Of the Old, of the New...
Suddenly I find that another half year has passed by. For
most of it I've been buried away in the studio and barely
visible in real or cyber worlds, I'm afraid, with precious
little of newsworthy note to present to you. All of that's
about to change in the second half of 2006.
I should start with a few words about "Veracious", the most
recent Fie! release, which snuck out onto an unsuspecting
world earlier this year. This was, of course, a
documentation of (some of) the extremes to which Stuart
"Hooly" Gordon and I have taken things on stage. I've done
more live playing as a duo with Stuart than in any other
format over the last few years and it always comes as a
pleasure to do so. There are usually a few musical surprises
for both of us as well. By now, naturally, we have a pretty
good inkling of where the other is going at any given moment
and there's a great deal of flexibility and adventure built
into the basic architecture of the arrangements. There are
also a large number of songs in the common repertoire by
now, too, though some of them are always approached with a
degree of trepidation, at least on the singer's part.
In any event, last year definitely seemed to be the right
time to put some of this performance stuff forward in album
form; both to celebrate what we'd done over the years and
also in some small measure to draw the point that solo/duo
performances would be ongoing even in a world which - on a
sometime basis at least - contained the reunited VdGG.
As ever, I still hold to the idea that the whole point of a
live performance is that it's happening right here, right
now, in a particular room with particular people on stage
and in the audience. Any recording of it is a documentation
of rather than the event itself. So I'm not pretending that
"Veracious" is the Whole Truth of what my shows with Hooly
are about. However, it's clear that a live recording will
embody a lot of the fire and many of the principles which
inform the Entertainment and differentiate it from the -
perhaps more considered and controlled - studio versions of
things. One doesn't have to choose either/or between them;
in fact, for me, it's important to keep both irons in the
fire since, contradictory to each other though they are in
some respects, both are needed in order to stay balanced
about making music.
Without being definitive, then, "Veracious" certainly
captures at least the main elements of a duo show with
Stuart. The three performances from which it's culled are
separated from each other by considerable time, distance and
subjective experience; this, too, is part of the ongoing
game. While assembling the running order I was conscious of
the fact that there are a number of songs which have already
appeared in live recordings (whether solo or group) but
which still make regular appearances in sets today. I
decided to leave these out of the reckoning when assembling
the CD, even if our duo versions are markedly different from
those previously released. Instead, since we've regularly
been adding new pieces to our repertoire over the years, I
thought that I'd construct an album which consisted almost
entirely of songs which had only appeared before in their
original studio versions. Naturally, these are a long, long
way away from what we've ended up with as a "folk duo"....
Pass me the Arran Sweater, dear boy!
Naturally I was very pleased that I managed to go out on
tour again with Stuart for a brief spin in May this year.
There'd been a long gap since the last shows, as Van der
Graaf had evidently taken up most of my touring time in the
preceding period. In the end we only did a few
dates...apparently some World Cup thing was happening in
Germany so it was impossible to fit in anything there.
Happily, though, the duo shows are ongoing, with UK dates
(yes! a tour!) coming up in October and European ones in
November. (OK, I *know* Britain is a part of Europe...I
think you get my drift?) The dates are now up at
Meanwhile, as I say, I've been working on the next solo
album proper since January of this year. As of a few days
ago, it's finally finished, bar the odd remix/final
overdub/last minute panic or re-ordering of tracks. I expect
that it'll be out in early November or even late October. As
yet it's still untitled (though I've *almost* decided...);
in turn, of course, the cover is not yet designed. That's a
normal sate of affairs for an album at this stage. I'm not
going to say any more about it at present, except that it's
a genuine solo effort.
