INTERVIEW WITH ROBIN TAYLOR
By Lee Henderson August 2011
After reviewing Robin Taylor's 'Two-Pack' (a 3" double disc set) back in 2010, I began to collect all his former releases, and then did this interview with him in August of 2011. His music has been released under Taylor's Free Universe, Robin Taylor's Universe, Taylor's Universe, and then just simply Robin Taylor. Twenty-Nine recordings and counting, Robin Taylor has done an amazing number of high quality music in the progressive world. The astounding thing about all this is Robin has been releasing his music without aid of any major record label or agent. He took on a independent role and still believes in the physical CD format. Also, he plays most of the instruments on these recordings, along with some well known musicians like ex - Secret Oyster members like Karsten Vogel. So not only is he a great composer, he is also a fantastic musician, producer and Renaissance man. I call him a hero and a friend.
For many years, his music was rarely known in the USA. One site that sells his music in America (www.cdbaby.com) has the statement that Robin Taylor is Denmark’s best kept secret of experimental music. Another source to get great prices right now on many of his works is (www.waysidemusic.com) To try and grasp everything this great artist has released is simply impossible with one or two reviews, so this is to introduce the many who have not heard his
music. His recorded output begins in 1991, with the vinyl only “ Essay“. He formed Taylor’s Universe in 1992/93, then and with many years of strong and passion filled output, he formed Taylor’s Free Universe in 2000 (which is a more improvisational and live band). He also played with a band called Art Cinema which was meant to be a bit more commercial with song oriented music. So you see how prolific he has been over the years. Many of the CD’s have Karsten Vogel (Secret Oyster) playing on them. Robin has always surrounded himself with top notch musicians who are dedicated to his music. I think the two “X Position” CD’s ( Vol 1 and Vol 2 ) are good overviews of Robin’s vast creative musical worlds. They are a combination of reworked pieces and parts of songs never published from the past, but the remaking of the numbers makes for a new set of CD’s. I’ve rarely come across anyone with such a wide talent. He is so technical, but self taught, and so sensitive to the music going on around him as he makes his recordings. He has an incredible awareness on the improvised compositions and a highly instinctual skill on the premeditated songs throughout his entire catalog.
I did this interview with Robin via the internet and found him both personable,
and absolutely down to earth about his music and the world around him. Here it is for your enjoyment and interest:
(LH) = Lee Henderson
(RT) = Robin Taylor
LH: On your last release the 'Two Pack', which were issued on the 3" mini CD's. What inspired you to release them in this format and package? ( by the way, I really like the whole package)
RT: I was short of material, when I decided it was time for another release, so I got the idea of including some older material. I had these recordings of TFU lying around, but not enough for a full CD, so I thought I could pair these two different projects to get the full playing time of an album - but split up in two separate discs, so it ended up as this special package of a double mini CD. It also turned out to be a notable gimmick.
LH: Can you tell us how you were able to make so many CD's with no record company support or big labels and how hard was it? Also, how hard is it now, compared to the 80's and 90's? Were their key people that lent you a hand or gave you good advice and such?
RT: In the beginning I worked on a very small budget, recording as much as possible at home. I received a few grants now and then, and that made it possible for me to getting the stuff released in small quantities - mainly on my own label, Marvel of Beauty. Unfortunately I've never had budgets for promotion, so it's been a battle obtaining attention to my work, but reviews have been pretty good though. Still I have a lot to wish, especially distribution wise - but who wants to carry 'an unknown artist' in their catalogue? The situation today is probably worse than when I started, because of the financial crises, and because of the thread against CD sales in general. I can't say, I've been getting much advice from other people - apart from: "Get your act on the road, man!" But it's not working like that, I don't like gigging at all, I'm best at working in the studio, and I will continue to do so as long as I feel my inspiration flowing, and as long as I'm not repeating myself. When the fun is gone, I will be gone too.
LH: Have you been able to make a living off just the music business or have you had other support jobs along the way and what jobs have you done, in order to keep your music independent, and keep control of your artistic vision all these years?
RT: For many years I made a living as a graphic artist/writer, but that came to an end, as I had to cope with some health issues. Today I'm 'retired' and not depending on income from my music, so I have the freedom to commit myself to my art - as much as my health allows it. Personally I have to live with that fact - but artistically it's very satisfying.
