with Fred Frith of Henry Cow
Name: Fred Frith
Bands: Henry Cow, Art Bears, Massacre, Skeleton Crew, Keep the Dog, Tense Serenity, Cosa Brava, FF Guitar Quartet, FF Trio…
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?
Fred – I never thought about it in that way. I’ve been playing music since I was 4, it never occurred to me to do anything else, & although I’m privileged to make a living from what I like to do, I would do it anyway even if that wasn’t the case (as do many of my friends & a lot of the musicians I admire).
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Fred – I think the biggest highlight of my life to date is that I’m still out there doing it & loving it.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Fred – Is that something you decide?
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Fred – If I thought of life in terms of a “career” I might be able to address that question, but actually I find it oddly limiting. I try to deal with every situation as positively as possible, family or no family. Sometimes I succeed.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Fred – Traveling & being away from home more than I would like is always challenging for everyone. & the typical administrative workload that comes from being self-employed, but that’s true of anybody running a “small business”. For every hour spent performing or composing or recording there are countless other hours spent planning, persuading, preparing, accounting, & those things go on round the clock.
QRD – Have your children affected the music you make &/or listen to?
Fred – In the former case, sure, though without necessarily being able to pin down how. In the latter case, enormously, since everyone has very different tastes, just as my family did when I was growing up. You become aware of things you simply wouldn’t know about otherwise.
QRD – Do you think being involved in music has made your children different than their peers?
Fred – All children (& “adults”) are different & pretty much everyone listens to music & has tastes & opinions about it. Don’t really understand the question. I think they appreciate the fact that we are both doing what we love without compromise.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Fred – Yes.
QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?
Fred – I toured a lot more extensively anyway, when I was younger & childless. I didn’t particularly think about it, except through an awareness that two of my band mates had kids & I could see what they had to deal with, practically speaking. Slowly learning the havoc & pain that touring causes in relationships of all kinds, I eventually found some kind of balance. I’m glad I did.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Fred – In order to even think about that question we’d have to define for ourselves what “community” means in this case & whether we’re talking about the same thing. Logically I would say that being a musician has a greater impact on my community of musicians & being a parent has a greater impact on my community of parents. They are both vibrant communities that I cherish & some people belong to both!
QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become musicians or parents?
Fred – I would rather my children (& grandchildren) make whatever decisions will bring them happiness & peace & not feel obliged to think of decisions in terms of needlessly limiting binaries.
QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in. How do you end up dividing your time?
Fred – With difficulty.
QRD – What do your kids think of your music?
Fred – Well, I’m sure they don’t all think the same thing, but I feel great love & respect from them & that’s a wonderful feeling.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your children?
Fred – Absolutely. Already doing one as we speak!
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Fred – Same as always -- have fun & don’t waste your time…