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John McDermott on what's next from the Jimi Hendrix archives

Axis: Bold as Love, on vinyl and in mono
Axis: Bold as Love, on vinyl and in mono
Experience Hendrix/Legacy

In two previous articles, John McDermott, director of the Jimi Hendrix catalogue, has talked about the recent mono reissues of Jimi Hendrix's albums. So what’s next from the Hendrix archives? It's been reported that “People, Hell & Angels” could be the last album of Hendrix’s unreleased studio material under the Experience Hendrix imprimatur, a process that began with the release of “First Rays of the New Rising Sun” in 1997.

“That record [“First Rays”] was kind of the best approximation of what Jimi was going to do,” McDermott says. “Because the important thing you have to recognize, no one knows what he would have done. He could’ve changed his mind right up to the last minute and done all kinds of things. So all we can do is annotate it correctly, present it in a manner contextually where people understand it, and say ‘Ah, okay. So this is how this song fits into the puzzle.’

“And I think with ‘People Hell & Angels,’ why we thought this would be an important kind of thematic record, was this was Hendrix working from outside the Experience, because that was also very much what was happening that time. Yes, he was keeping the Experience in its last version, with Billy [Cox] and Mitch [Mitchell]. But he was also open to the idea of working with Billy and Buddy [Miles], or working at the time with the Woodstock band, or with old friends, whether they’re Lonnie Youngblood or the Allen twins. I think in many ways, this Jimi was emerging as a producer and serving the song. Not necessarily always having to present ‘the band’ as an entity. It was a bold step for somebody in ’69 to think that way, because, particularly at that time, you were always trying to preserve the public identity of ‘the act,’ or the group if you will. And I think with Hendrix it was more about ‘Hey this is the song, and to make the song or to create the song I hear in my head, it’s gotta be with these guys.’”

But can this really be the last album of studio material?

“We don’t have anything planned,” says McDermott. “I can say we have found a tremendous amount of material over the years; many of the things on the Purple box set [“The Jimi Hendrix Experience,” released in 2000] or even 'People, Hell & Angels' were things that weren’t returned to the Hendrix family when they took over in ’95. So if there was some remarkable music to come forward of course it would be an immediate consideration as to whether or not to share it with fans and make it part of the library.”

Certainly more live releases can be expected (“There’s some live projects we’ve been working on which will certainly be commercially released in the months ahead”), even as Experience Hendrix considers other projects.

“We created a plan a long time ago of what we needed to do,” says McDermott. “We kind of mapped it out — 'First Rays' will be this, with the Purple box we’re going to create this linear chronological overview of unreleased material, we want to present the Winterland concerts in a specific way, we wanted to do Monterey with a documentary. So we really look at all of the various projects and then figure out whether there’s a significant anniversary, and also consult with the label as to what their feelings are. So it is a process. But in many ways it’s really about figuring out when is the best time to be able to produce these things and then bring them to the marketplace.”

All of which is good news for Hendrix fans hoping to be able to experience more from the Hendrix archives.

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