Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview Richard Iles – Microscopic Seven Arts 24th November

I first came across Microscopic as part of the Jazz North – Northernline, those in the know will have encountered Richard Iles playing and composing before, either with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra or The Miniature Brass Enssmble more recently. Microscopic premiered at the Manchester Jazz Festival in 2012 however my first encounter with Richards music was at the Northern line showcase gig back in the summer in Leeds where he was the last act on (following The Weave, Stuart Mcullum for strings and Djangologie all tough acts to follow).

For me; the music I heard had beautiful melodies, great harmonic choices and subtle rhythms. Well Microscopic are back this side of the Pennines at Seven Jazz on 24th November I highly recommend you attend! I already have my tickets reserved! I cant give a better description that what Seven Jazz say ‘Microscopic play warm, melodious home grown tunes, no amplification, just right for the ambient acoustic setting of Seven Arts.’

Microscopic are:
Richard Iles – trumpet/flugelhorn,
Mike Williams – alto saxophone,
Les Chisnall – piano,
Percy Pursglove – bass,

I caught up with Richard by the power of email to have a chat about this gig:

MBS – How is being a member of Northernline treating you?
RI - It`s been really good, especially the showcase event in Leeds where we got to hear 3 other bands which were all great and it was nice to catch up with some old friends. I think Nigel Slee and all the Jazz North team are doing a great job and as ex Yorkshire resident I can`t remember there ever being an opportunity like this for North west musicians being supported in this way so I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of a programme like this.

MBS – Why the small format from the bigger bands of the past?
RI - In the past I have co-led a big band with Andy Schofield and most recently I have had a Brass based group called the Miniature Brass emporium, I also have a jazz quintet called Prestwich Deluxe and I now run this smallest of bands called Microscopic! This band has come about because I really wanted to play some jazz with the people in the band, the format of the band is incidental to the people who are in it. I have had a long association with pianist Les Chisnall and Percy Pursglove is one of my old students, although I taught him the trumpet I was astonished to hear him many years later playing the Bass. Percy is an amazingly rounded musician who I really wanted to involve in this band. Finally Mike Williams is a colleague at Birmingham Conservatoire on the jazz course who I believe is a pretty unique talent and is very seldom heard performing in public.

MBS – Any reason you have decided against having drums?
RI - No particular reason although I always enjoyed listening to the Jimmy Guiffre trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow and the absence of drums obviously changes the dynamic of the music. It does have its challenges but playing with drums also has its own challenges. The format of the music allows the music to breathe in a different way without drums so I don’t think it is an issue for the musicians.

MBS – What came first the band or the music?
RI - Well I think the band came first really although some of the music is from another time and I thought it would fit in this context. I always feel that once I have written a tune and the musicians have played it, it no longer belongs to me as they hopefully put their own slant on it. I`m not precious about how it is played as I believe the musicians I have chosen can bring a unique interpretation to it and that to me is what its all about.

MBS – Is it all originals planned for the Seven gig or will you be including some   interpretations of peoples music?
RI - It will be some of my music and some other tunes which are particular favourites of mine which I hope will be appropriate for the day.

MBS – What is this music saying, is there a story behind it?
RI - With some tunes that I write there is a story behind it which relates to the background that is occurring at the time of writing it. I tend to think about writing tunes every day and I keep a little book with all my bits and pieces in and I keep everything that I write most of which is not that interesting but I only use the stuff that I can live with for a while. I’m not sure whether the stories are that relevant to the listener as I think it’s nice when the listener creates their own story for the tune. One of the things about instrumental music is, there are no lyrics to help the listener through, but I feel the melody, harmony and groove can help let the audience create their own story.

MBS – When you compose is there a set way this happens do you have a starting point like a specific melody line or bass riff or do you start with the harmony or rhythm first?
RI - A starting point has many ingredients and there is no specific order to it. Sometimes it can start with a melodic idea, sometimes it can start with a mood created. Most of the tunes I write start when I am in the car driving to work so I sing the idea into my phone and record it (hands free!). I rarely start with a chord sequence as I find it doesn’t give the best results for me. Rhythm is created by interpreting the melody in different ways and sometimes I think of a bass line. I don`t really have a method that I use, I just like writing music for my own pleasure and when a new tune arrives I’m relieved!

MBS – Being a trumpet player how do you think this affects your compositions?
RI - I don`t really know, I just like music and I play the trumpet and I love listening to jazz so I think that along with all my past musical experiences have an effect on how I play and the stuff I write. My tunes tend to work on most instruments and they certainly aren`t particularly technical.

MBS – Do you like Marmalade?
Well as a child of the 70`s I do remember Ob-la-Di- Ob-La-Da but my favourite band of that type was Mud, Tiger Feet.

To hear some of Richards music and a video interview check out

Richards web site has more videos and sounds to check out

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