Peter Gabriel on Music – Free Ebook

thank you so much thank you all for coming and most of all thank you to Peter tonight is really a chance to have a conversation not really an interview but a conversation and I think it seemed fitting for me to begin with the music and really to ask it’s not a really very basic question what is it about the human animal that makes us make music well I think we like to thump our chests show off a little bit dance try and find a mate I think there are lots of reasons for making music let’s think about finding a mate and you get it tell it tell us more well when you’re a shy and spotty boy if you’re in a rock band the world opens up in mysterious ways but I think it’s a deep thing that looking at some of the creatures that we share the planet with they seem to also we use sound communication and not always with a specific intent and a I was sent to a public school and it was it was just on the cusp of softening but it was still pretty unpleasant and really music was a retreat you know I used to go down in the record corner and god–all Ming and I pick up these blues and soul records and go down to the one room where we were allowed to play music and turn it up ah as loud as I could and dance what is it that you think that enables music to carry so much meaning but it’s a time meaning that we find it hard to define it just exists in its own medium I guess it plugs directly into the nervous system in a way that a lot of other communications go through all levels of filtering on music you can feel it you know it hits your your chest depending where the frequencies are there are patterns there that instinctively go in and and it’s I said so I think it’s a sort of quicker release but maybe not as precise a weapon as a word you said so it may be more emotional I think you said in the context of a song that’s particularly close to my heart I grieve you said that that you said that you’d felt that you’d added a song to your emotional toolbox with that yeah well I think it is like a box of pills that you have your certain records certain songs for delivering certain emotional functions and and they may be to calm you down to comfort you to to excite you you know whatever whatever it is and I think um well actually I hadn’t lost either of my parents my wife had lost a mum when I think I grieve came and and I was thinking there aren’t really good I mean there are lots of songs people use funerals and when they lose people but I didn’t really know of one that was specifically about grief in that way and so I thought give it a go it’s that generally how songs start I mean that you would literally think if there’s an area of the emotional map that hasn’t been covered and that interests you and that and that you try and mine yeah yeah that’s sort of how it went and in in the emotional toolbox that you’ve built up as a musician what what are the areas that you feel you’ve been interested in had been drawn to I think yeah what I was talking about earlier about just making a lot of noise getting excited getting sexy getting men calm meditative and transcendent do you know on in another way and I think I was always drawn – church music in a way hymns were a big influence on me bits of classical but but it was the soul people like Otis Redding and Nina Simone but where they’re sort of the grand figures of my and what was it that drew you to them just what they could do with with the voice and the storytelling I mean certain songs I remember exactly where I was in school when I first heard that song I remember with hey Joe you know which room I was in then and I was in the back of my parents car when I first heard the Beatles in Littlestone on scene and that although you know it it doesn’t sound at all revolutionary now at the time love me do sounded more revolutionary than punk music in its time which people forget because you sort of absorb all that stuff but but just can I throw it back now cuz yeah I think you’re going to start and you know a good place to start is parents and I always think you know because we’ve just met at the school gate and this is actually why we we’re here so I don’t you know I know a little bit of I laughed from this books and so on but would you mind just describing what sort of people your parents were which elements of them here really whoever inherited um yes or not inherited yes my parents were first and foremost very anxious people okay they were very they were they were people who were incredibly ambitious about everything about life they were very excited by life very dynamic people at the same time very fragile people and I think a lot of my career has been an attempt to rescue them one of them is no longer alive right and the other one is not really interested in my rescue efforts and such but I think sometimes as children a lot of one’s career sometimes is spent in dialog with one’s parents and I think that I think that all this thing about wisdom and knowledge etc I think I am trying to provide them with the stuff that I felt they might have needed in the more distressed moments of their lives how would you describe them individually individually my father was just feel guilty about the audience um I’m grateful because if they’re here for you well uh very quickly they’re here Friday okay okay that’s the audience know can I ask this question okay okay so my my father was was a refugee from Egypt he came to Switzerland where I was born with nothing and was really a traumatized person met my mother who was Swiss they got married and I think what they wanted above all was security and stability but my father was he went into business but really his heart was in literature he wanted more than anything to write and to think what