At The Catalyst Club’s Robert Wyatt themed evening, Em Chittock finds herself enthralled and occasionally amused by this month’s discussion of the life of musician Robert Wyatt.
The Catalyst Club bills itself as a ‘unique monthly Brighton event that pays tribute to the old traditions of French Salon, debating societies and Gentleman’s Clubs’, the premise being that a guest speaker is given fifteen minutes to impart their topical enthusiasm to the audience. Held every couple of weeks in a basement bar somewhere in Brighton, the club usually invites three speakers to each meeting; but last week saw Catalyst founder David Bramwell in conversation with Marcus O’Dair (‘writer, lecturer, musician, broadcaster’), the life and times of musician Robert Wyatt their chosen topic. Before the evening, my knowledge of Robert Wyatt was limited – I like a couple of Soft Machine tracks and Robert’s album Shleep, produced by Brian Eno – but O’Dair’s account of working on Different Every Time, his authorised biography of Wyatt, made me want to rush home and listen to his life’s work while simultaneously reading the biography and learning the laws of pataphysics (mentioned often in reference to the Canterbury Scene).
O’Dair spoke warmly about Wyatt without proselytizing, sometimes stopping to play a song clip or show a picture. It was like watching a really low tech presentation in class that, if done by someone you didn’t like, would seem a bit sh*t; but O’Dair’s comfortable delivery and visible pleasure in Wyatt’s work made it an enjoyable evening. Even if you’re not very interested in something, I think if someone is able to convey their enthusiasm and emotional investment in that topic it’s a pleasure to listen to (unless they’re keen on something like bear baiting or aggressive fascism). Those, like me, attending out of curiosity will, I’m sure, have left as fans of Robert Wyatt.