Faye Pattons on recording her album Dangerous Loving and other things
This album was a labour of love, can you tell us about the creative process and keeping focus ?
for me, I tend to see an album unfolding in layers and I like to lay down the layers gradually so I hear each texture before adding the next. Sometimes I experience music visually as well, so it’s like weaving together cloth or tapestry. I tend to work on a whole collection of songs all at once rather than finish one track and go onto the next. The songs themselves tend to propel themselves out in discrete blobs of matter, fully formed…sort of involuntary. These songs on this CD existed for a long while before I got a chance to record them. Which is good, because in the studio I had a lot of emotional distance from them and just experienced them as texture. Keeping focus all the way through is not easy – it helps if you have some sort of mental practice, of dividing stuff into small tasks, knowing exactly what those tasks will be and ticking them off as you go, actually being quite clinical about it and not allowing hurry or worry to get in the way. Before I trained seriously as a musician, I was an artist and always assumed I would be an illustrator or painter – one gets used to accepting that each layer needs to dry and needs looking at from a distance before proceeding, with a steady hand.
Did you enjoy the whole “studio” experience or was it hard work?
The recording process was really fascinating for me and something I looked forward to with interest each time. I have a very keen appreciation of Felix’s vast range of engineering skills, from the scientist /archivist’s ability to locate files in an ocean of saved data, to the acoustic science of mixing and sound quality I always felt confident and relaxed and the process, though long, was smooth and fun – to the extent that I’m truly looking forward to the next project, which is already partly recorded. I feel very fortunate, because this project has improved me as a musician
Piano is your main instrument but you are playing great guitar on some of the tracks on your album …tell us a bit about that
I am actually more technically/academically trained as a guitarist than as a pianist. It’s a more difficult instrument – more akin to voice. Really playing piano is just pressing a button and the sound happens, whereas guitar requires all of that, then, balance, precision and nuance to create the pitch and tone – like singing. Could write you a book about the woman-phobia/jealousy that happens when as a female one strays into territory normally occupied by men – it’s not been easy – when I was younger, carrying a guitar case on the street meant guaranteed sexist comments. Walking into an electric guitar shop doesn’t feel very comfortable, to this day. However, one has to focus on the positive and continue to develop talents that have been given for a reason. So, it has taken me a bit longer to develop, but maybe I love it all the more for that. With this album I was (fortunately as it turns out) obliged to embrace the guitar much more, since I no longer had access to the grand piano I was used to recording on. Having confidence as a guitarist is helped by having a classical grade 8 qualification – can’t argue with that
You have quite a few guest artists on your album – who are they and why did you want to work with them?
Sometimes working with guests is a random thing based on luck and recommendations of friends – I don’t think that hard; I know I want something done then scramble to find someone who has the skill. I like to give work and opportunities to women where possible, so was lucky and pleased to be recommended Lisa Mallett(flute) and Vicky Flint (horns) through mutual connections. I love trumpets very much and knew I had to have trumpet sounds. The track Bitter Seed, for some reason, just begged for Gil Scott Heron-type funked up flute, likewise other tracks needed some Latin percussion – and happily I found suitable personnel.
Cellist, Ayanna (Witter-Johnson) is someone I’vie gigged with and whose work I know. Her presence has a sweetness that I knew would have a lovely vibe both in the studio and on the track. I look for musicians who are not just good, but pleasant and fun – because I think this energy comes across in the music.
As well as the guest players, this album showcases my long standing band members of 10 years or so. They’re guys of a generation that’s hugely encouraging and respectful of me as female instrumentalist. They make it such fun! They are Ian Newton-Grant (drums), Curtis Cumberbatch (bass) and Ryan Barquilla (additional guitar). They each have brilliant solo projects and have played as a trio for Ms Dynamite.
Describe in a sentence what music does for you?
Music has created a portal through me, using me as a vessel and keeps all my systems smooth and flowing, thus allowing my mental and physical health to flourish…
What are your favourite sounds ?
spoken Japanese, the ocean, bagpipes, owls and buzzards hooting and mewing, crackling fire, thunder, cats purring, the bottom note on a really decent Steinway…
you are a martial artist as well as a musical artist do the two things have a common thread?
Yes – once again there’s a whole book on this. Obvious things – left hand/ right hand relationship, also left and right brain symbiosis. Principles of hard/soft yin and yang. For example on both guitar and piano my left hand is very yang (fixed, rooted, compact, non-creative, does the job, strong, yet limited) and my right hand is very yin (expansive, wayward, inspirational, inventive, receptive yet questing). When I’m singing or teaching singing I can cross reference all the breathing and athletic techniques I use in my martial arts to help support the sound. Then there is the confidence that martial training brings that can set goals that relate to music, whether it’s holding a particularly long note, or commanding the attention of an audience.
you have been to Japan recently, did you get a chance to play with any Japanese musicians ?
I met (quite by accident really) and sang/ drummed with Tokyo based shamanic musician Hiro. He plays a shamisen type traditional wind instrument and participates in indigenous sacred ceremony both in Japan and the US – as an initiated Sun Dancer (very secret and sacred First Nations ceremony.) We sung in English and Japanese and it was a team effort with him and his family and Mz. Imani the ceremonial assistant to Grandmother Flordemayo, of the council of 13 indigenous Grandmothers (both non-Japanese) (Imani wrote the music we sang.) Quite refreshing to be a bit player in someone else’s project.
(more info on this on Faye’s blog )
What is one of your favourite musical experience ?
to sing and listen to gospel music – it’s a genre that in all its versatility warms ups every single musical muscle you can think of – whilst calling on higher powers to lift up the spirit and soul. It’s a complete workout.
what is the best gig you have done ?–
Isle of Wight Jazz Festival 2008
what is the best gig you have seen?
hard to say Flora Purim and Aierto Moriera at Ronnie Scotts?
what other underground artist would you would recommend?
hard to choose and not alienate friends by leaving any out! – I’m liking British/Zimbawean Jazz diva Eska Mtungwazi
Whats your tip of the day ?
as a born multi-disciplinarian, my top tip is a quote from Bruce Lee: ”I will teach my children that nothing is superior in every respect. You will say, ‘This finger is better for one purpose; this finger is better for another.’ But the entire hand is better for all purposes.”
Where can we hear and buy your music ?