Evan Parker 

all photos courtesy Caroline Forbes

Interview by Dan Warburton
Paris, January 30th 2010

Even if you're not a regular reader of this magazine, tenor and soprano saxophonist Evan Parker should need no introduction (if he does try this). Incontestably one of free improvised music's MVPs, he's arguably one of the most important and influential musicians of the late 20th century – not to mention the beginning of the 21st. His longstanding trio with bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton stopped off in Paris for a couple of nights recently to play and record for Gérard Terronès's Futura Marge label at the Sunset, one of the French capital's famous cellar jazz clubs. It was just round the corner, at Le Baltard, that this conversation took place a couple of hours before the trio's second gig. Parker had been giving other interviews during the day, so I tried to surprise him by starting off with a question I was sure hadn't been asked earlier.-DW

Do you hate – or have you ever hated – Brian Ferneyhough?

Well, we dealt with that didn't we? (laughs) I cleared it up, I asked George Lewis for his email address and sent Brian an email to explain the situation in case he should stumble on one of those websites. He was very understanding and said it reminded him of the kind of spats that would blow up at Darmstadt in the 60s. Why would I hate Brian Ferneyhough? I didn't mind when it was in just one interview online, yours, but now it's been copied and pasted from website to website and I've seen it cropping up in different places far from its origin, and where the context is far from clear. But, no, I didn't say that, it was attributed to me by Radu, and it's not really very accurate. You know enough about what I stand for to know roughly what I was talking about – the relationship between complex notation and its interpretation in performance is a subject in its own right, but there is no reason why interesting music should not result from that, even if the score is impossible to play accurately, and Ferneyhough has talked very clearly about that himself.

I imagine Radu was using Ferneyhough as an example of the kind of music he didn't like any more, but behind his remark there was a serious point. I came to your music about the same time I discovered extremely complex, information-heavy post-serial music like Ferneyhough's, and I've always thought they had much in common. Do you think you were moving in similar territory?

Well there's always been that tracking going on between jazz and notated music, music coming out of the European tradition (what do we call it? Conservatory music?). It doesn't matter how far you go back with jazz, there's always been a parallel thing with renegade conservatory players, people like Lukas Foss, the Gruppo di Improvisazione Nuova Consonanza.. were we copying them? Did we accept certain givens of the language of new music already created by the generation before? I think you steal like a magpie from everywhere, and I think if you have a larger context in which you can embed your stolen fragments, or a kind of armature you can hang all the bits and pieces on so it looks like your work, well you've done well. If all you ever seem to be doing is quoting or referencing pre-existent formulae or solutions to problems, then you look like a pasticheur. There's a fine line sometimes.

Did you listen to all the Darmstadt avant-garde stuff when you started out?

Yes, I did, actually, but it was almost unobtainable in England at the time. There was just that one Philips Modern Music series, and I had Robert Craft's versions of some of those pieces, even before Boulez started conducting his own music. So, [Boulez's] Le Marteau sans Maître, the Stockhausen things, I listened to a lot of it, and I'm sure that what we could steal, we stole. The language, the techniques.

Talking of Ferneyhough, you've been working quite a bit lately with one of his ex-students, Richard Barrett. When and how did that come about?

I think the first thing I did with Richard was back in the early 90s when he was living in Holland - we played as a quintet with Peter van Bergen, Paul Lytton and, Michael Vatcher if I'm not mistaken. I'd heard him through the floor in Crow's house in London, when I went to an exhibition there. Crow was an artist friend of Richard and Paul's and his house was a kind of installation of his work. I'm not sure if they were playing live or if it was a tape of something, but you know the way it is when your ear gravitates towards some people, and you think, yes, this is interesting to me.

Do you discuss these questions of composition and improvisation with him?

Well we've agreed that we're not going to use that false antonym situation. All the semantic problems come from that. For me, improvisation is a compositional method, and notation is a compositional method, and if you can accept that there are strengths and weaknesses that come with both things, then all the apparent problems that I have with Gavin [Bryars], they all disappear. Obviously, if you improvise your music there's going to be a higher degree of redundancy, you're going to repeat yourself. When you have "all the time in the world to write fifteen minutes of music" you can make sure you don't repeat licks you used last time. But it's a question of.. notation suits the lonely character who sits in his room and who can take a lot of time to revise, edit, be rigorous and totally absorbed in what he's doing.

