THIRD EAR BAND
TEB 1970 with Glen Sweeney & Paul Minns in the top row, Richard Coff & Ursula Smith in the bottom row (photo via Blackhill Enterprises)
Luca Ferrari interview by Jason Gross
I'd heard the Third Ear Band's music on and off for years and mentally filed them away as a curiosity. It was a recent article for The Observer by Tim Sommers (fascinating guy- read about him here) dissing Rolling Stone's recent list of best punk albums that piqued my interest about TEB again. Sommers snipped that one of the Stone choices, the Slits' Cut (a great, bizarre record), was about as punk as the TEB and as luck would have it, Sommers himself was turned onto TEB by John Lydon himself. Well, I just had to reinvestigate TEB again, didn't I?
What I found was even more strange than I remembered. They had a handful of early '70's records and then seemed to fall off the map. This English group was... folky? Medieval? Improv? Jazz-influenced? Spiritual? All of the above? Even for the Brit folkie scene then, they didn't sound anything like the others in sound, mood or feel. And yet, they managed to get on concert bills with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. How the hell could these weirdoes pull of a coup like that? And what happened to TEB anyway?
Unfortunately, the answers weren't going to come directly from the principals. TEB mainstays like drummer Glen Sweeney and oboe player Paul Minns were gone. There was a Facebook page dedicated to them and a great blog archive about them though. The blog honcho, Luca Ferrari (no relation to composer Luc Ferrari), turned out to be an Italian gent who was not only their chronicler but also their biography and the impetus for them to stage a reunion in the '80's. He's done the admirable job over the last several years of adding photos and videos and interviews on the site related to TEB as well as masterminding several archival releases of the band. His story was obviously intertwined with their story so it seemed like the best way to find out the TEB was to also find out about Ferrari himself.
PSF: How did you first hear about the Third Ear Band?
LF: The first time I heard the band, I was in my small town, around the beginning of 1978. Cremona, Stradivari's birthplace, was and is a very little town with little to do and one of my favorite hobbies was to listen to music. In that period, we had punk, especially English punk, with records by Sex Pistols and the Clash which came to the few music shops we had. In a tiny shop where I used to go, they had a section with low priced records, usually old ones. There, I got a strange double LP titled Picnic. A breath of fresh air - I was attracted by the cover which had a beach with men with gas masks on their faces. At home, listening to the records, I discovered that magical, extraordinary 'mental place' with all those Harvest musicians there - bands like Battered Ornaments, Tea & Symphony, Piblokto!, Panama Limited... and the Third Ear Band, creating a place with a unique mood, a very personal style, a summary of the atmosphere I believed was in London at the end of the Sixties.
First, I was caught by their name, because I'd heard from a friend about the 'third eye' and that reference was strange to me. But it was their music that got me, that incredible tune titled "Water" at the beginning of the third side. How could a band dedicate a track to the "water," I asked myself. Consider that was the time when punk came to Italy and the titles, music and lyrics were inspired by totally different elements. Again, that track was completely instrumental and lasted for over seven minutes. It started with water and the disturbing sounds of oboe and violin, until the tablas begin to give it rhythm and the oboe plays its wonderful melody.
I listened to the track many times and it became my favorite one on the album. Then, I tried to investigate their discography but it was not easy because there was no Internet and one might search for things by going to the shops or reading the few Italian music magazines around. I found their records some years later, at the beginning of Eighties, when I was able to go to London for holidays and I was totally engrossed by their first album, Alchemy. Everything there intrigued me- the cover with that mysterious and disquieting engraving; the band members and their instruments (an oboe? the tablas?) and most of all, the music.
PSF: What stood out about their music for you?
LF: I was shocked because of the strong contrast with the other music around in that period: there were many bands inspired by punk and new wave around and the TEB's music was a still place to go to find relaxation and meditate about your life. For myself, it was an exclusive 'mental place' to go, with a mindscape that was just mine. There were also some elements that disquieted me, a sort of childish feeling about things, that attraction and fear together, the mystery, the obscure. Alchemy was my personal version of Alice in Wonderland, written by Philip Dick. Then it became also a landscape for more deep research about culture and philosophy of life.
