Excerpts from an interview with Sonny Sharrock and Nicky Skopelitis
Host: John Schaefer, "New Sounds" #711, WNYC-FM
John Schaefer: …Guitarists Sonny Sharrock and Nicky Skopelitis … the two of them have a collaborative CD out entitled "Faith Moves." … It's kind of an unusual pairing, it seems at first, because, I mean, Sonny, you've been playing in the jazz world for so many years, and Nicky, you seem to be coming out of more of the rock end of things. How did you guys first come to play as a duo?
Nicky Skopelitis: That was just an outgrowth of this kind of idea of this project, really, as a duo, to play like that. We've known each other for - what is it -
Sonny Sharrock: -- for a long time.
Nicky Skopelitis: -- fourteen years now? … And I mean, obviously I'd known of Sharrock before I met him. I was a lot younger when I met him [laughs], but anyway, we've known each other -
Sonny Sharrock: I was younger too.
Nicky Skopeltis: He was never young, but no, anyway [laughs] -
Sonny Sharrock: [Laughs] But we always talked about it; we talked about it a long time ago.
Nicky Skopelitis: Yeah, we did. You know, at that, early on it seemed too ambitious to do. Finally it seemed like a very natural and comfortable thing to do, so it got done. … Sonny started doing performances with Material, and we came to know each other well. I mean, I'm humble enough to say that Sharrock was definitely an important person to me as a guitar player and a musician, and as I felt more comfortable as a musician and as knowing him, I guess this record is what happened over time from that.
John Schaefer: The record is called "Faith Moves," and it's guitars and a few assorted -
Nicky Skopelitis: --well, string instruments. There's overdubs, absolutely.
John Schaefer: Mm-hmm. Now, Sonny, you pretty much stick to the electric guitar, right?
Sonny Sharrock: That's all I can play. [Laughs] I have enough trouble with that, you know. What, you thought I played acoustic guitar?
John Schaefer: [Laughs] Well, it just seems most people start that way. … Let's hear a duet. This is something from the record that you guys are gonna play first, first of all, it's called "First of Equals," and is this a collaborative thing, or --?
Nicky Skopelitis: Yeah, it's just sumpin'. Actually, that just happened spontaneously in the studio…
John Schaefer: No charts?
Nicky Skopelitis: … No, even, conversation, actually. We just did that [laughs].
Sonny Sharrock: [Laughs] Never has been.
Nicky Skopelitis: We just did that. Somebody sits around and says, "Well, whatcha gonna do?" and it's a "Well, let's just do it."
John Schaefer: …Well, let's hear it. …Sonny is playing the electric guitar and Nicky's playing the acoustic guitar, and this is a live performance here in the studio on this edition of "New Sounds."
… That piece appears also on their CD release, "Faith Moves," which, Sonny, is one of, what, three or four CDs that you're involved with at the moment?
Sonny Sharrock: Yeah, well, three out at the same time. Really, the last five years have been pretty strange for me, because I went twelve years without making a record at all, and then in the last five years, I've made seven records under my own name. That's pretty strange [laughs].
John Schaefer: …We'll be hearing something from "Highlife" a little bit later, and we'll be hearing something from a great new record called "Ask the Ages" next. "Faith Moves" is a little different because it's not a touring band, I would assume.
Nicky Skopelitis: …There's a possibility of doing some gigs.
Sonny Sharrock: Possibility of us doing some gigs together, yeah.
John Schaefer: Hmm. If you do this, Nicky, you would presumably bring all these other instruments, these lutes and stuff.
Nicky Skopelitis: I'd bring a lot of -
Sonny Sharrock: You're not gonna bring all those things, hmm?
Nicky Skopelitis: Not all those things, no. I -
Sonny Sharrock: Just some of them.
Nicky Skopelitis: -- I'd bring, oh, various twelve-strings tuned differently -
Sonny Sharrock: 'Cause you have to carry them, you know.
John Schaefer: …Let's listen to a little bit of this album "Ask the Ages," which, Sonny, is just an incredible lineup that you've got here.
Sonny Sharrock: Yeah, that's like a superstar band, right? Elvin Jones, Pharoah Sanders, and Charnett Moffett. That's quite a band.
John Schaefer: Mm-hmm. Did you actually write most of the tunes for that?
Sonny Sharrock: …Yeah, I wrote all the tunes, like, on the way to the studio, a couple of days; I started writing the songs a couple of days before the date.
John Schaefer: Uh-huh, on the one hand that's gotta be, you know, a little intimidating: You're writing for Pharoah Sanders and -
Sonny Sharrock: Yeah, that was very intimidating.
John Schaefer: But on the other hand, you could hand him just about anything and he'd probably be able to do something with it?
Sonny Sharrock: The problem is would I be able to keep up with these cats? That was [laughs] the problem, you know.
