Interview / Charlie Seaward / Man Jumping

Man Jumping started life as The Lost Jockey. Four friends with a shared interest in American minimalism, performing pieces by Steve Reich and Philip Glass in London galleries, back in 1977. The collective organically expanded to eventually contain 30 members, before they trimmed down to Man Jumping`s more manageable septet: Andy Blake, Martin Ditcham, Orlando Gough, John Lunn, Glyn Perrin, Charlie Seaward, and Schaun Tozer. Simon Limbrick later replacing Ditcham, who left to join Sade. This streamlining saw the band take that interest in “systems music” in a more pop direction. When interviewed they now cited Zappa, James Blood Ulmer, and Bach. A demo caught the ear of avant-pop icon Bill Nelson, who signed them to his label, Cocteau. The resulting album, Jumpcut, engineered by Philip Bagenal and produced by Mike Hedges, was released at the end of 1984. A record full of light and playfulness, it moves between Reich`s Music For 18 Musicians and thunder-thumbed tropical cocktail jazz-funk like a more eclectic Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Or Midori Takada`s Mkwaju Ensemble after a few mojitos. Tiny repeats of cello, flute, keys (the group featured 5 keyboard players), and sax, all dancing around, in and out, of one another, to tumbling ECM-like percussion. They remixed the track Aerotropics for a 12” single. Its military snares, uplifting fanfare, and Jesus-On-The-Payroll-esque piano made it a late 80s balearic cover up / favourite.  Which is how Man Jumping came to my attention. Emotional Rescue have now picked up the LP, plus that remix, for reissue – enlisting folks like Khidja and Bullion for some further reworks. But before I get to those, let’s have a chat with one of Man Jumping`s founders, Charlie Seaward. 

Where are you from? 

Man Jumping was London based. Now, we are spread from Vancouver to Cadiz. Personally, I live in Oxford.

What were your musical backgrounds? 

Martin Ditcham was and still is a very successful session drummer and percussionist covering rock, blues and jazz. The others, a mix of contemporary music playing and writing.

Had you had any formal training? 

Yes, we all had. Glyn, John and Schaun read music at various universities. Orlando, Andy and I, were a mix of school and music colleges.

Had you been in bands before? 

We had all been in bands or music groups of some kind. We were mostly heading away from a classical background towards something less structured.

How did you get introduced to the idea of systems music, and the music of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich? 

Orlando had been to Steve Reich’s first UK gig. Orlando had a collection of cocktail style Eavestaff pianos and began writing music for 6 pianos. He started Lost Jockey as a collection of 6 piano players to play this music. I was one of the invitees – no audition required as far as I can remember. We supplemented Orlando’s music at live performances, initially in art galleries, with pieces by Reich and Glass.

Can you tell me about The Lost Jockey? How did that group morph into Man Jumping? 

Without any prior agreement or planning, Lost Jockey grew from a fixed 6-piece into a loose semi-classical orchestra playing notated parts for music being provided from an increasing number of composers. At a certain point, some of us concluded that the original 6-piece model worked better. Hence the start of Man Jumping, which comprised 6 of the Lost Jockey regulars plus Martin Ditcham, who was a friend of mine. Man Jumping had a very different agenda, which was to create something away from the contemporary “classical” model – something which could work as dance music, in the widest sense.

How did you meet and sign up with Bill Nelson? Were you a fan of his music? 

Lost Jockey made an album with producer John Leckie at Abbey Road. John had worked regularly with Bill and with Be Bop Deluxe. He very sweetly passed us on to Bill, knowing that Bill had started his own record label, Cocteau Records. Am I a fan of Bill? Yes. Always was. He is a delightful and creative man. I can’t remember now why we didn’t work with John Leckie on Jumpcut, I suspect that he was simply too busy, if you look at his output during that period.

Were there any other groups making similar music to yourselves?

We weren’t aware of anyone trying to cross the NY minimalists with world music in order to produce club music. And they may have been smart not to try.

Did you listen to any artists on ECM? 

Yes, I think we all listened to a wide range of ECM output, Steve Reich himself, obviously, Pat Metheny Band and many others.

Did you have any interaction with Simon Jeffes and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra?

Not that I am aware of. I recall that one of the Penguin Cafe worked as a producer for some of Bill Nelson’s solo recordings but that`s the only tenuous connection I know, but I could be completely wrong about that.

