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Brainville Biography

Who are Brainville? You might well ask.

  • Daevid Allen

Whichever way you look at it, Daevid Allen is one of the most interesting and enigmatic characters in music. An Australian, he was working in a Melbourne book shop when he discovered the writings of the ‘Beat Generation’, and his life was never the same again. He travelled to Europe in search of the Beatnik ‘nirvana’ in 1960, and found himself in a Paris hotel, living in a room that had only very recently before been vacated by poet Allen Ginsberg and his life partner, fellow poet Peter Orlovsky. Here he met Terry Riley who introduced the young Allen to the world of free jazz and the notorious William Burroughs.

Armed with these revolutionary new ideas, he travelled across the channel to England where he formed The Daevid Allen Trio featuring his landlord’s 16-year-old son Robert Wyatt on drums. A few years later in 1966 they formed the legendary Soft Machine with Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge.

After a European Tour in 1967 Allen was refused entry to the UK because of a visa irregularity, and moved back to France where he became involved in the famous student insurrection of 1968. He then moved to Deya, Majorca, where he and partner Gilly Smyth began to assemble a loose-knit collection of musicians who began recording under the name Gong.

Daevid, both with and without various versions of Gong, has produced a peerless body of work encompassing folk, jazz, rock and prog (often all of these things and more at once), and his musicianship and compositional skills are legendary.

  • Kramer

His partner on these legendary recordings is Mark Kramer (known usually by his surname), who is almost equally as legendary as Daevid but in a completely different genre. He was a member of New York Gong and a band called Bongwater, and toured with many famous acts (usually playing bass guitar) including The Fugs and The Butthole Surfers.

In the late 1980s he was sound co-ordinator on Penn and Teller’s Broadway shows, and later formed a band with Penn Jilette. He started his own Shimmy Disc records, and in 1992 Kramer sold his Noise New York recording studio and moved just across the Hudson River where he'd found a house going into foreclosure with a state-of-the-art 24-track recording studio built in. He dubbed the studio Noise New Jersey, and continued to produce recordings. One of his albums that year was Who’s Afraid with Daevid Allen and three years later the duo followed it up with another album, Hit Men.

Unsurprisingly when one considers that these records are a collaboration between two artistes for which the words ‘idiosyncratic’ is an understatement, the music they made together is impossible to categorise and even more impossible to describe.

  • Hugh Hopper

Hugh Hooper started his musical career in 1963 as the bass player with the aforementioned Daevid Allen Trio alongside drummer Robert Wyatt.  There can be few other free jazz bands of the era with such a stellar line-up. Unlike other legendary ensembles such as The Crucial Three (a Liverpool band from 1977, which featured three musicians who were to go on to enormous success) the Daevid Allen Trio actually played gigs and made recordings.

All three members ended up in Soft Machine, which together with Pink Floyd, was the ‘house band’ of the burgeoning ‘Underground’ movement, which tried so hard to turn British cultural mores upside down for a few years in the latter half of the 1960s.  (Hopper and Wyatt had also been in another legendary Canterbury band called The Wilde Flowers).  Hopper stayed with Soft Machine (for whom he was initially the group’s road manager) until 1973 playing at least one session with Syd Barrett along the way.

During his tenure the band developed from a psychedelic pop group to an instrumental jazz rock fusion band, all the time driven by the lyrical bass playing of Hugh Hopper.

After leaving the band he worked with many pillars of the jazz rock fusion scene such as Isotope, Gilgamesh, Stomu Yamashta and Carla Bley.  He also formed some co-operative bands with Elton Dean who had also been in Soft Machine, and made some excellent and demanding records with Kramer. No, not the bloke from Seinfeld with the silly haircut. Aren’t you paying attention?

  • Pip Pyle

Pyle joined Phil Miller, a friend from kindergarten, and Phil's brother Steve, in forming Bruno's Blues Band, which rapidly evolved into Delivery. However, Pyle left the band in 1970 after arguing with singer Carol Grimes. He briefly played in blues band Chicken Shack and Steve Hillage's band Khan.

In 1971 drummer Robert Wyatt asked Pyle to play instead of him on one track of Daevid Allen's solo album Banana Moon. From this, Pyle joined Allen in Gong. While only in the band for eight months, Pyle plays on both Camembert Électrique and Continental Circus. Pyle was replaced by Laurie Allan, but rejoined Gong for a period in the 1990s.

In 1972 Pyle worked with Paul Jones (who had been singing with Manfred Mann), before founding Hatfield and the North with the Miller brothers in 1972. Steve Miller was soon replaced in the band and the line-up eventually settled on Pyle, Phil Miller, Richard Sinclair and keyboardist Dave Stewart. Hatfield and the North was released in 1974, while a second album, The Rotters' Club, followed the next year. As well as drumming, Pyle wrote many of the band's lyrics.

Following Hatfield, Pyle joined Miller and Stewart in National Health as well as playing in other projects, including Soft Heap with Hugh Hopper, Elton Dean and Alan Gowen. He also played on Neil's Heavy Concept Album (1984), a spin-off from the television series The Young Ones with which Stewart was involved.

So how did these four guys, for whom the word ‘maverick’ was probably coined, come to work together? Well, it was all down to Kramer. He had made a couple of albums each with Daevid and Hugh, and with the benefit of hindsight it seems that it was always going to be only a matter of time before the three of them worked together. And when they did, who was the most obvious choice as a drummer?

When you put it like that it all seems remarkably logical dunnit? JON DOWNES

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