just the love of music. I mean I play whether I was on a gig, I play at home, I still practice - I’ve got various drum kits and various rooms, I’ve got my studio so I play - we have to practice anyway or we’re supposed to - sometimes it gets a little bit less the older you get but I still play all the time, so basically I’m playing for myself, playing for fun. I’d play even if I wasn’t being paid which is where you can be taken vast advantage of sometimes as Jazz musicians because most Jazz musicians play from the heart. So they play for the love of music and they play for the love of that particular type of music, so if they get the chance to play with people that they really, really like then it’s just pure enjoyment, money doesn’t come in to it, so therefore - promoters -you’re right up there for being exploited because promoters can be making a lot of money out of a gig if they’re charging - £20/25 to come in, something like that and they pay you quite a low fee because they know you’ll say yes because you want to work with the people you are working with. So they’ll make a lot of money out of it - that’s no different musicians have been exploited and entertainers have been exploited for centuries, so that’s nothing new.
Interviewer: Have you noticed over the years the venues have changed that you can play Jazz in or the way the audiences have changed over the years as well then?
Alan: Yes definitely there is not so many venues now to play Jazz in, I say that though there are still a lot of people out there playing Jazz, so there are places to play but I seem to think it’s a little trickier to go out know and get Jazz gigs - it seemed to be a lot easier years ago, there was a lot more places that would accept you to play Jazz in - pubs and clubs and things like that, whereas now they just want to make money you know. Jazz is still I’m afraid to a certain extent, a minority music, and people can’t make money out of it they don’t want you to come in to their pubs and clubs if you see what I mean. But there are still places I mean there’s a place down here where you can play Jazz, and there’s still quite a reasonable amount but not so many now, I don’t think it is as good now as it was years and years ago for places to play that’s all. I mean there’s some phenomenal young musicians coming up now - Jazz musicians – great, great players but I just wonder sometimes where they’re going to play that’s the thing but there will always be places but it’s a bit limited I think.
Interviewer: So in terms of how you’ve organised, because it is a career you’ve built for yourself how have you organised your music activities, managed to find gigs, and find time to practice cause you’ve got so much going on - how does the organisation side of it work, Is it?
Alan: Well things come in - you take the gigs by phone, you just do what you can, sometimes if you are doing a lot of travelling for instance - if you are doing a show and working in the evenings and just matinees on a Wednesday and Saturday, so you’ve got the day off, so you can practice then and organise your normal daily life during the day. If you’re touring, there’s not much else you can do but except tour as you’re all over the place, it could be one-nighters all over this country or Europe where you just stay in hotels – live out of a suitcase for a few months until the tour ends but they’re not back to back, so you might do a tour if you do a two or a three month tour even, once you come back from that tour, there’s going to be a month or so when you’re not doing anything at all so you can get your life back in order then.
Interviewer: And do you as a band tend to organise the tour yourself or do you have like a team of people who help you with that?
Alan: No the tours are organised and you just get called and asked to play on the tour, unless you’re doing it yourself – organising a tour yourself f, which I haven’t ever done, - it’s all done by agent production companies and things like that, and they just tell you where to be; what time to be; where you’re going to basically play and what plane to get on. It’s a little bit more involved - when I worked for a woman for many years out of Los Angeles called Diane Solomon - an American, and her gigs were all over the world, and were quite prestigious gigs, quite biggish venues, and stayed in some of the best hotels in the world, and that was good. In that instance I was her musical director at the end. So I had a lot more things I had to sort out as MD - a lot more responsibilities, not just for the way the show ran, and make sure all the music was right and everybody was in the right place and there's a little bit more organisation then - that the musicians are all there when they’re supposed to be; they’ve all go the music pads that they’re supposed to have and they’ve all got the right clothes on - that sort of thing, sometimes you have to treat them like children but then I’m guilty of being on the other side of that - I’ve worked for MDs too, and I don’t do anything until I’m told to do it, so basically that’s what it is. A lot more responsibilities if you have a more bigger position like musical director.
Interviewer: Have you ever had anything in place that’s supported your music activities over the years informal or not so it could be people you know, it could be financial support, have you had anything that’s helped your music activities over the years?
