Antonio Jesús Reyes, a new career in a new town
First of all, happy New Year sistren and brethren of the Church. These wishes do not only come from the Reverend but also from our mutual point of adoration, our nadir and zenith, Ms. Iggy Rose. With every contact she proves to us that she still is extremely exuberant, hilariously silly and all together daft as a brush (all used in a non-pejorative way).
Today, the 6th of January, is a special day as well for Sydaholics all over the world and it rejoices us that Iggy has been a part in the life of the diamond. Our wish to you, dear Iggy, is not to change a bit, because wherever you walk rainbows magically appear. We take the small inconvenience for granted that our ears are ringing when we lay down the phone. Keep on shouting to the world, Iggy, not only your anger, but your happiness and joy as well.
Somewhere near the end of 2010 the Reverend was invited by the webmaster of the Spanish Syd Barrett blog Solo en las Nubes (Alone in the Clouds) to produce a so-called auto-interview. You can read the original Spanish version of this slightly ludicrous interview at Autoentrevista - Felix Atagong: "Un hombre sincero" and an English version was later published at the Church (Felix Atagong: an honest man).
So now it is about time for La Sagrada Iglesia de Iggy La Esquimal to return the favour. Antonio Jesús Reyes from the Spanish Syd Barrett blog has finally found the time to add his version of the truth and nothing but the truth.
Antonio Jesús Reyes, a new career in a new town
Tell us about your Syd-Floyd connection. How did you end up living in Cambridge?
This is a short but complex story. I met an English girl in Seville whose mother was moving to Cambridge and I ended up going out with her… no, not with the mother! So, we decided at some point to move from Seville to Cambridge although I did not know what to expect.
Things began to get surreal when we went to the first City Wakes concert (2008). I was introduced to Rosemary Brent, and after the show we had a drink (without Rosemary). In the pub I introduced my girlfriend’s mother to a good friend of Syd, who had played the drums in Those Without (I remembered his name from a picture I saw years ago).
From that moment on, and for the rest of my stay there, these two years were sydbarretianly amazing. I nearly met every Cambridge mafia member in town. Two years after the end of it all, I’m still realizing that I was often ignorant of the fact that I met these people who had been part of Syd's and the early Floyd’s life.
So coincidentally Stephen Pyle almost became my father-in law. He told me lots of anecdotes. We talked about films, paintings, music and his work for The Rolling Stones, Queen, U2… I miss him most of all.
I worked with him at The City Wakes. One day he introduced me to Jenny Spires at Mick Brown’s and it was only after thirty minutes of conversation that I realized that I had heard that name before. She was quite kind to me and has an extraordinary good taste in music.
The Cambridge experience was incredible. My literary idol, Laurence Sterne, ‘studied’ where David Bowie played in the 70’s and… ...well, there are too many stories to tell them all.
My relationship finished some time after returning to Seville. Let me quote John Milton’s Paradise Lost, I can affirm that it is "better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven". My Cambridge bonds are mostly cut off now but I still appreciate the friendship forgetting they were connected to one of my idols.
How did you begin to listen to Syd-Floyd music?
I hope I can tell you in a chronological way:
First: in 1994 I was watching a documentary about the career of Pink Floyd. I remember someone saying something like “If we could make it without X, we can make it without Y”. I was reading or writing something while watching it, so I was not paying much attention. First there came a lot of noise from the TV speakers, which annoyed me… and then… a piece of music that was enchanting. It was A Saucerful of Secrets, performed live in Pompeii. It was a life-changing experience forgotten in a minute or two. I was a teenager, and it was summer, please, understand me.
Second: one day while listening to the radio, I heard a song that really touched me. It was 'Wish You Were Here’. I completely misunderstood every single thing the radio show host said and thought it was written by Syd Barrett.
Third: in a record store I found the Crazy Diamond Box. I quickly read the info and I remembered all I seemed to know about him. There was a mistake in the price as well as one of those boxes was priced 1700 pts instead of 7100 pts. You don't have to guess which one I bought.
When I got home, and listened to it, I did not like it at all. With the passing of time (a year or longer!!) I tried to listen to Opel and found that it was so different to the stuff I was usually listening to, that I got hooked.
By chance, a friend of mine lent me The Piper at the Gates of Dawn… I began to listen to Pink Floyd, the band founded by the Opel guy. At the time, I was studying English Language and Literature, so Syd was a source of knowledge here (Lewis Carrol, Hilaire Belloc, Edward Lear, James Joyce…).
Wontcha tell us about your blog?
Why not? It all began when I posted Here I Go, sung by David Gilmour on a radio show. I noticed this post got some visitors and as it was the only Syd blog in the Spanish language on this side of the universe, I decided to do something about it.
After some entries I added a device to translate the entries into other languages. I thought that other people would be interested in some of the posts like, for example, the ones offering essential and very good bootlegs. I even dared to share a home-made compilation of the Have You Go It Yet? series. Things are growing rapidly and news is becoming the core of the blog.
I also wanted to share things that haven’t got a place in the project I’m working on, that is, a book about Syd… which is going to be a quite hard task to do. Time & money, apart from Pink Floyd songs, are quite annoying. I cannot say much about this yet. There’s always the bittersweet risk of giving up, so don’t hold your breath, or you’ll suffocate. I’m trying to do my best, I swear.
The self-interview section is my favourite. I got Duggie Fields, some Belgian Reverend and Kiloh Smith to interview themselves for the blog and others are in the pipeline. It is not easy as you run the risk of being misinterpreted when choosing the subjects. Basically there are only two rules:
1. Have fun.
2. Free subject matters.
What's next? It was a surprise when I found that www.sydbarrett.org.es was free… so my blog points to this URL as well. One problem is that my computer skills are limited. I need designers for the bootlegs and layout artists for things unseen in the sydbarretian world. The number of visits is high, the collaborators are scarce. The pipe of the pipeline is going to explode.
