This interview with Mark Hewins was conducted by e-mail in March 1996 and was the first interview conducted specifically for Calyx.
How did you start in music? What were your
I have been listening to all sorts of music since I was 7 or 8 (Mark was born in 1955). One of my mates had a brother who had played bass in the 'Bluesbreakers' for a couple of weeks; he was really a commercial graphic artist though and couldn't put up with being poor so he'd left the band! That was his story anyway.
I used to spend a lot of my time listening to his record collection. All sorts of things from blues and jazz to classic and beyond. I was like a sponge at the time and tried to sit as still as possible so he wouldn't notice me and throw me out of his room - he being much older than us! But I was able, as his brother's best mate, to hang around and listen to some stunning music, as it came out during the mid to late 60's. Although, come to think of it, I should have been too young to be understanding let alone liking what I was hearing! He introduced me to Peter Green's playing (before Fleetwood Mac). I could, absolutely, hear the guitar talking to me and I knew (although it was a couple of years or so before I got my hands on one) that was what I was going to do. It was the way the Guitar was used as a soloing 'voice' that fascinated me. I could see how you could express youself this way very easily. However, I have found since; actually doing it to make it sound like this is far more difficult!
At school they used to leave me on my own to practice in the music rooms. It must have been obvious that music was what I was going to do so I was never pressured to go to proper 'lessons' in my last couple of years there (13-15).
Hendrix's death in 1970 made me want learn much more, and to do as much playing as possible. It was my first real experience of mortality (I never saw him live, to my eternal regret). I can still remember hearing 'Voodoo Chile' for the first time, and to this day I still pester Hugh, Lol etc. for their stories about Hendrix's brushes with the Canterbury chaps.
My first Solo concert was when I was 15, I had been playing for a while and my Mum got me the gig. I've just sort of carried on, I guess. In fact I joined my first band (MotherSun) soon afterwards and was recording, writing and gigging from then on. I left home then, so the greater part of my 'teenage' years was spent learning and playing Music, on the 'road'.
How did you become acquainted with the
'Canterbury' musicians you later played with?
I first met Richard Sinclair in London in 1973, at one of the first 'Hatfield' rehearsals. I lived in Herne Bay and worked with him from 1975 onwards. I was 19 at the time and consequently was always treated as the 'baby' of any band - sometimes this really pissed me off! My first recording was with Dave Sinclair in 1975, "Moon over Man" 1975/6 - which was not released until 1992 (I think), when Voiceprint put it out on CD.
Were you already a fan of Canterbury music
before you met Richard?
Of course. My main goal in my musical life has been to strive not only for personal 'expression' but also excellence in technique. The musicians connected with the 'Canterbury Legend' are, quite simply, the best and most inventive of their generation. I HAD to work with these guys.
What are your favourite 'Canterbury' records
Favourites?? I suppose... Hatfield... Also Soft Machine 'Third', Caravan 'Grey & pink' side 2 and the 'Gong maison' album.
When did you feel you'd really become part of
the 'Canterbury scene', and were not just "someone who sometimes
played with Canterbury musicians"?
I would like to be described as both, I suppose. I know some of the musicians MOST connected with the Canterbury scene wish, for some reason, they weren't. 'Do you have to LIVE in Canterbury to qualify' is a more pertinent question here I think... I lived in Herne Bay, does that disqualify me anyway?
As a composer, do you rather write songs, or
instrumentals, or both?
I compose in all areas of music, for many reasons. This allows me a large compositional vocabulary and several musical languages to express myself. And make a living!
If you had the opportunity to record another
solo album, would it again be a solo guitar thing, or a collaboration
with other musicians? Who would you think of as contributors,
I think a solo album should be just that.... Solo. Otherwise it's a band... I am in the middle of recording at the moment. I have finished some tracks in Nashville, the rest will be done in New York. However, this time I have a producer, whose input I value greatly (Jerry Darby), so on my terms, it's not strictly 'Solo'. Also there is 'overdubbing': I have a slight difficulty to come to terms with this, in the context of 'Solo' recording. Because again, in strictly 'Solo' terms there is more than one of me!
I'm not known for being 'famous' with a 'famous' band, so luckily I'm not tarred with a musical brush for people to piegeon-hole me into areas I don't want to go. I can, musically do whatever I like with whoever I want without feeling I have to please people other than myself. If I have a project in mind I usually grab whoever is nearest at the time and let them play what they want. I do, however, have several 'Fantasy bands'. Fun, but impossible to fund; let alone get together. Some of the members are dead...
What are your best musical
memories/achievements, the moments in your life when you really felt
you'd done something of great value? (gigs, records, sessions,
private jams etc.)
That's a hard one as I have a lot of fantastic musical memories of 'moments'. Not perhaps 'achievements' as they would be hard for me to quantify, I'll leave that to other people. Adiba, though; Pip's [then] partner, springs to mind. We played together at Jacky Barbier's on the 20th anniversary of the club. Improvisational heaven. Such wonderfully accessible music. Completely spontaneous... Joyous, and a complete surprise to everybody!! Including ourselves.... Some of my most enjoyable moments playing music have been with people who are doing it for the 'Joy' only. Elton Dean plays like this. Soft Heap is the best band I have ever been in, in any context. Shyamal's joy means he can make some of the most interesting sounds to play with.
Can you tell us more about some of the many
'Canterbury'-combinations you were part of over the years
I played with Elton Dean's Quartet during the 80's, as well as taking over in 'Soft Heap' two days after Alan Gowen died. I took Richard Sinclair to Texas with me as a 'guest artist' when I played solo and with Dennis Gonzalez at the 'Caravan of Dreams' concert hall in Fort Worth, that's where he got the name - I think he has done quite well solo in the US since!
Then Andy Ward, Richard Sinclair and I formed 'Going Going' with Hugh Hopper (in 1990), which evolved into the original 'Caravan of Dreams' trio. We played several gigs, and two large festivals prior to the recording of the CD. Unfortunately I had taken on some very lucrative work for Casio, with very tight deadlines, before any recording was mentioned and I couldn't afford to forego this in order to record with the band for nothing. If that sounds mercenary, it isn't meant to, it's just that I have to earn my living from music and the Casio Contract clashed with the recording dates.
How come so few releases feature your playing,
although you took part in so many different bands?
Canterbury music, although well known, has a limited amount of fans. So we can only ever do 'small' concerts to a few interested people in this musical genre. I think this is why, although I have known and played with most of the musicians on your pages for over 20 years, I'm not on any of the records you mention! Until recently, the funds just haven't been available to produce them - it's getting slightly better now.
I have many hours of concerts, radio broadcasts and 'family fun' from various combinations on tape, but it's unlikely that we'll ever be able put them all out commercially unless there's a real demand from the fans of this music for them. Musart does have tapes, which are advertised on our pages, that include early recordings with a number of the Canterbury musicians, for example T-MIT (Richard Sinclair, Pip Pyle, Vince Clarke & me) or the Mad Axe Quartet (Hugh Hopper, Lol Coxhill, Dave Sheen and me)... They may be a few others to come later...
(c) 1996 Calyx - The Canterbury Website