Alan: No, not that I can be aware of, certainly not had any financial thing that’s supported me – no it’s really been something I’ve wanted to do myself so I’ve gone out there and tried to do it and to make a career for myself – just to try to get better at the instrument - I love the instrument so I did want to play it as well as I could, and I still do really, so that involves practice. In the early years I used to practice every day so if I didn’t have to leave to go to gigs until 3 / 4 o’clock in the afternoon something like that, if they were in this country - obviously if its Europe or you have to catch planes it’s a bit different -but if they’re local you don’t have to leave until about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, so I used to practice in the mornings. I’d always try and start to play by about 10 o’clock, always practice 10-2 if possible and that was more or less a daily routine for quite a while, which is how I taught myself to read music by constantly doing it every day, and by playing every day I improved my technique and my playing ability so that’s what I used to do, I used to rehearse a lot then, personal practice. As regards your question, I cannot think of anything that would support me, no I had to support myself, it was only me doing it as a solo, self-employed musician, I just had to go out and get the work, and try and get my name out there as much as possible so I could get other work, so it made the wide expanse of people who called you, so with any luck once you know all these people, they call you on a regular basis so you’ve got back to back work every week – that’s what you hope for anyway. [31’25”]
Interviewer: You’ve spoken, a little bit about how you made those connections with other musicians and things that you play with and stuff like that but in terms of communicating with your audience and people - fans who might come to the venues, do you do any of that yourself in terms of trying to communicate with the audience at all?
Alan: Well that seems to happen on a natural thing when you’re doing gigs – you start communicating with the audience then- if you have a break - I was never one for really going and sitting in the dressing room much, so I used to go out to the bar and have a drink so consequently people would recognise you and come and talk to you. So communication with people and building up a fan base was very much like that. I worked in a localish band for a few years called Fusion, which was with another blind piano player called Reg Webb, who’s again a great artist who I’m working with this coming Sunday, doing a Jazz concert with him down in Ipswich, so he’s still around and playing great. A bass player who is sadly no longer with us - Ken Elson who was a fine bass player - left handed bass player and the guitarist was Nick Kershaw – I don’t know if you have heard of Nick? He was an 80’s star, who really made it big in the 80’s, so I worked with Nick for 5 years, and did some of his earlier recordings when he became a star. But that band had quite a huge fan base – it was a band that did more obscure things, a lot of - mainly Jazz but it was very heavily American influenced Jazz style and there was hardly any bands around this area at that time – I’m talking late 70’s, early 80’s who were playing that music locally, and it was very difficult as we used to have to rehearse two days a week every week, to get that sort of thing together, but that had quite a big fan base and it is still remembered today, and were talking 35 years ago so people still remember the band now – come up to me and talk about it, so it’s that going out - they tell other people, and all of a sudden you find there’s a lot of people coming to your gigs and they know you personally and they will come up and call you by your first name, and you don’t know who they are.
Interviewer: It sounds again it’s quite a lot of word of mouth in this industry for what you do.
Alan: And playing, doing lots of concerts, lots of gigs, people come to see you – they like what you do, so next time they see your name they come again with any luck, and that’s how it goes but the only way any of us can make it really as musicians is off their own back unless you’re doing anything like playing a classical orchestra or philharmonic orchestra, were you have a regular job, then you are a player in that orchestra and that’s what you do; but basically as freelance musicians we have to look after ourselves, and we do what we can, and we play with who we can play with, and hopefully, there are people out there who want to use us and book us so that’s the only way you can do it you have to look after yourself, it’s the only way you can do it really.
Interviewer: On that note then of having to do it by yourself, have you ever come up against any particular barriers over the years to any of your music activities?
Alan: No I wouldn’t say I can think of any barriers. It would’ve been nice; I think it still is if there was more support in this country for young musicians. The arts not just music, but right across the board -there’s no government support for music in this country, it’s put right down all the time. They bring in all these laws about music licences which make it difficult all the time for guys to get work because of the licencing situation - they make licence very expensive so people don’t want to pay for music licences, so they don’t put music on; and that’s all very detrimental to keeping live music going and in this country it’s always been especially bad. I don’t think it’s ever improved since I first started playing it’s always been like that, whereas in America you get a phenomenal amount of great players because they have this great help, they have government support they have massive art grants, they’re given free studio facilities which are supported by the government. Music education in America is phenomenal - you go to music colleges, they’ve got some really good music colleges – Berkley and places like that, and then when they have their summer holidays they go off to Jazz summer school, and are taught by the finest players that the country’s got to offer, so then throughout your summer holiday you’re having daily tuition by some of the greatest players around. You’re gonna turn out good – you’ve got to with that sort of back up – don’t have that here, which is a real shame. So it’s very much a struggle, so it’s great that English musicians have made it and made a living at it – probably done quite well. I’m amazed that I’ve got through it. A lot of musician end up driving cabs or working in bars to supplement their income. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid that [laughs] I’ve managed to get through by playing drums and doing some teaching. [37’00”]
Interviewer: So this is a broad question in your instance but are there any particular areas of Jazz that particularly interest you that you’ve invested in, quite a lot?
