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Progressive Rock Interviews

Marvin Ayres

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Marvin Ayres from 2010
MSJ: Can you give the readers a bit of a look at some of your history?
I studied as a Cellist at Trinity, London. I was a founding member of The Government and made solo contributions to bands and artists, notably, Culture Club, Simply Red and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I signed to the avant-garde label Mille Plateaux as composer/producer and released two minimalist albums, Cellosphere and Neptune.

In the 1990's I developed an interest in spatial soundscapes and developed my techniques and production of psycho acoustics and Surround Sound.

In 2002 Jaki Liebezeit (ex CAN) invited me to re-mix and tour with his band Club off Chaos and was commissioned by Einsturzende Neubauten's electronica music publishers Freibank for their For Films series.

I have written various scores for film and TV.

I have collaborated with many visual artists on A/V installations, which have been exhibited in major galleries in Europe and the U.S. including the ICA's commission to compose and produce their first ever DVD exhibition. The two works resulting from this were Sensory and Cycle which became the DVD Sensory which is on exhibition at The Tate Modern (London).

In December 2009 I finished composing/recording a surround sound orchestral suite titled “Harmogram” which includes an accompanying TV documentary film following and exploring the making of the project. 
MSJ: You have most prominently worked on your own solo releases and with Mask. What do you see the differences between the two - other than the obvious personnel differences?
My own releases have been primarily modern classical/elecro acoustic compositions, whereas Mask is more in the contemporary popular music category.
MSJ: What do you think you bring to Mask based on your solo work?
I think I bring my combined skills and experiences as a player/ writer/producer/sound manipulator and my pursuit of unorthodox techniques. I tend to use Sonja's voice in a different way because of that. Neither of us particularly like conventional formats. 
MSJ: Do you think your work with Mask flavors your solo work beyond Mask?
I suppose realistically everything can permeate, filter and influence, so things find their way into different projects at a smaller or greater level. I’m sure there are lots of unconscious cross pollinations happening all the time. 
MSJ: Are there other intriguing projects you plan to get involved with - or have been recently involved with?
I'm working on two different projects aside from Mask. One is an album with an ambient Turkish guitarist and I'm also at the elementary stage of an installation with a very talented Italian Artist/Architect. 
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
I completed an orchestral suite late last year called “Harmogram” which is now being prepared for a 3D performance in association with Martyn Ware (Heaven 17/Human League). He has a wonderful 3D set up and is enthusiastically endorsing me/it and involving himself in this event. We will have a mixture of live string players and 3D audio. The piece itself will be released later this year on vinyl as a limited edition. Then Martyn and I will also begin work on a quartet of pieces.

I have a series of concerts in late autumn, including one alongside the London Sinfonietta.
MSJ: Are there musicians you'd like to play with in the future?
Yes, many, but I don't have a prescribed list. More often than not it's the chemistry between people that's the most important ingredient, rather than an individual's talent or “name”, and therefore you don't know that until you work together.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
The music industry has changed forever. It's not a case of is downloading of music is a help or hindrance or not, the fact is that's how it is. The genie is out of the bottle. In future I think there will be less bands/artists making fortunes. Record companies will have to diversify into more “entertainment” type companies incorporating film for example. Live performance is now crucial, and in addition, live performance can create opportunities for merchandise to replace the lost revenue from record sales into creating a living from all aspects of being a musician.  It also means that artists will be taking more control of their output, including the artistic side which can only be a good thing. Think of file sharing and creative commons licensing as free, global advertisements for your music. Maybe it's God's way of making it a fairer re-distribution of wealth.
MSJ: In a related question how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Again, it's very difficult to stop that, but what's the quality going to be like? If, as an artist/band you have the foresight to produce an authorized version of the event (as many do), then I think “true” fans would normally go via the official route where there's quality control.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch-nemesis and why?
Simon Cowell, or any of those types of music moguls. The reason being that their enterprises create an environment which is hostile to creativity. Everything is sacrificed to the altar of instant, short-lived stardom, where the control (and most of the revenue) returns to the aforementioned moguls and the “stars” are little more than “mules”, saddled up for promoting their exploitation rights from publishing to endorsements. These TV programmes generate huge audiences that are involved in a soap opera contest, where the contestants are often humiliated for the sake of our supposed “entertainment” - a modern day pillory in the stocks. Who has ever come out of these talent shows writing and producing their own music? 
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band, who would be in it?
John Bonham (drums)
Sly and Robbie (percussion)
Jaco pastorius (bass)
Jimi Hendrix (guitar)
Nile Rodgers (rhythm guitar)
Mike Garson (piano)
Stevie Wonder (keys)
David Sanborn (sax)
Ella Fitzgerald/Dusty Springfield/Joni Mitchell/Sonja Kristina/Aretha Franklin/Tina Turner/Jeff Buckley/Bowie/Cesaria Evora/Morrissey    (backing vocals)
Jacqueline du Pre/Stefan Grapelli/David Oistrach/Paul Tortellier/Paul Buckmaster/Itzhak Perlman/David Oistrakh/ (string ensemble)
Miles Davis (trumpet)
Conducted by John Barry....
and Eminem (selling the tour programmes in a rap style) 
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view, who would be playing?
Roxy Music (with Eno)
Jeff Buckley
Pablo Casals
The Smiths
Ella Fitzgerald
Joni Mitchell
The Beat
Sex Pistols
Kathleen Ferrier
Billy Mackenzie/Associates
Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares
Led Zeppelin
Kronos Quartet
Adam And The Ants
Stevie Wonder
Ian Dury And The Blockheads
The Doors
Tv On The Radio
Talk Talk
Zero 7
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
There have been a few! The one that springs to mind was when I was playing with the band The Government, and we were headlining the Prince's Trust party with Duran Duran. It was wall to wall superstars and celebrities and very excessive 80's. In the dressing room was a great long bench where there were placed many rows of neat “lines” (of coke) as refreshment. Our bass player, unaware of this, walked in and dropped his clothes suitcase onto the bench, whereupon the magic white powder flew into the air. Within 5 minutes the floor was covered with people with rolled up notes sniffing the carpet in the hope of salvaging some “toot” particles in the process. Probably the best vacuuming that carpet ever had. Bass players eh? 
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?
I'm often overwhelmed at the generosity of spirit, praise and feeling from my supporters and I'd like to thank them from the humblest part of me.

Please feel free to find out what's happening with me here:
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 2 at
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