PIP PYLE 1950-2006
I began playing with Pip Pyle in 1978, when we started the band Soft Heap with Alan
Gowen and Elton Dean (all, sadly departed now). Pip and I found that we got on well rhythmically, although we were neither of us correct metronomic players – what we discovered together was a
sort of organic, tumbling octopus that crashed and lurched through people's tunes, but always got there in the end!
I played with him in various projects throughout the eighties and
nineties – his own band L'Equipe Out; Phil Miller's In Cahoots; French guitar wizard Patrice Meyer's trio and quartet, and Short Wave with Phil and Didier Malherbe from Gong. Pip also
occasionally drummed in my Franglodutch band and played on recording sessions for me. We spent a lot of time in band buses and cars on the road, particularly in France. The worst was Pip's own
white Ford Transit van, bought for a song from the British Gas Board when they had condemned it. This vehicle (I use the term loosely) clattered around the Paris suburbs where Pip had been living
since 1985, and nearly asphyxiated any who was brave (or stupid) enough to ride in it. Pip was very skilled at persuading French gendarmes that a) he wasn't really drunk and b) that the van
belonged to some other idiot Englishman who had foisted it on him, the long-suffering victim…
He was indeed great at getting other people to do things that they didn't really want to
do, mainly by turning on a sweet little-boy smile and spouting charming words at them until they did what he wanted. It worked well with women, too… And he was great if you needed help,
particularly with intransigent French bureaucrats (and they have the Olympic champions of intransigence in France, believe me). Where most of us would have folded up and gone home, Pip would
never let these fonctionnaires off the hook. I think they gave in eventually just to get him to go away.
Unfortunately I didn't play so much with him the last few years of his
life – I found that we had lost that magic rhythmic complicity together. Whereas in the glory years we just played and wonderful rhythms appeared out of nowhere, the last few times I played with
him, it was hard work, and not very rewarding. Maybe because he was drinking more… who knows?
It was a shock when Patrice Meyer called me from France to tell me Pip was dead, but I
can't say it was a surprise. I think Pip had been heading that way for the last couple of years.
I won't say RIP, rest in peace. I can't imagine Pip resting in peace up there (or,
more likely, down there). He'll be raving away with Alan Gowen, Elton Dean, Gary Windo, Harry Miller, Mongezi Fesa … all the other hooligans who lived their lives the way they wanted.