Alan: I like a modern style of Jazz - that is my favourite style; I also like Jazz Rock, Jazz Funk. I play a lot of that type of material as well but I play Jazz right across the board. I played in traditional Jazz bands – Dixieland Jazz bands. I’ve done a lot of that and still do gigs like that now and again, but my main influences are Modern Jazz - a modern style of Jazz, and as I say Jazz Rock, Jazz Funk style, that’s the genre of Jazz I really enjoy playing, and If I can I’ll play that as much as I possibly can; but if it’s good and they’re good players I’ll play with everybody who I can - who’ll play with me [laughs]. [38’00”]
Interviewer: You’ve kind of alluded to this a little bit when you were talking about your early years and starting out, and the influences of things like the Beatles, and Rock n’ Roll, do you think that had any sort of impact on Jazz or on your own playing?
Alan: Yes it had an impact on my own playing - it made it a wider style of playing rather than just playing swing Jazz or that style of Jazz - listening to those types of music - yes it would have given me the opportunity to play all sorts of different styles, I mean I’m very much in to Latin. l love Brazilian music, that sort of thing especially Cuban style too. I like all those sort of great Latin rhythms, so I’m very much in to that I like playing that style too, so doing all that sort of thing by branching out you can’t help but learn other styles and I was influenced in other ways there by playing Rock, Pop and Latin. But as I say my favourite music is Jazz that’s what I really like to play when I can - yeah I can play quite a wide variety of stuff which is really what you have to be able to do cause people ask you to things – they might not be Jazz, it could be anything, you could get someone phoning up to do a Latin gig, someone phoning up to do a Reggae gig. I got booked to do a Reggae gig once in Brixton and I couldn’t believe it – turned up there and there was a real proper Reggae band I didn’t really know what I was turning out for I just got booked and asked to come along but it was a serious Rastafarian Reggae band and they were really serious about their music and the whole place was of course, full of coloured people and the whole band was all coloured, and I was the only white guy there – on drums which was like ridiculous really, just unheard of and I started trying to do some odd little fills - probably wasn’t too Reggae style, I was trying to put little bits in here and there, and I always remember this lead guitar player - massive, great, big 6 Ft 6 Rastafarian guy turning round and saying to me – ‘Hey man’ he said ‘this is our music, don’t mess it about.’ [laughs]. So I learnt quite quickly there – when you’re playing a particular genre of music, don’t try and put other things in to it cause they want you to play it ’like that’ you know but you have to play it in that style.
Interviewer: Do you often find that then that you’re booked for something and you turn up and you’ve had some unexpected when you’ve arrived that you have to figure out on the spot?
Alan: Ooh yes, in the early years when I was doing a lot of these function type gigs, it would be cabaret in those days cause people had cabaret halfway through the night, so you would have your function band and then someone would come along and do a cabaret. And that could be anything in the early days – anything from performing dogs to whatever – jugglers, of course normally singers and things like that, so then they used to ask the function band to back them and they’d say ‘We’ll give you a fiver, instead of having your break, when the cabarets on – come and play for us - here’s the music’ and they used to put the music in front of you, and expect you to play it. So we used to do a lot, so there was some very surprising things there sometimes – mime artists, I backed a mime artist once, that was extremely weird cause he was silent, so that was very funny especially in rehearsals. I remember again this particular piano player I was working with at the time, and we were doing the rehearsals for this mime show, and he looks like the typical mime artist - he’s got the beret and the striped t-shirt and the make-up, and he was talking to us - the mime artist, and he said ‘When I do this I’ll be doing this with my hands, and when I do this you play this,’ he said ‘let’s just try that’, so he started just miming - he was doing his act, and all of a sudden the piano player leant forward and said ‘I can’t hear you’ , which made us all fall off the stage – one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard and this guy just turned around an looked at him - the artist and said ‘I’m miming’ - ‘oh right, yes’ [laughs] ‘… [42’40”]
Interviewer: It sounds like you’ve had a varied career not just in music but in terms of being quite adventurous, going to different places, and trying different things, you've obviously sort of talked about how you when to different countries as well to perform, so is that something that you’ve enjoyed about the music world then - kind of like an adventure?
Alan: Yes it’s great to see all these places, we’ve played in most countries in the world - it is like a big adventure when you go out there, lots of fun things happen, it’s great. I did quite a few cruises in the latter few years, I used to do about three a year cause they’re only about three weeks at a time, and you go on as a group – did a really good one with some great Jazz players – we went over to New York then down the St Lawrence to Quebec, and that was playing Modern Jazz - it was a Modern Jazz cruise. It was a great band and I really enjoyed that - we had a fantastic time at the clubs in New York and down at Greenwich village, and that was great so I did quite a few of those cruises, used to do about three a year from 2003/4, up to about 2012 is when I stopped doing that.
