John Bisset


Born 1960 Stockport, Cheshire; guitar

John Bisset received early training on the piano, but from 11 preferred the guitar, on which he was left to his own devices. In 1975 he became involved with the Manchester Musicians' Collective, whose core included Trevor Wishart (electro acoustic composer), Simon Holt (classical composer), Tony Friel (cellist and bass player with The Fall) and Dick Witts (percussionist, journalist and organiser). Bisset's early works were compositions and structures for improvisations on the piano, guitar, viol and assorted objects (paint tins, tent poles, etc), performed at the Collective's eclectic nights at the Band-on-the-Wall, Manchester.

In 1977, caught up in the spirit of New Wave, he became lead guitarist in the Spherical Objects, and also began writing song-based material, singing and playing guitar in a duo with Richard Westwood on saxophone and toys. With the addition of trombone, bass and drums this duo became the band Grow Up, recording two albums, an e.p and a single. Throughout this time Bisset was giving equal attention to visual art, as a painter and printmaker. He graduated from Ravensbourne Art College in 1982 and spent the following years attempting to sythesise these interests in writing musical-theatre ranging stylistically from Jarryesque pantomime to abstract electronic opera.

Around 1987 his activities split into making theatre with children, practising pure painting, writing songs for the group Suddenly Last Summer and improvising freely with The Mosquitoes. Since 1995 he has worked exclusively in music: as guitarist, composer and organiser of events.

Improvisation: His initial choice of the guitar was as an instrument unhampered by rules, and the majority of his live performances are as a free improviser, including collaborations with Pat Thomas (keyboards & electronics), Charles Hayward (drums), John Edwards (double bass), Mark Sanders (drums) and Kaffe Matthews (live sampling). Over recent years he has predominantly improvised on acoustic with a pared down simplicity which focuses on the instrument's essential properties: a wooden box with strings. His most regular partners in this area include Rhodri Davies (harp) and Burkhard Beins (drums).

The London Electric Guitar Orchestra was formed in 1995. The group explores and celebrates the vast range of sonic possibilities of the electric guitar, and has progressed from dadaist irreverence and anarchic performances through deconstructed song forms to its current combination of improvisation and composition, with Bisset as conductor.

Relay takes place annually in London, periodically in Berlin and most recently in Athens. It involves 3 venues and 13 musicians rotating through the venues in randomly created combinations such that the number playing at each venue is always the same: when one arrives, another must leave. Two Relays are documented on cd: Relay III (1995) and Relay Eight (2000).

John Bisset has organised the 2:13 Club (London/Berlin/Athens) since 1994 - presenting monthly concerts of experimental and improvised music, Relays and occasional Festivals. This is run with Burkhard Beins (Berlin) and Nikos Veliotis (Athens). The associated label is 2:13 Music.

John Bissets' current activities include:


6 l.p.s and singles from teens....
Flying Fish (without wings) - OBJ015
Funny Old World - The Mosquitos SB38
West Third and MacDougal - Suddenly Last Summer SB24
1995, Relay III - random play, 2:13 Music 01.
1996/7, Kneel down like a Saint Gorilla and stop, 2:13 Music 003. L.E.G.O.
1997, Dervish, RES 6.1CD. Resonance compilation CD; track featuring L.E.G.O.
1998, 16 lumps of chease, 2:13 Music 005. L.E.G.O.
1998, The Ice Queen and the Sun King, 2:13 Music 006. L.E.G.O.
1998, Malthouse, 2:13 Music 010. Duo with Rhodri Davies.
1999, Grounded not bottomed, artpartout CDR. John Bisset/Rhodri Davies/Marcus Heesch.
1999?, 7 wholls, 2:13 Music 007. L.E.G.O.
1999, Proceedings, Emanem 4201. London Improvisers Orchestra.
2000, The hearing continues..., Emanem 4203. London Improvisers Orchestra.
2000, Chapel, 2:13 Music CD012. Burkhard Beins/John Bisset.
2000, Relay eight, 2:13 Music CD011.
2001, Freedom of the city 2001: large groups, Emanem 4206. London Improvisers Orchestra.
2001, Pocket, 2:13 Music CD013. Pocket.
2003, Crypt, 2:13 Music CD016. Alex Ward/John Bisset duo.
2003, Smithy, 2:13 Music CD017. John Bisset solo.
2004, A schlep from Strathbungo, 2:13 Music CD019. John Bisset/Ivor Kallin.
2005?, Sticks and stones, 2:13 Music 018. L.E.G.O.
2007, Separately & together, Emanem 4219. London Improvisers Orchestra/Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra.
2007, Improvisations for George Riste, psi 08.06. London Improvisers Orchestra.
2007?, Ready to go/Stupid cat, OP1. Pocket.
2008, Over and over, OP3. Country Dad.

Acknowledgements Audio clips Bibliography
Distributors and Retail outlets Full text articles/interviews Links to related sites
Non-European improvisors OrganisationsScope of this site
Upcoming concertsVideo clips What's new