Former Porcupine Tree bassist COLIN EDWIN has been involved in various other projects for 25 years. For many Porcupine Tree fans, Colin Edwin was always the smiling man in the background, providing tasteful bass lines and being an indispensable part of the band. On the occasion of the reunion of his ex-colleagues, we would like to take the opportunity to draw attention to the many side projects in which the native Australian was or is involved. On top of that, the 51-year-old also told us what he thinks of the comeback of his three former comrades-in-arms
eclipsed: Twenty-five years ago you started playing in other bands apart from Porcupine Tree. The first was Ex-Wise Heads, which you formed with multi-instrumentalist Geoff Leigh, who was once a member of Henry Cow. How did that come about?
Colin Edwin: I didn't know Geoff before and didn't know anything about him. The summer before I had been in North Africa and bought a gimbri, a Moroccan bass instrument with gut strings. It is very hot and dry in Morocco, and when I returned to England, the instrument could not be tuned. So I took it to a store in Brighton, where I had just moved. It was an ethnic musical instrument store, and the owner knew everything about this instrument, including how to fix the tuning problems. Coincidentally, Geoff lived in the same house as this guy, and when he saw what this guy brought home, he said, "Whose is this? I'd love to meet him!" He then called me out of the blue and asked, "Do you want to meet for a jam?" At that, he taught me a few songs he had learned from Moroccan musicians. That was pretty exciting! Jeff is a very creative person, and whenever I met with him, we had an incredible amount of ideas. But while I have two ideas and work on one, Jeff has ten and sometimes doesn't use any of them! (grins) The whole thing was a good combination, because I sort of helped Jeff focus. Conversely, I also benefited a lot from this collaboration, because he often encouraged me to try different things with the Gimbri, even later when the band was just him and me. We had several percussionists over time, but in the end it was just Geoff, me and a laptop. (laughs) I didn't feel like doing that at first, but Geoff said, "Don't worry about it. We're going to play gigs - you, me and the laptop. We're going to perform with conviction and plan it well. It's going to be great." And he was right: it was a lot of fun! We haven't worked together in a while, but we have lots of unfinished material that we want to finish."
eclipsed: It's been eleven years since your last album "Schemata" was released. Is the long break possibly also connected with the fact that Jeff is ill with dystonia [a neurological movement disorder; note]?
Edwin: Well, for someone suffering from such a debilitating illness, he was really determined to keep working, and he didn't let it drag him down. He managed his illness pretty well, but since then his parents have died and he himself moved far away, so we drifted apart. He then got back together with some Henry Cow musicians and lived in Japan. There was no fight, and we still have some material that I listen to from time to time that sounds pretty good. Maybe we'll finish that one day - you never know with Geoff
eclipsed: I myself find the style of the ex-Wise Heads - this mixture of world music influences and the strong focus on improvisation - very refreshing. Was this band also a kind of creative outlet for you away from Porcupine Tree to explore other styles and cultures?
Edwin: Geoff was always very open about everything and improvised a lot with the ex-Wise Heads. I always looked at it like this: Geoff is the solo voice, and I provide the background, the context. Because Geoff wasn't usually involved in programming or creating the backing tracks. Especially in later years, I would always give him something to work with, and then we would tweak it together. You could also say: I provided the composition and he provided the spontaneity
eclipsed: At the very beginning you still had different percussionists and therefore didn't use programmed parts
Edwin: No, in the beginning it was mainly about jamming and live performances. We had themes that we worked out, and on the first two albums, where there was still a percussionist, you can hear things that we had rehearsed and played live for a long time. The composition process was different back then: more like a band that plays something over and over again and thereby increasingly refines it
eclipsed: After the temporary end of Ex-Wise Heads, you started another duo project with American guitarist Jon Durant, which resulted in the band Burnt Belief. In this constellation you recorded five albums, starting with "Dance Of The Shadow Planets" from 2011. This time, too, world music was the focus, but the tracks sounded more produced or polished and radiated more of a band feeling
Edwin: Well, "Dance Of The Shadow Planets" wasn't really a collaboration yet, but Jon's album. I was invited to do it and got along very well with Jon right away. I went to America for about a week and stayed with him for a few days before we drove to a studio in New Hampshire in the freezing cold. The band consisted of me, percussionist Jerry Leake, violinist Caryn Lin and Jon on guitar. We recorded everything live. About a year later, when the album was already out, it became more of a collaboration, and we sent more ideas back and forth, but still wanted to play everything live. On the later albums, we had Vinny Sabatino on drums and a few other people
eclipsed: Your album "Burnt Belief" (2012) can best be described as a classic.
Edwin: This was actually Burnt Belief's first album and the first real collaboration between us. Jon and I have a very good connection, and we don't discuss much either. In other words, he does his stuff and I do mine, and each understands what the other is doing. Jon is not a classical, blues or rock guitarist, but thinks more in textures. Our approaches fit together very well
eclipsed: The music of Burnt Belief sounds more mysterious than that of Ex-Wise Heads, which is also due to the use of synthesizers and soundscapes.
Edwin: Yes, it sounds more atmospheric. I was more into electronics at the time, changing sounds as well as rhythm programming
eclipsed: Your fifth and to date last album is called "Mutual Isolation" and was released in 2021, and by now you've been playing with Jon for ten years. Why do you find the collaboration with him so fulfilling?
Edwin: With Jon it's like we have a conversation, but sometimes there's silence for months. (laughs) We always contact each other when one of us has an idea to send to the other. Usually within two to three weeks we have seven or eight tracks done. Jon works very fast and is very good at making decisions. That's why it didn't take us very long to do the basics of the last album, which is also true for the other albums. Anyway, we don't hang around! (laughs) ...
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