Interviewer: It’s interesting to hear about the range of things that are open to you.
Alan: Yes well as a musician you go where you’re wanted, and hopefully they want you to go there. So yes there a wide base of work available. If you just play one type of music, I’d loved to have played Jazz, I shouldn’t say it’s limiting, cause if you’re a real pure Jazz musician it’s not really limiting, but as regards a big expanse of work, doing other things it can be, but if you only play one type of music, you only play to that one type of audience all the time. And to be very successful at one type of music you have to be really, really good, and create a huge name for yourself - some of the great American players and some of the English players as well - You have to be very, very, very good to fill big auditoriums for what we term as a minority music you know, so it’s difficult, so sometimes you get accused of selling out or whatever but if you’re going to make a living out of it you have to expand a bit sometimes - you still do the music you love, and now I’ve cut back on that sort of work now - getting on in years, I don’t like to think that my Rock n’ Roll years are over but they’ve certainly calmed down a bit to be truthful. But I have a great time now, I’m very selective with the work that I do and all the gigs that I pick - they’re all Jazz gigs, and all I do now is play Jazz, I have a great time playing Jazz and thoroughly in to the music, and so what I do now is just play Jazz ‘…’ [45’52”]
Interviewer: And would you say then because obviously Jazz has always been very diverse because of its roots, would you say Jazz has had any particular impact in terms of social attitudes, particularly in the past towards things like race, gender, immigration – like crossing borders and stuff like that?
Alan: Oh yes music is great for crossing all borders because music notation is the same in all languages, so you could play in a band where you wouldn’t speak the same language you couldn’t even converse off the stand but sit down on the stage and you can play and you can play together, so that brings all sorts of nationalities and people together, music is great for bringing people together. Of course the early days In America was very difficult - the great black players, great black musicians and singers had an awful time in the States in the early days with segregation and that sort of thing going on, and a lot of white bands that had black singers and things - the great Billie Holliday, there was a perfect example, you’ve probably heard these stories many times before – they used to try to have to smuggle them in the back door because they weren’t allowed to go in the front door with the white musicians – terrible things like that but nowadays of course, it’s all totally different - it covers all aspects - everybody’s involved. I play with people of different nationalities – French bass players, whatever, Spanish guitar players can be on the stage at the same time and it’s great, really good, and I do like working with people of different nationalities - its great fun. They’ve all got a way of playing which is just slightly different, as I say with the music notation it’s one great big language - you sit together and even though you can’t speak to each other, you can all play together, which is great so I do think it crosses a lot of boundaries and it’s made a vast difference to bringing people together. Music is a great thing for bringing people together and it’s a great thing for everybody to do and that’s why I like music education a little bit cause it’s great for the kids to learn to play an instrument and with any luck maybe fall in love with the music cause it does something to their soul. It tends to cleanse their soul a little bit - it’s difficult to describe what it is - it’s just a feeling but it’s great - a calming thing or it gives you this great thing to look to, to play - to play is to be creative, is just good for your inner being and that’s why it’s great to try to get kids to play instruments rather than run round the streets – much better so yeah great. There is a lot of music education out there now, so much better than it ever was years and years ago – produced some great musicians years ago but they’ll just all self-taught and played for the love of it whereas now the music education is there for them to go and just go wherever they want and learn to play an instrument – much easier now - studio facilities everywhere, facilities in schools, some of the schools I do lectures in or teach have got phenomenal facilities, real studios and state of the art recording equipment and the kids can all do this hands on. We never had the years ago so it’s great, so it’s getting better all the time so there is more facilities for people to learn to play an instrument now.
Interviewer: I think that is a good point actually. You did kind of see not that long ago people like Jools Holland and stuff like that getting quite big - do you feel there’s kind of been a bit of a resurgence of Jazz?
Alan: Oh yes I think there has been of resurgence of Jazz. When I’m out doing gigs for modern style jazz, what they call Swing Jazz used to be quite minority at one time but now I see a lot more younger people in the audience, I think it is starting to get through a bit more now so you see a lot more younger faces in the audience which means that’s great - they’re coming along to listen to it, that’s good. Just trying to think where to go from there really…
Interviewer: That’s fine, you were talking about education and I was wondering whether it was having an impact on people looking to Jazz a bit more as they have the opportunity to learn instruments cause obviously you are teaching drums as well and stuff like that. [50’50”]
Alan: Yeah well it is much better for them and does give them opportunities because the education facilities are there. Sometimes they take to it, sometimes they don’t but it does give them at least an opportunity to try that’s the main thing, which we didn’t have. But now it’s great. There’s a lot more of that lets hope it continues but still a lot more could be done by councils and governments, I think the government in this country could help out a lot more than they do, there’s too many restrictions. The Musicians Union are trying to change these things but it’s very difficult when you want to change anything - it’s a hard slog but at least they’re people out there doing it - the Musicians Union is still running in this country - they’re still doing very well, not as strong as the American union but it does very well and we need these people to go and talk to governments, try to improve things - if music was supported more over here as regards legislation and government stuff it would be a lot better than it is, even though it is a lot better it could be even better, but there’s always going to be those problems here.