Did you play a lot of gigs? Were there any particularly memorable ones? 

We played as a band most frequently on tour with dance companies – London Contemporary Dance, Second Stride. Memorable Man Jumping gigs? The opening of the Piazza in Covent Garden, a night at Ronnie Scott’s and a couple of shows at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

What musical changes did you undergo between Jumpcut and World Service? To my ears the latter record is less jazz-funk meets classical minimalism and more the “folk” of groups like Les Negresess Vertes? What would have influenced both records? 

Working at Eastcote with Philip Bagenal and Mike Hedges was a bit of an eye opener for us. Philip bulit the studio by hand and managed it, and engineered  there for nearly 40 years. While not a member of Man Jumping he had a big impact on the music we made. They were both quite unconventional. Jumpcut was recorded in what – looking back – was the last golden period of analogue technology. Philip and Mike were quite cavalier in their attitude towards what we had written and to what we`d recorded, often challenging us to be more experimental. This approach, coupled with Martin’s dexterity, was fundamental in helping to arrive at the sound world which was created. Philip trained as an architect and sees the arc of music in quite structural terms and insisted that we did as well.

By the time we`d finished Jumpcut we were starting to have an understanding of what could be achieved in a recording studio. I think that World Service reflects this. It feels more evolved, the material is made to work more effectively, ideas are not wasted. The other significant change was that Martin was not available as he was on a world tour with Sade, and percussion duties were taken by Simon Limbrick, with Bosco D’Oliviera and Dawson Miller. Great players all, but different in their own ways from Martin and this changed the way some of the tracks feel.

On his website Orlando describes the sessions for World Service as argumentative. Can you go into details? 

We were starting to work with early digital technology. How this impacted on the way we wanted to record and sound was a subject of some debate. Some tracks reflect this dichotomy more than others.

How did you meet Alexander Balanescu? What is he like to work with? 

Alex had played in the Michael Nyman band. Lost Jockey had done one or two gigs with them. I think Orlando may have written some music for a dance company and worked with him. He’s a brilliant musician, very quick at picking up what is required. He didn’t spend long with us, one track, very few takes and then he was gone.

Can you tell me more about the bands work for theatre and dance? 

We worked with LCDC and Second Stride on music which we had written. Orlando was well connected with that world and wrote music for various other contemporary dance companies before, during, and after Man Jumping as well as working with many theatre companies. Schaun, Glyn and John have all written for dance companies.

Did you know that the track Aerotropics was big on the early UK acid house / balearic scene? Was it a dance-floor hit at the time of its release? 

NO! I know that some DJs now use Aerotropics and In The Jungle, it`s one of the reasons we managed to get Khidja and Bullion to do their remixes for us. We had considerable interest in our original 12″ mixes but Bill’s manager failed to pay the company promoting the record at the time and it never had a chance to break. I`d be interested to hear more about that!

Did dance music impact what you were doing? Did you go out to clubs dancing? If so which ones? 

I think we listened to the club mixes that were being released at the time. There seemed to be a much greater freedom in what the clubs would play – the lack of a vocalist didn’t pose any problems. In retrospect, we should perhaps of persisted in this, given how that area of music developed.

Do you have a favourite from the new remixes, and if so, why?  

I love all of the remixes for different reasons. We`ve been so fortunate to have such a galaxy of talented musicians offering to reimagine these pieces. Not an easy task. You have to bear in mind that the stems were taken from 2-inch, 24-track tapes. We didn’t have any quantizing facility, the playing was the best that we could do, but doesn’t have the accuracy that remixers working today would expect. Remixing Man Jumping takes time. It is interesting that our remixers are based in London, Oxford, Lisbon, Berlin and NYC. A fair refection of the times now but a world away from the market we were trying to operate within.

When and why did the band break up? 

The band finished in 1988. There was a lack of support from the record industry, the internet hadn’t been invented, and we couldn’t find a large enough audience to support the project.

What did you do next? 

John Lunn, Schaun Tozer, Orlando Gough and Glyn Perrin have worked as composers in film, TV and theatre. Martin Ditcham continues to work as a session musician – he’s better connected than Huawei 5G – Andy Blake is an author and academic and I returned to the law.

Are you still in touch with the rest of the band? Are you all still making music? 

Yes, we are all in touch, and all working, but independently.

You can order a copy of Man Jumping`s Jumpcut, and pre-order those remixes, directly from Emotional Rescue

 

 

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