Interview with Binker Golding: I only use my intellect to explain … Video

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Jazz interview with jazz saxophonist Binker Golding. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?

Binker Golding: – I never know where I’m going. When it comes to improvisation, I have no plans & no set direction. I keep it as open as possible otherwise I feel like I’m not reacting to the band. I never know what’s going to happen & I don’t want to until its happened.

JBN: – Do you ever get the feeling that music majors, and particularly people who are going into jazz, are being cranked out much like business majors? That they are not really able to express themselves as jazz musicians?

BG: – Yes, I often feel that way. But generally, I take little notice of it these days as I feel like I’m almost getting too old to care & critique. I’m glad I came to jazz when I did. Even when I came to it the excepted route to becoming a professional was very in-authentic, but now I’d say its even more in-authentic. I grew up in jam sessions in London & that’s where I learnt the majority of my craft (except for composing). Nowadays it seems like young jazz musicians are skipping this vital stage. If you can’t be authentic at least be authentically in-authentic which is what I’d call myself. The best thing the music schools all over the world could do is close their doors to jazz students for the next 10 years.

JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?

BG: – To an extent I feel sorry for that person, but not totally. The unfortunate truth is they’ve not yet really understood the real world. As a professional musician you need to be a musician, manager, agent, lawyer, strategist & psychoanalyst all in one. If you think you’ll survive on talent alone or even that others will respect & revere you for your talent alone you’re wrong. You have to understand the business thoroughly too. Its perhaps unfortunate, but true & must be excepted.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

BG: – This is actually a very complex question & the answer would go well beyond a simple paragraph. But in short, I’d say; you can sell any type of music, any style. There’s always an audience for it. You just perhaps haven’t reached them yet. If you start changing your style to fit the current trends you’ll betray yourself artistically & loose all sense of integrity & self; you won’t know who you are after a while. Not just as a musician but as a human being too. Learn to listen to your inner ear, then learn how to sell it.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

BG: – I see intellect as the thing which does its best to explain what the soul plays & writes. For an artist the soul is everything; it writes all my music & it plays all my solos. I only use my intellect to explain what I did to my students.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

BG: – I can only give them what they want if they want what I have. If I don’t have what they want I can’t give them anything. I don’t believe in doing something you wouldn’t have done just because you believe an audience wants it. At that point the audience owns you.

JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

BG: – I’ve got many good & bad ones. You’d have to be more specific as to what you want. I’ve seen fights on the bandstand at jam sessions. I’ve seen people fall into drum kits. I’ve seen a man blow a bubble the size of a washing machine out the end of a trumpet. I’ve lost my temper in recording sessions & wanted to kill producers. The biggest geniuses I’ve worked with are Evan Parker & Wolfgang Mitterer. The worst musician I’ve ever worked with (I can’t remember his name) was this guitarist I did a show with in a hotel with when I was in my student years. He tried to sing & play guitar & he was miles off either. It was genuinely a horror show. He thought he was brilliant.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

BG: – The wheel is probably 100,000 years old but we still use them. A good song is a good song. The problem isn’t old songs, the problem is new ones. Most of the new ones are rubbish in comparison to the old ones. People should develop better taste by listening to a broader range of music & stop worrying about the age of things.

JBN: – And lastly, being a teacher, do you find it difficult to write music yourself?

BG: – I find it hard to write music of value. I can very easily knock out songs of low sophistication all day long. I could do 100 in a week if you wanted but only 1 might be any good. Generally I never get writers block. I’m not a neurotic artist. But I do scrutinize my own work very heavily. For every 1 song you see on one of my albums there were maybe 10 that didn’t make it.

JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?

BG: – Originality is the most important thing. But to obtain even 10% originality in a piece or solo is bordering on the impossible. Great originals like Charlie Parker & Ornette Coleman are super-human. They’re cut from a unique cloth. The difference between being an instrumentalist & a composer is great essentially. However, the gap between them is narrowing for me as I get older I think. They’re different approaches to the same thing. Soloing is more social & immediate. Composing is more of an introverted task where you can really go into your thoughts in greater depth I think. Or perhaps in a different way is a better way of putting it.

JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?

BG: – Its really just something that’s felt. As I start writing & getting into a piece I start to learn what the piece wants to be & I let it go there. I start with no intention (just like a solo) then I see what develops from my subconscious. It’s a lot more honest that way. Then I try & build on the emotion that’s been presented to me already.

JBN: – What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life?If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

BG: – If I could change one thing in the musical world it would be what jazz musicians get paid.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

BG: – Same things I’ve always listened to. Coltrane, Rollins, Brecker, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Guns n Roses, Public Enemy, Chuck Berry, Beethoven, Stockhausen, Nancarrow… I could keep going very easily.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

BG: – Learn who you are & accept it, even if you can’t love it. Its hard to love yourself. Don’t be ashamed of who or what you are. In that respect my “philosophy” is similar to John Waters’.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

BG: – I’d go back in time to the beginning of the trans-atlantic slave trade. I’d bring with me about 50,000 AK-47s, 50,000 Uzis & a few tech-9s just for good measure along with literally mega-tons of ammo & I’d show all the west Africans how to use them. I’d stop off somewhere in the mid 60’s to catch a Coltrane show on the way too.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

BG: – I’d ask the question I’ve been wrestling with my whole life: Why does music contain meaning?

JBN: – Thanks for answers. Those musicians and their music are haunted by the contain meaning that have this, but ours among how many garbage, I must not tell you, or I have already said.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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