This is the first in a special series of interviews for this blog!
Rory Simmons has been accurately described as one of the most creative and dynamic trumpet players on the British jazz scene. He took time out to talk to me about how he got into jazz, aswell as his work with Jamie Cullum and his project 'Fringe Magnetic.'
'Twistic', the second album from Fringe Magnetic was released recently. How would you describe the album in one sentence?
Darkly compelling Fringe Magnetic lurch between twisted fanfare and bizarre shanties, to flitting winds and knotty rhythmic puzzles or in the words of METRO: “Fringe Magnetic blend Nordic darkness with English whimsy to beguiling effect.”
What creative process do you follow for composing your music?
I look for a mood or ambience when writing music rather than any chords specifically. I always try to approach things with different twists and turns- to take an unusual step in the melody or the rhythm of the piece.
Do you like to work with the same musicians on different projects or do you look to bring in new faces for fresh direction?
There are certain people I love to continue to work with (Jamie being one obviously!) but also it is exciting bringing fresh musicians into the fold. Terje Evensen did a bit of post production on the album on a track "Apochryful" which I think sounds really beautiful. We are recording some new tracks together at the moment so looking forward to that. Watch this space.
The album features the captivating duet with Jamie Cullum and Elisabeth Nygaard. How did Jamie come to be involved with this song?
The track Play It Once More came about when I was asked to do a gig with Fringe Magnetic at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. The artistic director Tony Dudley Evans asked if we would like to collaborate with anyone for this gig and it seemed like a great idea to get Jamie involved for a tune. The performance went so well that we decided to record it, though Jamie couldn't make the recording session. So we ended up recording his vocal in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere in North California in July. This was before we treated ourselves with a massive burger......
What got you into jazz?
A friend of mine (nicknamed Redface) lent me 2 cd's when I was about 14. These were Buddy Rich Big Band and Brecker Brothers. I guess this was my first real introduction. Although I do remember at age 12 or so, attempting to transcribe the Louis Prima trumpet solo from the Jungle Book sound track!
Do you have a musical family?
My mum is a singer and also conducts a choir, even though she only does it as an amateur she has a fantastic voice and has always been very encouraging of me.
If you could perform with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to work with Bjork. She has always been a favourite of mine. Her creative output has been so varied and interesting, I would love to be involved in something with her.
Do you have any suggestions for young jazz musicians looking to get heard?
Keep doing what you are doing! Keep checking out the tradition of the music and as well as developing your own voice. And don't forget about all the other music out there which sits outside of the jazz tradition.
Your other job is working with Jamie Cullum of course, playing trumpet and guitar. What is your favourite JC song to perform on tour?
Next Year Baby is always a fun one, but we all love playing Music Is Through as it is so different from the rest of the set.
Jamie is well-known for mixing up the shows - do you enjoy the challenge that uncertainty brings?
It always brings uncertanties! Especially when its a tune that we haven't done for ages...! We played a tune with Sander Kleinenberg in December at the Paradiso in December, that was fun... as we only played it once during soundcheck and hadn't heard the tune before that! (you can watch that here!)
Have you got a good story you can share from touring with Jamie and the guys?
I guess the best story is related to my fear of birds, 4 years ago on my birthday somewhere in France, the crew lowered a stuffed duck over my head during a trumpet solo.They had attached it from the lighting rig earlier in the day. I had no idea and only realised when I walked to the back of the stage after my solo. I thought everyone was applauding the solo not the duck!
What are you currently listening to?
Currently, I am enjoying James Blake/ the new Elbow album/new PJ Harvey album/Laura Marling/Kneebody/plus loads more!
You've been writing with Julian Velard recently. How did those sessions go?
Those sessions were fun, and we went for great sushi afterwards! We wrote a song, not totally finished, but hoping to complete it later in the year. Lets see!
What else do you have planned for 2011?
This year I am working with a great UK electro/indie-ish band called Friendly Fires inbetween all the festivals with Jamie. Also writing some new music with Elisabeth Nygaard which will be taking a bit of a different format, will keep you all posted. Plus my Fringe Magnetic remix CD is coming out on May 30th.
You can read my blog 'Getting to know Rory Simmons' here for more and the 3 track EP of remixes from the Fringe Magnetic album 'Twistic,' remixed and recomposed by Rory Simmons, will be available online form May 30th 2011.
Look out for my next interview coming soon!