Mole : a spirit of togetherness - Sounds - April 29, 1972
"The first time Robert phoned me up he said he wanted to do an album of love songs", says bass guitarist Bill MacCormick. It didn't turn out quite like that, but there are two songs on the first side of the album, songs that represent a kind of release of frustration for Robert Wyatt that needed to happen before he shed his Soft Machine skin and started to get fully involved with the new group.
"Apart from wanting to get into a new band l'd also built up a certain amount of frustration whilst sitting about in various potential homes, writing letters to people that turned into lyrics and writing lyrics that turned into letters and getting all confused. A certain amount of frustration had built up that I hadn't put off my chest before".
Sitting around in keyboard player Dave MacRae's flat, talking to the band, you notice that the hesitancy and confusion of our last interview (Sounds 11/12/71) has given way to a much stronger feeling of confidence and optimism. I've never actually seen Robert brimming with self-confidence but this time he's a lot closer. The period of change is over, and now it's a question of the group as it is now (David Sinclair, the original organist, has left and Dave MacRae has joined full time after working on most of the sessions) growing together.
"When I'm not playing", says Robert, "I forget that l'm meant to be a drummer, so I sit in places with pianos singing songs and I think 'oh yes, that's what I do'. Then of course when I'm actually working again I find that l'm actually a drummer, so quite a different set of preoccupations and interests start coming up in your head. I've never quite resolved the difference between the two, so I'll probably spend the rest of my life tossing between them..."
"It's not the technical difficulty, it's the emotional difficulty of it being a totally different role in a group - to be singing songs and playing drums is a totally different relationship to be having with everybody. I find it more natural when l'm actually working to work from the point of view of a drummer".
Though when be was with the Soft Machine he once said he was an out of work singer who just happened to be playing drums.
"I only really started drumming because nobody else could. There were people around with pianos and guitars and things and they needed a drummer. I tried singing with other drummers but they never did it right, and the way to make sure the drummer was doing it right is to play the drums yourself".
So did he feel he'd basically resolved the dilemma? "No, I've decided that I'm really an organist. I'm at my happiest when very, very pissed and playing the Mellotron, or something like that. But it has nothing to do with proficiency and I'd have to be very pissed to get on stage and touch a keyboard".
So now, with Matching Mole a few months into itslife, they were evolving through finding out about each other and what they can do together.
Dave: "It's more or less like that but with any band it's not an immediate process where you can walk in and do it. There's always the start which makes everyone want to walk in and play together, but once you get past that point it's a matter of finding out just how much you can do together, which we're still doing. Hopefully the lifeline won't run out on us – we're still improving, there's no doubt about that".
"It's important to have that spirit in what you're doing, it's important to want to get it on - and not in the way that you know you can to affect an audience so they go 'rah, rah,rah'. Everyone doesn't consciously avoid that, but tries to create an original-sounding music, which I think is about where it's at really. Otherwise you might as well take the route where the money is – and everyone knows where it is".
Phil Miller: "We're playing for an audience, but primarily to give them something that's ours not what they think we can do. We want to give them something that's our identity, not what they could superimpose on us".
Though they're all pretty pleased with the album as it is - although the sound could have been a lot better if they'd been allowed to use a modern studio with the right equipment and it is history. The night before I spoke to them they'd been recording a session at the BBC for John Walters which'll be broadcast on "Top Gear" soon. This, they felt, caught the present band pretty well.
Robert: "The thing to remember overall is that this Matching Mole hasn't made a record yet. I'm amazed I fed I can say this but anyone who wants to who's interested in hearing this band and can't hear us live, please listen to the thing we did with John Walters when it comes out. Either I was more drunk than I thought I was or we really got off last night... radio's usually an anaemic medium for musicians, it's so hard for musicians to get off in a studio, but l'd be be happy for anyone who wanted to know what we were doing who couldn't go to a gig, to hear that session."
"People say 'why make the album before you'd formed the group?', but the reason was that I wanted to. My preoccupation before I left the group I was in before was that there were a few little things I wanted to do, get off my chest. But that was only a quarter of an hour's worth of work, and from then on I wanted to get back into the real business of music-making, which is in fact co-operative".