Daevid Allen has never been interested in meeting people’s expectations. The Australian-born Gong founder has spent nearly five decades surprising people with his creative detours. Under his guidance, Gong have released 11 previous studio albums in a style that was both peripatetic yet instantly recognisable. New album I See You comes at a time when Allen, now 76, has been suffering from serious health issues. Nevertheless, the record is blessed with his determinedly quirky drive.
You’ve always sought to freshen Gong with vibrant young musicians. What appealed about new guitarist Kavus Torabi?
Kavus and I met by accident when snooker genius Steve Davis invited me as a guest on his radio show [The Interesting Alternative Show on Phoenix FM]. We sparked together immediately. The pure chance of this meeting fitted the usual pattern of new band member discoveries.
You’ve written notes for all the tracks on I See You. Do you feel this slightly removes the mystery of the music?
A creative/active mind will decide all this for itself. On the other hand, a harried, time-strapped radio DJ might breathe a sigh of relief that these anal-lytical labours have provided them with an easy handle to introduce the track.
The song Thank You is something of a tribute to everyone who’s ever been involved in the band. It sounds like you’re planning for it to end.
Absolutely. I came within a hair’s breadth of dying during a ten-hour operation on a tumour the size of an orange in my neck in June. It became crystal clear to me that at seventy-six, hurling myself into touring might just be counter-productive. Having said that, I hope to be at the Gong Unconvention at Leamington Spa during Summer Solstice 2015.
How are you feeling now?
The doctors have been astonished by the rapid progress of my healing. Though we know the cancer bug is deeply programmed to win in the end, I am managing to hold back the flood successfully. More than anything else, this is due to the huge waves of loving/healing response created by the tireless networking by my son [and Gong drummer] Orlando and a number of key friends.
Will Gong carry on without you?
It’s a big ask, but not an impossible task. It depends on there being an individual with an ethically firm yet open-hearted character. Someone with enough experience to avoid the inevitable temptation to abuse the position of leader.
As a creative artist does it bother you what others think of your work?
You might be surprised to know how sensitised one can get to the reactions of the general public, and one’s local community, having spent much of your life on stage. It goes with the job.
You’ve always travelled between the past, present and future of art. Do you still seek out new types of expression?
I have this restless spirit that never stops looking for answers to the future for us all. We badly need a new political system before the inevitable collapse and chaos, but I wonder if the role of planet Gong’s mission will be to do that bit extra to help clean up the mess after the fall.
I See You is out now on Madfish.