Did you compose things yourself?

Oh, I messed around with a few things, yes, but I'm useless at all of that. It takes me twenty minutes to figure out what clef I'm supposed to be using for viola, or what's a transposing instrument and what isn't. I'm slow, man. I never really got to grips with the skills involved. When I see someone like Kenny Wheeler, who writes music like handwriting, a natural extension of playing, for him it's all part of the same skill set, but for me it's always been a completely different skill set.

Talking of repeating licks, I'm reminded of that infamous remark of Jim O'Rourke's The Wire a few years ago – "they're not improvising, they're playing Evan Parker trio music"..

Well, that question disappeared too. We talked about it [with Jim], on the phone, because he heard that he may have upset people, so he called me. I said, do you feel that what you said was accurate and that they quoted you accurately, and he said, yeah, so I said, well there's no problem. You said what you wanted to say, they wrote it down, and it doesn't worry me at all. But of course we're improvising, and of course we sound like we sound – and to me that's one of the strengths of a group staying together. I don't subscribe to the "semi ad-hoc" (Derek's term) situation as being the ideal one. Of course it may provoke you, put you in a place that you feel happy in as a player and as an individual. For Derek [Bailey] that was where he felt best – but I don't feel it was the place where he made his best music, to be honest. I think he made his best music playing solo and with people that he knew pretty well. If he was here he wouldn't agree (I know he wouldn't, because he said it many times, as often as he could).

With Barry and Paul I suppose you don't sit around before the show and talk about what you're going to do – you just get out there and do it.

Absolutely. And Paul surprised both of us last night with the intensity of his playing, which is something to do I think with the low ceiling in the club. I don't know if you've noticed but drummers get a charge off that, off hearing themselves back so clearly off the ceiling. Paul's a remarkable drummer. Tony Marsh calls him Mr. Chops. Some people wouldn't necessarily realise that – you could play ten minutes of Paul Lytton and they might think, I'm not sure if that person's ever played the drums before in his life, and then you can play another ten minutes where he sounds like Roy Haynes on speed. Last night I was hearing a lot of that, post-Roy Haynes snap crackle and pop, extremely crisp, clean technique.

So here you are playing in a well-known jazz club, recording for a famous jazz label, telling stories about Dick Twardzik and his alarm clock between sets.. is your music jazz?

(Smiles) I see it as a spectrum – if I'm playing in a club like that I feel that the room has a lot to say – not just the shape and acoustics of the room, but the tradition of the room, its history in the presentation of music. I'm not really saying it comes to us from the walls, but there is something you feel. I don't want to be playing art music in a jazz club, or jazz in a concert hall. I like to find the right music for the place.

I felt that sense of history very strongly in the Village Vanguard when I saw Cecil Taylor there in 1997 (and I wondered if it wasn't same barman who was working there when the Bill Evans trio album recorded, breaking glasses during the quiet bits..). Have you ever played the Vanguard?

No, but I wouldn't mind giving it a go. I don't think it's beyond the bounds of possibility that at this point they'd give me a gig. Word gets around that I did good business at The Stone last October, and that's all that matters in New York.

That was a real marathon set of concerts you played at The Stone. How many shows did you play?

Two a night for two weeks, with a day off. So that's 24, I think.

And am I right in thinking John Zorn will be wanting to release some of them on disc?

No, he left that up to me. We talked about maybe going into the studio with Milford [Graves]. I'd like to do that.

Was that the first time you'd played with him?

Yes, it was great. He's one of my heroes, one of the last people I listened to before I felt I was ready to make my own music. The way he played with the New York Art Quartet for example, or with Don Pullen, was fantastic. A totally different approach from Sunny Murray, but those two schools really changed things. The first time I met John Stevens he was talking about that. "OK, Milford he comes from this, and Sunny comes from that.."

Have you played with Murray?

Yes, we played with [guitarist] Mark O'Leary. But I've met Sunny socially many times over the years. First time was during the summer before he came to Europe. I saw him at the Take 3 Coffeehouse in Bleecker Street with Cecil Taylor and Jimmy Lyons, just a couple of months before they came to Café Montmartre. I'd heard Sunny on record but I don't think he'd made that complete break with time playing then – the only thing I'd heard was Cecil's music released on Gil Evans' Into The Hot, where he's still playing a kind of broken time, sometimes countable kind of fives, metric elements. But that trio with Cecil and Jimmy! That was a revelation. All the materials were there, the open set possibility. Now you can do anything – now that you're free to play anything you want, what are you going to do? Fortunately I met the right people.

