I work mainly outside the UK - interview with Roger Turner

Piotr Wojdat

When I asked you for an interview, you wrote me that you are in New Zealand. What were you doing there?

Roger Turner: I was working with the trio Monicker. Scott Thomson on trombone, Arthur Bull on guitar. They are both canadians. I’ve known Arthur for quite a long time i think. Maybe 20 years or so when we first met at the Guelph Jazz Festival over there. I was playing with the Tradition Trio with Alan Silva and Johannes Bauer… and we started playing together again maybe 3-4 years ago. A couple of dates in London, and then a tour in east Canada that was joined by Scott. Then we did an 8 gig tour of Quebec as the trio Monicker, and then this last tour of south east Australia centred on the Canberra Soundout Festival, and after some dates in New Zealand including the audio foundation in Auckland. A great time and some great music.










What do you like about this country?

RT: It feels very separate from the rest of the world, and very much its own flavour and culture. A beautiful country, at this time of the year really hot, but with clean air. Great food, good wines, very nice easy-going people. The audio foundation is an incredible organisation, hosting players from around the world. Suzuki Akio was there at the time we were, and some very interesting local musicians like Hermione Johnson, Paul Buckton and Jeff Henderson. There’s really some stuff happening, and also in Wellington. Fertile territory for sure, and i am trying to get Hermione over into Europe in mid november to tour, after her work in the USA has finished.

Do you feel as a part of english improvised music scene together with Lol Coxhill or Phil Minton?

RT: I work mainly outside the UK simply because there’s very little paying work inside. it’s a vivious circle. To play more and maybe to support the scene more inside the UK i think you need to have a separate income. Another job so that the emphasis on working in the UK need not be curtailed by financial questions. It’s a kind of luxury to play in London often, and it’s been noticeable that there’s been a recent and sudden little surge of retirees popping their heads up and getting re-involved in the local improvised music culture. Lol was perhaps primarily a home-based UK musician, though the Recedents band with Mike Cooper,Lol and me worked a lot overseas. Phil is very much the opposite, a musician who can be incredibly busy working round the world. But both of them are very much british musicians, their identities fused with aspects of being british, and i consider myself to be very much part of that culture. Also, working primarily abroad doesn’t mean that one is neglecting organisational contributions to the home scene. Both Phil and i organise work both here in the UK and abroad, and bring new faces into the market place.


How is to work with Phil Minton? He is a very uncommon musician.

RT: Phil’s great, one of music’s serious one offs. I actually like playing with Phil more now than before, though i enjoyed it a lot then. It feels more open now. Less constrained by need. I wish we could find an agent or somebody to fix us some concerts. We are not the best office workers, but are nevertheless back in action.

You are working with polish piano player Witold Oleszak. When and how did you met him?

RT: I wish i could play more with Witold. He’s an incredibly creative, committed person and a great pianist. He contacted me after Chris Cutler had given him my email address maybe 8 years ago. I think that’s what happened. He wanted me to play with him playing the inside string structure of a piano he had had cut up. We made two cd’s fast, one on the piano at the Dragon in Poznan. Both very interesting for me indeed. We recently did some recording at the Polish Radio in Poznan, and are desparate for a label to release the material. I believe we may be having a duo release taken from the concert we played for the contemporary drum festival in Poznan also.


Are you familiar with polish improvised music? If yes, then who made on you a big impression?

RT: I am familiar with some aspects of it. I met drummer Adam Gołębiewski before he started to get muscles, and found him an interesting player. And of course Witold.

In 2019 you were invited to travel and perform on the Arctic island Svalbard. Could you tell me about this experience?

RT: Well, one minute i was in grey and gloomy london, and it seemed like a few hours later i was on a snowmobile amongst ice-bound glaciers, travelling in a small convoy with people with guns. It is the law on svalbard that you travel everywhere with a gun in case of polar bear attacks. The year before i was there a polar bear ate a swedish student in the middle of the only street in Barentsburg. Can’t really blame it, trying to improve its diet. But it was incredible: visiting the old abandoned soviet mining outpost, pyramiden in Spitzbergen, to play a concert in a well-preserved concert hall, the two janitors who looked after the deserted encampment as audience. It was astonishing. A grand piano on stage, but the strings snapped to shreds; and old russian snare drum in a beautiful green pearl but frozen beyond use lying backstage. A ballroom still with empty vodka bottles scattered around in front of a faded huge russian-glory mural, the windows smashed by ice, the drapes and curtains shredded. A scary scenario, very otherworldly, although the place had been home to a thousand or more people once. There was a very beautiful swimming pool with wood beams and intricate tile designs, and just outside the full arctic wilderness complete with polar bears. Jaap Blonk, me and two others got left behind stuck in the ice in the midst of huge glaciers for 30 minutes, and it felt incredibly threatening. No gun. Luckily we were missed and the russian guide came back for us and helped us get out of there. But, of course we all also had a lot of fun. It was very weird, surreal, lunatic.

What are your music plans for this year?

RT: Konk Pack have a short outing in Norway in march, which will be very nice indeed. It remains one of my most favourite and fruitful working situations. I have Otomo Yoshihide and Masahiko Satoh The Sea Trio  coming over late april for 4 or 5 concerts including the Ulrichsberg Kaleidaphon Festival. A recording and concert with Phil Minton and Sergio Armaroli in Milan later in may. Plans to get back to Japan mid year; an art show in october also in Milan i have to prepare work for; hopefully a tour in Europe with Hermione Johnson. And quite a few other things scattered throughout the year. It’s an interesting time.