PSF: What were some of their favorite songs and albums of theirs that you liked the most?
LF: Apart from "Water," which that was my initiation in TEB mysterious world, Alchemy totally got me! My favorite tunes were "Ghetto Raga," "Stone Circle" and "Egyptian Book of Dead." Consider that I was born in 1963, so in 1978, when I discovered the band, I was just 15 and my cultural horizons were very limited. I grew up reading Marvel comics, reading few books such as the Tolkien ones, listening to a little music (mostly progressive music like Pink Floyd or Genesis), living in a narrow-minded small town in North Italy with few chances to travel. For example, listening to a track like "Egyptian Book" was an initiation experience because I was forced to look for the book related to it, then reading it and blowing my mind as a surrogate drug! Alchemy became my personal guide to 'the dark side of the moon.' I learned about the chance to see behind the things. It opened my mind better that any school lessons, it was a magic book of sounds that brought me to an ancestral dimension of existence. For me, Alchemy was the equivalent of William Blake's "Visions."
Even if I know that Glen and Paul were not completely satisfied about the final result, I think Alchemy is still a perfect album. It's beyond his time: the cover, lettering, music, titles. All of it is cohesive and united, balanced and direct, essential. A masterpiece of all time music! When I listen to it even now, I breath a special mood inside. It's like to go in a parallel universe of white magic, the urban transposition of the fourth dimension made by inspired free souls!
It's a pagan book of sounds to guide people in their lives: it talks about life as a path to death and the responsibility to lead a life with virtues. It talks about the duty to cultivate spirituality as a way to be free from material things and commitments. It suggests the value of any personal choices, when you choose to be in a way, whereas the others are going in opposite directions.
PSF: After you became a TEB fan in the late 1970's, did you find other fans to talk to about the band?
LF: No, there were no people around me (fans, friends or whatever) to talk about the band and the information available at that time was few. Sometimes, in the few Italian music magazines, they published an article, but generally nothing was known here about the band, its experience and the reasons for its end. You have to consider that until the later half of Eighties, there was no Internet or other social networks available, so one had to look for the info going to London or reading English magazines, even if there was still an heavy air of mystery above the TEB. Their particular experience made things more esoteric and obscure than all the other bands and musicians that I knew.
Anyway, to be honest, it wasn't an obsession for me, the love for the TEB's music. I was intrigued by their iconography- the albums' covers, their dress, the instrumental music, the titles of the tracks, all the references to pagan and Eastern cultures that I could only (barely) grasp. I collected all the records they had recorded and all the other things I could get, but the main problem for a passionate listener (as I was) was that you could listen to just their three records, nothing more, and it was very frustrating because one would listen to other, more brand new music otherwise.
PSF: Before your TEB webpage, had you done any newsletters or started an fan clubs related to the band? Were there any TEB fanclubs or newsletters done by someone else?
LF: No. Basically I'm a writer and from 1985, I wrote books about music. I'm not a fan, so I don't have that kind of approach to the music, that kind of 'culture.' I'm not interested in 'fan clubs' or whatever. Anyway, I didn't edit anything of that kind and I didn't know of things like that. When the Internet came, sometimes I discovered on the Net that there were blogs or chats with people talking about the Third Ear Band, generally repeating old things better known otherwise or sharing opinions about the music.
PSF: Why did you start the website dedicated to TEB? Did you find a lot of interest online for the group in the beginning?
LF: I started the Archive after that an Italian friend of mine, named Mirco Delfino had the idea to edit a Facebook page for fans at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Third-Ear-Band/156660855584. A few years before that, he had written a good article about the band in a fanzine, quoting my book on the band published in 1999 by Italian publisher Stampa Alternativa (titled Necromancers of the Drifting West). His Facebook page, a true act of love, had the natural limit of publishing well-known things, posting a lot of music of other artists inspired by the TEB. A good thing, of course, but not enough to investigate the many obscure things left. So I thought that it was necessary at that point to edit something useful and asked Carolyn Looker (Glen Sweeney's missus) and Kathryin Ade (Paul Minns' wife) for permission to run an official archive of the band. They were totally in agreement because my first intention was to celebrate the art of Glen and Paul, at that time both tragically dead. After the reunion in 1988-1993 period in fact, the risk was that the band would end in a new deep black hole of oblivion.
