Tour Preview / Interview: Colin Towns and Blue Touch Paper (Various UK venues, Feb 24- Mar 1)

Blue Touch Paper with Colin Towns (centre)
Sebastian interviewed Colin Towns by email about Blue Touch Paper's second album 'Drawing Breath', reviewed here by Chris Parker - ("another absorbing, often viscerally exciting album") and about a forthcoming six-date UK tour - dates and contacts below.

LondonJazz News : You once called Blue Touch Paper 'the band I've always dreamed of'. Is it still living the dream?

Colin Towns: Yes, Blue Touch Paper is a dream band. Obviously it's composition-driven which is not what normally happens with a small group like this. Head- solos-head etc. My 'drive' of course is composition and I came from the world of 'the sound of surprise'. This doesn't have to be free or abstract it can be anything as long as it moves you. So the guys in the band explore and improvise within a structure. So for the band it means we can go anywhere. Of course people like things in boxes but I prefer to take colours and sounds and lay them out on a palette, as an artist might and make new pictures. Certainly not fusion, which some people played great in the 1970's, but here we are 2014! The guys in the band are explorers in the 21 century, that for me is heaven.

LJN: How do you see the second album as a progression from the first?

CT: The second album feels more driven with the guys exploring the colours of the compositions with fantastic ideas. They know that they can try anything!

Obviously 'gigging' has pulled it together more and I'm constantly surprised by their ideas.

LJN: As you get to know these musicians better through touring and recording what unexpected sides do you discover?

CT: I chose these musicians carefully because they are masters of the unexpected. We were able to explore more sounds this time with Stephan Maass' electric percussion, and of course Chris Montague whose command of sound is extraordinary. Mark Lockheart is very open to have his saxophone sound treated (sometimes) and that meant that myself and Toby Wood (my engineer) spent a great deal of time trying FX's. Of course, it's important to treat Marks sound and playing with respect and we made sure he was always happy with the end result. Benny Greb continually surprises me. He just sounds like himself, a master musician who stands out in a world where it's not always possible to identify musicians anymore. Check out how many followers he has on Facebook! Edward Maclean, the gentleman of the band, is quite simply a rock. It's always a surprise to me that Edward 'gets' the idea of the compositions so quickly. Of course everyone wants to work with him in his mother country Germany. Unfortunately he is unable to join us for this tour but we are very fortunate to have as our special guest Arnd Geise from Hamburg.

LJN: Have some of those discoveries led to new writing?

CT: When I'm writing I simply follow my intuition and think about how to execute later. I would then simply say to the guys "is this possible?" Sometimes in other situations (bigger bands) I've had "it's not playable" etc. However, nothing ventured! So I'm afraid I follow my dreams not what musicians do or don't do. We are all on a journey and not knowing what comes next is part of it.

LJN: What other projects do you have on the go?

Colin Towns: Naturally I'm thinking hard about the next Blue Touch Paper album. I never feel completely happy about what I do, and the 3rd album will have a different approach and will not be ready for quite a while. 

This year I will record a new Mask Orchestra album which I've been working on for a couple of years and is based on my work in the theatre, this will be very different to the previous Mask albums. The band will be a mix of musicians who are established and also new voices.

My current film work (which finances both bands), includes three films for German TV and the new series of Foyle's War. Our tent sits by the front door in the hope that we can sneak off sometimes for a couple of days!

LondonJazz News: Thank you, have a great tour, and I very much hope to catch the Vortex gig.

24 Feb Vortex LONDON 8pm
25 Feb Turner Sims SOUTHAMPTON 8pm/ 023 8059 5151
26 Feb Artrix BROMSGROVE 8pm/ 01527 577330
27 Feb Brewery Arts Centre KENDAL 7.30pm
28 Feb Band on the Wall MANCHESTER 7pm/
01 Mar Capstone Theatre LIVERPOOL 7.30pm/0844 8000 410


SEE ALSO "WHO IS COLIN TOWNS?" OUR PROFILE FROM MAY 2011, WHEN BLUE TOUCH PAPER WAS STARTING

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