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Ron Geesin interview - July 19th 2008 - with Brain Damage (Part 3) Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 06 August 2008

ahm rehearsals 4. Pic by Joe Geesin - So the Thursday rehearsal, when David turned up, did the atmosphere change? Particularly with the Italian band - had they already done anything with David?

No, they had never met him before, so they were a bit shivery, a bit nervous. The grand master is going to be turning up in a minute! Of course, the grand master sends his henchmen first, his managers to hustle and bustle about the place for half an hour before David walks in. But, not really, because the Italians were the only ones really standing in real awe, the rest of the people were professional musicians, so used to people coming and going.

I could ask the question: why should he do anything but play? What is a star?

- You might get some guitarists who would try to make the show their own show.

Well, he couldn't have, because he wouldn't have got... given my clear statement, and desire, I would have stopped that before it got too far if I'd have spotted that one. And of course, you'd see that early on because someone would say, "How about if I come on and do a couple of pirouettes and..." [Laughs]

I said to David early on, and this was about a year back: "Do you want to do a piece on your own? Do you want to do a 'head-to-head' about the story, and about what you felt, and what I felt, at Abbey Road, triggered by the slides?" "No", he said, "I'm no good at that sort of thing..."

So I didn't ask him again, I said to myself that I'm doing that one, I'm down for that one! He said "No, Ron, it's your gig".

So that was the correct balance. I mean, if he wants to do Atom Heart Mother in his show then it would be his show, and I might slide on and play the piano. Fine! [Laughs] That all worked out great.

- Did he make any comments about how he felt performing it?

No.

ahm_rehearsals_8- None of the band have been overly complimentary about the piece over the years...

But remember I must remind you here - and you can read it in the souvenir programme - that nobody - no journalist or other reporter - ever asked at the time "to what exactly do you refer? Is it the piece that lasts 23 minutes on side one? Is it anything to do with side two, or is it the whole album?" These questions you can still ask. They've not actually been answered.

- They've not clarified exactly what they mean.

I've clarified it, and I've said I've had absolutely nothing to do with side two, and we know what's on side two. One of the magazines - it might be Uncut - is doing certain personalities choosing their favourite Floyd pieces, and I said "Well, I don't really listen to any of it!" [Laughs]

"But, if I DID, I would choose 'If' by Roger which starts side two, which reminds me of what he REALLY was, or what was really inside him. Take away all the bluster and the stardom and the machinery, and you've got a human being who has feelings, but you don't often see 'em. But in that one you do.

Another reason why I'm - it's not a big reason - but one reason why I'm well away from rock and pop, and music, is that the quality of reporting has been very poor. It's obviously improved now, because you flush the rubbish out. It seems incredible to me, that statements like "it's a load of rubbish" are not properly challenged and looked into. In the same way, or rather to the same depth, that I went, with the help of [my son] Joe to find that Evening Standard cutting, and to say "That is it, it can be no other. We've looked at every other newspaper and it can be no other". It could have been maybe this, or maybe that. But that's it.

- Case closed.

Well, no research is ever closed. One could have missed SOMETHING. You can always miss something, and someone else in twenty years time, says that they're not entirely happy about that, and they go through it all again, and that's what human beings do. Great! Because it's the fun of the investigation. The pursuit of the impossible! [Laughs] The pursuit of the irrelevant! It's all good fun! [Laughs]

I do it a lot. In fact, there's my spanner collection as another example, because that's another side of things, is that one could immerse oneself in antiquity. I suppose, in a way, you being a Floyd fan, YOU'RE immersing yourself in recent antiquity, you see, so we're all in it. Look at us here, surrounded by shellac [Ron's jazz 78s].

- It's good not to let these things be forgotten. Things of value, of worth - to a degree, it's all down to people's perception, like artwork and other things...

Mmm. As I've put it in an article for the Tools and Trades History Society, of which I'm now the chairman - in the next newsletter, I use the old cliché, altered slightly: "We're riding on the knife-edge of the present. To know the past well, is to enjoy the future".

But, provided there IS a future, and you don't see the future as past. I think it's quite possible to fall into that, but I think what I do is commute between... because your riding on the knife-edge, if you imagine there's a see-saw on that knife-edge, I'm continually running up and down the see-saw into the future, and into the past. In a way, it's a way of seeing, of being aware of the absurdity of human endeavour, and the great joy of belonging... [a pause]

- Deep stuff!

Oh yes! [Laughs]

- Obviously the first half of the show introduced your work to a lot of people, who would never have experienced your work - written, musical. Were you pleased by the reaction of the audience?

Oh yeah... mmm.

- Some of the European members of the audience around me took a little while to translate it, but were loving it, and it obviously crosses boundaries...

ahm rehearsals 9. Pic by Joe Geesin Oh yeah... yeah. I didn't know what percentage there would be of foreign persons coming. I found that out after, when I was writing on programmes, especially on the Sunday night.

