INTERVIEW | Billy Cobham: „The past never leaves you…It’s a cycle“

billy-cobhamBR: You have been playing with Culture Mix for couple of years. What can you tell me about the band?

Billy Cobham: We’ve been together for seven, eight years. It is the band (laughs)… members… playing steelpan, steel drum Junior Gill, playing guitar Jean-Marie Ecay, keyboards and violin Christophe Cravero, playing bass is Fifi Chayeb and playing percussions Marco Lobo. We call it “Culture Mix” because Junior is English but family is from Trinidad, Jean-Marie Ecay is French but Bask from San Sebastian, Christophe Cravero is from Paris, France; Chayeb is Tunisian and Marco Lobo is from Brazil. And me I’m from Panama, so it’s a mixture of cultures.

BR: On your latest album “Fruit from the Loom” you have re-recorded your old songs like “Spectrum” and “Crosswind”. Why have you decided to revive the past?

Billy Cobham: Because the past never leaves you, you know…It’s a cycle. And for me I go and come and go and come… but when I rearrange my music, it was the idea to show where we were and where are we now with the same music.

BR: You played on Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew” which is considered to be one of the most important albums of jazz rock fusion. How did it influence you?

Billy Cobham: I don’t know. I had such a small part in playing there. I was just another musician involved in the music that Miles was creating and directing in that time. I personally can’t say exactly how it affects my playing, I know that it does in some small way or maybe it is bigger even than I know, but not consciously, so I don’t know.

BR: Why did you leave Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1971?

Billy Cobham: I did not leave them, I was fired. Big difference (laughs). I thought we were continuing and then I found out that I was replaced along with the other members of the band. Except for John, he was the leader. He replaced us all. That’s why you had immediately after that people like Jean-Luc Ponty involved in that band.

BR: How come you came back in 1984?

Billy Cobham: I was hired again (laughs). Very simple. In 1984. I was hired to perform with the band and play a concert tour. I ended up performing on the recording, the proportion of the recording and I was never included in the concert tour.

BR: You’re the instructor of this years drum workshop. What is your approach?

Billy Cobham: First thing is to find out who the people are, what their level of proficiency is, how well they play. And then to be open to suggestions… giving the suggestions and receiving information from them. That’s the whole idea of trying to help them progress.

BR: This is the second time you’re playing here in Nis. Did you see the town?

Billy Cobham: Not very much, no, because I’m working. I’m going from interviews to street fair and next thing I know I have to prepare for my concert.

BR: Can you compare Nisville to other jazz festivals you played on around the globe?

Billy Cobham: Yes I could… I’m trying to think of a good one. I would say… maybe in Gratz, Austria.