Cameron Undy


INTERVIEW WITH CAMERON UNDY

TU: How did you get into playing jazz music?
Through my sister and my parents mainly. My sister was studying classical guitar and took up jazz as a road from classical to pop music which was what she really liked. I was playing rock guitar at the time and became influenced by my sister into playing jazz I started playing about ten years ago I guess, I got my first double bass in ‘87 and got into the Con (Sydney Conservatorium of Music) in ‘88. I moved to Sydney from Canberra then and started playing acoustic bass full on and not playing any electric guitar or bass which is what I had been playing. I was playing professionally almost since I got here because there was such a shortage of bass players.

TU: There is a lot of very good jazz talent in Sydney but a lot of the people I have spoken to have complained about the lack of venues and exposure, do you think this is the case?
There are not a whole lot of venues, it’s not an easy road and you have to be really self motivated. You can put together a great repertoire of music and a really great band and still find that you don’t get a gig. I’ve got friends who can play really well and they have good bands and they can’t get a gig mainly because they haven’t got a known guy in the band. I’m lucky enough to have played with Mike Nock who is probably one of the best known jazz musicians in Australia for the last ten years and so as I’m becoming older I’m becoming considered a ‘name’ so maybe if people get me in their band that means that they might get a gig! Which is fortunate for me and the groups that I run but it doesn’t necessarily reflect on how good a musician you are. I know that there are good players out there who have tried hustling gigs and have met with a brick wall. So it’s not just good enough to be a good player you have to have to have some kind of a lucky break or something because there are so few venues and the venues that are there are so conservative as well. They are only that way because of financial reasons, they have to stay afloat, so in a way I don’t blame them for having a conservative attitude.

TU: Tell us a bit about playing with Mike Nock
It’s been a really big learning curve playing with him because he’s come from living twenty five years in New York and touring all over the place and playing with some of the best musicians of the last thirty years of jazz. He tries to push the people around him to the level to which he’s accustomed. I would say that being in his band for the last ten years has been the biggest learning experience in terms of band work and playing original music that I could have had. Playing with Mike has been fantastic.

TU: Do you think things would have been different if you hadn’t linked up with a big ‘name’ like that?
Definitely, but not everybody responds to that sort of demanding band leader. I’ve seen a lot of people come through the band and go out the other side, they don’t respond to that sort of pressure that he puts on, so I guess, even though I was given that sort of opportunity I was able to respond to the sort of pressure that he does exert.

TU: To a reader who has never heard of you before how would you describe your style of playing?
I would say fairly free, but I also spend a lot of time practising and working on an intellectual level. I have a lot of self discipline but listening back to myself I understand that the times when my playing is at it’s best is when I let go and go into the unconscious because I tend to be very analytical naturally but I think that my playing is at it’s best when I free up and go into the freer forms of jazz but I still like form to be around it, so I like in my music for there to be form and also free form happening at the same time - heavy structure and then chaos through it!

TU: Where do you see yourself going in the future with your music?
Just keep developing my writing style and really expand that into other formats aside from jazz. I also want to spend a lot of time getting up my performance strength and my technical ability to be able to express myself live. I’d like to take that around this country to regional areas. That would be a real dream of mine because this is such an incredible place. A lot of the time you need financial funding to do that because there aren’t huge audiences out there and you’re not looking at people who have a lot of money. Also I’d love to keep travelling overseas - learning and experiencing and performing. I would also love to see the expansion of my family record label - Dancing Laughing records as well. The only thing I have out at the moment on that label is the album Temple (His piano and bass album with Mike Nock which is available from specialist jazz stores in all the major cities in Sydney) but I’m looking to record more music and utilise that label.

Cameron can be seen appearing live at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival on Nov.1&2, at the Woollahra Hotel, Sydney on Sundays in Nov. with his band Numerology and then in New Zealand doing a short tour in the middle of December. For more information regarding Cameron or the album Temple call (02) 9664 1327

David Cotter