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Labcoats: Holy Grottoe

Those who have followed the by-ways of David Long's busy life might wonder why this award-winning producer, composer and guitarist-without-portfolio – who was a founder member of the Muttonbirds, has composed scores for Peter Jackson films, is a member of Plan 9, his music appearing in the current NZ doco The Ground We Won and he has written for dance and theatre – should here be having the Famous Elsewhere Jazz Questionnaire placed in front of him.

That's because his most recent recorded appearance is on O Potassium!, the new album from Wellington's Labcoats, a free-ranging improv-cum-jazz ensemble with its roots in the Braille collective of the Eighties.

Conceivably we could have sent our general or songwriter questionnaire, but jazz it was . . . and as you might expect his answers are as wide-ranging as his musical reach.

The first piece of music, jazz or otherwise, which really affected you was . . ?

In jazz – Caravan. The early Ellington version.

When did you first realise this jazz thing was for you?

It was when I realised it wasn’t. I sort of flirted with it in my late teens/early twenties but found it wasn’t for me. I realised I didn’t like almost any guitarists, only Freddy Green and Jim Hall. Jazz did open me to experimentation. The free stuff opened my eyes to going out there into noise stuff. I don’t consider myself a jazz musician by any stretch but I do see that listening to a lot has influenced me immensely.

What one piece of music would you play to a 15-year old into rock music to show them, 'This is jazz, and this is how it works'?

East St Louis Toodle Oo. It’s all about tone and feel. And when jazz was pop music. Mmmm, also maybe a Monk tune… ‘Coming On the Hudson’ maybe. Such strange forms and melodies.

Time travel allows you go back to experience great jazz. You would go to . . ?

The Cotton Club I guess – to see the Ellington Band.

Which period of Miles Davis' career do you most relate to, and why: the acoustic Fifties; his orchestrated albums with Gil Evans; the acoustic bands or fusion of the late Sixties; street funk of the Seventies or the Tutu album and beyond in the Eighties . . .

It would have to be the Gil Evans stuff and then the early ‘60s. I have an aversion to fusion.

Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home?

I have a bunch of acoustic instruments that I use in the wrong way. I recently bought an oud. I have a Puerto Rican quatro, a viola caipira and a psaltery, among other things….

The best book on the jazz life you have read is . . .

Some of the James Lincoln Collier stuff; the one on Jazz and the Ellington biography.

biutifulIf you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

I’ve played a couple of times with The Violent Femmes when they’ve been in NZ and that was pretty blow out.

The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

Stalker, The Bourne Films, Biutiful

The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include . . .)

I got John Psathas’s Corybas recently, performed by the NZ Chamber Soloists which is pretty amazing. I’ve also been going back to some old Bollywood stuff by RD Burman and listening to stuff I don’t have on Spotify. I mainly listen to mp3s. I love the coolness of them. I do mean to set up my turntable again now that my kids are bigger…

One jazz standard you wished you had written . . .

They’re aren’t any really – maybe Caravan? Since I was a kid I’ve loved exotic feeling stuff. It doesn’t need to be ‘authentic’. I really wish I’d written ‘Shipbuilding’ by Elvis Costello and Clive Langer.

The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .

I have an old album cover of The Threepenny Opera (with Lotte Lenya in it). It’s that old, Germany in the ‘30s, design.

Three non-jazz albums for a desert island would be . . ?

Remain In Light – Talking Heads

Best of Ethiopiques, Volume 2

The Latin Playboys

Musik Von Harmonia (sneaking another in)

Your dream band of musicians (living or dead) would be . . ?

labcoatsHubert Sumlin (guitarist with Howling Wolf)

Brian Eno (making noises)

David Hildago

Riki Gooch

Holger Czukay

Billie Holiday

And finally, is there a track on your most recent album you would love people to hear. And, if so, why that one?

Holy Grottoe – the opening track. I was part of making it and I still can’t work out where it’s coming from!

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