Thursday, 11 February 2016


This week, the Guardian featured an article entitled 'What's the point of music?', in which Alain de Botton discussed the purpose of organised sound with Peter Gabriel. Not to suggest that the Guardian are totally ripping me off again or anything, but this is a question I habitually ask musicians that I interview. However, the answers rarely make it to the printed page. Below are a selection of responses, ranging from the profound to the bewildered.  

The Cosmic Dead
James T Mckay: Masturbation.
Julian Dicken: Pure unadulterated fun.

Omar Aborida: It’s freedom to create without settling for the lines that you have in other media. In art you have a finished painting. But with music it’s an open-ended thing, you can take it where you want. That’s what drew me to music in the first place.

JTM: It feels like you’re tapping into a seamless continuum too. Like there’s this great big wave, like one of those cosmic snakes out of Sliders or Bill & Ted, when they’re time travelling. Feels like they’re travelling through everything, and when you really get into a jam, it feels like you’re riding through one of them.

Lewis Cook: It’s easy to identify music as just like a social function in some ways, and I think it is to a large extent. But there’s also that transcendental aspect, which The Cosmic Dead really aims towards. It’s less a social function about what’s cool and what’s not. It’s more primal than that. It’s banging a drum, something that’s always been done. Animals do things like that as well. I don’t think the Cosmic Dead is an intellectual endeavour.

JTM: It’s that wee Neolithic man kicking about and realising that if he eats off oysters he’ll go on a funny little trip before shitting himself. That’s what the Cosmic Dead is. It’s a fun, often pretty deep little trip before we shit ourselves. And the shitting ourselves does happen. The way I think of it sometimes, if you imagine a cavemen looking up into the stars for the first time on some lonely, barren night, his wife’s at some other guy’s cave, and he looks up at the stars and he just sees that one little shooting star, and for the first time he relaises that it’s not just a picture that’s above him. There’s a whole fucking depth to what’s out there. Creating that experience and capturing that sense of wonder is a large part of it. Infinite death and infinite life through music. 

Mats Gustafsson
Again, using Derek [Bailey]’s words: ‘Music is like living, but better.’ I hope Derek would forgive me for using his line so many times.

Free Nelson Mandoomjazz

Colin Stewart: I just love music so it seems like an obvious extension of that to play it. The opportunity to do something totally different like this band is very inspiring and satisfying from a creative point of view. I’m always looking for new music that pushes the boundaries of what I’ve already heard and to be able to do that and perform with such talented people is a real privilege. I can’t imagine ever being at a point in my life where I don’t want to make music any more.

Rebecca Sneddon: Because my saxophone is like an extra limb. Except that it looks better than the other ones. 'What is music for...?' Does it matter? It's for me.


Stuart Braithwaite: I dunno. Just… fun. It’s fun to make music. It feels like a privilege. Especially to be able to do it and make a living from it, it’s amazing. But even just to get to do it and have anyone give a shit about it, it’s brilliant!

Richard Youngs
On a very functional level in my life, I have a 3-and-a-half-year-old son and for the first couple of years of his life he was a terrible sleeper. We found that one of the few ways to calm him down was to play him Gregorian chant. Very functional use of Gregorian chant. On the other hand, is something you dance to functional, or is it pure pleasure?

The Fierce and the Dead

Kevin Feazey: For me it's about shared experience. The band, the audience, the listener. It may not be an identical experience but if we can get people to move and be moved in whatever way works for them then that will rebound to me and the back and forth begins. Music is a pretty perfect blend of spirituality and hard science, something that we can all plug in to and actually does something real to us. When i'm standing in front of an audience my ego shrinks, as I have become part of a bigger machine that links all the band members and the audience together. And I like loud noises.

Matt Stevens: For the rush of it all coming together, that moment when it becomes bigger than any one individual. Mirror neurons working overtime, that link you get with people you have been playing with for years.

Sloth Hammer

Paul Priest: I am immersed in music and sound. I have been since I was about 5 years old. I'm 35 now and I've made my own music since I was about 12 and played gigs since I was 16. I just have to do it. Even when I'm not playing live, I'll still need to expel the sounds from within otherwise I will go utterly insane, and not the good kind.

Luke Iley: Life without music would be pretty fucking dull. Every culture on the planet makes it. It's as unifying as it is subjective. If I didn't make some sort of music I'd probably have to resort to trepanning and self-flagellation.

Harvey Milk
Creston Speirs: Good question. Fuck if I know