The Ghettoraga Official TEB Esoteric Archive was born in November 2009 and for some months, there were few people interested in it. Then, also thanks to Mirco and his Facebook page, a lot of people began to read and write to the Archive. Now we have 160-200 visitors every day and this is very good. Some Web portals of records (i.e. Discogs) published the Archive's address as the main source about the band. You have to realize that from the beginning, I've done an huge amount of work of research about the band, publishing files about its story, doing many interviews with the people involved (musicians, producers, designers), editing unreleased tracks... So people interested in the band can find there a large volume of materials of interest.
PSF: How did you start working with the band itself?
LF: This happened by chance. As I said, I'm basically an underground writer about music, a freelancer- since 1985, I've done work with the main Italian music publishers. I've written books, essays, reviews, but I've also promoted bands and managed festivals and concerts. In a different country than Italy, I'd probably have lived only off of this. In 1985, I was in London for some research on Syd Barrett, where my intention was to write a proper biography on him (I published it in 1986), and I met Peter Jenner and Andrew King, the original managers of Pink Floyd in 1966-1967 with the Blackhill Enterprises agency. Peter was the manager who had followed Barrett after Pink Floyd and I remembered that he was also the manager/producer of the Third Ear Band itself. So at the end of our long interview at his home, I asked him if he knew where the Third Ear Band ended up. What's happened to them? He replied to me that the band split at the end of Seventies but all the original members were still alive. “Do you know where Glen Sweeney lives?" “Yes, of course, we are still good friends." So he kindly wrote down Glen's address and his phone number and at that point, I was the happiest person in the world!
Glen, Luca, Carolyn at Shepherd's Bush flat in Summer 1987
So, I called him Glen and managed to have a meeting at his home, a sordid road in Shepherd's Bush. My excuse was to have an interview for an Italian music magazine. I met him there with his missus Carolyn and he seemed to me to be not so friendly. He was wary, suspicious because (as I'd discovered years later), he thought I would get TEB's unreleased music to make bootlegs out of it!
Anyway, that first meeting was frustrating enough, but I'm a obstinate person and months later, I tried to contact him again. This time, things seemed better: before, I wrote him some letters to explain my good intentions to promote the story of the band, maybe writing a book. And when we became friends, I met him again at his home, convincing him to reform the band! I explained to him that in Italy, there were some people interested in listening to his music and I knew some promoters who would manage some concerts for him. So the band reformed and did rehearsals at the occupied Cambodian embassy (recently published by Gonzo Records on the brand new album Exorcisms, edited by me), just before coming to Italy to play two concerts in September 1988 (the one played at Bergamo was on the first record published by Materiali Sonori, titled Live Ghosts).
Then the band played with different line-ups for other tours in Italy, making other two brand new records for Ma.So. and a live cassette (now reprinted on CD by Gonzo with the former titled New Forecasts from the Third Ear Almanac). An exciting experience, now sweetly preserved in my personal memories.
(L-R) Luca Ferrari, Glen Sweeney, Allen Samuel, Mick Carter, Paul Minns, Kathryn Ade, Elena Blasi in Cremona, on September 7th, 1988
PSF: You've obviously read a lot about the band in its early days. They were very different from any other band around England, even the folk groups. Why do you think they played so many shows with other groups despite the fact that they were so different?
LF: First of all, at the beginning of their career as Third Ear Band, there were not many articles or interviews about/with the group. Generally, their 'front-man' was Glen- 15 years older than the generation of musicians around. He had been a jazz drummer, playing skiffle in the '50's, so in 1967-1968, he was around 40, older than the rest of musicians around him. This is not a secondary fact because when you read the rare interviews with him, you've that impression he was very conscious about things. He had realized the crucial aim of any expression in Art (with the capital a), the deep contradiction of doing things inside commercial logic. He made a synthesis between the nature of artistic expression and making money. For example, he said: "the problem is that you cannot be mystic without seeming pseudo-mystic, and this is due to the education we have" or things such as "we want to play for money, even ancient Egyptians did it."
