Claire Sawers

Freelance Writer

Date: October 8, 2014

Interview: Peter Zummo

The trombonist and Arthur Russell collaborator reinvents the cult composer’s work with an experimental sextet


The List
8 October 2014

’Let’s just say, I can sometimes have an attitude about the cellist who’s going to play Arthur Russell’s music. When we were choosing the right musician, I think it’s fair to say I expressed a few opinions,’ Peter Zummo confesses, laughing quietly down the phone from his home in Staten Island, New York.

As someone who worked and shared a music studio with the cult composer – the one-off, mysterious genius that was avant-garde / proto-disco producer / musician Arthur Russell – Zummo is understandably a bit picky about anyone attempting to recreate the distinct cello sound of his friend. ‘It was never just about sentimentality with Arthur, he played with this raw energy and supreme intelligence, it’s important not to get the wrong interpretation of that.’

But Zummo – himself a noted experimental composer and trombonist – is giving the seal of approval to Oliver Coates, the cellist who’ll join him onstage, alongside Ernie Brooks (guitar) and Bill Ruyle (hammer dulcimer, percussion) with live beats and processing from JD Twitch and Bass Clef. As a half American, half British sextet, they plan to play live over selected tracks from Russell’s vast back catalogue.

‘Keith [McIvor, Glasgow’s JD Twitch] has isolated the rhythm of ‘Is It All Over My Face’, for example. He’s taken an extended sample and remixed it – that will be the foundation that we play live on top of.’ While Zummo is keen ‘to check back in with the original songs’, he also thinks Russell, himself an endless reshaper (there were 40 tapes with mixes of the same song found in his apartment when he died), would want them to push the sound forward. ‘He moved fast, he didn’t believe in repeating himself. If he was alive today, he’d be into totally different stuff, so I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to rework his stuff, rather than spin out the same concept.’

Although Zummo initially wasn’t keen to get involved in the growing Russell revival following his death in 1992 (‘I figured we should let him rest in peace!’), he is pleased he eventually let himself be talked into it. Zummo featured on 2011’s debut album from Arthur’s Landing – a collective of ‘Russell alumni’ – musicians who’d all worked with him at some point, on his more introspective, acoustic work (World Of Echo) or his pioneering disco projects (as Loose Joints and Dinosaur L). Arthur’s Landing visited Scotland that year to play the Tramway alongside Chris and Cosey, curated by Optimo DJ Keith McIvor. McIvor first got in touch with Zummo, asking if he could re-release his Zummo With an X, a gorgeous record of Zummo’s from 1981, featuring him on trombone, Russell on cello and Bill Ruyle on tabla. ‘I took over mastertapes with me, and Keith ended up putting the record out on Optimo. From there I seemed to start building up a lovely bunch of UK contacts.’

And so it is that Zummo finds himself, four years later, returning to Scotland.

‘Some people find it odd to have live instruments playing over a pre-recorded track, but that’s exactly how Arthur used to perform, back in nightclubs in New York in the 70s and 80s. If he wanted to create street level interest, he’d go into a dance club, do a cameo performance, with him singing, or playing cello, or with a guest vocalist over a track that he’d prepared.’

‘It’s the same now, if the rhythm is tight enough, then the trombone can just float on top.’

Summerhall, Edinburgh, Thu 16 Oct.

Interview: Anneke Kampman of Conquering Animal Sound

The List
8 October 2014

Anneke Kampman and Jamie Scott, Conquering Animal Sound

Conquering Animal Sound

Giddy, gorgeous, cacophonic, experimental – the music of duo Conquering Animal Sound is all-over-the-shop-pop, in the best way. The Glasgow two-piece (Anneke Kampman and Jamie Scott, who also perform as solo artists ANAKANAK and MC Almond Milk) return in October with their first new material in a year and a half, the EP, Talking Shapes, recorded at Kinning Park Complex. It’s a blissfully wonky, shapeshifting exploration through four new songs of clicks, claps, primary school recorders, harps, abstracted hip hop beats and Kampman’s distinct stop-starty, cooing then mechanical vocal.

But for all the layers of playfulness and form-bending, there is a growing undercurrent of ideas to ponder – this time musical languages, gender, genetic coding and family, feminism and er, football.

‘There’s a subtle feminist dimension to this track [‘Puskas’]’ explains Kampman. ‘I used football references as a way of liberating myself from instruction. Football is a game; it has rules. Gender is also a game; it also has rules. I’m eager to break out of patterns that people fall into within music, specifically relating to gender. Women almost always have submissive roles in music practice, especially in the pop music industry. They tend to be passive when it comes to taking control of certain aspects of music creation, and it has always been important to Jamie and I that it’s a conversation; an equal process.’

Stereo, Glasgow, Fri 3 Oct; Summerhall, Edinburgh, Sat 4 Oct. Talking Shapes EP is out Mon 6 Oct on Chemikal Underground.

Read the original interview online at The List here

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