Greetings once again.
For once I'm happy to be able to announce - more or less on
time to boot - the release of some absolutely new
recordings, as trailed in the last newsletter. It seems like
an age since "Roaring Forties"....
Descriptive/narrative stuff follows herein. Suffice it to
say that I am well satisfied with this work, particularly in
terms of the interaction of musicians. It'll be up to you to
form your own opinions, as always, but my own feeling is
that this is a really cohesive collection.
Expect the next newsletter towards September. There WILL be
a fair bit more - and of a varied nature - to report then, I
can assure you!
In the meantime, as always, thanks for listening!
This is my twenty-sixth solo recording and was produced ,
as you will already know, over several months of 1995 at
Terra Incognita. Nearly all of this newsletter deals with
this new work...there's much to write about!
Perhaps the first thing to say is that this is neither a
BeCalm nor an Aloud! It's placed in the Middle
The tours of 1994 and 1995 with Manny, Stuart and David (the
phQuartet) were challenging for all concerned. The nominally
bass-less ensemble with two nominally lead-only players on
the left and right wings took a degree of work, rehearsal
and performance to bed in properly. Once the parameters
within which we worked best as a unit were established it
became clear that a very wide range of musics could be
covered. It was with at least half a mind set upon these
possibilities that I entered the recording of the songs
which were eventually to form "X my heart". As a result
Manny, Stuart and David (in various combinations and guises)
are the only players on this album apart from myself. Their
contributions are, I believe, outstanding individually but
perhaps more importantly are completely sympathetic to each
other when taken as a whole. There are moments of soloing
but for the most part these are ensemble pieces. Some of
them almost sound like live recordings; they are certainly
living ones in any event.
With one or two notable exceptions, the nine pieces fall
more or less into conventional song format, but with a
variety of musical sub-texts. Some of the musical elements:
systems music; Celtic instrumentation and melodic phrasing;
classical orchestration; tone rows; guitars, guitars,
guitars; vox. Manny, David and Stuart were often working in
the dark as far as other parts were concerned and the
sympathetic benefits of touring together were most evident
here. In a number of cases we spent a useful period of time
examining the possibilities of each piece before actually
playing any notes - allocating space and responsibility to
each instrument and player in advance. Paradoxically, this
left us freer, rather than more considered when the time for
playing eventually arrived.
Unusually (for me at least) one song , "A Better Time"is
present in two different versions: one acapella (dense vox
here)and one more fully arranged by Stuart in his controlled
violin rather than Hooly mode. The two versions top and tail
The songs are self-contained, but spin over one to the next
in terms of musical palette and lyrical concern.
The subject matter falls fundamentally into two camps: sense
of memory and sense of time and place. The two are,
naturally, subjectively as objectively, interchangeable;
taken together they produce what passes for identity.
Perhaps the songs about memory focus more on what is lost
than on what remains or is gained; and therefore on what
identity one can patch together from the gaps which
increasingly occur. Sometimes these are self-inflicted, out
of self-destruction or self-preservation: the end result is
the same. Sometimes they are more randomly imposed from
outside. In any event, one is left only with what one knows
as a personality and has to make do, or go forward, with
The time and place songs offer the simple thesis that one
MUST accept the present if there is to be any chance of
comprehending past or future. Wishing and hoping is not It.
So "...I'll never find a better time to be alive than
now..." implies that, indeed, there will never be a better
time but also that there will never be a WORSE time than
this. There will never be any other time than that which
currently occupies the consciousness. Only memory tells us
otherwise; and this is not as reliable or non-selective as
we might wish.
(How can one break free, without breaking things? Know the
moment without walking away from it? Observations only,
In my dream world these are what might almost pass for pop
songs. They are also monologues; and conversations with
several imagined or alternative selves. Some of them are
jokes. With serious laughs involved.
The recordings were made digitally on the twenty-four track
ADAT system. Such sequencing as there was - since most
instruments were recorded live - was on Cubase Score running
on a PowerMac. The principal use of sequencing was on drum
parts: all of these were played on Manny's Ddrum system into
the computer, where they could be edited take by take...NOT
quantised into submission! Since the "Virtual Kits" involved
here are fundamentally cymbal-less only hi-hats and
percussion were recorded live.
Some keyboard parts were also sequenced; as I've often
banged on, my feeling is that, properly used, computer
recorded music can be exactly that, with no greater or
lesser soul element than that done in any other way.
