Free Music?

No, for once I’m not talking about free-improvisation.  But rather this story that’s appeared online today that some professional musicians are being asked to play for free as part of the Olympics this summer.  Obviously this is quite a worrying state of affairs if it’s true, not least because of the fact that Arts Council money is being used for the Cultural Olympiad, and the Arts Council make a point of paying people properly for the work that they’re doing.

I’ve often been of the mindset that there is a time and a place to play for free, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I never did that (that’s a separate blog post I think…).  But there is a big difference between trying out new material in a pub in Manchester to friends and playing at the world’s biggest sporting event.

I’m sure there’s more to be revealed, not least a response from the Olympics Committee themselves, but in the meantime I would encourage people to respond in the same vein as this guy on Craigslist that did the rounds online last year…


As it often does, something that Corey Mwamba said on Twitter got me thinking…



A few times recently it’s been noted with a small amount of surprise how music with improvisation in has been well-received by “non-jazz” crowds. A common reaction to early Beats & Pieces gigs was “I don’t normally like jazz, but this was great!” Indeed, my girlfriend Toni said the same thing about Led Bib, Polar Bear and more (to the point where I think she might just have to accept that she likes jazz…).

Aside: What I don’t want is to turn this into a debate on what “jazz” means. So if you think Led Bib, or Evan Parker, or whoever aren’t playing jazz, then please replace the word “jazz” with the phrase “music that heavily features improvisation” and read on…

Moving on, this isn’t a new revelation by any means, but there’s definitely a lot to be said for playing music to audiences who aren’t expecting to hear music played a certain way. The trick is how to get in front of different types of audience. On paper it’s quite difficult, and I’ve certainly struggled with how to pitch certain projects that are on the cusp between genres, which unfortunately is where I find the most interesting material to play.

Chris Sharkey has said that in the early days of Trio VD and Lima, rather than play the established local jazz gigs, they started to hook up with the Leeds hardcore scene, and play gigs with those bands, based on a shared energy rather than preconceived notions of genre.

Likewise, in Manchester, a brilliant new night has sprung up run by the Magic Hat Ensemble, featuring three different acts from three different backgrounds. From their website: “The Mix-Up kicked off in October 2011 as a way to celebrate the diversity of Manchester’s music scene without being tied to a style or genre. Drop the idea of scene, genre and demographic, and simply enjoy great live music and good food in a positive and relaxed atmosphere.” And it really works, there’s been a great buzz about the gigs, and last month they even managed to put an entire big band together on the day for visiting composer Paolo Dias Duarte (sounded awesome if you’re wondering).

So maybe the moral is ‘get off your backside and do it Anton’, or maybe the moral is we should all stop caring about genre. Having said that, as a promoter I know genres can be helpful for targeting interested people. I don’t know what the answer is, any thoughts on the subject would, as always, be very gratefully received. Any places you’ve found unsuspecting listeners quite welcoming/any good cross-genre projects you’ve seen or been involved in and so on.

The Magic Hat Mix-Up takes place on the first Thursday of every month in the Klondyke Club, Levenshulme, Manchester and only costs you a fiver. 5th April is the next one.

Unthanks Day2/3

I neglected to post a blog entry on Tuesday due to my jazz-promoting duties at Sandbar. I’d planned to sneak out early and record my thoughts, but I got side-tracked watching guitarist Dan Brew be better and younger than me…

So, Day 2 was the first full day.  We spent the morning singing a cappella sea shanties and old English folk tunes (which was filmed as well, a clip turning up on BBC Breakfast Wednesday morning).  I’m not a singer by any stretch, but there’s something quite special about hitting harmonies in a group like that, and a few people commented that everyone should start the day with a sing-song.

The afternoon was challenging for me, we split up into groups to work on songs for the show on Friday.  It’s a very different way of working for me, everything else I do there’s usually a leader (sometimes me) who sets out quite defined roles for the musicians, or else it’s totally improvised in the moment, with everyone on an equal platform.  I found it difficult to find much to add to what was already presented, testament to how good the songs already sound, so I’m on the more subtle tip and I think it’s coming together ok.  Adrian (Mr. Unthanks) has been a great help and very encouraging, so I’m gratefully taking on board what he’s been saying.

Day 3 started much the same (sans BBC cameras this time) with a group singalong to blast the cobwebs/hangovers away.  A couple of the tunes are sounding really good, with some simple arrangements, and some improvised harmonies (not just when I make mistakes by the way, some of the real singers are improvising…).  Hopefully these will feature on Friday night, it’s obviously an important part of Becky and Rachel’s music/life.

