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INTERVIEW: Seb Rochford On His New Series Of Collaborative Gigs
Patrick Clarke , August 9th, 2021 11:32

Seb Rochford's next run of gigs will include a solo set, followed a duo or trio performance with different collaborators each night. The acclaimed percussionist tells tQ what to expect

Photo by Rosie Reed Gold

Celebrated bandleader, drummer and percussionist Seb Rochford, of Pulled By Magnets and formerly Polar Bear, has announced a new series of monthly concerts at East London's Servants Jazz Quarters, beginning in September.

Each of the four shows will feature a solo set from Rochford, followed by a set as part of either a duo or trio with different guests joining him each night. Each night will include brand new music Rochford has written, and the gigs will be recorded live.

Among the collaborators joining him between September and December are Lara Jones, Jason Singh, Theon Cross, Shirley Tetteh and Neil Charles, and you can find more information, plus tickets, here. To find out more about the shows, tQ caught up with Rochford over email, which you can read below.

How did you arrive at the format of these upcoming shows?

Seb Rochford: A few months ago, I was asked by Sam Beste, who was curating some filmed concerts for the Servants Jazz Quarters, to do either a solo or duo performance. I decided to play solo as it made me feel a bit scared. As I had only played solo once or twice, in preparation, I recorded myself playing drums every morning after my morning ritual practice, then only listened once in the afternoon (after more practice). I did this for the few weeks before, my reasoning being that by the time the filming came, I would accept it more easily just being present and expressing without putting pressure on myself, leaving all options open.

What I found also in this time of preparation was that, without any other person to interact with, it made me confront my emotional relationship to drums in a different way. I thought about how when I play piano, just playing one note or chord and letting it decay is something I love to hear and feel, I wanted to allow myself this same freedom on the drums. Then, when I enjoyed playing at Servants Jazz Quarters so much and they spoke about me doing a concert there, I asked them about doing these monthly gigs. So these concerts stemmed from that and also my desire to make/write different music with different people.

One other motivation for these, was that in the last five years I've mainly played outside the UK and London, so I felt like I wanted to create/give some energy to the place that has been my home.

Photo by Rosie Reed Gold

Is the new music written specifically to be performed with whichever guest is playing that night, or will all four of the shows see the same music but played by different people?

SR: That's a great idea! Maybe another time... No, all the music has been written specifically with the different musicians in mind, though there are two tunes I might play with the trio [Shirley Tetteh and Neil Charles] that I have written already but never played live before.

Can you take me through each of the guests you've enlisted? Why these people in particular?

SR: Lara Jones – I really enjoy and connect to the sonic world and aesthetic of the music Lara makes and felt inspired and curious to know what music we would make together. I feel like she's carving her own path in the UK. I've never met her before and was made aware by social media, where I also appreciate her commitment to being herself and speaking up when it's needed, which isn't always an easy space to occupy. I'm really looking forward to meeting her and creating. The drum sound I'm thinking of using for this concert is something that also makes me nervous, so I'm seeing that as a good thing!

Jason Singh – I've always loved making music with Jason and find his own music always touches my heart, it's very connected to nature. I also feel like he's a unique person in my life, valuing so much the time we spend. The first inspiration for the music with him, was imagining us both being slowed down drops of water, falling from leaves into a pool below.

Theon Cross – I had started writing the music for Theon earlier this year, even before the idea of playing at SJQ. We had done a duo gig together in Barcelona a few years ago through Brilliant Corners that stayed with me and have always loved playing and hanging out with him. The compositions are inspired by the music I heard in the streets of Lucknow where my mother was from and also colonial era military music.

Shirley Tetteh and Neil Charles – Neil is the bass player in my band Pulled by Magnets, but is playing double bass on this concert. For me, he always plays with 100 percent commitment, emotion, groove and imagination. I also love that with his classical training, there's a whole other perspective to how he can perceive time and phrasing.

Although I'd known Shirley from around The Haggerston a while back, I've never really played with her before until recently, when I asked her to play on a live filming concert for the venue Brilliant Corners. In the last few years I kept hearing things she played on and my ear was always drawn to her playing as something special, unique and moving. It felt really natural to be playing with her the first time, so I asked if she'd like to do one of these concerts.

What can we expect from the solo sets you'll be playing?

I'm bringing different drum kits and sounds for each concert, so all will be different, All the rehearsing I'm doing for them is just to be ready to not know what I'll play on the day.

Why is it important for you to record these shows, and what are your plans for the recordings afterwards?

I like documenting the music I make and have never really released any live music before. As I like to challenge myself with new things, this was a part of that. I tend to make the music first and then think about what to do with it after so.

Tickets for Seb Rochford's series of shows at Servants Jazz Quarters are available now. You can find them here