From his home in New York, ahead of travelling to us for his UK tour celebrating 45 years of his album Ubiquity, we spoke to the most sampled artist in pop, Roy Ayers. In his fourth decade in the music industry, and approaching his 80th birthday, he discussed with us his rich and vast career, touching on collaborations, inspirations and aspirations, and teaching us a little more about the man behind the sax.
How’re you doing in New York?
Well, New York is great. It’s cold, but I’m inside!
You’ve been described by lots of people as a legend, a king and an influencer. Do you have any big diva demands before a show? Do you want white roses and dancing girls?
Everybody loves the sunshine, that’s what I say. Just the sunshine shining bright.
You’ve been descried as a musician, a composer, a producer, a writer and a singer – which of these is Roy Ayers?
I enjoy the performance. I’m the best performer of all. I’m a show-off and I really get off on people. You are my people and I love you all.
Do you still get nervous before a gig?
No. Once or twice I’ve been nervous but it’s because I was nerved by the audience and I just wanted to be great. I was at Carnegie Hall which is a big theatre and I got nervous. I don’t know why but as soon as I walked on stage, the nerves stopped.
You’ve worked with so many greats – past and present – is there anybody that you haven’t worked with that you would still like to?
I would love to work with so many people but if I had to choose one person, I would love to work with... oh, all of them are just about dead! I was trying to think of someone, and I was like damn... those are all dead!
Who has been your favourite collaboration?
I liked working with George Benson. He just about blew my mind. He was a great innovator.
When you started, did you have any idea how influential you’d be for the artists of the future?
I had no idea that I was going to be as great as I am. The degree of it was fantastic, it was incredible. It makes me feel great, inside and out.
Are there any new artists or new music that you’ve discovered which you love?
I’m discovering new artists, Erykah Badu – I like her. I’m doing some work with her and she’s a fantastic person. She’s very good. It’s amazing, I did a tour with her – a great tour – and she was fabulous.
If you had to pick one album which sums up your music, which album would you recommend?
You’re 80 this year, how do you keep yourself looking so good?
I comb my hair; I try to take care of myself and I try to look good.
You’ve played some huge venues in your time. If you had a choice would you play in a stadium or would it be a more intimate club?
An intimate club. I love the club atmosphere, that’s what it boils down to. It falls differently.
What’s in the pipeline for you in the next ten years?
I’m just going to play music and have fun.
Why should people come and see you, Roy?
Why should they come and see me? Because I’m good! I’m better than that.
Roy Ayers tours across the UK until 30 May, coming to London 17 April.