About the Back To Back To Back
This album follows on from two previous ones which are called “Hornwaves: Quartets for Solo Horn” (myself), and “Back to Back: two part discoveries for horns” (myself and Jonathan). All three were freely improvised and all were recorded in the highly stimulating acoustic of St. Silas The Martyr, Chalk Farm, by the equally stimulating engineer, Mike Skeet. Without him, none of this peculiar music would have come into existence; so many thanks to Mike. My thanks also to Jonathan and Richard for lending their unique talents in such a harmonious and democratic way.Read More
Introduction to Back To Back To Back:
Pip Eastop writes:
It happened late in 2016 that the three of us were quite by chance in the same place at the same time on a commercial recording session. How huge is the music scene in London that it had taken twenty four years for this to happen? Inevitably we found ourselves talking about “Back To Back To Back” and what it had meant for us. We agreed that we should find the old CD (in fact, I found a big box full of them) and put it where it could be heard by more people. So that’s what this is – a refreshed, remastered relaunch of our 1994 album of music which we had created simply by playing together, carefully avoiding the use of composers, conductors and rehearsals.
Huge thanks to Bernard O’Neill at Grand Duc Studios, Midi Pyrenees, for his masterful 2018 remastering of Back To Back To Back.
Bernard O’Neill writes:
Firstly let me say that Mike Skeet was a genius and a wonderful engineer. The sound of this album is totally natural being as it was recorded in the round (or in the triangle) in an enormously noisy and vibrant church. The levels that Mike recorded at were purposefully high and bordering on hysterical but he did this because he knew his home-made pre-amps really well and had checked phase issues out well in advance. Twenty-four years later I made some slight adjustments and with the benefits of some great plug-ins was able to just shave off some of the brashness from the recording without the loss of spirit and flare that the performers put into it in the first place. A well appointed multiband compressor allowed some of the previously unheard midrange to sing through and tamed some of the more strident tones in the climax of “Desk Ants”.
R.I.P Mike Skeet:
Mike was a brilliant eccentric, a very talented and highly respected recording engineer and a man with an unquenchable and infectious passion for all things audio which he was always happy to share with like-minded people. He was perfect for our recording needs, being enthusiastic and willing to experiment. Always favouring ‘minimal’ microphone techniques, Mike’s preference was the classic stereo pair, occasionally supplemented with a few ‘spot’ mics when the layout or acoustic made it necessary. Mike was very well-known for his intriguing DIY dummy-head arrays constructed from balsa wood, kitchen sieves, and foam – but they typically contained superb Schoeps microphones and produced glorious recordings. His home-made equipment looked a bit “Heath Robinson” and this was a recognisable part of his eccentric nature. His electronics were typically built into unpainted tin boxes plastered with Dymo labels, adhesive tape and coloured stickers.
We tried to get in touch with him to ask if he would contribute a few words to this re-release, only to discover that he died in December of 2015.
Musings and reminiscences about Back To Back To Back:
My first instrument was the recorder, which I learned in a group at school and at home with my Dad, who was a great teacher. Dad already played the oboe but he started learning recorder at the same time as me, with the intention of helping me along. He didn’t practise much, whereas I did, sometimes even while walking to and from school. I soon became rather better at it than Dad and I think this early success made me feel terribly pleased with myself and made me work on it even harder. I would play everything I could think of by ear, in every key I could manage. A couple of years later, I started learning to play the horn. I was soon playing everything I could think of – all the tunes I had learned on the recorder – again in all the keys. I say “think of”, but there wasn’t really much thinking involved. I did it all by ear, without necessarily being conscious of what notes I was playing, watching my fingers fumble around to find the right notes. In other words, I learned by ear and from improvisation. Reading music was an add-on, something I learned along the way but which always seemed to me nothing more than a way to reproduce music written by other people, one step removed from the more real, immediate, creative activity of playing whatever arises in the mind’s ear. I was very pleased to meet and befriend two other horn players who seemed to be “wired up” in a similar way – and of course these were Richard Bissill and Jonathan Williams.Read More
I’ve always been interested in the nuts and bolts of musical language; intervals, how harmony works, where it leads etc. I’ve always wanted to improve my playing by ear and do remember in the past analysing melodies in my head as I walked along in my own little world – what’s that interval? what’s that chord? what’s the inversion? what note is in the bass? etc. My parents were not musicians but my mum used to sing her favourite songs to me and I would play them right back at her, inventing harmonies that I felt would fit.
I grew up in Loughborough and was a member of the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra throughout my teens. This was my world and looking forward to rehearsals every Saturday morning got me through the school week. I also played in the BBC Radio Leicester Big Band, led by Roger and Christine Eames. They were very kind to me and encouraged me to improvise solos with the band and to write my own pieces for the band to perform. I had the urge to write music from quite an early age and once I took up the piano I began to engross myself in the wonderful world of harmony that a piano can deliver instantly.Read More
When I was growing up at home we had a piano and although it was behind a firmly closed door to prevent much of its sound escaping to rest of the house, we could all still hear what was being played. For years all my brothers and sisters played it in their own individual ways. Sometimes we all played together with our mixture of instruments: tuba, horn, trumpet, violin, oboe, recorders and voices. Nobody made us play – we just did it because we liked it. We were brought up singing along with our parents to recordings of massive Welsh choirs with thousands of voices, so I learned how to harmonise before I could actually read music.
For Pip’s new recording project, Back To Back To Back, It was impossible to know how to prepare. Pip and I had played together for years but I hadn’t yet worked with Richard. I had no idea what it was we would be aiming for so I opted for practising in as many different musical styles as I could – from Bach to Charlie Parker – as the best approach for getting into shape for tackling the unknown. When it came to the actual recording I tried to focus entirely on listening as intently as possible and maintaining a three-way conversation between our very different instruments and playing styles:Read More