he did every weekend was to to read and to think about philosophy and theory etc and though he never talked to me about it at all I think again children will watch their parents it’s not so much what they say it’s what they do and I think that a lot of my life has been an attempt to do what maybe he never got a chance to do and do it with him even though he’s dead and for him so there’s a lot of transgenerational effort and your mum my mother she was but she is a very energetic capable practical woman from whom she nothing is ever too much of a challenge for her and I think I learnt the idea that one just goes for things and they were you know my mother especially she was not afraid of life and I learned a lot from that a courage really basic courage if things went wrong she would pick herself up and go and I learned a lot from that but um tell me that well my parents no no I that’s a fair exchange yeah okay good good we had but steering it back to music for a moment for a moment Peter your music has meant so much to me I started listening to your music when I was maybe 12 13 and I went backwards back to the early Genesis forwards and followed you really all the way and I can remember where I was when I first listened to various things we’re going to play a clip from red rain not yet in a second but I remember being at school in the winter and it must have been a red rain was out in hmm don’t know you know better than me anyway it was it should I can I can remember the room and listening to it some of the feelings I was very interested in a quote you said you once said that music can be like an axe in a frozen sea which is a quote from Nietzsche which is a wonderful very dramatic quote and acts to a frozen sea which really suggests the idea of it are emotions what what does it just to you that we look away a lot of ourselves and there are certain instruments when they’re finely tuned that can break them open let’s come back to that but first let’s just hear a little clip from red rain the truck stop yeah is covered um wonderful song we’re we’re a therapeutic organization we can talk about psychotherapy in a minute but some of the lyrics there defenses down the trust of a child no more denial I mean this is this is from the toolbox of of therapy tell us more well I guess after my first marriage broke up I did about six years of therapy and so some of that got absorbed and I think I was probably a sucker for all that anyway just yeah that I’ve probably learned asthma as much from that sort of encounter and I was encouraged or pushed into sort of group therapy which was the last thing I wanted to do was expose myself in a group but I actually it was enormous ly powerful look the word defense comes up within your music and and some things you’ve said I think fear is undervalued probably it’s a big element and you know bravery is quite often a flipside of fear or just fear well channel but so I think maybe that’s part of my journey is learning to be less afraid and I think there are very few things old age has going for it but maybe that’s one of them and what had been the fears what are the fears that were overcome um I I had my fears I think but inadequacy of all sorts I think probably but but it’s you know I was never very good academically with sport and then not going to university you know I was not sure of myself in conversation with people who seem to be smarter than me and gradually as I got older you know I’ve become much less afraid of other people and the more I challenged myself to do the things that I’d actually liked it because I I do think again so flicking it back again because you know you’re a philosopher I’m a musician but in truth we’ve got away with pretty much doing anything we want to do I’m calling it work right then yeah you know and that’s partly a function of of them getting a little more comfortable with you your fear I know as a writer people say you know where did the ideas come from in a way it’s a tedious question in a way it’s a very central question but I think it reflects just how mysterious you know most people find it where does the song come from you really want to be wide open wide awake and able to steal absorb borrow and feed off anything that interests you you know I think again I’ve said this before but it should be like dogs in a park you sniff something interesting and you jump on it and some of your songs have taken decades to be assembled yeah and presumably they’re you’re you’re picking up many things from many dogs the way that it’s a big part exactly um well also you know I’m a may be afraid of the final commitment and I love detours and distractions and you know and I’ll always go off on a tangent rather than finishing my homework one of the things about your music is that it’s always brought a lot of solace it somehow seems very attuned to the vulnerability of the listener and contributes a kind of a hand held out to them and imaginary hand and there’s no song of yours that does this more powerfully than don’t give up which I think has literally saved people from jumping off roofs I think so it seems that it’s really surprised me here you know because it felt it was actually begun after seeing Dorothea Lange or Lange I’m not sure pictures of the American depression and but it’s ended that way you know I think because you know particularly of the sort of emotive way that Kate sings and and seems to be offering hope when there is very little a lot of people yea used it and I mean it’s extraordinary let’s hear a short clip from don’t give up please don’t give up I can take an honest love bridge keep my the mayor come go slow these are sort of archetypes in a way right this is yes mum the mother yeah I guess in a way and yeah I