When you read interviews with other bands or musicians from the same period, you have the clear impression that they usually talk just about music, not about the music as a medium to obtain other dimension of existence. They seem less conscious about the power that music could have.
The fact that TEB got to play in the same concerts/circuits with other very different bands/musicians (for example they played a tour with Al Stewart at the beginning of 1970) I think was due to the more permeable cultural system of that time: Blackhill was their agency and they managed very different groups such as Deep Purple or Pink Floyd, Edgar Broughton Band or Roy Harper. They 'sold the package' in a sense, and you could have a big event as the Hyde Park free concerts with Rolling Stones or Blind Faith playing in the same bill with the TEB.
If I think about this, I can only say that today, it would be impossible for a thing like that to happen - in the contemporary music market, everything has been thought out for having a specific target. We are living under the "file under" dictatorship!
PSF: Did you get the sense that some of the English folk groups from that time (Fairport Convention, Pentagle) did consider TEB as kindred spirits?
LF: No. I know there were few connections between the TEB and all the other bands, apart from playing on the same bill. For some little bits of musical aspects, there was some affinities: some tunes could be based on similar folk elements but as I said before, TEB was a 'strange animal'- they were very different, creating a big contradiction between their urban origins and the radically rural and rootsy elements of their Art. Sure, at the beginning, when they played at the Arts Lab in Drury Lane or at the All Saint's Hall in Powis Gardens, they felt and breathed the same air with the artists involved there, but sincerely, it's difficult for me to think that they have common with David Bowie, for example. Glen told me that Bowie seemed to him a very faint and futile artist- 'he just played pop ballads,' he said. And the sense of this was that he felt there wasn't any connections between him and that kind of scene.
PSF: When you got TEB to reunite, what was the audience like for the first concerts? Did you get the impression that people were able to appreciate them more since time had passed?
LF: No, I had the impression they was considered an old freakery from the past, magically come back from the thin air of oblivion. I thought many people were moved by curiosity or nostalgia, some others by collectionism: they wanted to see Glen Sweeney and Paul Minns because they had their albums and the TEB never played in Italy in the '60's and the '70's, so it was a thrilling thing to have the opportunity to watch them play live. Maybe people were induced to come to see them by a deeper level, I could say 'unconscious,' because at least in Italy, the Eighties was a very bad period from a social point of view, with a widespread phenomenon of yuppieism and a very superficial approach to life. Maybe I delude myself, but I like to think that some people came to the new TEB concerts also because they wanted to react to all these rubbish things sold by the politicians and the opinion leaders. They wanted a more authentic, free approach to life and this was a symbolic way to affirm it. Also for this reason, TEB music is outside of time, because you can have always a good reason to listen to it.
After the first mini-tours and the nice articles published about them came the first reunion album (Live Ghosts, a live record) so everyone realized the band was on the road again, with a renewed spirit of their past musical philosophy- they were not the usual old band reformed for mere commercial aims. In fact, all the records published were well received by the press and the concerts was generally sold out.
PSF: What kind of correspondence do you get about TEB through your website?
LF: The favorite files are the rare videos or old documents found there. There’s also some exclusive interviews, like the one with Ursula Smith or graphic designer/Chief Druid David Loxley were really appreciated. Usually people ask to have more audio/video stuff there, but it is very difficult to find that, even if sometimes something emerges from the Web or from somewhere else. Also for this reason, I decided to ask Gonzo Multimedia (who in the '80's, published various TEB CD’s) to produce some brand new CD’s, proposing to include rare music with better quality than that available on the Archive in MP3 format. In the future, I'll produce something more, maybe some complete live concerts played in Italy in the '80's but I think there is not too much around that’s left. One of my dreams is to publish all the BBC radio sessions available.
Anyway, coming back to your question, usually people read (I think) the files I post, but there is a scarce inclination to write something, maybe because I've chosen to use the Blogspot system, not other more trendy so-called 'social networks' (i.e. Facebook).
PSF: Talk about recording the album Magic in the late '80's.
