Thursday, 31 March 2011

Music Questionnaires No 15 - Jude Cowan

Jude Cowan is an artist who resists categorisation. As a singer/songwriter her work ranges from ukelele accompanied neo music hall like Doodlebug Alley to Hammond organ backed arrangements of William Blake, via electronic improvisation. On top of this she is poet (most recent book, the extraordinary "For The Messengers") and a unique blogger at where many entries are vivid pages from her sketchbook...

Who are you?

Jude Cowan

Where are you based?


What instruments do you play?

Voice, keyboard, uke / guitar, many others naively

What is your current musical project?

Reuters Improvisations - improvised works on Reuters Television News stories (I'm an archivist for RTV)
Foulkestone, a duo with Richard Sanderson
The Boilermakers, a duo with Matt Armstrong

Name a record that had a big impact on you in your youth
Exodus by Bob Marley
Vltava by Smetana
The Wombles by Mark Batt

What was the last music you bought?

The Big I Am's new CD, 'Collecting Skies' on Folkwit
The Big I Am are friends of mine and I like to buy music to support friends and fellow musicians. The last CD I bought not by a friend or at a launch but just because I wanted it was 'Spoils' by Alasdair Roberts on Drag City. That was a while ago now.

List three records by artists we all should hear:

The Ethiopiques records (Swinging Addis - Number 8)
The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (Incredible String Band)
The Instant Monty Python CD Collection

Describe a live performance that had a big effect on you:

Baaba Maal when he came over first and played the Hackney Empire in the very late 1980s.

Your favourite live venue:

I like performing at odd events rather than set up clubs. But a good sound is nice.
For smaller, intimate venues I have enjoyed playing at The Gallery Cafe recently as it has a nice stage backdrop and I like the split stage at the 12 Bar, with the audience above and below you - and I like singing with the choir in rather lovely churches - I enjoyed doing the Monteverde Vespers in the Holy Redeemer church in Exmouth Market as it has such an immersive reverb.

What’s the strangest place you have performed live?

I used to sing saluang music in Sumatra Barat. The audience would pay 500 rupiah a song. The local musicians would take me and we would tour the villages around Bukittinggi. Best time was after Ramadan as there were lots of celebrations, bad month for gigs, Ramadan, not the culturally done thing. Anyway it wasn't really strange I guess, but it was to me, not being from there.

Tell me about a great experience as a performer.

I enjoyed singing and writing on Ray Davies's songwriting course in Sheepwash, Devon - we did a nice performance of a musical we wrote in a couple of days based on Thelma and Louise. I like the immediacy of writing then performing straight away.

Is improvisation important to you?

Yes, my current project 'Reuters Improvisations' is very improv based. As is my other duo, The Boilermakers, with Matt Armstrong which is based more on Eastern European traditions and other world musics, all brought in to a folk and funk mix

Name three heroes/heroines:

Rumer Godden
V S Naipaul
D H Lawrence

Favourite city?

London - absolutely my favourite city of all time

A couple of favourite books?
A House for Mr Biswas - V S Naipaul
Kingfishers catch Fire - Rumer Godden
Women in Love - D H Lawrence

A couple of favourite films?
The General - Buster Keaton
Way Out West - Laurel and Hardy
Watership Down (1978)
Pathfinder (1987)

A favourite website?

An illustration blog I like - which has brilliant illustrations/design using animals from all around the world

What makes you laugh?
Performing live

Is there a pop song you feel sentimental about, and can you name it?
Exodus - I remember standing on the lawn in front of my house in Bolton, the front lawn, a strange piece of ground with its raised camber and hearing the music drift over the air while I thought about Ladybridge and the big world out there

Thanks Jude

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