A conversation with Patrick Moraz

Patrick Moraz
1948.06.24 @ Morges, Switzerland
Refugee, Yes, The Moody Blues, Mainhorse, Vímana, w/Bill Bruford, Solo
Story Of I
Out In The Sun
Patrick Moraz
Future Memories I & II
Human Interface
Les musiques de la Première
Windows Of Time
Change Of Space

This was our first interview. We were somehow nervous, shivering and overwhelmed with our first interviewee… it was Patrick Moraz. We cannot thank him enough because of his kindness and “guidance” (read below) through the conversation.

Patrick Moraz was able and very kind to contact us by phone from Florida on October 9, 2000 during a Special Show of our Instruments Series dedicated to Keyboards and to introduce his latest production: Res(O)nance: an enjoyable solo piano experience.

Anything within [brackets and in different colour] indicates some of our notes, they are NOT part of the conversation.

Here we try to transcript our incredible conversation with Mr. Moraz. Hope you enjoy it as we did. We still are in shock of having the honor to talk to such a wonderful person and musician.

e: Good night Patrick, are you there?

PM: Buenas noches! Mucho gusto de hablar con América Latina

e: Hablas español Patrick?

PM: Un poquito, but I am out of practice with my Spanish.

e: It is OK, we’ll try to do the interview in English, sorry in advance for our poor English. It is an honour to have you with us.

PM: It is really nice talking with you also.

e: OK Patrick, we will be asking some questions along the night, but we would like to take time now and then to translate for our audience.

PM: It’s OK.

e: OK, on with the questions…we’ll try to group the questions in three different topics: about your life and beginnings in music, your collaborations with some bands, and last but not least, your newest album Res(O)nance.

PM: How do you pronounce “resonance” in Spanish?

e: “Resonacia”

PM: “Resonancia…resonancia “

e: We would like to thank you for sending us the material. Some wonderful music is in there Patrick

PM: You’re welcome. Thank you.

e: About your life: at what age did you star composing? We know that you studied violin at 3 and piano at 4…

PM: I started to compose at the very early age of…I think it was around 5. There is one piece that I compose that was part of the very first record I did with a progressive group called Mainhorse, which was included in the original album but not in the American album. I’ve seen recently in the internet that there is a CD called Mainhorse which has that piece. That piece is called More Tea Vicar and it was a very simple little piece. I also wrote at that time when I was 5 my first piece of counterpoints, and that was the introduction…it was a little piece just five bars long. I play it still sometimes in concerts because it is a little musical signature.

e: How did your fascination with Brazilian music start? Considering that your first solo album Story of I has some strong Brazilian elements in there…

PM: Yes, since very early age, when I was in my early teens and so on I was interested with all the folkloric music all over the world, not only from Brazil but also from Africa, from Spain, even from Mexico, from Portugal, from Japan, from China, from India, specially when I was like 13 or 14 I used to listen to a lot of Indian music which at the time was not fashionable at all.

e: So at that time you were listening Latin American music already Patrick?

PM: Yes, I was, and already in the mid 50’s and 60’s I was listening a lot Brazilian music. When in the late 60’s I went to Japan with a ballet, a Brazilian ballet, I learned how to play with percussionists and so on. I did a lot of transcultural research in music and my goal was always to go to one day to to brazil and to record with some percussionist and I did that in my first recording in 1975, 25 years ago!

e: Tell us a little bit about your beginnings when you played jazz and open for John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk

PM: When I was 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, I used to play a lot of jazz in school but also with a lot of people I met. I used to go to jazz festivals, specially in Switzerland and so on, and I won several jazz festivals competitions, it was the only way to be noticed. Finally I met also with Stephan Grapelli and lot of other musicians with whom I played later in Switzerland and France. In 1965 I was lucky enough to be asked to open for John Coltrane’s quartet, and I did one of these concerts in 1965 at Comeland latur [tour? we’ll check this] in Belgium. I had my own quartet and I opened for him and that was one of my very big highlights. He is one of my influences as far as jazz is concerned. I used to also open concerts and festivals where all these musicians used to come like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Thelonious Monk as well. And I have been following a lot of jazz in concerts and I had my own trio and quartet at the time.

e: Can we say that your roots are in jazz music or in classical music?

