Talk! Conversations in All Keys
The Artists (Vol.1)
The year was 1985, and an unexpected call came from Bob Mackowitz, the voice behind the 6 O’Clock Rock Report at Q -107 FM in Toronto. “Macko” as Bob was known and longtime friend and pal - El Mocambo doorman Reggie Bovaird and I would spend the occasional evening blowing a pipe of fine hashish - listening and talking music. Most times, we’d cross paths when I was playing clubs or just hanging out. Bob was rocking radio, Reggie was keeping the peace, and I was taking whatever gig paid the bills.
That spring, Macko calls and asks if I’d be interested in hosting Q-Jazz the station’s Sunday morning concession to playing jazz. Rather than hesitate, I arrived for an audition. Tape rolled, and I stammered my way through a self-prepared script, and with a few edits, an acceptable recorded demo followed. A day later, station boss Gary Slaight hired me.
There was no fast-track introduction to the world I was about to enter. As of today, that world has now circled the sun a good thirty-five times and not all of those years occupied with an on-air presence but a good many journalistic situations offering me access to the artists, industry, and components that have built, shaped and continue to support the Canadian music industry - which brings me to Talk! Conversations in All Keys.
It was a first assignment that came from then Q-news director Jane Hawtin, a brilliant journalist/broadcaster who pulled me aside and asked if I’d be up to interviewing French film director Bertrand Tavenier, in town and open to speaking with the media in support of his latest film – the jazz classic – ‘Round Midnight, starring jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordon. I’d never interviewed a soul and quickly consulted by radio the man I most admired near a microphone, Larry King, and spent the evening chasing him up and down the radio dial and got a basic feel for dialogue. I then jotted down a list of fifteen questions and the following day met Tavernier in a private hotel room. Though extremely nervous, the conversation fluctuated between music director Herbie Hancock’s brilliant score and the modest knowledge I had concerning “film.”
That evening, secure knowing I had captured gold on a cassette tape, I filled a tub of steaming bath water, aligned the cassette player facing me, slid in and began what was to be the most crucial lesson in my long career as an interviewer - the horror of hearing one’s voice – not the sound of it but the interruptions and the persistent use of the obnoxious word, “Right,” which seemed to drench the conversation in a layer of ambient soot. It was apparent I required further study and had to absorb what the other person was expressing. Uncle Larry was the master of listening.
I conveyed my disappointment to Jane and passed her the tape with a warning – “not everything is “Right.” Jane called later, and she said, “I found good stuff on here, don’t worry. It’s a short piece.” God bless her. Not long after, Jane offered me a session with jazz great Miles Davis. The thought of getting my ass whipped by a master “no-nonsense, fuck you” icon was out of the question.
Three and a half decades have passed, and I have learned from mistakes and have been privy to a world of amazing artists and industry drivers. We talk, we laugh, we play the music, and we usually hug and take a shameless selfie on the way out.
Talk!, is all about us – The blues makers, the jazz believers, the folklorist, the gospel testimonial, worldbeat travelor, reggae purist, punk with an attitude, pop, rock n’ roll, R&B, and big soul family. It’s our story – not the complete story, but conversations with depth, colour, imagination, and reflection. What’s at the root of a great song? What’s behind the making of a record, life on the road, and that mad passion for being the best? Read and find out!