On the opening night of The Lost and Found Orchestra's Christmas run at Brighton Dome, we caught up with multi-award winning musician and composer Nick Pynn to ask him about his part as a 'Melody Maker' in the orchestra, and find out what it's like to be part of STOMP creators Steve McNicholas and Luke Creswell's new symphonic spectacle.
Q: Nick, you're a well-established solo musician who has also performed with many artists from Steve Harley and Arthur Brown, to Stewart Lee and Rich Hall - how did you get involved with The Lost and Found Orchestra?
Through Musical Director Steve Wrigley calling me at a very busy time and inviting me to a meeting, which convinced me to reconsider my priorities.
Q: The Lost and Found Orchestra is returning to the stage in Brighton six years after it was first commissioned as part of the Brighton Festival. How do you think the show has evolved since those first performances, and what does it mean to you, as a local, to be bringing the show home?
When we (the Melody Makers) first met the Stompers it was a bit like meeting the indigenous race of a distant island. They were a cohesive group of physical performers and we were a disparate bunch of free-range troubadours. That division has now blurred. I'm proud to be part of it, and its homecoming.
Q: What part do you play within the Orchestra?
We all play 'junk' instruments. For my part, these include saws, bottle bellows, squonkaphone, a stringed kitchen tray, wine glasses and my favourite instrument: the 'Bed Bass' - a kind of deep bass/ double divan hybrid.
Q: You play as a 'Melody Maker’; can you tell us a bit about The Lost and Found Orchestra from your perspective?
There are no hard and fast rules about how to play the instruments, and that contributed to their development. I think I can safely say we're all used to playing refined fully functioning instruments, so the junk stuff sometimes requires a bit of extra puff, beating or strumming, which finds its natural place alongside the precise anarchic verve of the Stompers.
Q: The Lost and Found Orchestra has been described as 'STOMP's take on campanology'. As a musician who blends pre-composed and improvised songs on stage, do you find Steve and Luke's approach to music a natural process for you, or did it feel like you were approaching music from a completely new angle?
When I play my own music I am generally playing and layering up all the parts myself, and there is a follow-able sequence I can build on. With the Lost and Found Orchestra my part might demand just one note in a piece. That note has to be struck, blown or plucked with maybe a dozen or more single-note playing performers in sequence. At these times we are all the components of a single instrument, which is powerful. It can take a while for that process to feel natural.
Q: You've studied musical instrument making, and have made instruments that have been used in your shows - has that helped make sense of the weird and wonderful instruments you've mastered for the show?
I used to make instruments some of which i still use in my own performances, including the 'cocolele', a ukulele that I made out of a coconut. In the Lost and Found Orchestra my understanding of chordophones recognises developments such as the string extensions on the Wok, the damper system on the Bed Bass and the use of it, and my choice of tuning on the Tray. There is still much I could learn from the 'Plumpe't and 'Hosaphone' department however...
Q: You've worked extensively with comedians (including Stewart Lee, Rich Hall and Simon Munnery), combining music with comedy - are there comic elements of The Lost and Found Orchestra that drew you to the production?
There are comedic moments all the way through- even before we get to the stage! Some of the performers are naturally comical and I find, as with the comedy people I've worked with, become funnier the more you get to know them.
Q: What do you feel these comedic elements bring to the show?
Familiarity and absurdity.
Q: The Lost and Found Orchestra combines music, physical theatre, and comedy to create an original narrative. What do you feel this communicates to an audience: what would you say is at the heart of orchestra?
The building of a new society based on the joy of discovery - simultaneously primitive and futuristic.
Q: Steve McNicholas, one of the show's creators, has said that an emotional reaction occurs when musical and visual elements are in unison, when the elements synchronise with one another. As a musician, whose work blends various elements to tell a unique story, how do you feel this reaction is captured within the show?
I think the visual elements are universal, and these, alongside the music hit a deep point of recognition in the observer. On a smaller scale, when I perform my own music, the introductory story gives context to the piece and assists in that connection. I also think that the music itself in the Lost and Found Orchestra show is from a strong writing collaboration, its raison d'être notwithstanding, and stands up by itself.
Q: The Lost and Found Orchestra isn't what you'd call a typical Christmas show, what do you do you think the audience will take away from the performance?
Euphoria, optimism and a sense of wonder- perfect for these times!
Q: The show seems to appeal to all ages, and I imagine it will inspire plenty of young musicians and performers to think outside the box, and try something different. What advice would you give to budding Melody Makers or Stompers?
The Lost and Found Orchestra utilises the individual strengths of all its personas. So if I could give any advice to young performers it would be to live in the art and to absorb but not just copy - you are unique and don't waste that.
Q: You're currently in the process of filming a series for TV; can you tell us a little bit about that?
I'll be hosting a music series in which I interview and perform with the artists I love. It'll be on Bill Smith's new Latest TV channel, which will air later in 2013, I hope to have as guests a mixture of unusual musicians, established 'famous' people, and local curiosities all harnessed by my left-field despotism.
The Lost and Found Orchestra is at Brighton Dome from Thursday 20th December - Saturday 29th December.