PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: Philip Clemo (Dream Maps CD launch with Arve Henriksen, Kings Place 14 Sep)

Philip Clemo. Photo credit: Colin Gray

Composer, musician, record producer, sound artist, filmmaker and visual artist PHILIP CLEMO will launch his sixth album "Dream Maps" at Kings Place on September 14th in Kings Place Hall Two, with back-projected video to which the musicians will respond in the live situation. Philip Clemo explained the background in an email interview with Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: Tell us about your background - where are you from, where did you study….?

Philip Clemo: I grew up in rural Aberdeenshire, around 30 miles north west of Aberdeen. I moved to London when I was 17 and lived there pretty consistently for over 30 years. I now live in East Sussex. I have always been interested in the creative use of technology and that initially led me to a course of study in electronics but I very quickly found out that I wasn’t made out to be an engineer. I then worked in television for some time, including a stint as a film editor on the BBC’s Panorama programme. I released my first album in 1997 and for around the last 10 years I have worked as an independent artist, focusing on music and film projects.

LJN: What unifies your six albums – is there a theme or story? 

PC: I guess my pieces generally develop quite linearly - I don’t tend to work with A, B, A structures - I like tracks to unfold in other ways. My work often, but not always, starts when I create different sonic spaces. The pieces then develop from that and are generally instrumental but I use my voice as an instrument. I do have songs popping up here and there though. I am interested in edges - where things start to break down - genres, rules, comfort, expectations of instruments etc. I love ambiguity and blurring sources and putting together unusual combinations of players.

LJN: Tell us how your music has developed through these releases.

PC: I guess an obvious development through my 6 albums has been the way I now approach recording sessions - I pick musicians very carefully and then give them a lot of freedom to explore. There is a lot more detail in my pieces these days, hugely more editing and shaping, and much more attention to the sonic quality of the original recordings. That very much comes out of my working relationship with sound engineer Phill Brown who I respect enormously. I’ve worked with Phill on my last 3 projects. He has an amazing lineage, working with artists such as Bob Marley, John Martyn and Talk Talk.

LJN: Who is working with you on this album and why did you chose them? Who is your longest standing associate? And who is the new discovery?

PC: Once again I worked with Phill Brown on the album which was great. Below is a complete list of the musicians playing on Dream Maps. There were 21 musicians on this project. I chose them largely for their ability to listen and to find their way around unfamiliar territory in interesting ways. I work a lot with ‘blind’ improvisation where I give no prior guidance to a musician before recording. After several takes they become more familiar with the piece I am presenting to them in parts and their performance changes. There is something very special about those first few takes when a master musician is dropped into a strange landscape and is feeling their way around. With Dream Maps I was generally a few musicians ahead with the planning - I would bring someone in to help shape the next stage of a composition. I didn’t know the end points of the pieces - it was a fluid process.

My longest-standing musician on any project is John Edwards on double bass - he has played on 4 out of my 6 albums and I first worked with him nearly 20 years ago. Every time John comes up with something unexpected. As I do with most of the musicians I work with, I give John a lot of freedom to explore a piece - I like the musical conversations he starts. Kevin Pollard, Simon Edwards and Martin Ditcham have all played important roles on my last 3 albums.

LJN: Have you recorded with Arve Henriksen before? 

PC: This is my first album with Arve - I’ve admired his music for some time and love the quality of his tone and the sensitivity of his playing - it was a real kick to work with him on Dream Maps and now live at the launch on the 14th September at Kings Place, It’s also been great to work with Evi Vine - she has added some beautiful new directions to pieces with her voice. There are several other musicians on Dream Maps that I haven’t worked with before including Peter Gregson on cello, Phil Wheeler on guitar, Nikko Grosz on bass and Pip Eastop on French horn, all bringing something valuable to the work.

Dream Maps musicians:

Evi Vine voice
Arve Henriksen trumpets, voice
Byron Wallen trumpet, flugelhorn
Henry Lowther trumpet, flugelhorn (track 8)
Pip Eastop french horn
Oren Marshall tuba
Sarah Homer clarinet, bass clarinet
Clive Bell flute (track 8)
Kevin Pollard piano, vox continental, farfisa
Thomas Bloch ondes martenot, glass harmonica
Emily Burridge cello
Peter Gregson cello
B J Cole pedal steel (track 8)
Phil Wheeler electric guitar
Simon Hopkins electric guitar (track 8)
Simon Edwards electric bass, double bass, guitarrón, bass ukulele
John Edwards double bass
Nikko Grosz electric bass (tracks 1, 4)
Martin Ditcham drums, percussion, sound textures
Dirk Wachtelaer drums
Martin France drums

LJN: When did you first meet Arve? Did you compose specific pieces with his musical identity in mind?

PC: I actually only met Arve after he had recorded his contribution for this album - it was recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden. I have known his work for many years and love his playing. I just called him up last year and asked if he’d be up for it. He liked the tracks and recorded some parts which engaged with the pieces beautifully. I didn’t write specially for him but I knew that there were some tracks that were just right for his playing.

LJN: For people who are unfamiliar with Evi Vine tell us about her.

PC: Evi is a songwriter in her own right and she was introduced to me by Phill Brown, the sound engineer of Dream Maps. I had finished quite a few of the tracks and was playing the album to Phill but had 2 or 3 pieces that I felt could benefit from a new voice. I had already been using my own voice. Phill suggested Evi, who he’d worked with, and she tried some ideas which worked really well. I really like the understated use of her voice on this project. Now Evi is part of the live band and that’s working really well.

LJN: What can we expect from the concert? Tell us about the importance of including visuals in your live presentations. How will you use elements of your Breath Project in next week's concert.

PC: It will be me and 7 great musicians: Arve Henriksen (trumpet, voice), Evi Vine (voice), Sarah Homer (clarinet and bass clarinet), Emily Burridge (cello), Steven Hill (guitar), Simon Edwards (bass), Martyn Barker (drums) & Martin Ditcham may be joining us on percussion. I’ll be on guitar, voice, Theremin and laptop.

We’ll be playing live interpretations of tracks from Dream Maps with a few from earlier projects. Each piece has a visual identity and the projected visuals will illustrate that. My Breath Project  is non-verbal and it explores the ambiguity of perception and how we experience the world around us. Imagery ranges from ‘cosmic' chemical reactions in petri-dishes & extreme-close-up ‘flights' over the human body to aerial shots from a helicopter over Iceland. I don’t see clear separations between my musical and film work - the joins blur - and on the 14th we’ll be responding musically to what we see visually.


-  A preview of Dream Maps with visuals from the Breath Project

-  Ticket purchases for the live launch of Dream Maps on 14th September at Kings Place

-  Philip Clemo's website

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