Apart from the new recordings I've been doing a lot of
remastering of late. First of all, the latest pieces of
reworked Fie! catalogue are now back in stock, to whit,
"Patience" and "Fireships". Both of these are fully
remastered and re-covered (by Paul Ridout, of course). They
'd been out of stock for some time, partly because their
original production had been by a different company to the
one we now use and the original masters of both audio and
artwork were no longer available. In order to repress any
copies at all it's therefore been necessary to start from
first principles. Rather than just copying and cloning it
seemed an appropriate time to do a serious job of updating
the things. This is work done out of necessity, in other
words, rather than prompted by marketing and resale
"Patience", in particular, needed to be brought up to speed
in the same way as its sibling, "Enter k", had been a few
years ago. The sonic enhancements are most evident on this
cd, therefore, as its recording predates the whole era of
direct to consumer digital delivery...that's to say, it was
originally put out on (and mastered for) vinyl. It now has
much more punch, as befits the content. "Fireships", being a
more recent record, required rather less effort to be
presented in a buffed up and gleaming state; in fact, if
anything I had to be wary of applying treatment for
treatment's sake. I have to say I'm modestly pleased with
the results in both cases and very glad indeed that they're
available once again. Obviously any copies coming from us
will be the remastered versions but if you have any doubt as
to what you're getting from any other source... the Cd for
"Fireships" now has a pictorial imprint on the CD, and the
cover photograph of "Patience" has a sepia tinge. Oh, more
simply, if the barcodes start 50245 then they're The New
These two albums are pivotal in my development at the
different points in my career when they emerged.
"Fireships", after all, was the first new recording to come
out on Fie! Records. It was also highly significant in terms
of my ongoing songwriting and arrangement attitudes.
"Patience", as a collection of songs, is probably rivalled
only by "Sitting Targets" in terms of containing enduring
songs to which I would return again and again in live
Moving right along on the remastering production
line...following on from their release of all the VdGG stuff
(and, indeed, "Fool's Mate") Virgin have now decided to put
out the next eight solo albums which fall within their
compass. I've been hard at work at the desk sprucing,
buffing, polishing and shining them to present them in the
best possible light. The earliest ones of these sounded
decidedly odd from whichever standpoint you want to take,
and were quite a handful to deal with in a sonic sense. But
they all have their fascinations and there's some cracking
content, of course.
The first four to emerge will be "Chameleon", "Silent
Corner", "In Camera" and "Nadir"; they're due in September.
They'll be followed by "Over", "The Future Now", "pH7" and
"A Black Box". There are odd extra tracks, sourced either
from BBC tapes or (as in the VdGG issues) from bootlegs, on
all the CDs except "Nadir" and "A Black Box", which remain
in their original form; it didn't seem right to add anything
else to these two. I've written liner notes, of a sort, for
all the releases and will write more about them here in a
second newsletter later (but not much later) this year.
Several solo CDs on Virgin remain deleted at present; the
company are waiting to see how things go in sales terms with
the current eight before making a commitment to remastering
the remainder. That seems fair enough to me. But obviously
I'd be interested in as many people as possible buying the
current remasters both for their own sake and also so that
the whole catalogue becomes available (and properly
presented) once more. End of promotional message.
Oh, yes, I expect I'll be putting up more "Artist's Notes"
for some if not all of these albums in the near future.
Several of you have lamented my tardiness in this regard and
I apologise for it unreservedly. Well, slightly reservedly -
I'd always rather be doing something new than dwelling on,
commenting on (or even remastering) the past....
Much of this newsletter seems to be taken up with the "will
let you know when all becomes clear" kind of stuff. Yet
another item on the "soon come" launchpad is...The Digital
Download. Not before time, at long last my recent albums are
- gradually - going to become available online. The first
two Fie! releases which will be yours at the touch of a
mouse button and the flash of some virtual plastic will be
"Patience" and "Fireships". They *should* be available in
most formats and most "stores" in the very near future. As
we get more information on services which provide them we'll
put it up in the latest news section...or even , possibly,
in a dedicated page.
At last, yes. Aural/visual evidence of last year's passage
of VdGG across the live firmament should soon be available
in concrete and legal form, CD (RFH) and DVD (Leverkusen).
We've been in discussion with a couple of companies for what
seems like a hundred years and - hopefully - things are now
finally drawing to a conclusion. Dare I say more than that?
Perhaps it would be too much of a hostage to fortune to do
so at this stage.
Finally, while on the VdGG front I realise that some rumours
and statements are abroad which are apparently
contradictory. At this stage I can only say that all public
statements remain true and consistent in their internal
logic. Watch this space.