PM: My roots, well, I am really more into classical music. I’ve been influenced from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven.

e: What was your experience when you visited Mexico? we understand you came here in mid 60’s…

PM: Actually I was in McAllen Texas in 1965, I went across the border with some friends to come and visit, I went through Reynosa and visited Monterrey as well. I came from McAllen because there was a seminar I was studying with a Swiss-American company that sent me. It was just a seminar, just a few days. But I went to Mexico before I actually went to New York, that was in early November of 1964 I remember that extremely well. I felt the country and the change of course, the cultural change very much, I really loved it, my contact with Mexico has always been unbelievable. Then of course later I went to visit Cuernavaca, Mexico City and the pyramids of Teotihuacan, and climbed all, I mean not all, but some of the pyramids. It was a very enlightening experience.

e: Any plans to come back soon? Specially to Monterrey

PM: I would love to, maybe next year, if there is the possibility I would love to come and do some concerts. Actually, my very good friend Jeff Berlin told me a couple of years ago, two or three years ago, he said there was maybe a festival that he wanted to do and I was also being asked to do in Mexico. I saw him a few months ago and asked him about and he said he hadn’t heard again, but I am sure there is so much music down there that there is going to be possibility sometime.

e: There are two very big festivals for progressive music right now that are going on, one is the Mexprog in Mexico City and the other one is the Bajaprog in Mexicali. Have you heard of them?

PM: Yes, I’ve heard of those.

e: Those are kind of big festivals. John Wetton played in the last Bajaprog, it would be great to have you down here and play some tunes for us Patrick.

PM: I would love to.

e: We’ll change the topic now, we will talk about your collaborations with bands. We know you are very diplomatic about this, so we will try to be brief.

PM: I appreciate that

e: I’ve been asked this by some friends in the net: any plans on the rerelease of the Mainhorse album?

PM: You know, it’s funny because I’ve seen recently that there is a lot of talk about a CD called Mainhorse which would be actually the original order of the material, but personally I haven’t seen any, I know of none and nobody asked me. I’ve seen some talks about this and that it exists, so I really cant tell you. That album was released originally in 1971.

e: How about any live archives? Are there any live material of your period with Mainhorse that hasn’t been released?

PM: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think there is any. It would be the same with Refugee, maybe you were going to ask me that as well. Like Mainhorse we only recorded one album. Although there might have been some live recordings here and there.

e: How about albums with Bill Bruford?. Actually pretty much of your catalog is out of print now, any plans to re-release any?

PM: Well, you know, is a very difficult thing to go back to the origination of all these companies that released the music. I really don’t know, I am not really personally equipped to do that, you know. I know that Virgin for example, had some very good releases for me on CD, six CDs: three solo albums, one with Refugee and two with Bill Bruford (Music For Piano And Drums and Flags). I think that the Japanese imports are much better than the English ones. That’s the only thing I can tell you from a CD point of view. I would like eventually to have the possibility to have these material rereleased or remastered as well.

e: We are particularly interested in your Coexistence album, since it has some strong ethnic elements. I haven’t heard it myself, but I know you played in this album with this Pan flutist…

PM: Same story, although I have better possibilities to have those released because I have more control over these. Coexistence, Future Memories were done at the time out of Switzerland, I have better control out of those.

e: This will be the only question we will do about Yes, OK?

PM: Oh, you can ask me, even before you ask me I can tell you I have very very good memories of having been with the band. I really enjoyed very very much my stay and I think that Yes music is fantastic. I am still good friend in spirit, even if we don’t see each other, we had some very good experiences together.

e: I’ve read that during your time with the band around 1974-1976, correct me if I am wrong, you had some very large tours. You played in Philadelphia for about 140,000 people, how was that experience playing in front of all these crowds some of the most complex music ever written?