Interviewer: You have kind of neatly linked into what I was going to ask you next actually, which is that some people have been linked with things like Trade Unionism, CND - things like that over the years. Have you ever been linking your music at any time to political views or trade union stuff in particular?
Alan: To be honest no, I haven’t had too many political leanings with the music it’s just I don’t tend to use it as a weapon or something to try to change. If it’s to do with music probably yes but not to try and change other things. No I think you tend to lose sight of what it’s about because it is something you do - it’s a feeling you get when you’re playing - it’s great music and what you used to call ‘the old hairs going up on the back of your neck’ when certain passages played, using certain chords and it just touches you – that’s what music is about - to be able to close your eyes and lose yourself in it - not to really march round with a placard saying that you want something done in government and you’re using it as a – jazz as a – I don’t see that really.
Interviewer: In terms of the early years when you were first going in to music, was there a particular attitude from the older generation or your parents when you made that career choice and in particular to Jazz as well?
Alan: Yeah it was not that well received. I always thought that my father would be a little more encouraging than he was because his early years he enjoyed playing drums, so I thought he would have encouraged me to get out there a little more to do more gigs so not really. I didn’t have a lot of encouragement from my parent s it was always ‘you’ve got to get a proper job’ you know and have a 9-5 job not to go round all these seedy Jazz clubs or whatever you know, so didn’t get a lot of encouragement there - would’ve been nice if I had more encouragement, but still I was determined and for me – I was bitten by the bug of music that’s the thing, the love of it – and once you get the drug of it, and you’re so in to it and influenced by it and you can sit there and close your eyes and get lost in it, and even when you’re playing it you’re really not thinking about what you’re playing, it’s not you’re just playing with the instrument. Playing is a drive, it’s a feeling which is very hard to describe. For me that’s what it is and that’s how I got bitten by it yeah. [55’10”]
Interviewer: You kind of mentioned the friends you were in a band with weren’t really into Jazz but did you have anyone within your friendship group when you were younger who was into Jazz or you might have gone to gigs with or anything like that?
Alan: Oh yes I did, I had a few friends, some of them weren’t always musicians, some were interested in Jazz and liked Jazz music I used to go to concerts with them and hang out with them a lot and in the younger days there were a few Jazz musicians, probably one you’ve interviewed down here – Digby Fairweather – I was in a band with him in my very younger years, called ‘Digby’s Half Dozen’ so he was quite local hero, and he’s been one of the major people putting this together here at the Jazz UK Centre here - it’s worked, put a lot of work into doing that, Dig and several others, I can’t remember all their names because it is a long time ago when we are talking about the early years. People who weren’t always musicians but enjoyed the music and I used to go to gigs with them and see lots of great players. We used to have some fantastic gigs - there was a thing called ‘Jazz At The Philharmonic’ that used to come over here every year that was an American Jazz artist that came over and played in this country and down here, the venues that was used for big artists – we had the Odeon Cinema on Southend High Street down here and that was a venue, they used to use the cinema as theatre venue and great players came there – Count Basie from the States came there – I saw Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson - all those people came down to the Odeon, and when that closed and the Cliffs Pavilion opened up in Southend, which is the big theatre down here they all came here and I saw all those people again – fantastic American players, and several English bands as well but the American bands were great – Buddy Rich of course - phenomenal drummer who was an influence - used to listen to him a lot, Louie Bellson was another great American drummer who was a big influence on my playing as well for technique and stuff - phenomenal. And then the more modern drummers over the latter years who people know as good drummers - Steve Gadd - people like that - great influences and I’ve met them all – being able talk to them is fantastic. They were good days - the bands used to come down and they were really good - we had the big venues - don’t have that now, not so much, there aren’t the Jazz big bands anymore – because so expensive to run so you don’t get them very much now, very few, it’s a shame they were good days too. [58’10”]
Interviewer: It sounds like you had a bit of a mix, so your early band mates were in to other types of music but you had other people around you who liked Jazz as well.
