Time Being: A Deep, Altered State

Posted on November 9, 2011

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Cult Australian improvisation trio The Necks perform at the Howard Assembly Room on Friday 25 November in a historic double bill, Time Being, with American ambient composer, Harold Budd. Ahead of the event, bassist Lloyd Swanton from The Necks discusses the regenerative qualities of improvised performance.

What are you looking forward to most about your upcoming tour?

“Specifically, getting to rub shoulders with Harold [Budd] will be a real privilege; in the more general sense, it’s still such a buzz to come to the other side of the world and find a room full of people have turned up to listen to one’s music. We started The Necks 24 years ago as a private experimental band with the express intention of never performing in public. It’s come quite a way, and I never cease to be amazed at how much this band has captured people’s imaginations, considering its modest original goals.”

The Necks in performance. Photo credit: Tim Williams


Which styles of music, and musicians, would you say have inspired you?

“Just about everything has inspired me (positively, or negatively!). In terms of the positive, in the early days of the band it was some very specific works such as John Coltrane’s first version of My Favourite Things, Shh/Peaceful from Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way, and Steve Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians.

“These days there’s no one thing that I’m into, nor any one artist. I’m really inspired by electronic music in general these days, even though I play no electronic music myself, and I couldn’t name any one artist in the field who is really doing it for me. 

“Probably the one thing I’m really done with for the time being is western classical music, except for some very modest, pure works from the baroque period.”

Is your music really completely improvised?

“One can get into tangled philosophical knots debating whether it’s possible to ever improvise, or to ever not improvise, but I’m comfortable saying that our music is entirely improvised, save for the fact that we have a rule that one person starts, and another convention (not really a rule per se), that we take our sweet ol’ time time working through the textures at play.”

A lot of your fans refer to a trance-like, meditative state – is this something you specifically reach for?

“Being improvisers, we wouldn’t feel comfortable with always setting out to achieve a particular state, any more than we’d feel comfortable setting out to create particular textures every time, but it is something that we do happen across a great deal; something that we as performers achieve too, and it’s always wonderful when it happens for us. But as to the audience, we just want them to relate to our music on whatever level suits them. If they reach a deep altered state, that’s wonderful; so is a totally distracted one; so is sleep.”

Lloyd Swanton, centre, with The Necks

 What are you enjoying most about your work at the moment?

“Its regenerative qualities. Both in the short term, i.e. how good I feel coming off stage even if I felt terrible when we started, and in the long term – I’m fifty one now and I feel twenty years younger than that, and I attribute much of that to being in a life of music.”

Lastly, is improvisation as important to you as it ever was?

“Yes. I tend to think life is one big improvisation, and one’s performances are compact slices of that larger piece.”

Lloyd Swanton
Bassist, The Necks

The Necks + Harold Budd: Time Being will be at the Howard Assembly Room at 7.45pm on Friday 25 November. More information and booking details can be found here.

The Necks + Harold Budd: Time Being is presented by Sound and Music, co-produced by gogobetween and Tusk Music, in association with No Nation.

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Posted in: Gigs