A Few Words With...Gilli Smyth

Interview and photos by John A. Wilcox

I had the offer to do a quick little interview with Gilli Smyth via email. Of course I took the opportunity! Gong are out there supporting their latest - 2032 - and the time was right to chat with the Queen of the space whisper. Poet, writer, vocalist, enigma - here's Gilli Smyth...

PS: 40 years on, what keeps you interested in being a member of Gong?

GS: We started Gong with many philosophical / political ideas which, being a creative person, still rage inside me.... I love writing music and words and were I to drop it, would suggest lack of real depth of commitment.

PS: 2032 touches upon many current political and societorial situations. What is your current perception of planet Earth?

GS: That is such a deep question to answer... However, I am engaged at the moment in writing Gong Unplugged which goes into it in depth but I need to research and write first...... Which I will do in the next three months and also finish the current Mother Gong album.

PS: What fruit have the seeds of the 60s/70s "counter culture" bore in current society, in your eyes?

GS: We live with the effect of those seeds every day. The increased importance of Marxism... Realization of the limitations of uncontrolled capitalism... People looking for meaningful ways of living not dependent upon consumerism... Etc. Etc.

PS: In what way does having Steve Hillage & Miquette Giraudy back in the band effect the pieces you write for the band, if at all?

GS: As old friends returning it is great... Miquette and I have done some pieces for the album of synth and voice and last April we all got together at Daevid's here to think of new songs and develop ideas.

PS: Let me ask you for a bit of background on the pieces you perform on 2032. Tell me the intent of Yoni Poem.

GS: Yoni really is to emphasize the importance of freedom of mind, at a time when there are a lot of limitations on thought. I am after all "Captain of my Soul" as are you and everyone.

PS: What's the story behind Robo-Warriors?

GS: The idea that robots can evolve as human beings have done... Beyond what we put into them, and may realize the stupidity of war, for example.

PS: Finally, what's Wave And A Particle about?

GS: Wave And A Particle is a light hearted look at physics.. We are not trapped in a Newtonian interpretation of the world.

PS: In your daily life, how do you see music effecting social change?

GS: Music always does. If you look at rock, jazz,classical,electronic... In too many ways to enumerate without writing a history of the last century of thought.

PS: The Mother Gong Robot Woman trilogy touched on the cook / clean / raise children roles of women in the Western world up to the point that trilogy was recorded. In the decades since Robot Woman, how have things improved, if at all?

GS: I would replace the definition of "feminism" as the equality of "humanism" and people are no longer so conditioned as they used to be... We haven't overcome slavery completely but we are getting there.

PS: Please tell me what one can expect to find inside the new Nitrogen Dreams book?

GS: The new book is a collection of various shorter books I have written over the years plus individual interesting poems as is the one I wrote with Robert Graves,or about Henry Williamson. It has "Historico Politico Spirito" published in early nineties, story of early Gong and the 1968 revolution in Paris, plus a Jungian influenced book, recent poems, the story of the "Unconventional Gong Gathering" in Amsterdam in 2OO6 etc. and etc. Plus a lot of photos of various stages.

PS: Any other new political, spiritual, or poetry books in the works?

GS: As I said, Gong Unplugged will be out in next few months and will be a compendium of various aspects of Gong, present philosophies, weirdnesses - all kinds of stuff.

PS: Any new solo albums or Mother Gong projects in the near future?

GS: The new Mother Gong album deals partly with stories of young Muslim women and their courage... They are the heroines in the front line.

PS: What do you enjoy most about being part of this current incarnation of Gong?

GS: Gong has been my entire adult life so I can't imagine not doing it.... New ideas, new visions.....

PS: Will we ever see you perform again, either in Gong, or on your own, in the United States?

GS: Of course.. In fact recently in San Francisco I worked with a band we called Gong Matrices and recorded the album Parade (Voiceprint Records). And when the political situation is clearer I hope to do more, as they are great musicians.

PS: Looking back, what made you decide to transition from English teacher to poet / musician?

GS: English teacher is not my natural role in life... Something I did for a while to make a living.

PS: I had once read that you spent part of recent days healing animals. What drew you to such a noble act, and what aspect of it do you find most rewarding?

GS: Because I really love animals and have an affinity with them... The secret is to find the sounds that they relate to, in song.... I have sung with lions in a circus, with dogs,with birds, and aspire to singing with whales. After all humans are animals too, not necessarily superior. Check out Jared Diamonds book The Third Chimpanzee.

PS: Please tell me 6 albums you always enjoy listening to.

GS: I listen to so much music which is always changing, sometimes you enjoy it, sometimes you don't!


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