Alan: Yeah sure, the people who I were playing - doing gigs with were Rock n’ Pop stuff and Blues stuff - they were not so much in to Jazz but as I say, I did have a few Jazz musicians that I worked with when I was young, so there were a few and the other people, friends who were in to Jazz - I used to go to concerts with them, so I had other people out there who were interested in Jazz, and I had a little group [laughs] who I’d hang out with as it were - sort of ‘a bit over there’ type of people ‘they like Jazz’ Jazz musicians [laughs].
Interviewer: It’s interesting as it sounds like there was bit of a divide in your generation when you were coming through where the music that you were interested in.
Alan: I think when you are young, a teenager and everything is happening in Pop music like it was in the 60’s in this country when it was all taking off, the fact that you liked this rather obscure improvised music – people used to say jokingly ‘you can’t hum a tune to it’ which, of course, is nonsense as Jazz is improvisation around the tune all the time so yes you can hear the tune - if you listen [laughs]. But it has always been like that, people go ‘Jazz? Jazz.’ But I think there's a lot more people nowadays who are a little bit more open minded about it so but the audiences are building - getting better.
Interviewer: So just leading in then to long term contribution, achievements type thing, are there any things throughout your career that you’re particularly proud of, that you would say have been achievements to your mind?
Alan: Yes I suppose there have been a few particular gigs that I’ve enjoyed, quite big gigs even though it wasn’t Jazz I’ve enjoyed playing the large venues in this country. I did the Albert Hall and then Wembley and they are quite big gigs - when you are playing to 1000’s of people. That’s quite good I enjoyed those, so I suppose they were feathers in my cap to a certain extent, and it was good taking bands around the world when I was MD for Diane that was most enjoyable and I felt I was doing quite well there. There are so many things I enjoyed doing. I was in-house drummer for a studio in London called Marquis studios for quite a while, and when you’re an in-house drummer, I was actually signed to a record company, so I had a record company contract and they put me in to their studio as an in-house drummer, so I used to be on-call to back artists that came through that studio that didn’t have a band who were solo singers so they put us in - what is known as session musicians. So we would go in and play the session so I did that for quite a while, so I played on lots and lots of people’s records who I couldn’t even tell you - probably didn’t even make vinyl in those days if you know what I mean – still lost on dusty shelves - just tapes and stuff and never finally made it to record but a lot of it did over a period of a couple of years. If you’re doing that most days with different artists you play a vast amount of music and not really know who half of them are really, so that was that.
But it was good to do that. I felt I was playing some good stuff and there were some good people came in with some good arrangements and played with some great other musicians. Session musicians must be able to go in and crack it – simple as that – studio costs are very, very expensive - you’ve got to able to go in there, and be able to cut it quick and to play what they want and play it correctly very fast, you've got to be able to read music cause they’re gonna put charts in front of you, you’ve got to be able to read them – they want you in there done and out. They are paying you quite well to be there, the studio costs are quite phenomenal so they’re not gonna hang around while you learn something if you see what I mean. But it’s like any other form of life – if you have a job and you go in to do it people expect you to be able to go in and do it, if you are a plumber, they don’t expect you to say ‘where are these pipes going?’ so you have to be good at what you’re doing, and in the music business it can be very cut throat, so you have to know.
If you can’t cut it - you’ll be out, and the next person will be in, so you have to be able to cut it. So from that point of view it’s good to be able to have done it and to have the respect to be called to do those sorts of things but if you’re asking me to remember any one gig I’ll always find that difficult cause there’ve been so many good gigs, so many things I’ve enjoyed it’s very difficult for me to put my finger on any one. Probably if I went home now and thought about it I’d come up with something but right now it’s just been a life.
Interviewer: How would you sum up a good gig? Are there elements once you come off stage, that was a really good gig.
Alan: Oh yeah, lots of elements, you feel it just suddenly gels, some nights you can go out and just sit there and play, and you’ll play with reasonably good people and it’ll be good, it’ll be OK, but that’s it. And then other gigs you go out there and you suddenly feel ‘this is great’, this is actually what we used to say ‘in the pocket’ all of a sudden from a rhythm section point of view cause I’m a drummer I’m finding that the drums, bass and piano are really linked in, and it’s really happening and the piano player might play certain phrases and certain passages which I’ll play at the same time but I didn’t know he was going to do that. We call that musical telepathy, which you get because you can suddenly play something and they are playing at the same time so it’s a particular passage which you just feel is coming up, so linking together, getting together and it’s something really cooking, what we call cooking - when it’s really siting there or it’s really swinging, really in the pocket – that’s fantastic, it’s a great feeling. To this day I love that, so I’m hoping that this coming gig on Sunday is gonna be like that - got some really good players on it. [105’13”]
Interviewer: And do you find that if you play with people more than once, that over time that develops?