LF: After the second mini-tour in Italy (documented by the recent CD reissue of New Forecasts from the Third Ear Almanac, recorded live at Sarzana) and after the meeting with Materiali Sonori and the agreement was signed, the band came back to London with the idea to record a brand new studio album, their first since the Seventies. Initially the line-up was the same that played on the tour, with Glen, Mick Carter, Lyn Dobson and Ursula Smith. Apart from the electronics played by Carter, the sound was acoustic: you can listen to it on the recent CD distributed by Gonzo titled Exorcisms. The band recorded the new album in Kent, at the Alchemical Studios, a place build by Mick Carter who lives there, and the recording sessions lasted some months, from May to November 1989, because it was not easy to have all the band members available: in those days, Glen and Lyn lived in London, Mick in Kent and Ursula in Norwich, so it easy to understand the problems there was. Anyway, when the record was ready, the idea was to title it "Magic" (other times "Spirits") and they sent me the tape for my pleasure and maybe to have my opinion. I was enthusiastic about the album and I remember the first time when I listened to it, I was really thrilled because I realized that it was the first TEB studio album since the Macbeth era! Then, around the end of the year, Ursula decided to come back to her old life because she was very busy with teaching music at school and playing with the local classical orchestra and Glen was forced to find a new violin player. After the bad experience with Allen Samuel, Sweeney found a young talented violinist, Neil Black, an expert in technology and producing music (he had produced some albums by Joan Armatrading), and they came back to the Alchemical Studios and re-recorded the album with a sound that was much more electric/electronic (you can listen to it on the original Magic Music CD published by Ma.So. in 1990). As I have written on the booklet of the Gonzo CD Exorcisms, I prefer the first acoustic version with Ursula Smith on the tunes. Anyway, I was not involved with the studio sessions, and all the TEB albums were recorded by the band itself with Mick Carter as an engineer/producer. Then the albums were sent to Ma.So. and released just as they were recorded, without any interference by the label.
The only record where I was involved was Live Ghosts: I was involved in the studio to listen to the tracks and express my point of view about the project. Even in this experience, I was really excited because this concert was the first appearance of the TEB from their past (live ghosts?).
PSF: What about the Brain Waves album in 1993? What did you think of the record?
LF: I was not involved in the recording sessions for the two studio albums, even if I know the process into making Brain Waves was the same as for Magic Music. Here, the band was even more close and convinced to record a more electronic album. In my opinion, Brain Waves is flimsy, less focused, maybe a transitional record. The problem was that after that, the band split and there were no TEB albums anymore, so I think in some way, this is sad because this sounds like their swansong. Maybe some tracks could be recorded with less of an abundance of electronic sounds and the effect would be better, considering the greatness of their compositions.
PSF: Did you start working on a TEB book shortly after Glen's retirement?
LF: Yes. When the band split I started to work on a book about the TEB because I realized that there was many holes of knowledge in his story and too many commonplaces about them the music magazines. My editor at that time was interested in publishing a book in English/Italian, so I did a lot of work investigating their story with the help of Glen and Paul Minns, who cooperated with me from his home in Scotland, sending me stuff about the band, like his personal journal full of dates and references to places, people, costs. Thank to this, I had the idea to write the book as a chronological report of their story, the same idea that I used years later for two big historical files published in the Ghettoraga Official Archive. The importance of the book, published in 1999 as Necromacers of the Drifting West, was also with the CD included there, which had the unreleased soundtrack the band recorded in 1970 for the German TV film Abelard, inspired by the tragic medieval story of Abelard and Heloise. It was a true masterpiece, and for myself, one of the best recording made by the TEB (there with their best line-up ever with Glen, Paul, Richard Coff and Ursula Smith). After my book, which was generally well received, there were Paul Minns' and Glen Sweeney's deaths (1997 and 2005) and it was a natural act to try to find a way to do a tribute to their art. So as I said before, after that Facebook page for Italian fans, I thought to edit a proper Archive on the band, putting everything I could find about their experience with the aim to let their name still live through the production of books, records, etc.. I know Carolyn Looker, Glen's missus, is very glad about this and so is Steven Pank (Ursula Smith's husband) who was the first promoter and driver for the band. Other TEB musicians such as Paul Buckmaster and Denim Bridges are very happy about the Archive. The only person who has not agreed with my project is violinist Richard Coff, but don't ask me why...