PM: You are talking specifically the 1976 tour called the Bicentennial tour because of the 200 anniversary of the United States. We played concerts every day or every other day in front of a 100 thousand or 130 thousand people. 85,000 in Chicago, 75,000 in Washington DC, 135,000 in JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. That was an unbelievably successful tour, and we played also this very complex music. The fact that it was so successful, don’t forget that Yes was extremely popular at that time, but we also had Peter Frampton opening for us which at the time he was an unbelievable successful artist, he had Frampton Comes Alive which was a very big album. There was also Gary Wright at the time with Dream Weaver. It was a combination of all these groups, and of course Yes with this very powerful art rock with big stage show with lasers and 16 P.A. systems and so on. The fact that the time was very conveying for the music I think. That was the formula for that success.

e: How come that you played only in one album? Was there a particular reason for you to depart from Yes? Did you want to pursue your solo career?

PM: We all did solo albums in 76. By the end of the tour in 76 when we went back to Switzerland, which is my own home country, to record what was going to become Going For The One. Although there might have been a few musical differences because everybody has that, I didn’t have intentions of really leaving the band. I think the story goes much deeper than this. There was a lot of political and management maneuvers behind the scenes that I was not really aware of. I think that’s what contributed to the fact that I was kind of asked to leave the band at the time.

e: OK, now we will ask what was the only question we had about Yes. Who were the other musicians considered to take the keyboard position at the time you entered Yes? We know one there were around 7 prospects and of of those was Vangelis

PM: I think it was more than that. There were flying all kind of keyboard players from different places: from Sweden, from Norway, from Germany. I think there were more than 7 but I could be wrong, I really don’t know. Things went so fast, I didn’t have the time to think about it. I know one thing: when we met for the first time in august of 1974 I played on Vangelis’s keyboards actually, which were stationed where the band was rehearsing and recording some of the auditions. I even think that some of the music I played during the very first time we met, were some parts of “Soundchaser”; not the introduction, not the solo, but the part where the song is. What I played that day is what was recorded then and came on the record.

e: We will talk now about what should be the main focus of the interview, and it is about your new album Res(O)nance. Why a piano album? Actually this is your second straight piano album, the one before was Windows Of Time.

PM: See, because piano is the basis of my playing, since I am a keyboard player and I thought that before moving into bigger orchestration like a trio or quartet with organ and synthesizers or even a chamber or orchestra, I wanted to do 3 piano CDs, almost like a trilogy; and since the piano is the basis of the instruments I play, although I thought it was violin you know, but I think if I can express something on a piano, then I can move on to any kind of format. I think the essence of my music really can be with the piano and I like to perform on piano; it is a big challenge nowadays to come up with a piano album, which is entirely original and new, which brings music of the piano to a new level. That’s what I wanted to do as much with Windows Of Time which was my first solo piano album and waited a long time to do that. Now Res(O)nance and I’ve got another one after Res(O)nance that I’ve already recorded and is entitled ESP for Etudes, Sonatas and Preludes. Also with a piano it’s easier in terms of logistics: one can concentrate on different aspects of the creative process, you know, the compositions, the performance, the sound, the production, the mastering, with more focus and also with more productive elasticity in a way.

e: When we where listening to your newest album, “Resonancia“, I noticed you play around with different styles: blues, classic, jazz…what style are you more comfortable with?

PM: It’s not a matter of being comfortable, I really do think I’m comfortable with any style of music, but really what I wanted to convey was kind of a portrait of my musicality through different styles, but that would still be my music. I think if you put the album on any piece and play it for a few seconds, maybe the listener will know it’s me playing. It doesn’t sound like anybody else. I chose to also play eclectically these different pieces which I compose and improvised, because of course I improvised some of them, in order to give the listener a journey through my music and convey emotions which I’ve been perceived and also the fact that I was channeling some of my most profound influences, like classical and contemporary.

e: Just for you to know, we were talking about your album a few days ago and Jesus asked me what the album sounded like and answered: it’s just piano, but piano a la Moraz. We identify clearly that you are behind this music [IMPORTANT NOTE: We used the word “behind” to point that it is very easy to identify that it’s Mr. Moraz’s (and nobody else’s) music and playing what we hear (in spanish being behind or on the background can be use to note the importance of somtehing): after listening to the tape and Mr. Moraz answer, we think that there was a misunderstanding. We apologize for that].