Why Syd Barrett?
His music works like a hyperlink (a thing he has in common with David Bowie). It’s because of him that I got to know some writers I didn’t study at the university. His musical influences are quite rich. By scratching the surface you end up knowing lots of amazing musicians and albums like Zappa’s Freak-Out, Love’s Forever Changes, the works of Kevin Ayers, and The Byrds to mention a few. It made me fully appreciate other genres like psychedelic folk and blues. Syd's friend, Stephen Pyle, showed me to appreciate blues. He used to play Bo Diddley (whom he met once!), John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy...
With Barrett, I learned to see what’s behind a song. Some of those, for reasons we know, were under-produced (sometimes, even less than that) and yet they have reached a kind of status that will make them last forever. You know they are quite good songs even without a proper production, even with a quite imperfect performance.
Today, we see the contrary. No matter the means musicians have today, most of contemporary music seems to suffer from a dance song fate and their perishability is faster than the yoghourts in your fridge. There must be something extremely special in those under-produced Syd Barrett tracks, rougher than demos, that makes them what they are.
Tell us about your favorite music.
Recently, I’ve been listening to Kevin Ayers a lot, and The The. Also The Beach Boys are on my mp3 player. They are something special. The sound and the songs of The Beach Boys have a special quality which makes this music a kind of healing experience, the kind of help we need to survive modern life. …The Manics, Travis, Maximilian Hecker, Sun Ra… Spanish singer-songwriters like Nacho Vegas and Diego Vasallo… Good old rock and roll, like Chuck Berry, Jerry-Lee Lewis, Elvis…
You could say I’m a kind of David Bowie connoisseur. I collaborated on Nicholas Pegg’s The Complete David Bowie proposing some ideas I found interesting. I strongly recommend it. Bowie’s 1967 album is very avant-garde, and very ironic.
In general, I like artists who are innovative, like producer Joe Meek, and those who can transform the past into something completely different or revive it in a new and exciting way, like Suede.
What do you think about the recent Pink Floyd re-re-re-re-re-releases?
Those are not my cup of tea. These boxes have so much useless gimmicks and several music stuff is simply repeated! The unreleased material of every album could have been compiled in the way of The Beatles Anthology and then everyone would have been satisfied. The Pink Floyd vaults seem not to be very deep, but the treasures are so hard to get!
I understand that EMI intends to make business, however, at the same time and paradoxically, they don't make their customers happy. So what’s this for? To get cash and disappoint people? It makes people eager to download the stuff instead of buying it.
I don’t need a Piper / Saucerful Immersion set. I don’t want those marbles, I don’t need a scarf, I don’t use placeholders (I got plenty of them during my stay in Belgium). I haven’t got a Blue-ray player. In summary, I don’t want to create more needs… Do ya?
Would Barrett have become a second Bowie if only?
The otherness in Barrett could have derived into something different from Bowie or the other way round, but never would he have become a second Bowie. They would have provoked some kind of artistic turmoil in the best of the senses. Along with Brian Eno, both are (were) aware that "music is where you can crash your plane and walk away”. Songs like Arnold Layne, so childlike, or Astronomy Domine, with such an exciting and new sound, were made with a goal. Bowie and Barrett are the kind of artists carrying that old Monty Python sentence: “And now… for something completely different”. That’s what Barrett did most of the times. Every Syd tune was different.
Best memories of England?
It was all quite surreal. I remember walking on the grass of Grantchester Meadows, having coffee in The Cambridge Corn Exchange, and feeling like in a dream I had never dreamed, just because I was there by chance. I visited every place I had read about in the books, like St. Margaret Square. I also did the same in London, the three times I went there.
I arrived there in a sort of tele-transportation. I did not have the time to think of the things I knew I would see there. And surprises came in little by little; I did not know the grass of King’s College was the one mentioned on ‘Brain Damage’, for example.
I remember working for The City Wakes, restoring old magazine adverts for concerts and saying to myself… “What is this where I’m in??!!”. The result was part of a collage by Stephen Pyle (again), and it ended up on the wall of a jazz bar (and part of a postcard collection).
But life was not always easy for an immigrant. All in all it was a beautiful and wonderful bitter-sweet experience.
Apart from the aforementioned people… who else did you meet?
I met Storm Thorgerson during one of his exhibitions. I had some kind of problem with him. I had a City Wakes poster with me he made the artwork for and he put his autograph on it. I was going to leave, when he said “you have to pay 20 pounds”. I said I did not have a penny! And he let me go in a… special way.
I had the chance to meet Mick Rock, but I did not make the effort to avoid another disappointment. Steven Pyle and Mick met… and… during a chat in a bar, they removed a Syd poster from a wall and Mick dedicated it to me. Stephen said he was a very nice person, to which I thought… “****!”, it was like winning the lottery without having a coupon. A good summary of my stay.
What more can you say?
Not much. Visit Solo En Las Nubes using the translation tool or read it like that in order to improve your Spanish. There are a lot of surprises to come, not only for the Spanish speakers. Cool compilations, some material to read (in English too) and lots of music recommendations.
In the meantime, enjoy music.
© 2012 Antonio Jesús Reyes, Solo en las Nubes. Pictures courtesy of
Antonio Jesús Reyes. Notes & Introduction : the Holy Church of Iggy the
Inuit. Translation mistakes, typos and all possible errors are entirely
the responsibility of the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit.
♥ Iggy ♥ Libby ♥