In January last year, I talked to jazz musicianMark de Clive-Lowe about his musical projects and upcoming trip round the world. For Mark, most of 1998 was spent performing and recording in places like Cuba, London, New York and Japan, working with top producers such as drum'n'bass exponents 4Hero, Francois K, Dave Angel and Phil Asher. And...to top off this busy schedule,he also met up and played with ex-pat Kiwi sax player and Metalheadz artist, Sci-Clone's Nathan Haines, in London.
Now over a year and a half later, Mark is about torelease his third album, Six Degrees, which sees him in a more jazz/electronic vein. I spoke to Mark again recently to get the low-down on what he's been up to over the wee while.
Oh....and unlike last time he's actually made it into Auckland notorious pop star hang-out, the Dragon Bar...
What was the most enjoyable aspect of your trip last year?
"I feel really fortunate to have been able to spend the year travelling the globe performing, recording and learning. With the whole experience being so huge and beneficial, it's hard to single out any one aspect. I guess the whole London experience was really special - working with great DJ/producers, playing in Nathan Haines' band, and finding a new second home in West London."
What did you find was most different from the English scene than the NZ one?
"Basically population and immediate access to new developments in contemporary music- with their huge population, there's bound to be more going on than here. And, with the immediacy of dubplates/acetates and so many record labels, you hear new music not long after it was created, instead of only hearing the few bits and pieces that make it to New Zealand shores six months after the fact!"
And related to the above question, what do you think the New Zealand scene could learn the most from the wider scene overseas?
"We've got our own strengths and specialities here, but I do think that the New Zealand scene can learn from the way that overseas scenes (major labels, particularly) look to foster and develop local artists. It's starting to happen here with Che, King Kapisi, Stellar and others, but needs to happen more. Not just manufacturing pop groups, but getting behind the amazing talent that is already existing here."
You worked with a lot of producers last year, so who did you enjoy working with the most?
"Everyone! Phil Asher was great to work with - the way he programs drums is like a jazz thing. I remember saying to Nathan, "Phil's a jazzer!"- not saying he plays jazz music, but that his creative head space is in the same spirit. Dave Angel was great towork with, as were Joe Clausell and Francois K... and lots of others."
You were gone some months from the Auckland jazz scene, did you find that anything had changed about it since you left?
"I thought it was a little slower when I arrived back. Part of my summer plan was to get things happening - that was realised through producing the Manifesto Summer Jazz Festival and the Celebrating Miles and Monk concerts at the Maidment Theatre. I'm really keen to see some younger jazz groups start their own thing happening and breaking out from the mould of the few venues that are thought of as jazz venues."
How's your web site jazz.co.nz going at the moment?
"We're getting a lot of hits - over 25,000 in the past six months - but it's a hard job to maintain the site, especially with my own performing and recording commitments, the website is always secondary. Anyone want to lend a helping hand?"
What projects are you currently working on?
"My new album is titled Six Degrees and will be released on Kog Transmissions/Univeral in early July with a nationwide launch tour in the same month. The album is a major departure from my past albums with a huge influence from my time and experiences in London last year. Think breakbeat, Latin, house, drum'n'bass, hip-hop and jazz all fused together in a pretty unprecedented way! As well as playing all keyboards, I've done the drum programming as well. It's an exciting project and I think it'sgoing to be well received in New Zealand as well in the UK and Japan. On board co-producing are Sub Mariner and Manuel Bundy (both of whom were involved with Che Fu's debut) and Joost Langeveld (with whom I did the JMJ project track on Kog's compilation Algorhythm."
So why's the album called Six Degrees then?
"The idea came up through two things. Firstly last year, all the producers, DJs and musicians I got to work with all came about through someone knowing someone who knew someone, and so on... the basic six degrees of separation in action. Also, the styles of dance music fused into the album are really diverse and varied but in reality, they're so close to each other, only a'degree' away from each other."
And... has the EP you did with I.G. Culture been released yet?
"Not yet! I.G. is setting up his new label, Mainsqueeze Records, and the EP should be out by mid year."
Last I heard, there was no TV in your place...so...I don't know whether you would have seen a documentary hosted by George Martin. But, it had him travelling to various places such as the Caribbean, seeing American gospel choirs, classical orchestras etc and was primarily about the influence of rhythm and music in people's lives. So, this is a hard question, but why do you reckon music is so essential to people's lives?
"Music is to communicate with. It transcends race, creed, sexuality, politics, economics, age, language... anyone who doesn't agree that arts, music and culture aren't as necessary in our lives as the more tangible things that people gravitate towards and 'need', really should sit down and think about what makes them tick. Bach, Debussy, Miles Davis, John Coltrane - their music speaks directly to the soul."
And, a sillier question to end with...when I interviewed you last time, I asked you if you had ever been in the Dragon Bar, as it seemed to be "the hangout" for pop musicians, but you hadn't. So... over one year later...have you been there yet?
"Er.. yes. I was there one night until about 9.30am hanging out with friends. A fun night for sure, but not a pop musician in sight!"