didn’t sort of it his mum but I thought of it more as sort of partner who’s that’s saying a lot about me isn’t it well sorry go but maybe you know maybe we all marry your mum and well should be that I’ll get them in trouble if I say that but anyway but it’s sort of nourishing yeah comfort I guess what Freud calls the eternal feminine let’s see right um little did everyone on that um I’ve been watching lots of clips of you with in front of giant audiences it in a way it’s hard to reconcile with the person he had never got a fairly large audience but we’re talking tens of thousands it might be performing front of what’s who do you become when you’re doing that how do how do you access that that part of your different part of you I I think you’ve just got to buy it and believe it and I learned very early on that if you’re sort of shy and apologetic people will switch off very quickly so you have to pump yourself up and and then give them something they may not like it but then they can’t ignore it and so so that’s what I do there’s also some wonderful moments that you must have felt when the whole crowd an anonymous crowd comes together and sort of becomes one and barriers fall away between people this is what was what Nietzsche thought music should be doing yeah uniting us now I know it sounds fanciful but I think it’s a real phenomena and people know it when they feel it and you know wherever when you get that it’s a magical thing and you know you can share it maybe with musicians but once you’re sharing with the audience and they actually giving you the fuel on which you’re running you know people’s we you don’t get any satisfaction from a show a concept that you feel is just going to roll the engine regardless of what you the audience do so for many years I would try and think of things that would engage the audience in different ways you know singing from the farthest seat from the stage were walking through the audience coming in with drums or lights or but I think that sort of barrier can be broken through and it’s much more powerful when there’s some mutual exchange going on nothing that’s been central to life is collaborations you’ve collaborated apps more than any other musician British musician maybe I needed to more than any other musician why why do you say that no I I think I’ve been smart enough you know to work with very good people what we’ve got a clip of one collaboration you did few peers on quite a lot of one of your albums Sinead O’Connor yeah what drew you to her voice um I thought it was very powerful emotional sort of from the gut feeling and that’s what I loved about it let’s let’s horrific lip from in the blood of eating sassy brought so tightly in your hair and all the while the distance grows between you and me I don’t know understand my mother in the murder I’ve been fascinated to learn of these attempts of communicating with other life-forms on the planet I mean I think we share the planet with with intelligent life you know we’ve looking for it out there but we’ve got plenty here and eventually I thought well I’d love to see if some way of them connecting through music and I called a couple of places and the language Research Lab which was then an Atlanta zoo savage Rhambo have been working with bonobo apes said come on down so when about five times and for me it was a life-changing experience and led to another project which we’re trying to get slowly going when we’re not trying to do it slowly but it’s good the interspecies internet to try and allow other minds other than human minds access to the Internet and give them the sort of tools that we have and see what they would do with them and how they would express themselves so it’s that again sounds a little fanciful but we’re very serious about it and we have you know great scientists there’s Diana Reiss Neil Gershenfeld MIT and Vince Cerf who was one of the founders of the Internet and his particular interest is that he’s thinks that it’s ridiculous that we would be the only intelligent life at the cosmos so he expects us to meet aliens one day and if we’ve had no practice learning to communicate with other species we’re starting at a disadvantage but literacy is this rooted in the idea that music is a universal language is that where it starts yeah I mean it’s um I mean what had happened with the bonobos then a couple of people so given them percussion instruments that wasn’t so interesting for me and I thought maybe we could encourage them to sit at the piano keyboard and and then you know they did what a three-year-old would do first and then I asked through sue if they could try playing just one finger and panbanisha you sadly we’ve now lost but she decided to interpret that as two fingers but you’ll see maybe you would let’s let’s look at the clip and we can what happen properly I’m in the room next door which is the sort of kitchen so I’m just improvising about six foot away here she finds the octave yeah so that was like she yeah and she hadn’t had practice on a piano so this was you know I think within the first day that she was exposed to a keyboard and it’s clear you know particularly to musicians that she’s listening really well intently and making distinct choices you know and just that in itself is was mind-blowing and and she knew you know like with any improvisation you can feel whether it’s good or not connecting and she knew that too so on her keyboard in front of her she hit the good sign because she knew she’d done a good job that time it’s amazing we’ve only scratched the surface I don’t feel too bad about this because you know with someone like me too you can only scratch the surface Peter thank you so much my pleasure

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