From Avant-Garde to Electronics: Mazette Watts

Done midway through his prolific, if under-recognized career, this previously unpublished interview with Mazette Watts (1938-1998) also offers a profound snapshot of the experimental music scene in 1974. Speaking to Jazz Magazine’s Chris Flicker on a tape transcribed, edited and introduced by Pierre Crépon and published in The Wire, Watts who had been involved in the initial flowering of the 1960s New York New Thing in association with Sonny Sharrock, Byard Lancaster and others, saw the music in decline in the US after the deaths of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. Lack of decent venues, no major label support, fruitless DIY projects and players’ expatriation and complacency are cited, with Watts only singling out Cecil Taylor, Frank Wright and Sam Rivers for praise. Someone who had taught, traveled internationally and worked as a recording engineer/producer, Watts instead saw the future in terms of merchandising finished products and more importantly, synthesizer programming and computers. At the same time he maintained few users, except for Terry Riley and Roger Powell were using the syntheizer to its full capacity and has harsh words for the Sun Ra, Stevie Wonder, Paul Bley, Herbie Hancock and even John Cage.