Alan: Oh absolutely, if you start to play with people a lot, then you start to know where they’re gonna go and what they’re gonna do and things like that and yeah great. I played in this band called Fusion which we spoke about earlier, with Nick Kershaw and Reg and Ken and I probably played with that band for five years or so and we were doing 3 / 4 gigs a week, so what with that and the rehearsing we got to know each other really, really well. Really well from a musical point of view so you know where they’re gonna go, and it just starts to come together and becomes a really good solid sound – all the accents are right on and if somebody goes ‘bah, bah!’ everybody does it. It’s right on the money that’s when it sounds really good. Yes obviously the answer to that is yes, if you’ve played with the same people a lot yes its great - you really get to feel what they do and where they are going to go. But on the other hand strangely enough, sometimes you can work with someone you haven’t worked with much and if they’re on the same wavelength as you, then things happen which are great, on a first playing together basis you know so yeah it’s very much ‘feel’ I keep going on about this ‘feel’ element then if it’s a thing that you love – music it you have a love for music, then it really affects you deeply and it can make you shudder. It’s like fantastic experiences.
Interviewer: And do you think then the emotional side of music is as important as technique cause it seems that a lot of it goes back to that kind of feeling.
Alan: Yeah I think the emotional thing is really, really important, really important. You find that – we’ve talked about those stories in the in the old days, singers and things like that, especially the coloured singers in the early days who had terrible lives and things like that, couldn’t read a note of music and when they sang, people – for instance the beautiful Billie Holliday and she’s great - an example of that and even Ella Fitzgerald, another great example, she had a really tough time when she was a younger woman but that - when they sing – those experiences come out and their heartache and their heartbreak and the emotional stuff they’ve felt and all the troubles that they’ve seen come out in the singing, and if they’re doing a ballad, you can feel it and that’s a fantastic thing. You need a certain amount of technique – you have to know phrasing to know how you’re going to phrase your work, so I’m talking from a singing point of view now, you have to have that technique but I think a lot of the great stuff is the experience you play from experience – I said singers there, cause you hear that a lot in peoples voices, the emotion coming out when they are singing, as I say coming from the heart, but a lot of musicians - if they are great players, if what I consider to be really, really good players they play from the heart, they play from the soul. You’ve got have what we call ‘the chops’ the technique to put it down on the instrument so you’ve got to know the instrument back to front, but if you know the instrument back to front then it’s not like playing because whether you’re playing saxophone or drums or piano you just play. If they’re playing from the soul – you don’t know what your hands are doing to a certain extent - you’re just sitting there playing and its happening but what you’re really playing from is- ‘the feel’. I have the most enjoyment from music when I’m playing with other guys or girls on the stand who have that love of music, have that feeling, that ability to bring that out of the instrument - that’s when the gig’s really good for me.
Interviewer: That’s what I was kind of wondering because you were saying it’s hard to name one particular gig but the elements that make up great gigs you’ve experienced that so obviously that’s important to you as well.
Alan: That’s what for me would make up a great gig if everybody on the stand was really on it on the stage was playing from a ‘feel’ point of view - that’s great you can’t beat it as far as I’m concerned - you don’t have to have the greatest chops in the world but if you can put it down nicely, you can put it down really well and you’re playing what you feel then that’s everything, for me it’s always been that way. A lot of people like great technique and great ability on the instrument which I don’t disregard that - you do have to have the ability on the instrument, you do have to know your instrument back to front but that comes with practice, that gives you the technical ability, then you have to play and the greatest musicians in the world have not been able to read a note of music, so they just sit there and play and that’s what being a musician is. For me that’s what it is – there’s the instrument - you sit down and you play it, you don’t need to be told what to play, you don’t need a piece of music in front of you to read – you just sit down and if you’re a piano player you just sit down and you just play something, and just play, and that’s it.
Interviewer: Would you say – because as you say, music speaks to people as musicians but would you say Jazz has had an impact on British society or culture as well though music? – people hearing it.
Alan: I suppose Jazz being an art form in itself has had an influence on certain cultures, yes certain artistic type of cultures, people who tend to lean to that sort of thing, tend to be arty people, they tend to be the sort of people who like great paintings or like great literature - people that like Jazz - I’m not saying they are more educated or anything like that but again it’s the emotion thing for me - like if you see a great painting you could stand here and lose yourself to a certain extent and start to see all sorts of different things in it – it’s got everything that makes up that picture, it’s got all sorts of different places that you can look in and see something different, and I think that’s how it is with Jazz, as regards the influence of different cultures, I don’t really know how to answer that, yeah, obviously the Black culture from America where Jazz was really born in the early days, I suppose in the Black culture there’s a load of phenomenally great musicians, coloured musicians – great and that’s come right from those early days you know, right up through history but you know it’s not just limited to that, it’s whether you have that openness that you can see things, that you can see beauty whether it’s a sculpture, painting or music . I don’t know about influences on culture though really.
