Ron Geesin is a composer, performer, sound architect, interactive designer, broadcaster, writer and lecturer. In the following interview we will discuss making of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother, his latest album RonCycle2, recently released book The Flaming Cow and new documentary.
To begin with, when and where were you born and was music a big part of life in Geesin household?
I was born on the 17th December 1943 at 6.10 am (Scottish birth certificates give the time). My Birth certificate says ‘Stevenston, Ayrshire’, but my mother always said that wasn’t quite correct: it was Kilwinning Maternity Hospital! Stevenston was where I was gestated. We moved to Bothwell, Lanarkshire when I was about 3: my father built a bungalow there. Music was not a big part of life: we did have an upright piano on which he stumbled through simplified bits of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue and popular melodies from the 1930s and ’40s, “Red Sails In The Sunset” and “A Little Bit Independent” for instance, moving back to ragtime later.
At what age did you begin playing music and what were the first instruments that you played?
I got fairly fascinated by the ‘harmonica/mouth organ virtuoso’ Larry Adler, seeing him on the television, and was given a 12-hole chromatic harmonica, maybe when I became 11. I was soon playing bits of simplified Bach and the film theme from Genevieve. Then I got more interested in syncopated music in general: the ‘Trad’ (traditional jazz revival) era had started in the 1950s in Britain, so I got a long-neck ‘G’ banjo for my 15th birthday, took the short 5th string off and played it as a 4-string plectrum banjo.
“I’m still trying to find out who I became.”
You are a man of great talents. Composer, performer, sound architect, interactive designer, broadcaster, writer and also lecturer. What college did you attend? Would you say that it had any impact on who you became later on?
I’m still trying to find out who I became. I never attended a college. I was becoming extremely rebellious and unruly at Hamilton Academy (secondary school) and was asked to leave at around 17. “Take this boy away – we can do no more with him.” said the Headmaster to my father. This, supplemented by, “You’ll never be any good at anything!” by my father, caused me to get my head down, or up, and get on with real life – into that university – and out the other side.
You listed Victor Borge, The Goons, Chic Murray (Scottish comedian, deceased) as your main influences. You also mention Surrealism.
They were some of my main influences, but see below. Surrealism, in the visual medium, depicted the impossible, dream and subconscious images, often with humour. This connected well with the verbal equivalent ‘The Goon Show’ on radio. All this bundle of endeavour was my rocket fuel to get out of middle class materialistic Lanarkshire.
How about musical influences? How did you embrace Rock and roll?
My main musical influences were, and still are, classic Afro-American jazz from the 1920s and ’30s (actually musical surrealism), and most of the ‘classical’ composers’ works, except those of Britten, Shostakovich and Stravinsky. I never embraced any kind of ‘Rock’ – it came to me in the form of Pete Townshend, Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd – I embraced these creators as individuals, but not their music.