The rest of the day was spent working on two tunes from the Unthanks repertoire that we’re all playing together.  Lucky Gilchrist is taking on a Steve Reich feel to it, with some nice 7/8 patterns, and The Romantic Tees pitches a 5/8 looped melody over 3/4 chord movements.  All very effective at creating a slightly unsettling modd, a quality which I think drew me in to the band when I first heard them.

Still feels like a lot to do, but it’s coming together nicely and I think Friday’s going to be a really nice gig.

Paul Liddel leading a performance of one of his tunes.

Unthanks Day 1

All this week I’m taking part in a residency at Band On The Wall lead by The Unthanks.  Today we all met each other (good fun) and played something for each other (terrifying).  It was particularly nerve-racking playing a) to a room full of musicians and b) by myself.  I was caught in two minds between whether to play something composed or something totally improvised, so went for a bit of a halfway house and wasn’t totally happy with the results, next time I’ll get the drum-sticks and comb out and go to town!  Everyone else sounds really good, I’m particularly jealous of the acoustic fingerpicking technique going on and there’s some great voices too.  Reassuringly, everyone else I spoke to was nervous too, so there’s some common ground there…

We got a briefing from Garth from Pied Piper about how we’re documenting the week.  All of us are encouraged to upload text/pictures/videos to the dedicated website they’ve created, so during the week you’ll be able to see exactly what’s been going on.  Speaking of which, we’re still to really find out how the week is going to work, it looks like it’s up to us to a certain extent.  Jeremy the producer was saying we’ll be working in small groups and deciding how things run ourselves.  Afterwards in the pub everyone seemed quite excited about collaborating, and wanting to try completely new things rather than just present existing work.  And Rachel Unthank said there’s one or two things they hope to get everyone playing together on, which should sound pretty epic I reckons!

Looking forward to getting stuck in tomorrow, will keep you posted as best I can, make sure you check out the website mentioned above, there’s nothing on it right now, but that’ll change tomorrow too.

The Unthanks residency

All next week, I’m going to be hanging round the Band on the Wall like a bad smell, thanks to a ’Wall of Sounds Artistic Directors’ residency.  I’m one of 11 musicians selected to take part, we’ll be collaborating with The Unthanks to create completely new works to be performed on Friday 10th Feb (tickets/info).  I’m particularly excited as The Unthanks are ruddy great, and something totally different to everything I’m doing at the moment.  The collection of musicians looks like it’ll be an interesting mix too, I’m just doing some Google-stalking, here’s the list so you can too…

Sarmon Almond – Singer, Composer, Sonic Artist
Gren Bartley – Singer, Banjo, Harmonica
Tracey Browne – Singer, Piano, Guitars
Clive Hunte – Bass
Anton Hunter – Guitar
Raevennan Husbandes – Singer, Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist
Damian Kujawski – Accordian
Sam Lench – Singer, Guitar, Mandolin
Caroline Lucas – Violin, Composer
Hannah McCabe – Clarinet, Saxophone
Sarah Stewart – Percussion, Violin

I’ll be blogging when I get the chance during the week, so make sure you come back and check, or follow me on Twitter to not miss out.

New large-ensemble tune

I’ve recently recorded a demo of a new piece, currently called ALE, and I’m pretty pleased with how it’s come out so have a listen and let me know what you think, if you want.

ALE by HunterAnton

Massive thanks to all the musicians, Simon Prince – flute/tenor sax, Anthony Brown – clarinet/tenor sax, Graham South – trumpet, Owen Bryce – trumpet, Simon Lodge – trombone, Paul Strachan – bass trombone, Johnny Hunter – drums, Paul Wheatley – bass and myself on guitar.


So, after several years of being hounded by my good friends Ang and Rod, I’ve finally set up a webpage.  Come on in and make yourself at home, so far you can read about me, and things that other people have said about me.  Not to mention where I’m playing next.

Things will undoubtedly evolve over the coming weeks and months as Rod & Ang pester me into further developments, not to mention all sorts of content being created, just for you.  The best way to keep up with when new things happens is to follow me on Twitter, or just the RSS feed if you’re easily offended by foul language induced by politicians’ behaviour, creationists or Manchester United’s lack of a creative midfield.

Thanks for reading!