Commissioned back in 2017 as part of City of Culture, the film tells the life story of the pioneering musician and composer who died in Hull in 2005.
Regarded as the founding father of ambient music, Basil joined his father’s dance band during the war and rose to become Britain’s leading jazz drummer during the height of the dance band era in the 50s.
During the 60s he composed scores for films including Primitive London, Having A Wild Weekend, The Shuttered Room, I Start Counting, The Strange Affair, Negatives and The Abominable Dr Phibes. During this time his dad’s band became residents at the newly opened Hull Locarno Ballroom and during his visits to Hull, Basil made friends with local musician and studio supremo Keith Herd of Fairview Studios in Willerby.
The foundation of ambient music
Aways pushing musical boundaries, Basil started playing around with tape-recorded sounds, experimenting at Fairview, slowing the down and speeding them up to create the radical new soundscapes which appear on his two influential albums both titled Worlds Within Worlds.
Both of these albums were commercial flops at the time, but have subsequently achieved cult status and come to be regarded as highly influential – cited by Brian Eno as being the foundation of ambient music.
Basil’s lack of regard for commercial success and his single-minded mission to find new sounds meant the paid work dried up in the early 70s. After the flop of his two ‘Worlds’ albums Basil and his Swiss wife Esther moved up north – first to Hornsea, then to a small terraced house in Hull, just off St George’s Road.
But he kept on making music, relying on favours from the Hull-based musicians and producers who formed a loose house-band at Fairview Studios.
Then in the early 2000s jazz and library music fan Jonny Trunk, founder of the record label Trunk Records, managed to track Basil down and started re-releasing much of his earlier work to a younger audience.
“The resonance gets louder”
Suddenly Basil was cool again, getting the recognition he surely deserved – his work influencing bands such as Stereolab, Broadcast, The High Llamas, St Etienne and more.
In spite of the fact that he had been diagnosed with cancer, Basil found a renewed energy and began work on a new album, Particles, with Hull-based producer Iain Firth helping to steer the album to completion and release through Jonny’s label.
Basil died penniless in Dove House Hospice in 2005, but as the journalist and critic Richard Williams says in the film: “The resonance gets louder.”
Mind On the Run tells the remarkable story of Basil’s life in music. It’s the story of a true outsider with a unique voice and vision, the great lost composer who found a creative home in the great lost city of Hull.