LH: I wondered about your name. It seemed more Anglo than Danish. I would like to know if you were born in Denmark, and were your parents born there? If not, where are you originally from?
RT: I was born in Denmark. My father is English and my mother Danish. I've lived here all my life - but my nationality is British (tricky - huh?)
LH: Out of the many influences you have had over the years, which of those would you claim were the most important?
RT: A lot, really... Secret Oyster (from Denmark), early King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Beatles, Beach Boys - and Russian classical composer Dimitri Shostakovitch (to name the first names that pop up...)
LH: Which of the many recordings that you have made so far, would be your favorite?
RT: That's a tough one - probably Pork from the early period, and later on...Oyster's Apprentice and maybe Isle of Black!
LH: I was listening to both X Position CDs and wanted to know the story on those...are they compilations of any sort, and how did they come together. I feel they are a great set of CD's for a newbie to listen to, to get the best over all taste of your styles and various musical compositions. Would you agree?
RT: Both X Position CDs are compilations in a way - but none of the material had been released earlier. Vol. 1 consists of tracks, that had been left uncompleted - for different reasons. I hate to reject music, that I've spent time and money on working at - but sometimes I've had to do it anyway; maybe a tune wouldn't fit the album, for which it was intended - or maybe I would lose the inspiration, before it was completed. The challenge for me, when I decided to make Vol. 1, was to see if I could bring life to all these loose parts and ends. I went through my archives and selected those unfinished recordings, I'd like to see in full form. I guess, the result turned out quite good (though I now regret the inclusion of the two live tracks by TFU - mainly because it was a rather uninspired performance). Vol. 2 was a very special project: I had a lot of material from back in 1985
(recorded on my 4-track cassette mixer); some of the tracks were more or less complete, others were just in an early phase. I was working with Jan Fischer at the time, and I had hopes that we could record enough material to fill the size of an LP (though the cassette media would be more likely). But due to no experience and no money, nothing came of it. It was a thrill completing the project so many years later - but was it a clever decision? Nobody liked the album, when I released it. Well, it is pretty weird, I admit, and if you're not into the Danish language, you lose a lot. One (normally devoted) reviewer was really turned off by the 'drunken men' singing - but we were absolutely sober, when we made it!
LH: What is your opinion on the state of the music industry as we all once knew it, and what do you feel about the downloads that seem to have taken over verses offering the fan a physical CD with art and a high end sound format? I think MP3 music lovers are way different from the Red Book (or official released CD ) listeners. Serious music listeners love the whole package CD ( and I grew up with the LP which was fantastic for the eye and ear). Can you address all these areas?
RT: The established part of the music industry has been digging their own grave for years - and now they wine in fear. Out of greed they've kept developing new sound media - just to becoming able to sell the same music over and over again; you know, years ago the tape cassette was supposed to replace the LP, then came the Compact Disc, later on the Mini Disc - and now we have that stupid MP3 format, so young people can listen to hits on their cell phones. People know the songs - and nothing more. In the old days, you bought an LP (or a CD for that matter), and you had these fantastic printed covers, that told you almost everything you wanted to know about the music and the people behind it. Also, when you buy a full album of music, you will most likely be introduced to tunes, you didn't know of - and probably wouldn't select, if you'd had the option. Therefore, albums give you food for thought; you learn something - which doesn't happen, when you select and buy music one track at the time. The way, the music industry now encourage young people to buy music, is like guiding them into an unhealthy fast food restaurant. And I don't feel sorry for the business; at first they thought they could control downloading - but they can't!
LH: Can you tell us anything whatsoever about your next recording and the concept behind it?
RT: I haven't done much thoughts about it, I will just start from scratch, I think - but that's not unusual for me. If I can just bring with me some good spirits to the studio, that's the important thing.
LH: I want to thank you for the time and introspection you have given us here, and also the information that so many will appreciate. I look forward to more of your music and am delighted to have discovered you.
RT: Thanks a lot - my pleasure!
© This interview with Robin Taylor was
done in August of 2011 by Lee Henderson