mercoledì 25 luglio 2012

Interview with Ed Askew

 Hi Ed,

First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Are you recording new songs right now? What's your usual music-making process?

I'm working on songs, or some kind of music almost every day. Aside from what gets occasionally released on CD or records, i am always trying to come up with something here at home (using a very simple proTools set up) that i put on Bandcamp.  Or make copies to sell at shows, and give to friends. 

My process varies a good deal, but basically, i start by making a chord sequence and than listen to what i have until some words come to mind. Of course, once i have that, i edit and move stuff around. Like today, I had some organ chords i liked but had to change the position of the chorus; i didn't like its length, so i cut it in half and repeated it toward the end of the song. 

What words would you use to describe your music?
(Ed's Bandcamp page: )

I'm tagging it art-pop, outsider, and psych-pop lately. It's evolved over the years.
Mostly it's some version of indie singer-songwriter music. Poetry of sorts. Little inventions. Little compositions, but not art song.

Do you still play the tiple?

No. Hand problems make it painful sometimes. I do some recording, but very rarely, strumming or simple flat-picking. The last tiple project i made was  "Paper Horses", an album on Bandcamp from 2009.

Tell us a bit about your current band ( ). Back to the 60's, what was like playing with Gandalf and the Motorpickle?

My current band is Ed Askew Band. There are no available recordings yet. Except for a lo-fi live performance (also on download) it's me singing, Jay Pluck on the piano, and Tyler Evans playing the tiple. "Ed Askew Band @ Zebulon".  We do have a new recording, with some additional people, but i don't know when it's coming out or who is releasing it.

I met Jay after i had played ,with Steve Gunn, at the Stone. I was no longer playing with Steve and i needed an accompanist on piano. And Jay said he wanted to do that. Later we met Tyler, who is in the Black Swans. We were touring with them. And when Tyler moved to NY we asked him to play with us.      

I did my first public performances at the Exit CoffeeHouse in New Haven. In 1967  (i guess it was) i was the last performer of the night, and it went over rather well, i think, even though i was nervous. Russ, who was running the show that night introduced me to some people and invited me to join his band, which they were putting together. That was Gandalf. We were a straight ahead rock band; two guitars, drum kit, bass, and singer. I was the singer, and we played my songs mostly. I was with them for most of a year before i quit.  I didn't play the tiple with the band. We played around New Haven mostly, and never recorded anything.

Later i was part of a trio, also in NH, that lasted for a few months, till the other two guys left NH. And i played music with Russ, off and on,  for years, though nothing was ever recorded. Most of my performing, however, was as a solo act. And since the early 1968 i did lots of local shows playing the harpsichord, and the tiple.  I also did solo shows at a bar in Mystic Ct, and at some stuff in Boston.

Ask the Unicorn and Little Eyes are unforgotten masterpieces. What do you remember about your experience with ESP-Disk' and Bernard Stollman? What were your influences back then?

After i graduated from art school i moved to New York City for a time. I was playing around the city at coffee houses; i would just show up and play. You could do that a lot then. Someone suggested i play for Bernard Stollman of ESP Disk'.  So i got his number and , as requested, i made a tape. And took it down to his office and he listened to it. He offered me a contract on the spot. I made the first record in 1967 or 68. It was released in 68. Except for some local attention (i had moved back to new Haven) the record was a non-event. And soon even my friends forgot about it.
But i kept writing and performing.. so it didn't seem that important. Then i made a second recording (Little Eyes) but it didn't get released until years later.

Back then i liked all the Woodstock people..Hendrix , Joni Mitchel, the Doors..Dylan, all the stuff  my friends were listening to; mostly on records. I would occasionally go to a concert. I almost never went to  clubs. But you would occasionally go hear a band somewhere.. someone not with a record out.   I had also listened to John Cage and Kurt Weill (THREE PENNY OPERA) and Harry Parch. Stuff like psych-folk and outsider music i didn't know about, and never liked when i did hear it. Though my taste has broadened over the years. A bit.  

Do you think 'psychedelic folk' was a well-chosen definition of your music?

It seemed ok in the early 70s. Everyone was smoking pot and taking acid. No one ever called it psych-folk back then. It was year later i started hearing that term. My music had a sort of manic quality. Someone said it was acid folk. It really wasn't  much of a concern.

What did you like about your job as an art teacher?

Well, i had tons of part time positions in various programs over the years. Mostly working with kids. (And  teaching design at a university for a few years, until they closed the school). I always liked working with Children, of course. I like kids art. It's quite beautiful sometimes. I  liked to have small classes  best. I did a lot of Summer programs also. Summer is hot and always packed with as many kids as they can get in the program. So it's more intense. Less fun in some ways. Especially if your job is also getting teenagers to clean up the camp area.

I absolutely love those collages you sent me (Ed's paintings, drawings, collages: )
Your music and art seem to have in common the gift of spontaneity. What were your favorite artists when you studied at Yale Art School? And what are your inspirations now?

I liked the so called abstract-expressionists  like DeKooning.. and all the best so-called modernist artists,  like Paul Klee and Picasso.  I still like picture makers ( abstract or figurative) best. I haven't kept up. and don't go to galleries very often. I go to the Met Museum fairly often. I like Chinese  landscape painting a lot. I like some of the German figurative painters i first saw in the 90s.

What are the pros and cons of being an independent musician? Is the Internet an effective tool to self-promote one's work?

Well,  i'm in the situation i'm in; i can make any kind of music i want and if it changes, i don't have to worry about upsetting too many fans or critics, or music business people. So one has a great deal of freedom as an artist. But even in my situation i get people who would rather hear only my older music. People who only see me as someone who wrote music in the 60s and 70s. And it's still almost impossible to find a label that is willing to release anything written or recorded in the last 25 years. So i do it myself. And that works ok on the internet. at least people can hear my new songs there. So the internet is good for promotion, but i don't sell all that much.  It's like, getting $6. Occasionally. But having a sort of internet profile; reviews, and pictures certainly helps get shows. And i sell some stuff at shows also.

Do you think the environment affects an artist's inventiveness? If so, does New York City influence your work to a certain extent?

Yes. Definitely. Even though i keep to myself mostly. Getting gigs in Brooklyn and playing around New York is very good. And working with other musicians, and doing occasional short tours gets me out of myself in a healthy way that affects my music in a positive way. I also hear kinds of work that i probably would not listen to if i was by myself. So that's good.

How would you describe your life? What are your projects for the future?

My life is sort of day to day.. one foot in front of the other. I don't tend to make future plans because something is always coming up. I mean, if we are considering doing a tour.. we do whatever we have to do (Jay does most of the organizing, with some input from me and Tyler)  .. if we are planing that, we do whatever planing we have to do for that. But otherwise i don't make too many plans.   
Day to day, i make art and work on new songs, hang out at home, go for walks, watch videos, read.  

Other Ed-related pages:

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