PM: You mean beyond or behind? You know I’ve been often said that I was always ahead of my time. And it is not a conscious decision, that’s just the way I am.

e: Yes, you’re still ahead of your time. We were studying your music in order to make a good interview and we were listening to Story of I and said “Man, it was the mid 70’s, and how could someone sound like this?”

PM: It has to do timelessness.

e: Well, that album is an absolute masterpiece.

PM: Well, thanks

e: Another question, who is your biggest influence in your piano playing? Could it be Chopin, Liszt or Beethoven? [kinda silly question by the way… haven’t heard the piano playing of these composers, the question should’ve been the biggest influence in the way you hear and play music, remember, it’s the first one, so forgive us… Mr. Moraz was kind enough to pass this and answer anyway]

PM: I have of course a lot of classical influences from Bach to Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt of course. You know my father, when he was 20 years old used to work for Paderewsky who used to be one of the greatest classical pianist of the 20th century. My father always wanted me to become a concert pianist but I didn’t really want that. Eventually, when I was 13 I broke my hand, 4 fingers of my right hand were broken in an accident, a roller skate accident, and I was told that I could never play classical music again. So I worked a lot with my left hand, for 6 months non stop, everyday, 4 to 6 hours a day including weekends. Then I gave a lot of extra to play with my two hands but of course, by that time I was not really that impressed with playing the classics per se anymore, I wanted to play my own music and I was composing a lot at that time. So that’s why I probably give a lot to a very kind of unique playing, maybe not unique because there are a lot of great players; now in moderns times I’ve been influenced by a lot of jazz pianist, from James P. Johnson to Oscar Peterson, Keith Jarret, Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock…all this great guys and more. I’ve been listening a lot but I’ve never tried to copy anybody. Of course Monk was influencing me a lot and also Charley Parker, and lot of horn players and Miles Davis, and a lot drummers. These were mainly my influences.

e: You can feel proud now, because you are now an influence for a new generation of keyboard players. We can be asking this same question to a lot of young players and they would probably mention you as their main influence. Patrick, what are you listening to these days?

PM: I don’t listen as much as I would like, but whenever I can I go to this huge bookstores and listen to as much as I can in an hour, on the systems. Otherwise I listen to whatever I put my hands on when I can or when I have the time, but I always come back to classical music: that, for me, is timeless, whether it is music from Beethoven, because with Beethoven you are never alone, and in any kind of capacity for me it is like being in communion with an spiritual entity like God or whoever that is, I am very spiritual in that respect and for me listening to Beethoven’s music puts me always in a kind of ecstasy. So, I also like to discover new works from obscure and new composers from Europe or whatever, I can’t even name a few right now even if they are at the tip of my tongue. I like to listen to Keith Jarret, Ruvalcaba, and of course all the music of Coltrane, my girlfriend gave me for Christmas the whole collection of Coltrane’s music. I love Miles Davis. I am also aware of what’s happening with the new music that’s been released now and so on. I don’t have that much knowledge of the progressive wave of music right now, but I am intending to get into it. I’ve heard some names, there is this band that people keeps asking me what I think of them but I can’t say because I haven’t heard …Spock’s Beard, I’ve seen a few bands in festivals and there are some names which always attract your attention like Anekdoten, Ozric Tentacles (I am more familiar with that band, very interesting).

e: Ok, we have only one or two more questions. What is your opinion about the Napster issue and the new formats of technology like MP3?