Nonetheless, most things here are in real time.
The mixing desk set-up was somewhat unusual: a pair of
Yamaha Pro-1 16-channel digital mixers running in tandem.
This is a powerful though (initially) complex system; riding
the learning curve occupied a degree of my time in the early
stages of recording and overdubbing. The benefits of my
current system are that it is completely portable - so that
I could record my own piano at home - and unintimidating in
terms of size. As a result I felt unconstrained by physical
space in the making of these recordings. I think this shows
in the openness of aural space, too.
In sum, what do I think about it all? It seems to me that,
granted that this was a recording project which took place
over a considerable period of time and used (rather than was
used by, one hopes) modern technology to a reasonable limit,
there is much of a live feel about these songs. Takes were
not laboured over: either an idea - of mine or of one of the
other musicians - worked within one or two efforts or it was
abandoned. So there is a certain sense of freshness here.
Most of the songs were fully conceived and written before a
note was committed to tape, so there is a certain form. Most
of the ideas are inter-related, so there is a certain
conceptual continuity; no, not a concept album! Within the
contexts of what I regard The Song as being capable of
bearing and what I perceive as properly reactive playing I
think that the work here embodies much of what I have been
trying to achieve over the last few years.
Not Calm, then, not Loud. Short(-ish) songs. But no, it's
not easy listening. Easy Listening Still Aren't Us. But it's
my continued belief that if there's Something to be Got it
has to exist at more than merely the surface level...and
that there are a few subterranean caves waiting to be
discovered herein. Good luck and good listening; let me know
what you think....
Certain major changes have taken place in the world of
Fie!, particularly with regard to distribution, with the
onset of 1996.
Firstly, Rockport is no longer the licensed label for Fie!
in Germany/Benelux (apart from the ones still licensed to
them, of course). In future CDs will be distributed directly
by Rough Trade in these countries. Direct distribution will
also go to Switzerland, France and Scandinavia. I hope that
this system will work out well; if you observe or encounter
any difficulties, please fell free to let me know about
At long last, Fie! will also have domestic releases in the
US/Canada and Japan. These will be through Global Discipline
Mobile, Robert Fripp's label. It's strange but ironically
simple that after all these years we should both find
ourselves Record Company Supremos, but it makes sense. I'm
delighted that we've survived the various storms of our
careers and continue to feel so positive about music. The
first release will be, of course, "X my heart" - somewhat
later than in Europe, on May 6th. Other releases will follow
and the catalogue will also be available from DGM's mail
order department. (Incidentally, all of you may well get
some communication from them in the near future, as, in a
unique motion, we have extended the Sofa Sound mailing list
to them. This is a one-off, so if you want to be on their
list as well as ours you'll have to respond directly to
I trust and hope that this new arrangement will be
beneficial to all concerned, you included; and also that a
direct connection means that, at long last, I will
(eventually) once again perform some concerts in these
It all goes to show, I hope, that I remain as serious about
Fie! as a label as I am about the music itself!
Live shows: at present I can only be vague about prospective
touring this year. I DO know about the following:
Lille, Zenith, April 20th. This is the long-foretold concert
with the Orchestre National de Lille. In the final
eventuality, I will be performing two songs with the
orchestra as part of their anniversary celebrations, along
with various other singers. So it's far from being a solo
show as such! One of the songs will be "...Looking-Glass";
the other must remain, for the moment, a surprise! Some
possibilities of radio/TV recording of this one....
London, May 17th.
E'en as I write a show - of a nature yet to be arranged -
has been confirmed for the Barbican Centre on this date.
Israel, May 9-11th.
News and/or confirmation of this is also still coming in. If
it happens, two (solo) shows are involved as well as a
Masterclass. No, I don't know what that will involve either.
"Listen to Yourself" would be my best present guess.
Sounds of the Dolomites, July 31/Aug 2.
I will be doing two performances in this festival; they will
be strange and unusual; I suspect that I'll have to tell you
about them retrospectively....
The 1995 shows could have been characterised as "far-flung":
I do intend to do much more of a "normal" circuit in 1996.
This will certainly include a European tour in some guise or
another; I know not yet if this will be in
band/duo/trio/solo form, or anything else... I also hope,
again, to travel more widely. It's all in the future
As so often,watch the press for details....