John Parish (Yeovil, UK, 1959) developes one of the most envied music careers to date. Both in his role as a performer and composer as in the producer, his work collects praise and awards everywhere. However, among all his collaborations highlight PJ Harvey, his musical partner for over 15 years and with whom he has worked on six albums; the last of them, ‘Let England Shake’, won the Mercury Prize in 2011. On Saturday May 10th the quintet led by the based in Bristol musical genius, play in the seventh edition of Véral Festival, Valladolid in the Spanish tour of his film music album ‘Screenplay’, which will also take him to San Sebastian, Zaragoza and Manresa.
“I’m hoping to finish the writing of my new album before the summer”
Question: Is it easier to tour with an english-italian-french band than to schedule rehearsals? Joking apart, this is a longtime collaboration with all of the members for more than a decade. What can audiences expect from your shows in Spain?
Answer: As you pointed out..having a band where the musicians are based in Bristol, Berlin, Toulouse & on the shore of Lake Garda does make scheduling rehearsals a challenge.. But they are great idiosyncratic musicians and we have built a close friendship and musical relationship despite – or maybe because – living so far apart. I feel it is a priviledge to be able to draw from such a wide range of influences and abilities. We haven’t played together for about three months now so we’re really excited to be reconvening in Spain.
Q: You are said to be a lover of red wine, was this a reason to perform in Valladolid, which is famous for its wines from Ribera del Duero?
A: I do like good red wine – & I ‘ve had some great ones from Ribera del Duero – but I haven’t yet started booking tours according to how good the local wines are. Not a bad idea though..I’ll talk to my agent.
Q: This Spanish tour is focused on the ‘Screenplay’ album but, could we hear some new compositions as well as a nod to the past? You are playing the very same day as Christina Rosenvinge, Magic Arm and Dean Wareham. Do you personally know any of them? Can we expect some surprises on stage?
A: All the music we’ll be playing is from films – and primarily from the Screenplay album which brings together music from four or five different films. But we’ll also be playing some stuff from ‘Rosie’ and ‘She, A Chinese’ – both of which were released as Original Soundtrack Albums. I don’t know the other artists playing that day so I hope to catch them.
Q: A couple of years ago you were said to be working on a new album. What about that project?
A: Thanks for reminding how long it’s taking… I am working on a new album – it’s three quarters written and i’m hoping to finish the writing before the summer. I’ve been a bit distracted by some very interesting productions.
Q: You’ve also worked with members of Portishead, one of the iconic bands of Bristol Sound. What remains of that trip hop and ambient sound?
A: I wonder how long Bristol will be associated only with trip hop..? I don’t think many new Bristol bands would fall into that category. But there’s no denying that what Portishead, Massive Attack & Tricky were doing in the early ‘90s put Bristol on the global musical map. What’s great is that the weight of expectations and being lumped with a label can often destroy creative bands or artists, yet all three don’t seem to have been trapped , and are all putting out interesting records. Infrequently, and slowly. Which is the Bristol way.
Q: There is an endless list of musicians with whom you have worked, including Spanish Maika Makowski, what made you accept the proposal? Lately, your work is based in Europe, but you have also explored other areas (Mazgani, Rokia Traoré).
A: I’m very lucky in that I’m approached on a pretty regular basis to work on very interesting projects – sometimes with artists I’m already familiar with, sometimes not. If I have time available – & I often don’t, which can be frustrating – I accept or reject the proposal on an instinctive response to the music & the artist. Maika sent me a string of really interesting and different songs. It was quite schizophrenic sounding. You really didn’t know what to expect from song to the next. We cut half of the album just Maika, myself and engineer Ali Chant, and the other half we tracked live with her band – who were great. Really happy with how the album turned out.
Q: What else is on the list of your producer role? Anything related to Polly Jean Harvey?
A: Right now I’m just finishing an album with Lebanese singer Nadine Khouri (who sings on one of the songs from Screenplay), then planning to go back into the studio with Rokia (Traoré) in the summer.
Q: What are the requirements to be a good producer? Do you influence or make yourself available to any ideas?
A: Hard to say what makes a good producer. I guess you have to have the trust of the artist – they’re relying on your judgement and aesthetic. The match between artist and producer has to be right. No producer is going to be right for every situation.
Q: You have always been a politically concerned person, What is your opinion on the current economic crisis affecting Europe and particularly its effects on Spain?
A: Where do you start… I’m particularly concerned with the level of economic inequality and how it’s been allowed to rise massively in the last 20 to 30 years. We seem to be regressing to where we were a century ago with the wealth of a country in the hands of a tiny minority and the bulk of the population with very little possibility of improving their situation. There’s a lot of good writing detailing the negative effects of this – Stiglitz’s ‘The price of inequality’, ‘the Spirit Level’ by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett, a lot of articles in The Observer by Will Hutton. People are starting to talk about it – but I don’t see much movement yet from any of the major parties over here – certainly not the current coalition.