“Sax appeal” - Martin Robertson in conversation with Alan and Jon on 9th June 1993. (originally published in #8 of The Pavilion).
TP: How did you come to meet Ant?
MR: I met Ant when I was nine and that was because when my mother got together with my now stepfather, he was a very close friend of Ant’s. I can’t remember the very first time I met him but he used to come round every week to our house in Putney. Because I played musical instruments and Ant was doing the same thing he was incredibly encouraging. When he used to come round he would play piano whilst I played clarinet and when I was doing my music exams, he would accompany me and he would say that he wouldn’t be able to keep up with me much longer (laughs). So I have known him a long time and he has seen me start the instruments and get to where I am now so he knows me pretty well. I certainly felt that I have learned a lot from him just being in the studio. I hope that he has possibly learned a bit from me as well.
TP: Was the material that you co-wrote with Ant for Private Parts & Pieces VIII all new material?
MR: before we started doing that album he got together with me and we just mucked around for quite a long time and built up enough material for a whole album just purely out of what we were doing. This was primarily out of sax; guitars and percussion. Then Ant had the chance to do this Private Parts album and he suggested using a couple of the things that we had done lots of that material He also mentioned about wanting to work on a track he had already called Sunrise & Seamonsters and that’s the main one on the album that we did together.
Ant had already written most of the material for that in terms of chords and we just glued it together and made it into a finished piece. I basically developed all the top line stuff. So that was the pre-written piece but the other little ditties weren’t at all.
TP: It was quite a surprise to hear all these new instruments on one of Ant’s albums. When you are not working with Ant, who else do you work with?
MR: Basically I am a sax player although I do play clarinet as well. I am a freelance player so I do a lot of things all over the country. I play with several orchestras, I do some TV stuff and some film sessions as well. It’s a basic London circuit of sessions. I also do Radio 3 recitals and…here comes the plug…(laughs) I am doing a concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra next year (1994) which I am very pleased about as it is a sax concerto that has been written especially for me, so that has made my year! It’s a very big mixture. I do a lot of classical things which I think Ant likes as he is very classically orientated in many ways and he appreciates a lot of that stuff.
TP: You mentioned that you met Ant when you were quite young. Were you aware of any of his music back then?
MR: Oh yes. I remember when he had just recorded The Geese & The Ghost. It was pretty obvious that as this was his first album he wasn’t too confident. I’ll never forget that he played us the final mixes for the album and then he hid under his piano! Ant is very self-critical which can be good in some ways but I couldn’t believe it back then as I thought it sounded great. For me, that was a very different thing for me to be listening to at that age. I have been spoilt through knowing people like Ant and Tony Banks and having grown up knowing all these people who are fantastic musicians. Their standards are very high and I always reflect back to the way that they would do something if I get stuck working on something.
TP: Have you ever worked with Tony on any of his albums?
MR: Yes, I did his last two solo albums: Bankstatement and Still. I played some sax on them which I enjoyed immensely.
TP: How does working with Ant compare to working with somebody like Tony?
MR: I think it relates very much to their character as a person. I hadn’t really worked with Tony before and I was quite worried about it as I knew him as a friend really well. He is a very inward kind of guy, he doesn’t give much away but he opened up a bit when I worked with him and I thought nobody else is going to see Tony like this, it was really nice. He was still very controlled about his emotions. If he thinks something his great he will say: “yes, that’s good” he won’t come in and say: “YEAH!” (laughs).
Ant is much more demonstrative of what he thinks and he talks a lot more. Tony is a lovely guy and he has a total passion for his music. There’s probably nothing more exciting for him than going into the studio to work on some new stuff apart from working on his garden! (laughs). A difference between them is that Tony will take a break , whereas Ant never seems to take a break! Ant is very disciplined and his rota for the day is very organised.