The end of another year is almost upon us. Doubtless I'll
stand corrected quickly if I'm wrong, but I believe this is
the first time in thirty-five years that a calendar year has
gone by without the appearance of some kind of new work from
me. Thus there is little by way of news to report at this
It's not that I've been idle, nor, indeed, that the creative
juices have dried up. But this has been a period of change,
of consolidation and of concentration whose fruits will only
be seen in the next year.
The greatest change has been, of course, the move of the
studio from Bath out into Somerset, as I wrote about in the
last newsletter. As I broadly hinted there, the exit from
Terra Incognita Bath was not exactly a stress-free
experience. From about two years ago things had been quite
strange there for various reason which I do not intend to
rehearse, at least in public. While a measure of uncertainty
and stress can be good fuel for the creative process, I had
had quite enough of these by the time I left Walcot Gate.
The final year of sharing with Will and Alison was a
civilised experience for the most part (recording is never
entirely civilised!) but many changes had taken place in my
twelve years of tenancy and the most recent ones had left
something of a sour taste in the mouth. Back in May I was
still finding my feet and my sea legs in Somerset...and
breathing a sigh of relief, it must be said.
I am now as fully settled as I can expect to be, granted
that this is unlikely to be such a long-term deal as was
ex-Crescent. (Though when I originally moved in there it was
initially only for an experimental year....) I now have a
calm and predictable daily drive to work and do not have to
suffer the distractions of being city centre based; I am,
therefore, able to focus and concentrate absolutely on
writing and recording, at least when I'm not wearing the
record company mogul hat.
At first sight (because of the current lack of sight of new
material) it may seem that I've slowed up since becoming a
country cousin but this is far from the case. Traditionally
I've been reluctant to write about future work until it's
actually ready to be released and that reluctance is
currently undimmed. I can say, though, that the recordings
I've been working on and to which I'm now putting the final
touches have been extraordinarily dense and demanding. That
they have taken a long time is undeniable - almost
continuous work from march to today. I have had to hold
ideas in mind in both macro- and microcosm for most of that
period, feeling, as ever, towards the goal, but with even
greater intensity than normal. I think it's been worth it
and I think it's unusual and different work. All will be
revealed early in 2004. For now that's all I'm capable of
Meanwhile you will know that audio-visual footage of Van der
Graaf has come out on DVD, on the Classic Rock label. At the
time of the last newsletter this consisted of the Belgian TV
version of "Lighthouse-Keepers" and "Theme 1". Shortly
afterwards they also acquired the rights to a "Godbluff" era
live show in Charleroi, in which we played the whole of the
album, possibly even before recording it. (Consultation of
The Box's list of tour dates would confirm or contradict
this but my anorak is currently resting on its peg....).
They have coupled this with the Belgian footage and this is
now the one DVD which is on release, under the title
"Godbluff". For some reason you only come across the
inclusion of "Lighthouse-keepers" in the blurb, which seems
something of a strange marketing ploy, but heigh ho. We were
originally concerned that there was a measure of
customer-unfriendliness in this replication of material so
hard on the heels of the original release but are now
assured that this will be the one and only product they're
putting out. (The audio CD version of the Belgian show also
remains on sale, though.) Incidentally, none of us have a
clear recollection of the Charleroi show being filmed, or
for what purpose it was intended; but I suppose that fits in
with the unreliablity of our memories and the chaos of the
I do have to say that from the outset of these DVD releases
Classic Rock have seemingly been in a continuous re-pressing
state, so Sofa Sound sales have often suffered serious
delays in getting stock. I do apologise for this to those of
you who've had long waits but can assure you that we do our
best to turn things around as quickly as possible.
Naturally, Fie! Cds are always in stock but when we get
things from other suppliers we - and in turn you - can be
let down at least in terms of speed of delivery.
Meanwhile after the success of "The Box" it seems that
Virgin are finally turning their attention to the individual
components of the band's back catalogue and plans are in
place for full remastering of the albums for release at some
time in 2004. A (small) number of rarities have been
unearthed in the tape stores and these are likely to be
included as bonus material on the appropriate CDs. Doubtless
there'll be more on this in the course of the next
A number of people have enquired about the possibilities of
DVD releases of my own archive material to mirror the VdGG
release. I think this unlikely for a couple of reasons.
Firstly I'm not sure how much stuff is out there in un-wiped
TV video vaults but I suspect not an enormous amount.
Secondly I'd be reluctant to divert Fie! (an audio-only
organisation to this day) towards the different technology
of DVD. And while I'm happy for third parties of past or
present to put out VdGG stuff I remain intent on keeping
control of my own things to the fullest extent of which I'm
capable. Perhaps I will come round to addressing the
audio-visual world at some point in the future, either in
terms of archive or new material, but for now my finger's
definitely on the Pause button.
A few more answers to general question: "Enter k" was
remastered because we'd run out of stock and the original
production masters, both audio and cover, had been lost
somewhere along the way. It therefore seemed a good moment
to apply some of the dark arts to the material and bring the
- originally minimal - print work up to speed. Revitalizing
an album from scratch is an expensive business but this
seemed worthwhile. If, as and when we run out of stock of
"Patience" similar work will probably be done on that.
As you'll know, "In a Foreign Town" has been deleted from
the Fie! catalogue. Again, we ran out of stock. In this case
of this CD, though, it was licensed back from Enigma who, I
understand, were/are going to put it out again themselves.
Additionally, the sheer expense (see above) was prohibitive.
In spite of my somewhat gugarded comments in the Artist's
notes section of the website about these recordings I do
At 6 in the evening on Saturday 6th December I had reached
the above stage of writing up the second newsletter of the
year. Very much a "not much news around here" kind of deal.
I stopped to go and have dinner and stay overnight with the
Jaxons, intending to finish things off on my return on
We all know, do we not, that our lives come to us in
orderly, predictable and unruffled sequence?
At mid-day on Sunday, while walking by the Thames at Henley,
I had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital by
That changes a lot of things. In the circumstances it seems
right to leave this newsletter hanging somewhat inelegantly
in the air and, in its printed form, with a lot of blank
I have now been released from hospital and hopefully am on
my way to recovery.
More in 2004....