Improvizone

About the author

Andrew Booker 2007-01-07 12:38:09

My name is Andrew Booker, those are my knees you can see on the posters, and this mixed collection of improvisations was my idea. I began a phantom music career in 1996 when I released a solo CD mini-album called Ahead. In those days I had to go into recording studios and pay for them myself. Nowadays I just pay for rehearsal studios and do all the recordings myself.

Since releasing my first solo CD I've played in a variety of projects for other people. I could mention names, but it would mean nothing unless you were involved with them, and if you were, you would already know I was too. Even so, here are a few recent projects worth mentioning.

The Tim Bowness Band
A couple of years ago Tim invited me to drum in his live band in support of his first solo album. We did a handful of shows, all well executed and a pleasure to be involved with. I also contributed to his next Henry Fool project, and I now get together regularly with his brilliant guitarist Michael Bearpark, who contributes to several items in the Improvizone downloads list.
Pulse Engine
With bassist Nick Cottam, and nobody else. That's right, a bass and drums duo. PE was original, surprising, scary and generally terrific, but we had a real problem finding anywhere to play. We have released one album so far which is good, but I think we can improve upon it. Material for the second is sitting on this very laptop... and has been for some time now.
Harmony In Diversity
Began as Pulse Engine plus former Yes/Flash guitarist Peter Banks, except he didn't want to be in a band called Pulse Engine, so we started a new one called Trio. Except we couldn't call it Trio because frankly there was no way in hell a name like that could be unique and not already taken. HiD attempted to rehearse PE material and failed, and took to improvising. By May 2006 I'd had enough, and hopefully they're doing better without me.

In late 2003 I bought some electronic drums so I could practise at home. Although a compromise in playability and dynamics over acoustic drums, I quickly found them to be practically so much more convenient that I started using them in bands. I soon linked the e-kit via MIDI to sound modules and effects loops and started getting notes out of the drums as well. Later I swapped the outboard units for a laptop so that I could get more interesting effects, play though cool plugins off the internet, and set up some preset note patterns in all twelve keys. Ideally I would be able to choose between them while playing, but a laptop is the world's worst musical equipment interface, particularly when each hand is already holding a stick.

Technicalities aside, this drums-and-notes setup meant I could act as a rudimentary bass and keyboard texturist at the same time as drumming, and provided I played in a certain way, it worked. I found that a pairing of me and someone playing a real instrument could be surprisingly effective just as a duo, and this forms the core of what I now do. Over the last 18 months I have recorded several duos with various people, starting with Peter Banks while I was still with HiD, and most recently with former King Crimson violinist David Cross. Almost every session worked really well in its own way. This gave me the idea for Improvizone, and you can hear many of the duo recordings on this site. I've found a slow, ambient textural approach to work best. If I play quickly in a jam, everyone just tries to play along to the groove, and you never get any music out of it. When I play slowly, people are a lot more melodic. Instantly the yield becomes wife-friendly. It's been a long time.

I've more-or-less had it with bands now. There is still nothing to beat getting together with a group of guys and rehearsing something really good. But at this stage in everyone's lives there seem to be two small obstacles. One, getting together on a regular basis. Two, agreeing on what really good music is. Dead in the water, therefore. Consequently, also floating face-down in the stagnant pool of the London music scene seem to be any opportunities I might have had for ever doing gigs again.

So to hell with that. For me, it's getting together semi-regularly with anybody interesting and interested, and making up music with electronics, percussion and whatever pleasing sounds they can bring to the event. Bring it on.

Oh, sorry, that's my job.

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