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Year of the Pig

Pork Scratchings

  Two cassette releases from the first two years of the club!

The China Pig Club

ran for just over three years in a room over the Rose & Crown pub in Hackney. As usual, the pub had no music licence, the landlords were willing to let us use the room for the extra custom, and the musicians shared the door money, less a few pence for photocopying & postage etc.

Yes, the name (and part of the sentiment) did come from the Captain Beefheart song ( "mmm....Trout Mask Replica"!), but was also a reference to a succession of mammalian names for such clubs, eg Francine Luce's Black Cat Club, Andy Hammond & Nick Couldry's Polar Bear Club.

The policy, was to present "the best in original & improvised musics". In other words, the music could be improvised, jazz, classical or whatever, as long as it was the performers' original work; no pops, covers or standards.

The result was a program of wonderful and eclectic British and European improvising musicians, free jazzers, avant-garde electronica and the occasional original cabaret songs or classical composition; everything that was not, broadly, mainstream. The list of musicians who played there reads like a Who's Who of British free jazz, free improvising, electronic and eclectic players, plus a good few names from Europe and even Japanese zen monk shakuhachi player Shiku Yano, with Satsuki Urasawa on koto.

After its demise as a regular venue, I helped out on the door for Elton Dean's Jazz Rumours while it was running at the old Vortex, and also when Jims Dvorak and le Baigue revived it at the Cross Kings in King's Cross, but the China Pig name seems to have lived on, attaching itself to occasional gig promotions (such as the Porkestra) and an Arts Council sponsored festival. Although there are no plans to resurrect it as a weekly or monthly club, the Pig refuses to die, surviving as Chinapig Productions, an umbrella tag and label for CD releases and appropriate future enterprises.

John Russell's Mopomoso continues to happen on the third sunday of each month, at the Vortex in Dalston; Hugh Metcalf's Klinker (or Clinker) has resurfaced at Apiary Studios on Hackney Road, on the 15th of each month (whatever the day!), and Alan Wilkinson's FlimFlam still happens the last wednesday of the month downstairs at Ryan's Bar on Stoke Newington Church Street, while Sue Lynch & Adam Bohman's Horse improv club is currently happening at i'Klektic Arts Lab, in Lambeth. Noel Taylor has been doggedly promoting improv at Arch 1, an intimate venue close by Star Lane DLR station in West Ham. It's so much easier to find than people think, but the same was true of the Chinapig Club in its day ("Oooh, E8? How far out's that then?"); everyone knows now though - 'cos they all go to Cafe Oto who've built their reputation on the promotion of improvised & 'left-field'. music!

Many other much-loved clubs have come & gone, so check out and enjoy these places while they're still flourishing!


Porkestra Perspective

The stunning horn section above, is:

Claude Deppa, Ian Smith, Roland Ramanan, Clive York, John Grieve, Ntshuks Bonga, John Telfer, Donald Manson, Dave Jago and Paul Taylor, with probably Marcio Mattos and Dave Fowler joining me in the rhythm section.


The equally magnificent variation on the line-up here is:

Roland Ramanan, Ian Smith, Jim Dvorak, Julia Doyle(hiding behind Jim), Roland Bates, Donald Manson, then (front row) Clive York, John Grieve, Ntshuks Bonga, Alan Wilkinson, yours truly(back to camera), and over on the right, John Telfer. Hilary Jeffrey is hiding behind me, and Dave Fowler is hiding behind everyone else, at the drums.

The Porkestra

started as a spontaneous first birthday party blow for the China Pig Club, but took some years for the name to materialise, in the meantime masquerading as the Prime Porkers! Anarchy and loud exhuberence ruled! Then I got over-ambitious & tried to bracket the anarchy between 'heads', tunes even, which meant writing out charts for my compositions, rehearsals, in rehearsal studios of course. Even if the goal was free improvisation, it was supposed to evolve out of the written themes, a scaffold on which to hang coherent improvisation. It was an ambitious idea. Add to this around 15 musicians, no money, and hardly any venues available, or big enough, it's not surprising that I've never managed to organise many performances!

When it does happen it can be an exhilarating, exhuberent, chaotic, joyful mix of wild horn arrangements, dance rhythms, group improvisation & searing solos. The music is composed by anyone in the band (Roland Ramanan and Caroline Kraabel have both contributed), and the whole is quite an experience for musicians & audience alike!

Other fine people who are or have been involved at one time or another include,Steve Noble, Caroline Kraabel, Kevin Davey, Richard Beard, Nick Evans, Gary Curson, Eric Peachey, Alan Tomlinson, Oren Marshall,  and ex-Ivory Coaster Joe Szarowitz even put in an appearance one time.

My thanks to all who have participated, and maybe we'll put it together again one of these days?


The China Pig 'Hall of Fame': posters on the wall of the club room; some just still readable!
2016 Dave Draper