Interview: Alabaster DePlume
Hailing from Manchester, Alabaster DePlume is a musician, writer and performer who combines jazz and folk with spoken word and theatre. A tenor saxophone influenced by 70s-era Ethiopian music and a somewhat distinct wit form his infectious and unique character. This is something he brings to the stage in a series of events at Total Refreshment Centre.
Now in its 6th edition, his event titled Peach returns on Wednesday 28th September bringing together a fresh group of musicians including violinist, Olivia Moore, and producer and composer Ed Dowie. Together they will be playing Raag Bihag, a Hindustani Classical Raga.
We had a quick chat with the man himself to get to grips with the concept behind Peach and his music.
Firstly, for those out there who are unaware of Peach, what is it that makes these events so special?
Every time I make something, I learn it a little bit more – the people make the thing – so, if this show is special, it’s because of the people there, really. We have the music in the middle of the room. The band is made of new musicians every month, so that we can't rehearse it enough, and so that we have to rely on our ability to create and interact with each other – and be honest in our playing. It means the players don't look inward – into the material – but outward, to the other players, and to the audience, and the situation, the night. It’s not improvised, but the way it’s performed and arranged is bespoke. I love to make a show where it really matters who’s there, and where everyone is a part of it. Like they’re not just watching something happen, if that makes sense.
"I love to make a show where it really matters who’s there, and where everyone is a part of it"
How have you seen the events develop from Peach #1 to Peach #6?
Each month more and more people I've never met are becoming involved and seeking it out. It is utterly terrifying to me, and so magical. I've made a lot of material, and learned a lot about performance, and made such great friends through this concert series. Each show is unique, and a great challenge. When we first put it on, it was an album launch. Now it’s getting more like a community. More and more diverse, and more and more like itself.
As we understand it you have quite an interesting approach to making music. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Whatever way you’re going to make things is an interesting way, I reckon. What I personally find interesting about making things is what happens when you approach it with courage, obstinance and a really big love of people. I rely on exaggerated use of personal inclusion, for both material and presentation. I constantly remind myself how I love people, and that the sounds by themselves wouldn’t do much for anything.
“I like to mix up different scenes and communities [...] there’s a lot of division in our country, and us artists, we need to look at bringing communities together”
Tell us a bit about the other musicians - how do you pick who you want to play with you?
It’s a bit like making dinner – what have we got in? Oh, that would go nicely with such-a-thing. I look at the characters first – a certain type of player, and imagine them interacting with a different personality, through the music. I also look at their background too, because I like to mix up different scenes and communities. It helps new things to be made, and it also helps to get different groups of people to mix with each other – and that’s part of our job as artists I think. Would you agree? There’s a lot of division in our country, and us artists, we need to look at bringing communities together. I know I need to do more of that. Definitely. One way you can do it, perhaps, is by booking players from a variety of cliques, scenes and communities, and getting them to work together in a show. What actual instrument they’ll play comes later, but is also important.
This event (Peach #6) will be centered around Raag Bihag. What made you decide on this particular Indian melody?
The performer, violinist Olivia Moore, chose it herself. It's part of a recital she studied under violin maestro Kala Ramnath in India. She gave me a couple of lessons too, you know, years back when I was in Manchester, myself learning saxophone. Obviously I got distracted by my own work, being as I am quite vain... I invited Olivia to Peach when I was up in Manchester for the Jazz Festival there recently, because of her great skills, and because of her very particular personality and how it will fit in the context of our community here.
In one sentence what can we expect from Peach #6?
What’s next for Alabaster DePlume?
A thing called The Corner of a Sphere. Dan Leavers will be working with me on it, and Kristian Capitol K, Max Hallett, Paddy Steer, Jordan Copeland, and others. It’s happening at the TRC and if I get what I want it’ll be the finest thing I’ve ever made. I’m working so hard on the various aspects of it, that I don’t feel like I can talk about it at all. But it is a great thrill to tell you even this, thank you for asking. I am having a magical time here.
Finally what is the most exciting musical discovery you have made recently?
The Turbans thrilled me at Smugglers Festival recently, and Oshan from that band got me listening to Sounds of Siam. It’s 60s/70s stuff from Thailand, out on Soundway, and it’s so cheeky and sweet. The Turbans by the way are a terrifying international attack of joy, and you can find them here – http://www.theturbans.co.uk/