Our PUG Spotlight interviews have already provided an insight into some of the fascinatingly diverse creative talent the North East (and beyond) has to offer, and Jamie Cook is next up and very much the quintessential example of this.
The musician is a major part of a great deal of exciting projects and serves as PUG’s lighting and sound tech, which offers up “a wonderful opportunity to close the evenings with a fruity and zany DJ set” according to the man himself, “which I choose a fresh alias for.” With MC Legalise and DJ Destiny his former guises, his next alter-ego is another reason to get excited for the next PUG show.
Perhaps the most exciting of his projects, and the one which seems to embody much of Mr Cook’s ethos, is Cooking With Three. The mix-media improv music ensemble has grown greatly, and serves up some of the most original entertainment on offer anywhere. With real passion, Jamie explained “the premise of it is that it is a constantly changing line-up so we’re always inviting different artists to collaborate with us. We work with dancers, live visuals and musicians. We create pieces spontaneously, and we have projections being projected across the dancers and musicians.”
The group began as a duo with Faye MacCalman (the local jazz sax player), and has slowly invited more and more people to get involved. Jamie clarified the name change from Cooking With Faye, to Cooking With Three, “it’s gotten to the point where it’s no longer defined as just me and Faye, the core members at the moment are Adam Goodwin on visuals and Lizzie Klotz on dance.”
“We’ve found a home in gallery settings although that’s something that I want to try and challenge. I want to perform improvised music in a way that’s more engaging for the audience and invites them in a bit more.” It’s this attention to location, that could see this project reach beyond preaching to the converted and becoming a very exciting project that draws new people into our exciting cultural scene. It’s with this in mind that Jamie talked through why he chose to involve dancers too “one of the main reasons I chose to work with dancers and felt like the dancers could act as translators.”
A cornerstone of mine with any art is just that it’s direct and honest
The venue and audience will always play such a huge part in this artistic venture, “we have to wait and see what a space is like and then what an audience is like, and an atmosphere is like and then immediately respond to that. If we look for more interesting spaces we’re gonna have to respond to that and that’s gonna inspire different material.”
It’s this improv philosophy that shapes much of Jamie’s work; “a really beautiful philosophy behind it of it just being stripping down tradition in music and western systems, and trying to discover a really fundamental human connection with our art.”
“A cornerstone of mine with any art is just that it’s direct and honest.” This comes through in his attitude to his work as a singer-songwriter too, “I guess it always feels like that kind of work challenges it. I try and do it in a really simple way. For me it’s an earnest, self-reflective thing.”
Carrying through this improv ethic, “you’re not eyes closed singing your private little song, you’re eyes open looking at the performers and the audience as well,” serves all of the projects he’s involved with very well.
Being part of a vibrant North East cultural scene is important too, “there’s definitely a really, really incredible arts scene in my demographic. I couldn’t say if it’s increasing or decreasing, I feel like I’m just discovering it. I also feel the importance of getting outside of the bubble of my demographic as well. I feel like PUG is such a beautiful and successful attempt at developing the scene and making it more inclusive and diverse.”
The inclusiveness offered up by another of his creative guises, Roiler Boom, is fuelled by this. The open decks night is a welcoming evening that really pulls people together, borne again from something quite simple, “my favourite thing about mixing, was doing it with one or two mates in my bedroom, chatting and sharing records.” Craving the social element, Roiler Boom was born.
“We have people coming out of the woodwork with these amazing record collections, stuff that you couldn’t slip into a normal night. It’s these gems, these amazing people that haven’t had the opportunity to get their favourite record played out in a room full of people and them all enjoy it.”
Stretching his talents into the dance world too, he worked with Peter Kerry Forbes to develop a piece for Dance City’s Dance Edits programme. “He’d asked me to develop and perform the movement element of the piece and an original soundtrack. It had to incorporate text that he’d written and create musical ideas that would shift into soundscapes.”
Also forming part of a Random Acts project with friend Adam Goodwin, he helped in the sounds for the short film that was produced. “We used the Cooking With Three format, so we had an improv session, and responded mainly to the visuals.”
He’s also worked with the bagpiper Jordan Aikin and Irish drum player Callum Younger in the folk live remix realm too, really filling his time with many exciting projects.
In talking with Jamie Cook, it’s apparent that with nights like PUG, and projects like Cooking With Three, the North East’s cultural world is far from resting on its laurels. There are exciting, inventive, talented people willing to take risks and try something new, and constantly push to draw new people in. With much more to come from the talented musician, his is a name to look out for, as is his next DJ name for PUG too.