About Me

Simon O'Rorke pointing to synthI started playing bass guitar when I was seventeen. I first got exposed to free improvisation when I was a student in London in the mid-1970s. At that time I wanted to be a jazz-funk musician. I attended workshops in free improvisation run by John Stevens and Trevor Watts in London in the late seventies. But it took years for me to realise that free improvisation was my favourite music and what I could play well. Improvising with guitarist Andy Hammond (later of Conspiracy) in the mid-1980s was a revelation that clarified this for me. Also for a few years in the later 1980s, I played synthesizer in addition to my bass guitar.

When I moved from Britain to Auckland, New Zealand in 1989, there appeared to be no interest there in the American free jazz and European improvised music that had inspired me. I met saxophonist Brian Hutson in 1992, the year I moved to Wellington. Hutson and I determined to form an improvised music ensemble. For the next five years we struggled to find suitable collaborators and performance venues. We tried various line-ups, using the ensemble name The Slab from 1995. The turning point came in 1997. Around that time there began a revival in interest in improvised music, and Hutson and I were pleased to be able to work with Matthew Mitchell, one of New Zealand's leading jazz guitarists. The CD The Slab (1998) was the result.

I got fed up trying to attract a drummer competent at and committed to playing improvised music. In 1996, just a few months before Hutson and I started our collaboration with Matthew Mitchell, I decided I could do better myself and started playing percussion in earnest. I have since given up playing bass guitar completely, for health reasons.

Brian Hutson moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1998 and Matthew Mitchell moved to Europe in 1999. But the Wellington free improv scene, which from 1992 to 1995 consisted more or less only of me and Brian Hutson, had taken off by the time Hutson and Mitchell left New Zealand. I have subsequently played with most of the talented musicians who have emerged on the Wellington improv scene. For a few years I used the ensemble name The Slab for my main line-ups. My regular collaborators in The Slab included guitarist Daniel Beban, since 1998, and saxophonist Anton Wuts, since 1999. They are both featured on The Slab's CDs Live at The Space (2001) and Squeakspeak (2001).

I have also performed in California: in San Francisco in 2001 and 2003 and at the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival in 2003. My collaborators in California included Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Bob Marsh, John Shiurba and Brian Eubanks.

From 2003, my search for expressive textures led me into an occasional series of collaborations with Antony Milton and other "noise" musicians. Glory Fckn Sun, the trio of Milton, Ben Spiers and me, released the albums Vision Scorched (2007) and Spectra (2008). In 2010 I played percussion on the track Winter Lamp of the album Southern Loop by The Real Life Tragedies with Antony Milton and others.

At the same time, I continued to play in more hard-core free improv ensembles. In 2005 I collaborated with turntablist Alphabethead (David Morrison) in the duo Clangophone and with laptopist Octif (Shanan Holm) in the duo Peel (PErcussion vs ELectronics). Albums were made by both duos: Clangophonica by Clangophone and Pattern Recognition by Peel.

In 2011, I started playing synthesizer for the first time since the 1980s. I have mostly played synths rather than percussion from 2011 onwards. See my article Why I Switched from Percussion to Synthesizers. My most regular collaboration as a synthesist, from 2011, has been in the free improv quartet Confluence with musical polymath Chris Prosser (violin), Wellington's doyenne of Braziliana Julie Bevan (nylon-string guitar) and cool jazzer Michael Hall (saxophones and clarinet).

(Photo of Simon O'Rorke by Mary Roberts)
(The logo photo in the header shown at the top of each page of this web site is of a UFIP Targo gong. I've got two of them: a 24-inch and a 28-inch.)

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