Who else did you see during that trip to New York? That was a time when there was so much going on there – Hugh Masakela managed to catch Ornette, Mingus and Coltrane all on his first night in New York, as I recall.

I saw Carla Bley subbing for Paul Bley with Gary Peacock, and I saw Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd, the School Days band. I didn't see Coltrane. I never saw Coltrane in America, in fact. First time I saw him was in Walthamstow, the quartet plus Dolphy in November 1961. I did see Dolphy at Birdland with Herbie Hancock on piano, before he played with Miles.



Last night you turned up just with the tenor. Wasn't the soprano "jazz" enough for the place?

I'm bringing the soprano along tonight, and we'll see what happens. But if I play with drum sets in a jazz type place, I tend to play more tenor. I like to play without amplification, and the soprano hasn't quite got the body to cut through the weight of the drums. When I'm in a church, I feel like playing soprano, and I like using the soprano when I play with electronics, because in general I don't like what electronic processing does to the tenor. It makes it sound weird, thick and clumsy.

When I hear someone like Mats Gustafsson or Peter Brötzmann, it's the same musician playing different instruments – but I always feel like the Evan Parker I hear on tenor is a different musical animal than the Evan Parker who plays soprano.

Well, they do seem to have drifted apart – but not essentially. It's the combination of the instrument and the context that tends to produce the divergence.

The tenor saxophone comes freighted with all that jazz history – it's hard for me not to be reminded of other tenor players when I hear you play certain lines and shapes. Are you more conscious of "the Tradition" when you're playing the tenor?

I suppose I am, yes. I found myself playing [Monk's] "Brilliant Corners" during the third set last night.

Were you aware of going that way before it happened? How "in the moment" are you when you're playing?

It's to do with breath length, and phrasing, and where you find yourself at the bottom of that phrase. What's the lowest note in that phrase? Am I going to start from the note below that for the next one, or what? It's like negotiating a staircase – that's what scalar means after all – a set of stairs that you go up and down, shall I jump up two, or go down one? A lot of what I'm working on in practice now (and how it translates into improvisation is another question, but..) is systematic permutations of intervals.

How do you practise? Is it everyday at the same time, religiously?

It should be, but it isn't (laughs). I never find myself in the right situation. I used to have a kitchen where it didn't upset anybody. These days I don't have a space like that, so I have to try various things like silent practice – with the instrument (mimes) and the embouchure but damping the reed so it doesn't produce any sound. Or I play extremely quietly, which is very good for the embouchure. I also dream about and wake up thinking about intervallic patterns.

That's one thing I often find you have in common with Steve Lacy, that concern for interval.

It's an extension of things Steve did, sure.

So how did you end up playing "Brilliant Corners"?

Well, I've been looking at the Monk fake book since it came out. Steve said it was pretty well done, and the changes were right, and certainly the melodies are written out right. It's for lazy people – the real aficionados, people like Stan Tracey, wrote them all out for themselves years ago – and I needed some of those things to be made clear to me. So I'm gradually memorising them, and I find it very helpful. Maybe it's not true of the whole of Monk's output, but many of the pieces are concerned with restricted interval types, or emphasising a particular interval, "Misterioso" being an obvious example. You can see that Steve took that element and went somewhere else with it.

Did anybody spot the Monk quote last night?

Nobody said anything. You know, I was mangling the time and everything, but I think it was audible. Phillippe Renaud asked me about it later that evening, so he heard it.

I did spot a quote from the "Internationale" in your album with Marteau Rouge [Live, In Situ, 2009] – that was recorded here at the Sunset too, wasn't it?

It was, and it was supposed to be for Gérard Terronès too, but I think they fell out about the mix. They did a mix they were happy with, presented it to Gérard and he said, Evan's not loud enough, or something like that. They said, well he's not going to get any louder (laughs), so he said, you can have the tapes and do whatever you want with it.

How did you get on playing with John Wiese last year? He comes from a completely different background from someone like Richard Barrett.

