Kit Downes Preview/Interview (Vortex July 3rd)

Kit Downes and Lucy Railton at Chappells (with Calum Gourlay, James Maddren,
James Allsopp)
Photo credit: William Ellis. All rights reserved

Kit Downes talks to Robert Edgar about his new music being performed at the Vortex next Tuesday July 3rd, and about his next album, for release next April:

Robert Edgar: Does your new music for the gig on 3rd July represent a shift from your music up to now?

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Kit Downes: Not so much a shift but another train of thought. I have been working with Lucy in my own band for about a year now so this is just an extension of what we do in that band. I have written new music for it as I like to write specifically for the people I’m playing with and situations I’m playing in.

RE: How does that work?

KD: I think of the people involved in the project, I try to imagine a sound for that group and then try to write for that sound that I have in my head. If it then takes a change in direction after that then that’s fine, but this is always my starting point. Obviously when you bring the music to the players it changes again – especially with music that is both composed and improvised in equal measure as this is.

RE: And the ‘cello?

KD: I love the cello as it is so diverse in its sound world. With the piano there is a big history to it which informs what you expect to hear from it (sonically) – and this can be hard to escape, that’s the challenge of the instrument.

RE: And you enjoy working in a duo Lucy Railton?

KD: Yes, with Lucy, she plays the cello in a really interesting way, one that is impossible to pin down to a particular style, genre of time-frame. She doesn’t write music, but in the way she interprets things I think she makes them sound unique (both the music and her own sound within it).

RE: Is this the first time you both have collaborated?

KD: No, Lucy plays in my Quintet. We are also involved in a project together led by Thomas Stronen

RE: The Vortex website mentions a mixture of “semi-improvised/semi composed pieces.” Do you follow a pattern from an original idea together?

KD : That is generally how we improvise, however – the music I have written is particular in the way it informs how the improvisation will be. I prescribe sounds, or textures, or lengths etc – but all within a through-composed piece of music. Not so much head-solo-head, though I love this way of improvising too.

RE: What kind of challenges (if any) did this collaboration present and what (if anything) did you have to do differently compared to your previous work.

KD: I have approached it as it’s own thing, as I do with everything – so in that sense it is the same process as other things that I play in. Finding a sound for the group and playing and writing into that sound. Things that are difficult would be use of space, as any duo is bare by nature but then the temptation becomes to fill that space rather than embrace it. This is a fun challenge however – and the reason i do it!

RE: Are they all “originals” or are there re-workings of pieces by others?

KD: There is only one re-work, a Bulgarian Traditional tune called ‘Rachenitsa’

RE: You have said that you got your first album when you were 13 or 14 and, since then, you have been using each new piece of music you are introduced to as a kind of learning experience. Is this in some way related to that learning experience?

KD: I guess so. Playing with good musicians is always a learning experience, and trying to stretch yourself in terms of line-up, texture and sound – doing things that feel new to you.

RE: Is this gig a one-off?

KD: No, we played in April at Kings Place, and we may record it on a little EP i think later this year, for limited release to 7 inch… I think.

RE: Any other new projects for the near future?

Kit Downes : I have a new Quintet album coming out in April 2013, which we recorded a couple of months ago. It will be called ‘Light from Old Stars’ and feature James Allsopp on bass clarinet, Lucy Railton on cello, James Maddren on drums and Calum Gourlay on bass. It will be on the Basho Label. You can hear a preview here.

Robert Edgar: Thanks for the interview, I’m looking forward to being at the Vortex next Tuesday

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