Rewind: Bill Brewster on “Sextet”

Posted: September 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

In discussion with Bill Brewster on “Sextet” by A Certain Ratio (1982).

What is your personal history with this particular album? How and when was your first encounter with it?

I bought it the week it came out. I had just moved back to Grimsby (my hometown) after working in London and Switzerland as a chef for five years. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of it sweating in a kitchen. I’d met some new people who were trying to do cool stuff with music. We’d all been punks in 1976 and 1977 but got bored of how musically limited it all was. We were searching for something new. We had a musical mentor, a guy who ran a musical instrument shop with a few boxes of records in the back, called Roy Bainton. He was 15 years older than us and knew loads about music, everything from Mike Westbrook and Carla Bley to Graham Central Station and, in particular, the blues. We were listening to all this brilliant old stuff that was new to us and also discovering bands like A Certain Ratio and 23 Skidoo who, like us, were also groping towards something different. We were in the process of forming a band when this album came out.

What made you decide for „Sextet“ instead of other of their albums?

They toured to promote this album and we went to see them at this bizarre wine bar in Leeds. I went with all the guys who were in my band. The venue was brightly lit, chrome-plated, horrible. And it was nearly empty, but they didn’t give a fuck: they were astonishing, really tight (helped somewhat by Donald Johnson’s prowess behind the traps). I suppose what “„Sextet“” represents to me is a crossroads of where I had arrived and where they were headed; a sort of Robert Johnson involving trams, drizzle and Northern misery. What is interesting about „Sextet“, listening back now, is that they’d reached a certain competence on their instruments but they still had a thirst for wayward and interesting song ideas and arrangements. Later on, when they were recording stuff like “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing”, they ended up sounding like those pale Britfunk imitations of the real deal, whereas what makes „Sextet“ endearing is that they sound like nothing and no-one else. The world they inhabited then, it seemed to me, was hermetically sealed from outside influences. I imagined them living together in a big house in Whalley Range, a bit like the Monkees, except with acid and analogue instruments. Read the rest of this entry »