I remember on the Saturday night, at half time going around the back - knackered though I was, I said to myself "I've come home. [Laughs] This is where I am. This feels good!"

The response was fine. The Saturday night was more the Chelsea Festival audience and obviously, the aphorisms, they got them! Little chuckles here and there. But to me, obviously on the Sunday night, there wasn't the same instant pickup. My senior composer friend who was there on the Sunday night, wrote me this great critical analysis, and said "I didn't think the aphorisms worked, it wasn't the right place to do them". And of course, the one answer that I'd give him is that if it's not the right place to do them, I'll do them! It's what I do. [Laughs] Obviously I wouldn't do them in Italy as that would be bloody stupid!

And I thought about that a bit. And then someone contacted me and said "You should look at Gilmour's [blog], there's hundreds of comments about the show, they're all discussing it". So I had a good look at that, and what was most interesting was that the Floydies were more discussing about the aphorisms than about the music, as they were quite taken by it! And I thought that was great! The silence in the audience was the stuff going in!

So fine, great. I'll look for another opportunity to do this! [Laughs]

- Do you think it's a good time to maybe resurrect the one-man-show?

I don't know about resurrect, it's about finding entrepreneurs, finding someone who will actually get it on. I can do it, but I can't get up and do all the [tour organising]. Someone else has to do all that. So, it's available, and I thought already that the first half of the show COULD HAVE BEEN, given more backing and organisation, one long piece, with the elements. With everything going into everything else, as one big piece.

You could say, in fact it was one big piece, but there were gaps, where the clown comes on and does a funny bit and then another piece... whatever. But I could see another show where it actually was one big piece, you blended the elements and moved them in and out more, without taking away from... you've got to have a grand piano excursion, because I've got to do one of those. "Everyone leave the stage 'cos I'm going to get on this thing!" [Laughs]

There's hundreds of permutations; it's only a matter of someone desiring it. I'm there. I'm ready to get on and do that.

- Did anything come of the footage that was shot of the Brighton [one-man-show, back in December 2004]?

I've contacted the bloke [behind it], and it's there. The girl that did the camera stuff then, shot some stuff of THIS show, and various other elements. We've got to get together and see what can be done, as she shot MILES of, off and on, most of the year leading up to the shows. So she's got a bit of the first brass rehearsals, and she's got... I've not seen any of it, and I don't want to at the moment. That would make a bloody good documentary.

She's looking at possibly finding a slot - not easy, almost impossible - at the Beeb (BBC2 or whatever). When you're looking for slots, you've got fashions, and available slots, and who's the commissioning editor... I can't be doing with thinking about that at the moment. But again, the stuff's there and something will be done with it.

- And it would be a shame for that to be lost because I'm sure a very, very interesting documentary could be crafted out of all of that, and that people would want to see, both from a Floydie point of view, but also from a creative point of view - what goes into a fairly big production. If, as you say, the right person backs it.

Yeah, you can't just put it together in a vacuum. But, having said that, I've always thought that one can only create one's own platform. You create you own platform to make work. One should never rely on anyone else to create a platform, and yet the practical fact is that one usually does wait until there's a convenient platform. It's an odd one, and I oscillate between the two feelings. If you just make new work, IT makes it's own platform. That's the pure attitude, and I have that sometimes! [Laughs]

- So have you have got anything else in the pipeline?

Well, just get The Big Work finished. And I know how to do that. I've got Mark Ayres, who is the self-appointed Dr Who music archivist - all the Dr Who music - and he goes into the BBC, and roots out tapes that no-one knew existed because he knows where to look, and he's going to help me finish The Big Piece, because he knows the software. He can drive all the gear, whereas I get tied up in knots, get lost, can't find the thread. So that'll be great, to get on with finishing that.

ahm curtain call. pic: Dave Newman That's the next thing. For better or worse, whatever it is, because it's a hell of a heavy work. And in fact, at one point early on in the Chelsea show, I thought of one way would be to orchestrate parts of The Big Work and slot them in, but I went down a different route.

- And with all of the pressures on you to do everything else, it would have just been an extra element of...

Well, no, it would have been instead of writing the brass piece, or instead of writing the choir piece, it just would have been... different. But I think what came out was... fine.

- And looking back on that [decision not to include it] now?

I'm happy about that. I'm happy I didn't go into The Big Work and try to orchestrate it. Because it is all written, well, most of it is written; even though it's being executed electronically, it could definitely be done by a large force, like an orchestra...


 

My thanks to Ron, his charming wife Frances, and his son Joe, for their time and wonderful hospitality. You can find out more about Ron at his (soon to be re-designed) website - cunningly called www.RonGeesin.com.

With the exception of the final picture, taken after the performance finished, by Dave Newman, the pictures shown here are all copyright of, and provided courtesy of, Joe Geesin, and cannot be used elsewhere without his permission.

 
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