John French has confirmed that The Magic Band will perform at All Tomorrows Parties’ Ten Years Of ATP Festival in December. In mails to us this week he has given some details of the line-up and the expected content of the set. John has also confirmed that more live shows are being planned and that several albums of live recordings from the 2005 tours will be released in various formats. This is what John wrote:
About 6 weeks ago, Barry Hogan unexpectedly sent me an email inviting The Magic Band to play at their tenth anniversary Festival.
I was very happy to accept on behalf of the group. We decided to stick with drummer Michael Traylor and to replace Gary, who was booked in Eastern Europe during this period, with one of the guitarists from my Drumbo band, Eric Klerks. Eric is a fantastic player, in his twenties. He employs metal finger picks and also plays slide. He spent a lot of time in New Orleans and came to Southern California to finish his music education at Cal Arts.
Eric seemed like a perfect fit to me for inclusion into the lineup, and he is a man well-acquainted with Beefheart music, so should do a fantastic job. I am VERY excited about this. Other dates are pending, but we wanted to get confirmation on this event first, which just happened.
I’m planning on playing sax to at least one composition: Hair Pie. Back in 2005, I bought a student sax, which I barely had a chance to play until probably a year later. I spent about a half-hour a day going through children’s music books and reading simple basic songs to re-acquaint myself with the fingering ( I used to play flute, so the fingering is similar) and then started improvising to my own music on “City of Refuge.”
I am approaching Hair Pie with two concepts: One is the instinctual — whereas I hear ideas that work and sort of “learn” them by playing along with the sections of the piece. The other is the analytical — where I actually analyze the chord structure and tone center so that rather than just blurring the entire piece in a frenzy of notes, I can switch gears with the song and compliment the music. I have listened to the first results and am excited, because it adds a completely new flavor to the music. Probably my biggest dream in life has been to play the soprano — right after being introduced to John Coltrane by Van Vliet. Jeff Cotton and I bought Don his first soprano — a King saxophone — from Wallich’s Music City ( long gone ) in Hollywood — with our studio fees from “Strictly Personal.” We went right down the street from Sunset Sound to Sunset and Vine to get drum sticks and strings. I saw the soprano sitting on a high shelf. It was used, and cost $180 as I recall. Jeff and I split the price and gave it to Don as a gift.
So, we will be updating and re-vamping our set list. Also, we are going to attempt “extending” a few pieces a bit — just to savor the delicacies that usually fly by so quickly.
Sundazed records last year put out a vinyl release of out takes from the Mirror Man Sessions. I suggested the Title “It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper” because I overheard Don suggesting that title to Bob Krasnow back while we were recording. Krasnow thought it was too long, as I recall, and so they settled for “Strictly Personal” with the same packaging concept. I was approached to write the liner notes for “Wrapper,” which was a nice, easy gig.
In 2005, I had taken along my new laptop and a couple of audio interfaces and recorded most of The Magic Band performances on about 15 tracks of digital recording using a program called “Digital Performer” by MOTU. We hired Chris Constable, a young musician who lives near me, to go over as “soundman” and “onsite recording engineer.” He was not only able to help the in-house engineer at the venues with cues, but monitored the recording. Some places do not allow releases of any recordings done without getting a fee ( these folks are known as tightwads!!!). Others simply did not have the facility to give direct lines of each channel. The tracks were made directly from the board ( or “desk” as it’s called in UK) into my audio interfaces. The hard drive sat around for four years gathering dust, and I finally, out of curiosity, decided to open up the files and see what the music sounded like. The first thing I listened to was Mirror Man, and I made a rough mix of the performance from Portsmouth ( which I recalled as being one of our best ) along with one or two others and sent them to Bob Irwin, of Sundazed. He sent me back an email saying “these sound SO good, let’s put them out.”
The deal we settled on was for me to mix three shows — my choice. Sundazed will release each show as a separate double-vinyl album, a CD, and mP3 downloads. They will all be available next February.
I worked hard on these mixes, as I’ve never actually mixed music before, but since Bob had said they “sounded great ” I plunged in with my usual fervor. With a lot of help from “Magic” Dave Roberts at MOTU, I was able to master the techniques needed. The company was very pleased with the mixes. I used a few “micro-surgery” techniques to clean up the mixes and avoid some of the “stage sound” coming through the vocal mic, which makes the tracks a lot cleaner. I had one instance where there was about 3 beats of music just missing — as though someone shut off the equipment and then turned it back on — so I just clipped a section out and put it back together at the next turnaround
To my ear, some of these mixes are probably the clearest “official” releases of the material: such as the Trout Mask Stuff. I am really excited to get this stuff heard, and it really was pleasant to re-visit these great compositions once again. Thanks to Sundazed, Beefheart enthusiasts will be able to enjoy concerts they may have attended, or perhaps wanted to attend and couldn’t. I am expecting that they will be pleased with the results. There may be the possibility of more being released if these do well.
Some tickets are still available for TEN YEARS OF ATP via the atp festival website.