Published on April 17th, 2017 | by Aoife Mccarthy0
Panpodium’s Aoife Mccarthy’s interview with Chris Storey – outstanding musician, arranger and composer
- PP: When was your first panorama? ‘
Chris: 1989 with Eclipse Steel Orchestra playing ‘Nani Wine ‘
- PP: First band you played for?
Chris: ‘The first band I ever played for was Seven Sisters primary school band and my first professional band that I played for was Eclipse Steel Orchestra back in 1988″.
- PP: What made you want to start playing pans?
Chris: “At seven Sisters primary school when I was in the nursery the music room was above the nursery. So, every week I would always hear the steel band from upstairs coming out the window into the playground, into the nursery. We had a day when we could go upstairs and see the band, and that was my first love, when I first heard them playing. I think they were playing ‘o when the saints’ and I think I was in total awe of it. And that was my first love of pan, not even knowing what it was but just seeing this metal instrument being played by these older kids and it just making a sound that I was totally in love with”.
- PP: When did you start playing pan?
Chris: “I started playing when I was in primary school with the Seven Sisters Primary School Steel Band”.
- PP: What other bands have you played for?
Chris: “I have played for: Ebony Steel Orchestra; Pan Vibrations; Pantonic, for a brief time; Stardust; CSI; CSO; Pantasia; London All Stars and Eclipse”.
- PP: What band would you want to play with?
Chris: “If we were talking about the UK, I’d love to play for Real Steel. If we were talking about Trinidad bands then I would love to play for Phase II”.
- PP: What competitions have you taken part in?
Chris: “I think one of the first competitions I ever took part in was when I was in Jr school with Seven Sisters Steel Band and we played at the British Gas Steel Band festival and we won a prize for ‘Best Teel Band’. And then we got invited to play at the evening concert alongside the ‘Radcliff Rollers’ and the Phase I. So, we were the only Jr school band to play. Then I entered the Jr Solo Panist in 1995, which I won. I’ve taken my schools into a load of competitions like the Croydon Music Festival, which my steel band won a few times. I’ve gotten through to the finals of the Music for Youth Festival with several of my different schools. Played panorama, my first win was with Ebony Steel Band. I’ve taken part in Pan Explosion, I think I’ve won that four times, three times with Pantasia and once with Pan Nation”.
- PP: What was the most challenging thing you have done to do with pans?
Chris: “Dealing with the racism is the hardest thing. Being told from such a young age that white people aren’t meant to be playing pan and I never really understood why people would say that because I loved it so much and it used to hurt me that people would say I shouldn’t be playing an instrument that I loved playing and I knew I was good at playing. It would have been on a weekly basis as well. I was very young when I was with Eclipse and the racist comments, even though they didn’t really mean it sometimes, when you’re ten years old and because I was such a shy child as well I took everything to heart. I think I had just had enough by the time I was 11/12, after playing with Eclipse for ¾ years, I just decided to stop. The only thing I ever wanted to do was to play pan as well as I could; arrange as authentically and keeping to the traditions that they do and the rhythms to make it sound as authentic as I can. I still have to deal with racism but I’m tougher now and I can take it on the chin and speak up for myself, whereas before I didn’t have much to say in response, whereas now I have plenty to say. I would say that it’s different now and my experience has been not perfect, but a lot better, and I would say it’s thanks to people like you who have shown that white people can play pan and do it well. , It has changed though. There are a lot of white arrangers and pan tutors in the UK now and we are doing the best we can. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say they are all doing a good job and keeping it as authentic as I think it should be, but that’s just my opinion. I would never tell another pan teacher or a fellow white pan teacher that they are doing it wrong. I can always say why I think it’s not right but I would never tell them what they are doing is wrong. Constructive criticism isn’t a bad thing and if anyone had ever come to me with some constructive criticism I would have taken it on the chin, but no one would ever do that. People would just want to come with derogatory comments to make people feel like they aren’t doing a good job”.
- PP: What’s been the most inspirational moment in your life?
Chris: “There have been a couple. The first one has to be when Len Boogsie Sharp came over to play solo at Pan Explosion. It was early 2000’s and I watched him solo live. I just thought that was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life. Watching him play, the way he just swam over the notes, it was just grace. I can’t remember what he was playing. I just remember afterwards leaving with Goosebumps all over my body and then introducing myself to him and meeting him. The second one was when it was my first Pan Explosion when we played at the pyramid stand down in Portsmouth. Earl Rodney was playing solo double seconds on the stage and he played a gospel set. It was just such a wonder full thing to watch. Especially because he was just doing all the classic gospel songs. He wasn’t doing runs up and down and all that stuff, it was truly the song. He filled it out with the chords; he was playing four sticks and it was amazing. That truly inspired me. I think that’s one of the inspirations to want to play four sticks, after watching Earl Rodney do that in 2005. That was really inspirational”.
- PP: What is your favourite pan to play?
Chris: “That is so hard because every pan has its part to play and every part is important, but I do love four pan Cello. I loved playing four pan with Eclipse; I loved playing four pan with Ebony. I love all the pans but I would say four pan Cello”.
- PP: Who are your inspirations both to do with pans and musically?
Chris: “Most definitely Chick Corea. I listen to him religiously. Some of his soloing on his own compositions is just out of this world”.
- PP: What are your hopes for pan?
Chris: “I feel that the pan community is a lot more unified than it was back in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I’m all up for rivalry amongst bands but it was quite ridicules at one point. It was quite violent. Everyone would be insulting each other. People hated each other for no reason just because they were playing in another band. Now, there is a lot more mixing with bands and people go out with players from other bands, there is none of that foolishness any more. That’s kind of died and I’m kind of glad of that. But we still have a long way to go with pan being taken seriously as a real instrument in this country. It’s going to take time and it is improving but we’ve still got a lot of hurdles to cross before people realise what this instrument is really all about. People still remember hearing yellow bird, and those kinds of songs all have their place to be played, but we are not going to inspire the young people of today to take on pan if all we are doing is teaching them ‘hot, hot, hot’. They need to be able to relate to something. That’s why when I’m in the schools and I’m teaching the modern tunes every now and then I’ll fling in an old one, but if you do the modern ones it keeps them interested”.