PSF: When you were writing and researching your book on TEB, what were you surprised to find out?
LF: First of all, I had the clear sensation the TEB story were very far from being told because there were too many obscure aspects and things. For example, even now some pseudo-journalists of music write that the band was born in Canterbury, when they were actually from London. Using various sources, I discovered there were a lot of concerts done by the band, several unseen photos and posters, old magazines... Some specific things were waiting to be analyzed more deeply, i.e. the connections with Druid orders or the clear references to the alchemic iconography in their work (covers, titles). But the strongest thing I learned during the work on the book was that their experience in music was a political experience and I wrote about it the essay at the beginning of the book. I titled it "Necromancers of the Drifting West" because for myself, they were the strongest political group in the Sixties, more than Dylan or the Beatles, more than the MC5 or the Fugs. Their work (especially in live concerts, their best dimension for their straight relation with the audience) was a warning for the Western consumer, post-modern culture, a way to recall to us that we cannot loose our roots because we risk to loose ourselves. Even for this reason, I think there was few connections between TEB and all the other bands involved in the same circuits. Some compositions of their repertoire were very strong and very difficult to listen to (i.e. "Egyptian Book of Dead") and I realize that their 'message' was not so easy to understand- they talk about life and death, the risk of a life spent without virtues, listening to the World sound (OM) through the natural elements. That can be frightening.
They used a kind of communication based on a not-verbal devices, while generally, all the young groups did things the opposite way. In a certain way, we can call it 'subliminal,' as it talked (and still talks to us when we listen to their music even now) to a subconscious level of mind, much better than any kind of drug. A journalist defined their music as 'organic' because it is rooted in the basic elements of our life- it's ritual, dreamlike, orgiastic, meditative, relaxing and frightening at the same time. Their music talks to us about other possible dimensions, life and death, and it was (is) finalized to let human beings be free.
PSF: Was Glen active just before his health problems in 1993? What did you know about his last few years?
LF: After Magic Music, the band played few concerts in England, the most important one at the Isle of Wight festival in August 1990. Then, quite surprisingly, just before the end of that year, Glen announced to me his intention to reform the Giant Sun Trolley with Dave Tomlin and Mick Carter! I was very skeptical about it but I tried to understand what he really wanted to do. At the beginning of 1991, Glen called me to tell that he had formed the Elektric TEB, replacing Lyn Dobson with his old friend Barry Pilcher (from the 'Hydrogen Jukebox' era). The band went to the Alchemical Studios to record a new album, but actually they recorded just a few new tracks and they were not too happy with them. In the meantime, owing to some disagreements with the band regarding the relationship with the record label and the new directions they decided on, I winded down The Ear Management, the agency I had build to support the band. The band played some concerts again in Italy during 1991 and I was not involved with it, and in April 1992, I met the guys in Bergamo for their last live concert, managed by my friend, promoter Gigi Bresciani.
No one could know at that time that it was their last concert ever, but after that, events became very sad. After an happy holiday in Greece with Carolyn in December, Glen had his first heart attack, and that was the beginning of the end of it all. At the beginning of 1993, Ma.So. published the new album Brain Waves but the band had split because of the Glen's serious health problems. He retired to his flat in Shepherd's Bush with the idea of writing a novel inspired by his life in music- he had written some letters to me about it. Then Paul Minns committed suicide in 1997 and we were very shocked by this, even if Paul wasn't in the band anymore- he had cooperated with me for the book I had written on the band and we were in contact with him until the end. Glen had two other serious heart attacks and he was recovering in a clinic near Richmond Park where he died in August 2005.
Even if Glen was the founder of the band and its keystone, I like to remember now other musicians who sadly passed away in these last years: Roger Bunn (2005), musician with the Giant Sun Trolley with Glen and Dave Tomlin; viola player Ben Cartland (passed away in 2007), in the very first TEB line-up; Mike Marchant (2009), guitarist with the TEB that recorded the legendary fourth record titled Magus; jazz pianist/multi-instrumentalist Mel Davis (2013) who played on Alchemy. All these musicians had an important place in the TEB's music and we have to be grateful to them for the great artistic contribution they have given to us.
