Inventing America: Terry Riley, The Smith Quartet and Pulp

Q: What are your best memories in terms of collaborations with other artists where you really felt creatively challenged?

Jarvis: Well, me, Mark and Steve from the band, we did this thing. Mark is very into minimalist composers, and Terry Reilly came over and did a concert in London, his work "In C", and we were asked to contribute to it. And I don't know if you've heard that work, but there are about something like 25 little riffs, which start very simply and end up very complicated, and the idea is it's got no set length, and you decide when you move on to the next one. And for a start, I can't read music, so that was a bit of a problem, so I had to learn them by ear. And we were playing with all these other musicians and apart from the technical part of trying to remember it, there was the thing of trying to listen for when someone has moved onto the next one, because you're supposed to stay within two or three of each other. So you can't cheat and just play the first one all the time. And we did that, and that was really good. We came off the stage and I thought, that probably lasted about 45 minutes, and it lasted about one and a half hours. God knows what the audience thought of that (laughs). But it seemed good. It seemed like, you know, I've never really been into free improvisation. It was quite a challenge, and when we got to the end of that I got the feeling that we'd done something quite good, and he seemed to quite enjoy it. I've met Terry Riley, big long beard and stuff. Nice work.

Read a full review of the concert here: "The second half of the concert was an hour-long (that is, shortish) performance of In C, the anthem of 1960s shared consciousness. Jarvis Cocker took an infinitesimal bow at the end, but otherwise it was a completely communal effort under Riley's minimal guidance."