Music continues to evolve in the form, appeal, instruments used, and also the style and genre that becomes more popular during one point of time. This often happens due to pioneering work by a musician in a particular field of music. However, good music remains relevant always irrespective of the constant change that this field experiences.
Experimentation and fusion are common to music and James Asher has explored these aspects of music throughout his life, evolving his repertoire along with his music. Collaborating and combining various styles, he offers a potpourri to the listeners.
We talked to him about his passion for music, what stands out for him when it comes to music being good, and also his recent and upcoming projects.
Q1. Tell us about your love for recording and combining various instruments together.
My love of recording goes back quite some way. Initially fascinated by the process of capturing what was played on
But in the early days, this was quite novel. In fact, one of the uses of this technique resulted in a piece called Peppermint Lump. I sent it to Pete Townshend ( of the Who), of whom I was a huge fan. He liked it and invited me down to his Eel Pie studio in Twickenham London, and offered to record this as a single. This was a huge career boost for me and bolstered my confidence enormously. How exciting to have one of my idols playing rhythm guitar on my composition and doing backing vocals! I went on to do some drum sessions for Pete, and I also played drums on his Empty Glass album. This was amazing and also a bit strange as the recording session happened on the day each year he dedicates in silence to Meher Baba, one of the spiritual figures he followed. So he was writing down instructions instead of talking to the musicians!
I went on to add other instruments to the overall
Q2. Does it help to know the technicalities of recording when you compose music?
The process of capturing a good musical idea will be as quick and easy as the device you are using to do it. Compared to the ease and speed of current digital recording, using tape was quite clunky and fiddly. But learning to actual create edits by physically using a razor blade, was a good discipline to learn and I developed a skill at it. Ideas come in the most unpredictable times and ways and are sometimes equally gone in a flash if you don`t nurture and capture them. How many of us have thought `Oh, no problem, I`ll remember that meaning phrase, hook or groove, as it feels so present at the time it comes into your mind.L eave it a a day or two and something of the original spark doesn`t feel quite the same. That fine indescribable something – so precious and sometimes so fleeting. Capture that moment! Record it on your phone, your computer, your portable device – whatever you have. Understanding the technicalities of recording, of course, provides enhancement options that are invaluable. Learning to improve the tone of an instrument using EQ, enhancing its context by using reverb, knowing how to get the parts of a solo compiled using editing all of course very useful. And of course, if you can program a synth or virtual instrument it means the sound will be very personal to you.
I spent hours creating rhythms on Roger Linn`s excellent drum machine the Linn Drumand have gone to use the Akai MPC series of drum machine/sequencers for years. The workflow on them is awesome, and has a speed, friendliness, and ease of use unmatched by its rivals. Fast, furious and glorious! The latest incarnation is the MPC X, about to be joined by the Akai Force. I can`t exude enough positivity about these devices, which have been life-changing for me.
Q3. How do you feel electronic sounds complement acoustic instruments and become more appealing for the modern user?
Acoustic instruments are fantastic and offer a delicate and fragile expression of the human soul. I love them. But there is also a vocabulary of tones that
Q4. Tell us about your upcoming album and the inspiration behind it.
Arthur Hull`s visit in October propelled the music on this album into being. 2018 was a strange year which seemed to contain many extremes of all kinds. The weather was intense in many forms, many people experienced profound personal change, and the politics increasingly felt like a surreal pantomime whose performers are apparently oblivious to its potentially disastrous consequences. Where have those elements gone that used to put a twinkle in our eye? I reflected nostalgically about former good
In the case of music, this leads to a great deal of categorizing and tagging. But this approach is not really sympathetic or akin to the way in which composers think. Part of what makes artistic expression great is its ability to blend subtly aspects of varied and diverse styles without any artificial constraints or barriers. Especially as we seek to form a coherent expression in response to our increasingly crazy world, or should I say despite it? As humans, we are fragile analog beings. We face an increasingly digital environment on all fronts. The world of social media, how we gain information and how we shop – all fiercely remotely controlled, and manipulating us in ways we can only guess at. Part of the wonderful help I have had in creating music that seeks to transcend all this is from the gifted musicians taking part. Arthur brings his playfulness, imagination, percussive wizardry and creative critiques that light the way forward. As on my previous release ‘Return of the Tiger’ I called on the phenomenal didgeridoo playing of Jason Salmon, who seemed remarkably attuned to the music, despite never having heard it previously. Bruce Knapp`s highly skilled guitar playing helped me break into several musical zones which were fresh to me. Sandeep Raval brought his charismatic musical approach and dazzled with his sparkling percussion excellence – oh yes, that Wicked Ginger touch! I had worked with keyboardist Tom Phelan before on a performance at an Indian wedding. But he surpassed himself when recording for this project. So much joy, dexterity, and fluidity combined with a remarkable musicality. Greg Heath`s sax provides a superbly sassy, gutsy and agile counterpoint to the proceedings. Discovering the masterfully funky style of bassist Daz Bants brought about the perfect addition to the title track. On
And finally as a fantastic surprise as the project neared completion Ziza`Stupkova`s fabulous voice made a stunning addition to the Island Farewell track, along with the lyrics she wrote that match the track so well.
Q5. How fulfilling is collaborating with other musicians for a particular project?
When you bring in another musician, you`re opening the doors to what they hear, their soul, their playing style and their sensitivity to what the music offers. It`s unlimited how much they may bring to the party. It might be just the odd note in the right place, or it might be a solo or counter groove or space or just expressive sound like a breath or a sigh. How much you will like and respond to within what another musician brings is of course very variable, but it`s important to be fully open to what they suggest.
Q6. What do you have in mind when you sit to create music? What inspiration, drive, or expectation do you usually carry?
Wonderful sounds, tones, and grooves set me in motion. Fresh ones that I haven`t heard before especially float my boat. That is why so many hard drives can get filled up with sounds quickly. If an idea has something special you feel it strongly, and you can respond in different ways. If your ego gets attached, this can lead to bombastic and OTT solos. If you`re patient and respectful of the marvel taking place, you can see yourself as a caretaker and cherisher of something larger than your self, and just marvel
Q7. A message for our readers?
Make sure when you play music you have fun, which is key to the process being enjoyable, productive and satisfying. Choose a time when you are in the mood. Encourage your self along the way by retaining the best version yet of what you played, sang or hummed. It can only get better!