We didn't throw a lot away for that album [C-Sound, Broken Research]. I let John choose it – to me, it was more his idea, his project. I prefer to do it that way rather than sit around and argue about what was the best take.

Did you have to do some background work before that Free Noise tour? Did they send you millions of albums by Bastard Noise and Yellow Swans?

You're not losing me, you know – I know what a yellow swan is (laughs)! That tour was a bit of a producer's tour, in the sense that Lee Etherington up in Newcastle put the money together, we all met for three days up in Glasgow and then we did the tour. I think originally he wanted Chris Corsano to do it, but he was busy with Björk, so he suggested they use Paul Hession instead. So we did that tour with Paul, John Edwards, Culver, Metalux, Yellow Swans and C. Spencer Yeh. Every night we made up a list of things that we wanted to do, and who wanted to play with who.

How did you cope with the volume level? Those guys play pretty loud.

The Yellow Swan guys wanted it really loud, but the sound engineer said something like, this is a digital desk, I have to set the maximum level.. you guys might want to blow your ears out, but next week I'll be working with another band! I think this is very loud as it is and I don't see any reason to destroy buildings.

Do you see the noise scene as a potential new lease of life for improvised music (not that it necessarily needs one)?

The truth is that the real enduring patterns of development will be determined by negotiations between musicians, not by producers' ideas. Not to say that that was a waste of money or a throwaway thing, because it did introduce two different streams of music to one another, it did attempt a kind of synthesis, and it definitely exposed different audiences to things that they weren't familiar with.. so it did some good work, but it remains to be seen what spins off out of it. The album with John and me is the only spin-off I've heard about so far, but I could imagine seeing C. Spencer somewhere further down the road. I feel he's got that appetite. I've heard he's done some playing with Okkyung [Lee], so.. The people that want to stay in touch will stay in touch. And the people who think, well it was good but it wasn't going anywhere, will be content to leave it there.



Where do see this music heading in the next five to ten years?

I have been asked that before, and I always see it as having some relation to the brief life of the Music Improvisation Company, the way in which each person that was added was slightly more unlikely than the one before. It began as a duo between me and Derek – which is not the version that Derek says, that it began as a duo between him and Jamie Muir (I don't believe that's the only history that should be on the record: Derek and I certainly did rehearse as a duo, and he may have been rehearsing with Jamie as a duo at the same time, I'm not sure), then it was a trio with me, Jamie and Derek, and we did some gigs with that trio before Hugh [Davies] was in it –

Under the name Music Improvisation Company?

I think so, but I'm not absolutely sure of that. There was a name that Derek proposed before that, which was Instrumental And Electronic Improvisation ("so we can call it Instelimp").. And I thought, I'm not sure if you're joking,, so I came back with a separate proposal and he said, OK we can call it that. Then suddenly Hugh was there, and he replaced Gavin Bryars, who'd been doing things with amplified pin tables, post-Cageian kind of stuff (he wasn't playing the bass any more) and it was definitely Hugh that recommended Christine Jeffrey.. Then the question was, where do we go next? By then, careers had burgeoned and people were going off in different directions – Jamie was playing with King Crimson – and I think that was what really brought the curtain down on the Music Improvisation Company.

How did that group end up on ECM?

Fred Bracefull, the drummer, who was an old friend of Manfred [Eicher]'s, had heard us in Berlin, and he went back to Munich and said to Manfred, you're looking for a group to start your label with, this is the one. Manfred said, I can't afford to come to England, but I can send you a certain amount of money, can you make a record for that?

Had he heard you at all before he did that?

I don't see how he can have. He just took Fred's word for it. (Pause) That way of extending into the future, that way of developing a group by adding an element that doesn't quite fit, and then all the other pieces move around to make sense of it – I guess that's the way the future's going to work. That's also the way the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble developed. It's a question of being patient and adding people not because you can but adding them when they make sense.

And how did that group end up on ECM?

That was through Steve Lake. He has the chance to do a certain number of ECM productions under his own name – I think he'd probably like to do more, but he's also responsible for other aspects of the work for the company, translations, proof reading, selecting writers for this or that job, so he has a lot of different functions there, a lot of calls on his time. The next gigs coming up will be the version that we've already recorded, and then in August I've got something in Lisbon, and I'm adding three, hopefully four more players, so there'll be an 18-piece band with everybody up to The Moment's Energy plus Peter van Bergen, John Russell, Aleks Kolkowski and hopefully, Ikue Mori. I played with her in New York and I was, as they say, completely blown away.

