Felix Jay, a versatile musician who runs the London-based Hermetic label was at one time a journalist for ZigZag magazine and New Musical Express. One artist he both interviewed and reviewed recordings by was Annette Peacock. Felix kindly granted permission for an unpublished interview to be used on the I'm the One website. What follows are extract from the interview -- at the time she was recording Sky-Skating in 1980, or '81.
AP: I've got a brilliant plan, but I don't want anybody to do it before I do. That's always what happens, you know? Very few people have fresh ideas.
FJ: In a way I imagine you're at your best when you're pushed to the limits, really forcing your voice to very interesting extremes. You said Paul Bley used to ask you why you didn't write something you could sing. It's quite nice when your voice is pushed; you get this lovely feeling of danger -- will she make it or not?
AP: I have really smoothed out so much from that on Perfect Release, my last album. I didn't really take any vocal chances. I just wanted to make a very, very smooth album for me.
FJ: But then for the length of the second side you're not really singing at all, and that makes people sit up, not sit back.
AP: That was not about the music, essentially, but about the lyrics. I had this whole rap I wanted to do, so I set it to fit a nice groovy, funky background. "The Succubus" is an experiment with funk music. "Survival" is a funk tune which is an experiment with time. On each one I decided to take one little risk at a time, not to take it too far and just see what happens, what the reaction was. In fact the reaction was split -- some positive, some negative.
The interesting thing for me is to solve problems in music. The whole concept of improvising seems like an easy way out, but it isn't. To improvise with a group of musicians... I found when I first came to England, to do the music I wanted to do would have taken 3 years of working with these people, and I expected it to happen like magic, like it was in New York where there was a common language. In England they had missed a whole lot of it, they had moved from 'Trad' right through total freedom, and had missed the evolution.
When I came to New York there was this frenzied energy that was just happening, people were going crazy, and what I wanted to do was to create some order and balance it.
It's a adventure to move into uncharted territory, the whole process of discovery, but at the same time it's not any fun in the long run, if you can't take your audience with you.
FJ: Do you have mental picture of your audience?
AP: Yes. I've noticed one common denominator. They're intelligent people, and seem to lean towards being individuals and making their own choices about the things rather than being a sheep. Any contact I've had with them I've enjoyed talking to them. They're all artists in the sense that they're all in a continuous state of growth and discovery. I think that will continue.
FJ: How are you going to sell a lot of records then?
AP: That's the problem. There aren't that many of those people in the world! What I have to do is clarify what I'm saying, which is also a danger to an artist. Because artists should never be totally aware of what they're doing. They should only realize this after it's completed; if they know beforehand they run the risk of producing a product for specific result.
Nowadays the state of the music industry and the rock press and so on forces one to think about the results. You adapt or you don't survive; and fortunately artists tend to be very flexible people. So, it's a test. I've been able to keep my head above water. I'll continue making records, either within a record company or by myself. I'm not going to do the same thing I did last time, which is to stop making records for seven years. At the time I felt it was all right for me to wait for an audience to catch up. X-Dreams and the Perfect Release in a sense were a going back over past territory -- the intermediate territory to the album I'm working on now.
I'm not going to make it a totally pure album, in the way I'd like to make it totally pure. What I'd love to see happen is: the kind of music that is made in the pure sense of the joy of creating -- without compromise -- to reach an audience. I want to be able to communicate. You'll find that each song will be varying degrees of freedom with the song form. Maybe I'm playing it safe, but I don't think in this day that one can be so extreme any more.
I remember how started I was the first time I heard Bob Dylan just playing guitar and singing, and that's the kind of quality I want to get back to -- the individual expressing and communicating. I couldn't do like I saw happening in New York where artists turned their back on the audience and said 'We're just going to do the kind of music we want to do.' [note: Might she be quoting about the famous/infamous PIL incident at Ritz?]
New people coming up want to make it, they want to make money. They're not so interested in a sense of individual, personal expression that they feel compelled about. They want to be a star but it's only because they've been so totally corrupted, and because the machine itself won't give them any choice. It's all down to accounting. Record companies just market what is already commercial. We've come to an age where the plagiarists do extremely well and the originals get overlooked.
I'd really like to sell some records on America. I'm big in Tucson and Arizona, Chicago. Not California, they go for a specific kind of music, laid back. I'll tell you from the business end of it. One can't possibly have all the information, right? So you speculate, like gambling.
I feel desperately that the age of the individual is over. There are so many people on the planet right now. There will be a lot of mistakes, a lot of catastrophes, sudden shocks threatening our existence. The government that are in power aren't interested -- they're only interested in the immediate problems during their term office.
Interview excerpts from New Musical Express - December 1, 1979
AP: I never get bad reviews for my records. Only for my live performance 'cause I don't give a damn. I just get up on stage and if I don't like it a tune I'll make the band stop and then start again. Or, I'll stop in the middle of a sentence and roll a cigarette. I just can't get into this whole thing of performing, 'okay, folks, here we go: show business!' Show a bit of leg, show a bit of tit, show a bit of ass, get the band really hot and work up these tight arrangement. It's discovery. You work with really good musicians but you don't rehearse'em too much and then you just do what happens.
Don't you think it's pathetic that someone like you goes to such length to write brilliant music and the people like The Sex Pistols just scream and shout and they can't play and they make millions?
AP: You never get what you deserve in this world. You get what you can get. The Sex Pistols represented a lot of people at that time who wanted to scream and shout about a lot of things that were wrong, and they did.
They were expressing feelings.
AP: That's right. What they were doing was valid, so how could I get uptight about that? It's nothing to do with what I do, but I'm interested in expressing my feelings too. It's just that people get confused if the music's too good; they don't see that you're saying something as well. I've always tried to do too much at once.
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