Saxophonist Jamie Stockbridge was interviewed before his band Agbeko played Manchester Jazz Festival in 2018.
How did you get into music?
I grew up in a house where there was always music on the stereo. My Dad buys CDs of all sorts of interesting things and I used to come back from school and open the CD-shaped parcels for a quick sneak preview!
*Why did you form the band?
I’d only been in Manchester for about 6 weeks and knew that I wanted to get writing, arranging and meeting people. I’d long been an admirer of both Fela Kuti’s music and of his utterly unwavering commitment to his beliefs. It all began falling into place from there!
What are the most enjoyable aspects of being a musician?
I feel very lucky that I get to meet, play with and befriend people – and experience places – that I would never have done were I not a musician. Whether it’s talking to Nigerian composers or being introduced to a dubious bottle of Estonian spirits whilst playing in Denmark, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
What is the least enjoyable part of being a musician?
The seemingly impenetrable ‘industry’ – whatever that is and whoever they are. I don’t think I’ll ever get a straight answer… you fear every decision you make on that side of things has the potential to be a terrible one.
Who is your favourite band or artist?
I don’t think many musicians could pick just one! I’ve already mentioned my admiration for Fela and there is a long list of people who just blow my mind. Right now, at the moment of this interview, I’ll say John Zorn. The breadth, depth, variety and innovation shown throughout his life’s work is on a scale that I can’t imagine touching.
What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever been given?
There will be lots that I failed to write down and have let slip from my memory, which I regret. A second hand piece of advice from Mike Walker to my friends in Artephis: ‘Tentative is not sensitive.’ Lots to think about for me there!
What does it mean to you to play at manchester jazz festival?
I feel very lucky to have had a good relationship with the festival over the last few years, in various musical guises. To be playing the main tent on opening night is a real pleasure for the whole group.
What advice would you give to the new generation of musicians that would like to follow in your steps?
I don’t know if I’m at the stage to have my advice listened to. But music doesn’t pay well – you won’t have many savings, odds are you’d have to luck out for a decent pension. So plant your flag, make the music you want to make. Justify this bizarre existence by, in some small way, having made something exist in the world that may not have done otherwise. And expect to only ever own cars that are at least 10 years old.
What has been the most notable highlight of your career so far?
With this band, heading to a festival in Bulgaria called Meadows in the Mountains was pretty special. It’s in the Rhodopes, near the Greek border – just beyond the back end of nowhere. We played to 2000 people then stayed up to watch the sun rise over the Mountains and burn away the morning mist. Incredible.
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