They don’t release records, don’t rehearse and only play live, but for the people who know of them, The Bays are essential purveyors of one of the edgiest musical experiences around, driving John Walters to write in The Guardian: “The Bays remind you that music is about experience rather than shopping.”
The band gig tirelessly, fully committed to what they love every appearance is completely and utterly unique – and there’s no commercial agenda, no album to push, no marketing hype. Each gig is about the moment, the experience, a shared excitement between these primal beat-wizards and their growing throng of fans.
I spoke with keyboard player, Simon Richmond to find out what makes the band tick. Once again this was published in print earlier this year, but the title is now out of print.
Q: When, where and how did you all get together?
A: The Bays membership and sound has been evolving for about the last seven years. The current line-up: Andy Gangadeen, Chris Taylor, Jamie Odell, Simon Richmond has been going for nearly five years. The band came together after a series of spontaneous jams trying out bringing musical instruments together with sound sources and devices less often associated with live performance. The idea was to fuse the “music” and the “science” and show how both could work together at performance level.
Q: Are any of you involved in other projects, could you tell us a little
more about these?
A: Our priority is The Bays and everything else is rumour and subject to libel and legal action.
Q: As the Bays, did you ever approach being a band in the conventional
A: In many ways we are a band in the most conventional sense, in that we are all about performing music live. The history of music has always been about live performance. Recorded music, and its marketing is only a recent blip on the map of music. On the other hand, we don’t release music to be bought, marketed, tied-in with products or promoted. You couldn’t get less conventional than that, and it has taken us all our strength and effort to work with promoters, agents, venues and press who tend to only see musical performance as relevant when linked to a commercial release.
Q: What made you decide on your approach, playing improvised gigs and not releasing your music?
A: We are musicians – we wanted to do what we enjoy the most – perform the music we create at the point of having an idea. We don’t have to haul around a tired set of fixed songs because we don’t have any songs. We don’t have to play the hits, because we make everything up from scratch each gig.
Q: Do you rehearse, if not, why not?
A: There’s no point rehearsing if you don’t know what you’re going to play when you get on stage. We only really play together when we have a gig. It keeps us on our toes and I think the audience really responds to the energy of that.
Q: How do you manage to create such excitement with your music at your live shows, how do you work together, what holds it all together?
A: Audiences seem to genuinely know when something new is happening in front of them, even if they are not “musos”. Any performance that involves risk, that has no safety net, generates a creative tension between the audience and the band. I suppose what holds it all together is the fact that this is what we love, it is what we do for a living and we kept getting asked back.
Q: Presumably, you’ve experienced both utterly fantastic and utterly excruciating moments when you perform – can you tell us about these?
A: Very few excruciating moments – we always steer out of them with great speed. The exhilaration is intense, and some great venues have stuck in our minds – playing in Sri Lanka to 30,000 on a beach; playing with Herbie Hancock at the Barbican; seeing the hillside at The Big Chill go berserk. But then again, there have been any number of amazing gigs in sweaty, smelly clubs, and at the moment we’re doing them, they’re just as great.
Q: Who are your fans?
A: I wish I knew. Where do they get those freaks from?
Q: Now, you do make whole shows available for download on your website, are these available for free?
Q: Would you ever consider making a ‘record’ (physical or otherwise) as The Bays?
A: We never say never, but there wouldn’t be much point in trying to recreate in the studio the atmosphere of a live gig . Our downloads are only intended as a combination of souvenirs and a poor shadow of the gig for people who couldn’t get there.
Q: How would you describe yourselves musically?
Q: Who are your musical heroes? Is there an artist that most inspires you, or a creative school of thought you feel drawn to?
A: We take our inspiration from many diverse sources – it’s as much about DJs as players. The intensity of a great club set or the groove of a live band locked in – we take inspiration from all of that. Along with red wine, fish curry and fine cheeses.
Q: In a way, your approach is the perfect antithesis to a popular culture that’s being decimated by file sharing: you don’t release ‘records’, and each live gig is unique, was this a deliberate?
A: Nope. It just made sense to us at the time. Now the major labels are having problems making revenue from sales, it suddenly looks like we were prescient in some way. Our approach is as in tune with musical culture as you can get – musicians getting together to perform their new ideas for people to listen to.
Q: Is the internet killing music, or is it transforming it?
A: Nothing can kill music. Apart from mobile phone adverts.
Q: What would you suggest to anyone wanting to get into music at any level today?
A: Go for it. There’s never been an easy or a hard time to get into music. We’ve lived by the principle of doing what we want and seeing if anyone else is interested enough to sustain us. Turns out they are.
Q: Does anyone really need a label any more?
A: It’s a tricky one. There have been some great labels that have brought together musicians and helped them spread their sound, not to mention provided a living for them. There are also labels that think it’s a good idea to tell their acts what music to write according to what the marketing department thinks will sell.
Now there’s less need of physical stock, you might argue labels are less necessary, but a good label can be a great source of strength and support to an artist.
Q: What are your thoughts on the changing music industry, how do you see it developing in future?
A: Part of what is liberating for us is we don’t have to have thoughts on the music industry. We intend to go on performing live until people don’t want to see us any more. The industry can switch to releasing molecular music in helium balloons if it wants, but we’ll still be about the live thing.
Q: Do you own an iPod, or do you use something else (what)?
A: No. I like to hear the environment around me. If I’m not making music I don’t want my ears stopped up with a ceaseless random flow of sound. Can you see where I’m coming from?
Q: Can you remember the first piece of music you ever bought, what was it?
A: I think it was a Baron Knights 7″ comedy tune about decimalisation, which I got from the newsagents up the road.
Q: And the last?
A: Some anonymous bit of house music, downloaded from Traxsource.
Q: What are you listening to at the moment?
A: The keys of my laptop – might sample them later.
Q: Why does music matter?
A: In the scheme of things, I don’t know if it does, but it matters to us enough to dedicate our lives to it. We enjoy it and it makes us feel good. If we can share that with people who enjoy hearing us, then so much the better…
Visit the bands website to download live desk recordings of each unique event, and to find out more about the band’s forthcoming live dates.
Chris Taylor, bass
A combination of punk attitude and abstract sonic experiments define Chris as a bassist and provider of The Bays’ infamous subsonics, pushing the boundaries with his experimental use of analogue fx processors and associated gadgetry.
Jamie Odell, keyboards
A highly regarded producer in his own right, Bays’ keyboardist Jamie also records under the aliases of Jimpster and Audio Montage for his own Freerange Records imprint.
Simon Richmond, keyboards
DJ, producer and the mastermind behind Palm Skin Productions, Simon creates sound effects, manipulates vocal samples and drops riffs from an array of gadgets.