PSF: How did you hear about Glen's death? What was your reaction?
LF: Carolyn called me and of course I was very very sad about it, even if she said he died very peacefully and I knew at that point, he was very ill (so it wasn't a total surprise for me to hear it). I had met him the year before at the Richmond hospital and his mental condition was already compromised because of the ictus (stroke) he had suffered. He stayed all the time in his room with the music of Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan (two of his favorite musicians), rarely doing some small activities with colors and brushes at his artistic ateliers. So in some way, his fate was signed and that meeting very much impressed me.
PSF: From your years of working with Glen, how did he see the past and history of TEB? Was he proud of it? Was he more concerned and interested about TEB's present and future work?
LF: When I met him, he was very frustrated by the bitter fate of his group but he never complained about it. I felt he was convinced his old original project was finished 'because the generation of punks,' so he thought about the musical causes of the that, but I knew he intended to refer to deeper reasons- amateurish management (Blackhill Enterprises and Harvest Records), cultural fashions changing in the '70's with the so-called Progressive supergroups, TEB's non-commercial potential could all be the real causes of the band split at the end of the Seventies (one of the last documented concerts was in 1978). After the Macbeth soundtrack, they could have become an influential band, recording movie soundtracks for great directors, but that never happened and they lost their contract with EMI-Harvest. Anyway, when I convinced him to reform the band, he was really enthusiastic about it.
He didn't believe there was a renewed interest in the band, but after the first concert in Bergame, he was convinced that it was possible to have a new life for the old TEB!
PSF: How do you think Glen would like to be remembered?
LF: He was very conscious to not be seen as an innovator or genius in Art, and sometimes he joked about just be a prankster (he was very funny, very ironic man who loved to tell very funny stories about his experiences in music). In some interviews, he admitted to starting to play music because he was hungry, so he was aware as to the real meaning of his experience, even if he knew many people considered him a sort of Holy Man. He was disenchanted about himself enough to not act like a ridiculous pop star. But he was a deep person, cultured (of a culture based on several experiences), with a bitter, sometimes cynical vision of reality. Frankly I don't know if he would be interested to be remembered in some way- probably, he would make a gag about this...
PSF: Are you still in touch with other ex-band members? What kind of correspondence do you have with them?
LF: I'm in contact just with Carolyn Looker and Lyn Dobson by phone; Denim Bridges, Paul Buckmaster, Dave Tomlin and Steve Pank by e-mails.
With Carolyn, I talk about our lives, because I know where and how she lives and she knows my live and my family, so we talk about things not necessary related to music. But we talk also about the Archive and the fans around the world, the projects that we could promote. For example, recently, we were talking about the three new CD's published with Gonzo and a tribute made by an Italian avant garde musician named Musci who has worked on some original TEB tracks. It will be published next June by Gonzo and it sounds very good!
Being a friend of Lyn, we talk about things that we do - life, loves, work. He talks with me about his new projects or his homes, because he travels very often around the world. With Buckmaster or Bridges, we talk about music, but I have to tell you we don't talk so much, just sometimes, not often. With Dave Tomlin, we are in contact because we are friends and he helped me very much with my last book (in English) about jazz pianist Mike Taylor- he played with him in the Sixties and he recalled many interesting things about the past.
PSF: Do you hear echoes of TEB's music in any recent groups?
LF: Frankly not too much. I've documented something on the Archive, but I'm not so enthusiastic about that I hear. Usually music journalists adopt the TEB as a touchstone of a certain kind of music (instrumental, improvisational, acoustic, with the oboe in there) but often I feel this as a stretch. TEB was a unique group, very exclusive, there are few examples around that can be considered as the affect of an idea from their legacy.
PSF: What do you think is the legacy of TEB?
LF: Judging by the amount of groups/musicians that every now and then declare their gratitude to the TEB from a musical point of view, I think... not too much. Their legacy maybe is more related on a ideal dimension about the approach to the sonic stuff - the improvisation, the syncretism of different kind of cultural elements. But their specific kind of music is very difficult to evoke. They remain really unique.
Third Ear Band, 1969; Minns, Sweeney and Coff at the Kensal Green Cemetery of London (photo by Ray Stevenson)
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