The other idea, my original idea was to get “Africa”, the feeling of Africa in Daxaar without it becoming an African demonstration piece, really try and show people what its like to make music in Africa.
Incendiary speak to Steve Reid
Steve Reid's recent work with Kieron Hebden and the Daxaar Collective has been rightly praised for being innovative, bold and (most importantly) bloody marvelous. We recently got the chance to talk to Steve down a phone line. Steve sounded in good form, and genuinely happy to talk about what he was up to. Indeed, such was his geniality there were even attempts to set up a drink in the not so distant future. Now read on...
IN: So, Steve, how are you?
SR: Man, what's your accent?
IN: Well, I come from a few miles north of Manchester.
SR: Man, you've got the same accent as our bass player! I hear where you're coming from man!
IN: I love the album, the Daxaar Collective LP. What brought you to make an album that is so different from the two you previously did with Kieron Hebden? This is definitively African in flavour, as opposed to experimental, post-rock?
SR: I really wanted to make an album reflecting my roots. The last two were very rock oriented and very brave, but you know, I really just wanted to make a nice, listenable record for a change. Many of the records I've made they appeal to a certain type of listener, they are difficult records you know? And if you're not really into the sort of music they are then they are hard to approach man... you can't really get the benefits from them you now? So I just wanted to make a nice, rounded happy record. Nothing too weird, nothing outside the box, just well executed - nothing clever you know.
IN: Regarding the execution, I find it very interesting that you say you wanted to make a simple record, because, although you have gone for a Hi Life feel here, there are still a lot of experimental ideas on Daxaar.
SR: I wanted it to be a cultural trip you know? I mean I had never jammed with these guys and I wanted to bring my trip to them, a sort of post Coltrane jazz, and I wanted to mix in with them and try to make something worthwhile, you know... What I didn't want was just another sort of Afro beat record or something, or a tribute; I wanted to do something that would be a shock to the people who know me! (Laughs)
IN: It's almost like a jazz pop record in many ways!
SR: Exactly! I know my avant garde jazz fans want me to do certain things, but I wanted to get to people who aren't necessarily into jazz, or electronica, I just wanted to make people feel welcome, so that's why we had the Welcome track at the beginning
IN: That was a beautiful opening for the record with the korah...
SR: The idea was to give people a break from drums! (Laughs) The other idea, my original idea was to get "Africa", the feeling of Africa in Daxaar without it becoming an African demonstration piece, really try and show people what its like to make music in Africa.
IN: It did sound like a drunken party record too.
SR: Yeah! Yeah! Well, that's how the guys made the music. You can hear them talking. I wanted it to be like that, you know? I didn't want it to be too clean.
IN: Kieron Hebden produced the LP, and you have been collaborating with him for a while...
SR: Aw Kieron, man, you know he's like a son to me. He's a beautiful person. Its good, because doing this gives people a chance to see a different side of Kieron, I mean people know him from Fridge and Four Tet, but he can do a lot of other stuff too. I mean the ideas he brought to this record are amazing, people think he's just into electronica, but he brings a lot to any record because he can play a lot of instruments...
IN: People immediately do bracket him. I like the fact that you have made these 3 LPs with him, because they aren't easy-to-categorize LPs, really.
SR: I'm really glad we made those LPs because in a way we were questioning what people chose from their own personal musical menus... People should get more from their own musical menus, and in some ways I'm really happy with the changes in the music industry now, because essentially you can hear music that isn't trapped by the industry. Its braver now, bands and musicians can offer more, be braver, free to express themselves. Everyone can be part of it now.
IN: You were mates with Fela Kuti...
SR: He was a beautiful man... You know when I knew him he was similar in outlook to the Sun Ra experience. He had his own thing, his own world, this was before Africa 70, you know? He was a kind of Coltrane inspired James Brown... he was really a saxophone player... as was James Brown. It was a great experience for me, knowing him before he got into the commercial thing. Another guy I spent a lot of time with was Guy Warren over in Ghana.
IN: The Hi Life guru?
SR: Yeah, oh man, he really befriended me and we became very close and a lot of shit went down. So that was another big influence in my work. When I went over there I really got into Hi Life. I mean that time sort of reminds me of what we did with Daxaar, we had a gig at night and recorded in the day. There's a DVD out on Domino of some of the live stuff we did over there in the clubs, aw man! I mean we played with Orchestra Baobab, that was amazing mixing all the different rhythms, a great experience. I think Daxaar picked up a lot from that.
IN: You seem to be genuinely in love with musical experiment. Have you got itchy fingers musically?
SR: Yeah. Its like I'm bad, and I'm mixing different stews (Laughs) Music is like the perfect form of government, man! (Laughs again) I listen to a lot of what my grandchildren listen to so I now of yesterday and today. I want to make music so people can take their minds off shit, you know?
Words: Richard Foster