Name: Binker Golding
Occupation: Saxophonist, composer, conductor, improviser
Current release: Binker & Moses' Feeding The Machine is out via Gearbox.
If you enjoyed this interview with Binker Golding, visit his official homepage for more information. He is also on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook.
Over the course of his career, Binker has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists, including Moses Boyd, N.O. Moore, and Eddie Prévost.
[Read our Eddie Prévost interview]
[Read our N.O. Moore interview]
When did you first start getting interested in musical improvisation?
About Age 6 or 7. I improvised on the piano before I learnt saxophone at age 8.
Which artists, approaches, albums or performances involving prominent use of improvisation captured your imagination in the beginning?
Recordings of Charlie Parker. It’s very hard for me to remember any others from that time, I was very young.
I enjoyed Jimi Hendrix very much, too, at an early age.
Focusing on improvisation can be an incisive transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?
I’m not sure if I fully understand the question, but my only interest in improvising was the fundamental fact that you could create new music in real time. That’s still the main appeal of it for me.
How would you describe the shift of moving towards an improvisation based practise, both as a listener and a creator?
As a creator, there was no shift for me, as the first thing I’d learnt to do on an instrument was improvise.
This was similar for me as a listener. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t hear improvisation.
The only downside to improvisation as a listener is the fact that the music only lives once, unless its recorded.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to improvisation? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage?
I see myself as an adopted child of the jazz tradition and very much see myself attached to that history out of my own choosing.
The key idea behind my approach is but one; to make the music sound as good as I possibly can whenever I’m playing.
What was your own learning curve / creative development like when it comes to improvisation - what were challenges and breakthroughs?
The biggest breakthroughs were learning the blues scale and how to resolve dominant chords. There are numerous others, like learning how to interact with a band. The list would be very long.
The list would be even longer if I were to list the challenges. I’m still constantly challenged by improvisation. The main challenge being: how to generate original ideas.
Tell me about your instrument and/or tools, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results and your own performance?
My relationship with the saxophone is very strong as I’ve been playing it for 28 years. I know every inch of it.
The most important qualities of a saxophone are whether it's capable of matching the vision of the sound in your head. Also, how it feels in your hands. A badly made saxophone will not help you play well.
However, the individual playing he saxophone is more important in regards to sound production than the instrument itself.
Can you talk about a work, event or performance in your career that's particularly dear to you? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
All of the records I’ve made are very important to me. Some are better than others, but I take pride in them all and they all served a purpose.
The most important would be the most recent two I’ve made; “Feeding the machine” with Moses Boyd and “Dream like a Dogwood wildboy” as a solo artist. They feel special to me because they’re very honest.
The motivation behind those albums is the same as what’s behind all my work – I must do better. I must tell a better story. I don’t know why I’m drawn to working, I just do it.
And I have no idea where my ideas come from. I just dream them up.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?
You both gain and sacrifice in collaboration, which is fine.
It’s almost impossible for me to answer how my identity influences my collaborations as I’d have to step outside myself.
I enjoy collaborating immensely, but I’d say my solo work is far more expressive of my inner self. My solo work is the real me. My collaborations are only part of me.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?
I’m guessing you mean musical material itself? In this case, just the fundamentals of music. Scales, chords, dynamics & rhythm. These four in particular still fascinate me to this day.
I’m still not bored of the basic musical properties and I search for ways to manipulate them every day almost.
Nik Bärtsch reduced the art of musicianship to three principles: 1) Listen! 2) Only play the essentials 3) Make the others sound good. What's your take on this and how do these principles pan out in practise?
Obviously listening is the first, yes.
I don’t believe in the statement “Only play the essentials”. This asks a hidden question: “What is an essential?” An essential will change depending on what style you’re playing in. It will also change depending on the character of the piece. It’s too much of a complex statement to make.
“Make the others sound good” is also fundamentally important, yes. There are a million principles one could list and the funny thing is, some of them would be contradictory.
In a live situation, decisions between creatives often work without words. How does this process work – and how does it change your performance compared to a solo performance?
The process works if a common language is understood. The musicians needn’t have heard each other before. They just need similar references. It makes the process more interesting than solo work. If often contains more life.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? In which way is it different between your solo work and coollaborations?
The ideal state for creativity is having a clear mind and no other impending tasks on the horizon. A clear mind and a clear day. It’s the same with solo work or collaborative work I find.
In a way, improvisations remind us of the transitory nature of life. What, do you feel, can music and improvisation express and reveal about life and death?
Yes. Any sophisticated style of music is capable of doing this. I’m a big believer in this.
I think fundamentally this is why I play music. I have something to say about life. I just usually do it through improvisation.