STEVE BOYLAND: Interviewed by Scott Thurston

Steve Boyland was born in Liverpool in 1957, and sang with several local rock and blues bands during the mid-70s, before joining jazz-rock quartet FUSION in 1976, which was led by former KING CRIMSON drummer ALAN MENNIE. He studied improvised music at the University of York in the early 1980s and moved to London in 1983 where he began participating in the free improvisation scene with figures like Maggie Nicols, John Stevens, Lol Coxhill, Pete Nu and Paul Rogers.

Steve returned to York in 1984, attending harmony and improvisation workshops with Jazz Composer-in-Residence BOBBY WELLINS and his successor, RICK TAYLOR, while extending vocal studies with ROBERT LEE at York Minster. Performances with Wellins and Taylor led to a series of broadcasts for BBC radio and to the formation, with trombonist Taylor (Gil Evans Big Band; Onward International), of the quintet SONG CYCLE.

Steve returned to Liverpool in 1992, and developed teaching and performance activities through organisations like LIVERPOOL MUSIC CENTRE and the annual LIVERPOOL SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL, establishing links with local and international musicians from a variety of different traditions. These included projects with improvisers like MAGGIE NICOLS, JULIE TIPPETS and KEITH TIPPETT, as well as with World Music specialists such as LOUISE SCHULTZ-WANSELIUS and SURINDER SANDHU.

The main focus of his work in recent years has been in the field of FREE IMPROVISATION, both through his solo work and through collaborations with international practitioners in PERFORMANCE, DANCE, VISUAL and SOUND ART as well as in IMPROVISED MUSIC. As a SOLO improviser, he increasingly chooses to locate his work in architecturally and acoustically-inspiring spaces, such as churches and galleries. The 2008 album ‘JOURNEYING WITH RESTRAINTS’ was recorded live in Liverpool’s celebrated GUSTAV ADOLFS KYRKA, while he appears regularly in both VERNISSAGE and INTERVENTION performances in galleries throughout Europe. Recent appearances include solo performances at LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL in 2012; and the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol 2013, as well as performances in Cologne 2011, Linz, 2010 and Porto 2009. Steve has been a regular visitor to Cologne in recent years, establishing several important creative associations with key performers and artists in the city.

Steve also performs with the trio MINTON/NICOLS/BOYLAND, featuring long-term colleague, PHIL MINTON.

To hear extracts from Steve Boyland’s performance for Songs from a Metal Forest (recorded inside Jorge Macchi’s installation ‘Refraction’ during Liverpool Biennial 2012), click here: Songs from a Metal Forest
To hear a track from Steve Boyland’s CD, Journeying with Restraints, click here: Journeying With Restraints (Part 2)

Click here to see: Steve Boyland interviewed by Scott Thurston (1)

Click here to see: Steve Boyland interviewed by Scott Thurston (2)


Scott Thurston on Steve Boyland

Steve Boyland charges space with sound as a poet charges words with meaning. This is an act of dialogue with the world in which the voice acts as a kind of sonar – reflecting an image of the world back to the speaker – allowing Boyland to ask the big questions: what is my place in the world, where do I end and others begin, who & what am I? But this art is also a form of architecture. Boyland’s vocalising subjectively re-defines space, so that to experience his work is to inhabit a new environment with its own scale, atmosphere and materiality. This ritual of interchange between artist and environment is also highly sensitive to the dramatic structure of time, so that these soundings become of the order of lyric poetry – tracing arguments and transitions of thought and feeling with passionate intensity.
To witness a Boyland performance is to be taken fully into account in his enquiry: as listener, presence and co-participant. His range of expression allows him to test different orders of representation against each other, never settling into one single account. Thus by turns we may be charmed by ancient melodies in one passage, then confronted by walls of abstract sound in the next. Boyland’s dialectical vocalising has the capacity to take us on great journeys of the imagination but will also constantly return us to an empowering awareness of where these journeys originate: in the charged, resonant spaces of the body.


SCOTT THURSTON’S books include: Figure Detached Figure Impermanent (Oystercatcher, 2014), Reverses Heart’s Reassembly (Veer Books, 2011), Of Being Circular (The Knives Forks and Spoons Press, 2010), Internal Rhyme (Shearsman, 2010), Momentum (Shearsman, 2008), and Hold (Shearsman, 2006). He edits The Radiator, a little magazine of poetics, and co-edits the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. Scott lectures at the University of Salford, UK and has published widely on innovative poetry, including a book of interviews called Talking Poetics (Shearsman, 2011). See his pages at


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