John Schaefer: … Let's hear an excerpt on this edition of "New Sounds." It's called "Ask the Ages," and it's music from Sonny Sharrock.
… And for this final live piece, Nicky, you pick up the electric guitar as well, so this is an all-electric thing.
Nicky Skopelitis: Yeah, it's from the record. … It's from "Faith Moves." It's called "Uncle Herbie's Dance."
John Schaefer: Now, when I asked you before about "First of Equals" and this was just something you did kind of on the spot in the studio, is that how this whole record came about, or did you guys each bring pieces in?
Sonny Sharrock: Well, sometimes. "Uncle Herbie's Dance" is a pretty set piece, and it's different than the way I was doing it onstage, and so I guess once we'd gotten to the studio, if something was set, it changed quite a bit, you know, which is the approach that I would use for the record. Like the three records that I have out now: Each one is different because of the musicians that I'm using and the music that's being played by them. So you bring different things for different music--
John Schaefer: Mm-hmm, or I guess you could bring the … same tune in to three different groups of people, and it would be -
Sonny Sharrock: Yeah, and it would be played totally different - hopefully. It should be.
John Schaefer: …And you've got your touring band as well. We haven't heard from them yet, but we'll get to them shortly. All right, let's get to this final live piece. It's an electric duet, Nicky Skopelitis and Sonny Sharrock.
That's one final live performance here in the studio, and a dangerous piece of music: At various points during the piece, I thought both of you were going to tip over and out of your chairs as you were playing that piece, "Uncle Herbie's Dance" the name of it, a pair of electric guitars played in our studio by Nicky Skopelittis and Sonny Sharrock. And that also appears on the CD "Faith Moves," which turned out kind of well. So are you guys thinking in terms of doing another at some point?
Sonny Sharrock: Well, I don't know if we'd do another duo, but we'll certainly record again together.
Nicky Skopelitis: Absolutely.
Sonny Sharrock: But I don't know that we'd be a duo. You know, no thoughts on what it would be, certainly thoughts on recording again one day, sure.
John Schaefer: Well, it's been how many years that you've been thinking about it and toying with the idea and--?
Sonny Sharrock: Well, this one took fourteen years to come to fructation, so -
Nicky Skopelitis: So we're gonna do another one tomorrow.
Sonny Sharrock: -- fruition.
John Schaefer: Right, tomorrow [laughs].
Sonny Sharrock: Yeah, tomorrow afternoon. Everyone's invited.
John Schaefer: [Laughs] All right. Now, we mentioned, Sonny, your touring band before; we just alluded to it. The third of the three CDs that you've been involved with is an album called "Highlife," and this is yet another group of people, and I have to admit I don't know most of these folks.
Sonny Sharrock: Right, well, yeah, most of 'em are relatively young musicians who, although they've been playing around for quite a while, have yet to, you know, make a major name, I suppose.
John Schaefer: All right, we've got Dave Snider on synthesizer.
Sonny Sharrock: Dave Snider on keyboards and Abe Speller on drums, Lance Carter on drums, and Charles Baldwin on bass.
John Schaefer: Uh-huh. So is it a dual-drumming band?
Sonny Sharrock: Yeah, two drummers. I've been using two drummers for the last five or six years.
John Schaefer: Mm-hmm. In addition to some of your own pieces, there's a set of variations on a tune by Kate Bush, and there's an arrangement of a traditional song, "All My Trials."
Sonny Sharrock: "All My Trials," right. It's a spiritual, I would guess, yeah, and I got it from a Harry Belafonte record, man. …Yeah, Nicky just fell off his stool. But that's where I first heard it, and it's such a pretty song that I always wanted to play it, and I never could find a way to do it. But then it came to me, like, you know, to do it this way. It's written in four-four, but I do it in six, and maybe that's - I'm a strange person.
Nicky Skopelitis: Harry told you to do that.
Sonny Sharrock: Harry told me to do it.
John Schaefer: [Laughs] Ah, all right. Well, let's see how it turns out. This is Sonny Sharrock's CD release "Highlife," and we'll hear "All My Trials" on this edition of "New Sounds."
… Before we conclude, Nicky, Sonny, thanks for coming in and bringing the instruments, and I'm looking forward to your various and sundry projects as they appear. But for the moment, let's round out the show with something else from "Faith Moves," the duo release, and a piece called "Mescalero." Whose is this? Whose composition is this?
Nicky Skopelitis: Kind of happened like that. I think we're both credited on that one.
John Schaefer: Uh-huh, this is another one of those things?
Sonny Sharrock: [Laughs] Yeah. Yeah.
Nicky Skopelitis: If "credited" is the word.
John Schaefer: All right. "Faith Moves" is the name of the disc; it's from Nicky Skopelitis and Sonny Sharrock.
…Hope you've enjoyed our live performances and some of the recordings that we've heard today.
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