Fred Frith once described her as his favourite musician.

Yes, praise indeed. She's fantastic. That would be a dream come true, and then that might be the end [of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble]. It might work, or I might make a complete fool of myself.

How do you respond to those criticisms of the "ECM sound", like what is Evan Parker doing on ECM? What did someone call it once, "the jazz label for people who don't like jazz"?

Yeah, a lot of these things are said by people who'd love to have a record on ECM! We could name names, but.. no, the question of what kind of acoustic space it was recorded in in the first place, where the microphones were.. There are a lot of misunderstandings about the recording process. When you add reverb, you're trying to make it sound like it was recorded in a particular room, and if it's too far from the truth, you hear it. I don't think any of my things have been so far from the truth that they couldn't have been recorded in a room, you know, like that church that Markus Stockhausen gives concerts in in Cologne. It's got an eight-second, absolutely pure reverberation across the audio spectrum. It's the most amazing acoustic. You don't hear the reverb until the sound stops. Well, why wouldn't you try to make things sound like they were recorded in a nicer room that the one they were recorded in? If it works with the emotional content of the music, or the acoustic content of the music. If it falls apart and is unbelievable, then you've failed.
People that make this blanket criticism of added reverb don't understand that logarithmic relationship between the signal source and the microphone. The closer you put the microphone to the source, the more you cancel the natural reverberation of the space the sound is happening in, and all the added reverb does is try and put it back. You're trying to use the full arsenal of techniques in order to make it sound like it sounds in the room. By not using those things, you're making everything sound like your ear's pressed against the drum head or underneath the cymbal. I mean, the whole thing is to be aware of what the space is doing to the sound. We had a very interesting experience with this trio in Groeningen many years ago when we did the Bicycle Concerts. You remember those? Marcel Roelofs did those Bicycle Concerts in small churches in villages all around Groeningen, and you have to cycle from one church to the next. We had to play in a very reverberant church, and the soundcheck it was like, what can we do? You can't play drums in a place like this! And then we found that if we played louder than a certain level, we cancelled the reverb. You can control those things.
One of the great critics of the ECM sound is Ben Watson, whose ears are so good he can't tell the difference between electronic effects and the resonance of a grand piano, as evidenced by his review of Keith Tippett's solo record. Why would I take the opinion of somebody that can't tell the difference between the natural reverberation of a piano and cheap electronic effects, or whatever he called them, why would I take that seriously? I've spent half my life in recording studios learning about this stuff. I'm not going to be dictated to by somebody that has a kind of doctrinaire view of what's natural and what's unnatural. It's actually unnatural to put a microphone six inches in front of a saxophone, because the audience is over there – once you've grasped that simple fact, what are you going to do to make it sound more like it sounds from over there? (Pause) Are you coming to the gig tonight again?

I think I got enough information from the those first two sets last night to keep my mind busy for two months.

I didn't mind at all that you left before the third set, by the way. You understand what we're doing tonight. It's going to be more of the same. We know what we're doing. It's not going to be disastrously under what we did last night, and it's not going to be amazingly over what we did last night. Because we're professional musicians – we produce to a certain level, regardless of whether we feel well or not.

But if John Zorn asked you for an album of ballads, like the one he commissioned from Derek, would you be able to do it?

Well, no. Derek came out of a background of playing a lot of those tunes, and when you read the books you see that he had an enormous affection for dance band music and dance band musicians, much more affection than he had for the improvisers. All his most caustic remarks were reserved for his colleagues from the world of improvised music, but this or that guy that he played with in this or that band, it was all rosy, good times. Nobody's really picked up on that. When I read that he was doing that album, I thought he'd be actually playing on the chorus structures and what have you, but he didn't.

If Derek walked in here now, what would you say? Did you ever patch up your friendship towards the end?

Well, to an extent. In face to face situations we could manage to be polite. I did bump into him in departure lounges from time to time. We did one tour of Switzerland back to back, I was with Paul Bley and Barre Phillips, and he was with the Ruins. We didn't socialise a lot. It's unfortunate that it's been such a feature of the terrain ever since, and it's something that I have to think about, nearly every day. What was really going on? How did it come to that?

