In my own mind, Charles Hayward is the face of the United Kingdom. He is certainly not royalty and scarcely appears to be seeking fame, but his continued involvement in the music scene has garnered him a swath of friends and artistic peers, and seen to it that some of his earliest work has made it to my ears. Hayward has wandered and collaborated in various styles and with countless partners throughout his life. He has conducted experiments, transforming his sound in ways that inspire my own artistry and imagining. Much of the modern “noise rock” and “industrial” scenes can trace their origin to Hayward and his peers.
Primarily a drummer, Hayward claims his “long term music agenda started when a child and not stopped since.”
Referring to his creative drive as an “agenda” is more than fair. Hayward has been working diligently throughout his life to transmogrify, disintegrate and graciously serenade the ears and minds of those who listen. He often communicates through crushed cymbals, obliterated drum heads and impassioned yelling. Other times he spins grand anecdotes obscured by his unfailing sense of rhythm and a thousand interlaced threads of his political and interpersonal beliefs. Just as frequently, he vocalizes beautiful to heinous nonsense or simply creates soundscapes free of voice and dense in detail. He has utilized countless different instruments from electronics and tape manipulation to singing bowls and the melodica to realize his visions.
My initial exposure to Hayward’s music came in the form of his early group, This Heat, which included Gareth Williams and Charles Bullen. Their unique approach to composition combined contrast and harmony with typical instruments as well as analog audio manipulation to produce a sound which cannot be found elsewhere. Lead by Hayward’s percussion and focused on all three members’ fantastic vocal work, any given song develops organically in often unexpected ways.
There are clear political messages engrained in This Heat’s words, from images of war to a mockery of cellophane shrink-wrap. At the heart of the winding chanting and crooning is an unyielding perspective on the world which seems to reveal new meaning through each listen, both by the tone of delivery and the complexity of the lyrics themselves.
After This Heat disbanded in 1983, Hayward formed Camberwell Now out of the ashes with Trefor Goronwy and Stephan Rickard. The trio produced fantastic music in the same vein as This Heat, with equal passion but an often cleaner ascetic. Through further experimentation in vocal work, composition and the continual employment of electronics, Camberwell Now crafted some of the finest audio my ears have encountered. After several years of moderate success, Camberwell Now separated in 1987.
Hayward has worked extensively alone and through a variety of different collaborative projects since. He is a studio musician with the Lewisham Art House, a co-op of artists and musicians offering gallery and studio space in exchange for volunteer work. He performs regularly throughout the U.K., and has toured globally. Other projects of his include “Monkey Puzzle Trio,” “Massacre,” “Quiet Sun,” and “V4V.”
Recently he completed a residency with the new music program “Samarbeta,” in which he collaborated with over a dozen other musicians and artists. The fruit of their work, entitled “Anonymous
Bash,” explores a realm of noise and harmony through their collective minds and tools. After a limited edition vinyl pressing sold out, the audio was made available for streaming on the Samarbeta Bandcamp page. Hayward will be touring with Anonymous Bash throughout February, but sadly they will not be leaving the United Kingdom.