PM: Well, I’ll tell you, it is a very sensitive issue. I am going to ask you this: you are working, or you are studying and you have family and kids, or you don’t, you are just somebody. If you need to eat something, if you need to go to the grocery store, if you need to go to the doctor or the post office, if you need to get gas for your car or you need to get books for your intellectual or whatever you need…you have pay for it right? And the makers and the distributors of all these goods aren’t going to give anything unless there is an agreement or payment. It is the same with music. I don’t mind giving away paintings or my music, I’ve done a lot of benefit concerts. If I had the money I would give it away for charity or for children specially, I’ve just done several benefit concerts in the last few years, one of them was for a campaign in East Timor, I was invited by the co-winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for peace Jose Ramos and I don’t mind a cultural exchange or anything…but when it becomes something so unbelievably systematic that becomes an organized robbery of everything under the disguise of cultural exchange then I really have a problem with that. Not only this, because this is the tip of the iceberg, you should know that since you are computer scientists [the Eufonia staff]. Seeing the new technology of today and tomorrow, all these computers with all these files every where in the world open to anybody is like having somebody coming to your house while you’re sleep in the middle of the night and going to your fridge, take your medication and clothes and exchange this and that without even you knowing it. It’s not only for napster in terms of musical files, but it is going to go for everything else. Everybody is going to have a kind of incestuous relationship with everybody else because they have this file or that one. Then, the creator of these files, this art or intellectual property is in a way always robbed. I have a problem with that.

Also the thing is, the legal aspect of all this is very slow compared to the advance in technology and the power of the chip so to speak….we are talking plasma computers, biological computers…this is unbelievable! It has to be regulated, agreed or respected. The problem I have is when people go and steal the music or the art shamelessly without respect. It goes for anybody, from somebody completely unknown to the biggest stars.

e: Yeah, it is like trying to cope 21st century technology with 19th century laws…

PM: However, I’ve always said: always go back to the origination of your idea, which means also the identity. The basic problem is always the same, the basic rule, the basic law is called respect. You can make all the laws and contracts you want, and have the best lawyers in the world and there is no respect in the first place.

e: It all comes down to one word: respect. And they are stealing from you musicians the most precious thing you make which is music. A last question: any plans for the near future?

PM: I’ve got Res(O)nance, ESP and another electronic which I am in the final stages, it is called “a way to freedom”. I have just about 30 other projects that I have already composed, I’ve composed hundreds of pieces of music in the last 9 years. I compose and record everyday so I have a lot of material. I have also, maybe, studying to get a commission for a symphony orchestra perhaps in europe for next year. Of course I’d like to eventually go and do some concerts, start maybe next year…not only solo but with a band, with a trio…I have a duo, I have a very good drummer I play with right now but he is in Los Angeles and I am in Orlando so it is a bit difficult sometimes, it’s is just a matter of logistics and demand, specially demand.

e: We are going to try to contribute on that, to generate some demand at least in our country. Talk to some organizers maybe…with a little luck you will be playing in Mexico next year.

PM: It would be great. I would like to say a word before the interview is over. Please make a note to my publicist Brian Kelleher, he is unbelievably good. He is been so good to me and helpful, he is organizing this and a lot of other interviews around the world. He is doing this because he likes my music and he takes a stand for my art. I would like to acknowledge that very much, and all the people that has helped me to carry on doing the music the way I am doing it and yes, it is going to get better.

e: Is there anything else you might want to tell to the mexican audience?

PM: Yeah, well, Id would like to say: freedom in all its form is very important. People don’t realize it anymore, but everyday there are attempts at reducing our way to freedom. I am not only talking of political or financial freedom, but freedom of expression is extremely important, or even the freedom to be able to breath the air that we breath and drink the water that we drink for free. That is a very important thing that one is really reflected upon. Of course that’s one thing that we are all born with, is the light we can feel, and the warmth of the sun and the rain and all the natural elements that we all share and are born with. This is part of our freedom, and if I can convey just that message I am going to be very happy because my music reflects all this in its own little way.

e: a final quote in spanish for our friends in Mexico?

PM: Yes…I want to say that the people in Mexico should really be happy to have their culture. The mexican and latin culture are extremely important to keep in their integrity, in a way that is my quote…what would I say? Peace and love (”paz y amor”), no boundaries for peace and love.

e: Patrick, it was an honour to talk with you, Sir.

PM: I really enjoyed your questions and hope we can meet soon, we’ll stay in touch.

e: We are fans of yours Patrick, we are doing this radio show because we love music, we don’t get a single cent for it. We love music and we happen to love your music too.

PM: Thank you and God bless you.

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