I feel that when I listen to things like the Wigmore Hall concert, or the Rastascan album [Arch Duo, 1980]. It was so good – why did it have to end?

It's very nice of you to say that – and that's the essence of it. I'm hoping that we can arrive at some kind of understanding with Karen [Brookman, Bailey's partner and manager of the Incus label since his death] that will make it possible for more of that stuff to come out. There's plenty more stuff from that North American tour that should be released.

Going back to my chat with our mutual friend from Innsbruck, Mr Malfatti, you, along with Derek Bailey and Peter Brötzmann, were among the musicians he described as "stagnant".. how does it feel to be stagnant? (laughs)

Well, the interesting thing now is that that furrow that Radu opened up for himself is also in danger of getting pretty stagnant itself. At some point I think you have to come back inside. I mean, this trio with Barry and Paul is an example of a group that definitely came back inside – at some point, we said it's got to be a little bit more connected, you know, the tradition of saxophone, bass and drums, and we've got to try and make that audible. Not a question of formulae, you'll do this, and I'll do that, but basically by adding Barry to the duo I had with Paul, and at the same time Paul being under pressure to scale down his kit – I mean, if we wanted to travel, he couldn't travel with that enormous drum set – all of those factors meant that we came back inside quite a bit. In some way Paul's heart remains out there in some total gone space, but at the same time he's kept up his drummer's chops, so he can do both things. Sometimes in the middle of something he'll just stop and (mimes tiny movements on the edge of the table), oh look I can make a sound just by doing that (laughs)!

Talking of tiny sounds, are you following recent developments in more lowercase improv?

Well, I remember the first time I came across the new Radu. It was when I was staying with Peter Niklas Wilson, and he had this rather attractive green-coloured record with two pieces on it, one for solo trombone and the other for string quartet.

Yes, the 1997 Wandelweiser album [die temperatur der bedeutung / das profil des schweigens]. Paul Lovens told me at the time it was one of the most extreme things he'd ever heard.

We put it on, and I said, you're going to have to turn it up a bit, and at some point the solo trombone turned into a string quartet. You needed to be there, perhaps. I didn't get it. For me it's about doing something that you can hear. Of course it's about making gestures, of course it's about risking repeating yourself. The alternative is to lose contact with the feedback from the activity of playing.

But the pieces on that particular record are actually notated compositions. When he puts that back into an improvised context the results are different, wouldn't you say? The recent stuff is getting quite colourful, I think. What do you make of the people coming out of Eddie [Prévost]'s workshop in London?

I know Seymour Wright – I've known Seymour since he was a boy. His dad was – still is – a promoter up in Derby, Geoff Wright. He's one of the few promoters that's stuck with it and done it in an interesting way. No surprise that Seymour is such a bright lad, coming from such an interesting family. I like the new Sebastian Lexer record [Dazwischen, Matchless] a lot. I've got no problems with restraint – but there has to be something to listen to. I'm not very interested in somebody trying to shock me. That can't be done any more (smiles). All of those things have been done. If the criterion is to do something new, I'm not sure it's as easy as doing nothing. The real challenge is to make continuity, there has to be a line, a thread. I know it's a corny idea, but I say live and let live. If you expect to perform, the audience is the final judge, and if you can develop an audience for that extreme minimalism then good luck to you. You've done something, you've achieved something, and if that's what's happened, fantastic. But there's an expression I was taught – not by the guy that used it but.. does the name Tommy Chase mean anything to you?

Can't say it does, I'm afraid.

He was a drummer. From Manchester, I think. We used to have a friend in common, a guy called Tony Denistoun who used to promote small scale gigs, and loved to drive musicians home after gigs – he just liked being part of the scene. He's lived in Dublin for about 20 years now. He told me this story a long time ago. He used to like to wind Tommy Chase up by talking about his free playing friends like me, like, oh I drove Evan Parker home the other night.. At a certain point, Tommy Chase is supposed to have leant forward and said (imitates a flat Lancashire accent to perfection), don't class me wi' those bastards! (laughs) That "don't class me with those bastards", well we've all got a touch of that in our make-up. It's just a question of who the bastards are. If Radu doesn't want to be classed with a bastard like me, that's fine. We should at least be able to laugh about it.