Legendary producer, label boss and dubmeister to The ORB, the one and only YOUTH, reveals the people, places and art who light his fire
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with some incredibly talented artists, all of who have taught me valuable lessons about myself and how to achieve peak experiences in my art and life, so to choose one is very hard, but I’ll have to go for Paul McCartney.
“Paul has realised his genius many times and yet he remains very down to earth. I’ve learnt so many things from him over the last 25 years as well as working alongside him in the Fireman, but here’s just one quick illustration, a lesson on how to overcome your resistance to doing the work and how to just get on with it.
“I once asked Paul when the penny dropped for him, when he first realised he was able to do anything he liked in whatever discipline. Of course, he not only writes songs, he also composes symphonies, paints and writes poetry. He remembered when he was in William de Kooning’s studio in New York in the late 1960s, more about him in a bit. De Kooning was painting a very large, pale abstract and Paul asked him what it was. The artist replied, ‘Kinda looks like a sofa to me’. Sometimes the best plan is to have no plan. One colour leads to another, one sound to another. The important thing is to keep going. Clock in every day and do the work. Be an artist.”
“I’m into the more philosophical writers, James Joyce, Osho, along with lots of poetry. Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney are current obsessions. One book that really shook me to the core was Hermann Hesse’s ‘Journey To The East’. It’s a small book, only 100 or so pages, but it just contains so much wisdom and insight into the human condition, and there’s a fantastic twist at the end. I’ve read it many times and it always leaves me breathless.”
“Cairo and Jamaica are both places I love, but if I had to choose just one, really I’d have to say India. I spent 10 years there, I had a house in Goa and travelled extensively in the north of the country. I went there to get over a broken heart and some jealousy I was feeling at the time, in the late 80s. I did the classic thing, travelling all over the place for six months on my own. And it really worked, cracked me open like a nut. It awakened me to the journey of the soul, a spiritual awakening both inner and outer.
“The inner aspect is meditation and the outer is ritual and ceremony – find the balance, don’t wait until just before you die to realise it. I love the light there, the sounds, the colours and the ancient philosophy is an unbroken legacy going back thousands of years. It still draws me back today.”
THE COMEDY OF JOHN CLEESE
“When it comes to comedy, it’s either Monty Python or ‘Fawlty Towers’. I love that type of black humour. The British do it best, especially John Cleese. You can’t beat the Black Knight sketch from ‘The Holy Grail’ or ‘Life Of Brian’.”
THE ART OF WILLIAM DE KOONING
“Dutch abstract expressionist painter William de Kooning has inspired me deeply. My sister bought me a massive biography of him, which I’m still wading through two years later. He was a huge force who was even ahead of Picasso at one point.
“He was so committed, he painted every day, even on his wedding day. For me, he’s up there with the likes of Picasso, Goya and Francis Bacon. That abstraction gives an emotional response to reality, rather than a literal expression, abstraction tells us more about what’s really going on.”
“I love trees and forests. Having grown up in and around Slough, I used to spend a lot of my childhood playing in Burnham Beeches, which is an ancient forest and national nature reserve. There’s a Druid’s Oak there, which is going on 800 years old.
“If you ask me, there’s nowhere in the world better than a wood in England in June. Give me a forest floor covered in bluebells with the morning light cutting through the groves, that’s as magical as life can get.
Wherever I can, I find a few trees and I’ll meditate among them. The earth and vibes completely reboot my mind and body and within a few minutes I will feel total renewal and clarity.”