Interviewer: I found it quite interesting that Southend seems to have quite a few people here who are very involved in Jazz, so taking that as a case study sort of thing like, has Jazz kind of given something to communities I guess is another way of saying it, possibly as well.
Alan: I never really understood that myself to answer that question – why do certain areas produce more musicians than other areas I don’t really know honestly why that is, we have this area Southend and Essex has produced some really good musicians and particularly Southend has. Why that is I don’t know what it is around this area – it’s not something in the water or anything like that, living by the seaside or whatever, I don’t know why, it’s always had a reasonably good musical community down here. I used to do regular Sunday lunchtime gigs down here at Southend at a place called Churchill’s down here and that was always really, really well attended and other pubs we played at regularly on Sundays used to be quite full. But we don’t tend to find that so much what we call Sunday lunchtime Jazz gigs, they don’t seem to be quite so well attended now as they were in the early days. I mean there are some really great musicians coming out of Southend, we were talking about Mick Foster, so Mick is a great baritone player. I used to love playing with him such a nice guy, people like Mick and there’s Dig [Digby Fairweather], people like Tim Huskisson and Roger Curphey around this area but why this area I don’t know, there’s not really anything more beneficial to Jazz really probably than any other area, apart from what people like Digby Fairweather is doing with the Jazz Centre here - he’s put a lot of work in to that and it’s looking great, it’s going to be really big because they’re looking to take over the whole bottom floor of this place, it’s all going to be dedicated to Jazz - the whole thing so that’ll be great, because that would be the biggest Jazz centre in the UK. And they have Jazz movies here every Saturday, and they get people come in. So yeah, Jazz is doing quite well. Jazz is alive and well in this area but it could be better but it’s still alive and well and it’s thanks to a lot of people putting a lot of hard work in, so it’s great that they do it - it gives us places to play.
Interviewer: What’s the future for your activities be it music or Jazz itself more particularly, what’s the future?
Alan: Well, the future for me, now I just really want to concentrate on Jazz, still keep playing Jazz, Modern Jazz, Jazz Rock, Jazz Funk, I’m involved in several different bands in this area now I’m playing that sort of thing so yeah that’s the future for me, I’ll always be a player, I’ll always be a drummer till the day I drop dead really, which will probably be on a drum kit I expect, but I’ll always be a player even if I don’t get paid for it, as I was saying earlier I still play in my home in my studio, I will always play. But the future – well getting on a bit now, so I’ve cut back on my work cause there was all those years of sleeping in airport lounges, catching red eyes out to do gigs, cause used to turn up at an airport, jump on a plane - somebody meets you, takes you to a gig to check the gear and everything, and to have a quick run through with the rehearsals in the afternoon, then they take you to the hotel where you have a bit of dinner, couple of drinks and get washed up, then they take you back – you do the concert, then they take you back to the hotel, then somebody is waiting for you in the lobby at 7 O’clock to take you back to the airport, so people go ‘Corr it must be a glamorous life being a musician - you see all these countries’ but you don’t always know what country you’re in, it could be anywhere – I’ve come back from gigs in Europe to Heathrow and just gone through on to the next plane, you just get on the next plane and go back somewhere else, so it’s a hard life – it’s great when you are younger, you can deal with it and you’re seeing the world. It is good fun and you can earn a good living if you’re earning enough money and playing the right gigs, playing to enough people you could get paid reasonably well. You get a bit tired sometimes, as I say you don’t like to admit that my Rock n’ Roll days are over but I’ve cut back on all that sort of thing, so I don’t do up and down the motorways, I don’t do the one-nighters in Liverpool or Scotland anymore if I can help it. If it’s a particularly a big gig or a good gig – I would, but now they’re more ‘one offs’ rather than every week, so now I’m going to concentrate on my Jazz activities in here, I like to be very much involved with the Jazz centre here which I am and I’ll do what I can for the guys here. I hope that’s going to build in to something really good cause they’re talking about having a resident Jazz group here as well, playing all the time which would be great – playing all the time if that comes off, so really – great, so more locally between here and London and Ipswich, Essex, Kent circle, rather than the whole country and Europe now, so I don’t do much of that. As I say I do the odd ones but my future now is more, playing locally, and music education, and I still teach so doing that too. Trying to put some youngsters out there, that’s it - that’s my future, I’m afraid but it’s been good – done it all really and been round the world playing - doing something I love doing, and met some fantastic people, played with some great musicians so it’s been good – I recommend it [laughs].
Interviewer: Thank you very, very much