top of page
I intend to carry on, I do not intend to stop: I mean to be
drawn forward into whatever musical and lifetime adventures
From time to time in this journey, though, there are moments
when what has been done - and where it has led me - is more
to the fore than the oncoming wave.
The present time is one of these, at least in public
If this newsletter is somewhat retrospective in tone, I'm
sure you'll know that there are new things just around the
The future is always made up of past presence, after
Until later, as ever...thanks for listening.
Right. I'll start this issue of the newsletter by saying a
thing or two about The Career, as opposed to The Work. The
former is the thing I - or the public "I" at least -
inhabit, the latter the thing that I do. I am not, have
never been, much interested in notions of personal
celebrity: my aim remains to do good work for its own sake.
As long as I can do that I am relatively content with my
Outsider status. It goes without saying, though, that unless
the Career is publicly visible to a certain extent then the
work itself will remain hidden.
An infernal circle is in operation, particularly in Britain.
Invisibility means lack of media coverage of releases or
shows; lack of coverage leads to a reluctance on the part of
promoters to put on shows; lack of shows means lack of media
coverage means invisibility. So I've found myself in the
position where, over the last two decades, I've played more
in Buenos Aires than in Birmingham, Siberia than Scotland,
Tokyo than Tyneside. Yes, there's been a London show every
so often; but only those initiated or in the know get to
hear of it.
I still have the feeling that a wider (if never exactly
mainstream) audience would find my stuff approachable if
only they were exposed to it or even knew of its existence.
In the next few months I intend to address this problem and
one of the new Fie! releases is a specific move in that
None of this implies that I intend to shift any of my
goalposts in terms of the work I do. I'll continue ( I hope
- as long as the muse is still with me...) to chase stuff,
whatever it might be, that interests me, hopefully with a
continuing level of intelligence and commitment. For all
that I find the presentation of "public face" an amusement I
remain a public artist rather than an oblivious
holed-up-in-the-garret elitist. It's my responsibility to do
the best I can to get the songs into more people's ears than
currently hear it.
Naturally, I don't expect to race up any charts. You should
know, of course, that in all of this I am well aware of my
good fortune in doing work I love. Whatever happens with
these efforts to broaden the audience I do not intend to
compromise that work in any way.
So...a CD is now coming out which makes a direct attempt to
address the "missing" audience. A compilation of songs taken
from the whole Fie! catalogue, it's called "The Thin Man
sings Ballads". Recipients of this newsletter will be well
aware that I continue to put out work at a comparatively
prodigious rate...and also that many people are put off
investigating my music both by the nature of the weight of
this release schedule and by the perceived cliche of my
public personum...ex-VdGG, difficult, depressing and so
As you'll also know, each album release, different as it may
be from its predecessors or successors, diverse as the
individual songs on it may be, usually contains at least one
piece which doesn't frighten the reluctant horses...which
may as well be called a ballad. My thinking is that this
collection may entice a number of people into the orbit of
Most of the songs have been remastered - essential for aural
continuity considering the differing vintages of recording.
In quite a few cases I have applied some judicious editing,
just to tighten things up and move them along more speedily.
There are twelve songs included here and (finally, after a
surprisingly difficult selection process) I suppose that the
usual suspects have appeared. There is obviously some kind
of family resemblance to "The Love Songs" compilation of
some decades back.
Of course, I'm aware you're probably more interested in
getting the Whole Picture rather than this somewhat
restricted frame. You'll probably also be quite capable of
making your own compilations if you're so inclined. This CD,
in short, is not really aimed at you! I will say, though,
that a sizeable amount of thought has gone into choosing,
remastering, ordering this collection and my own feeling is
that, while it is evidently not a new release, it has a
measure of validity and interest in its own right. There's a
restricted view from this seat, but you still get an idea of
the general action. I should also point out, of course, that
this a budget price release!
In any event this CD is really intended to reach the ears of
people who might otherwise shy away madly from my musical
world. What an act of blatant commerciality, huh?
Simultaneously with "The Thin Man", finally, comes the
reissue of "The Margin", the K Group live recording from the
early Eighties. Rights to this have now returned to me and
it was originally scheduled for release last year before a
whole welter of real world stuff kicked in to prevent
It was originally a double album on vinyl and the initial CD
release was on one disc, with the omission of "The Second
Hand". As far as this side of things go I have retained this
set for the current release. Naturally, the whole thing has
now been remastered and I believe it now sounds much more
CD-friendly and - in particular - Loud!
Even with the enhanced sound, though, I did not feel
entirely comfortable with simply reissuing this album in its
original form. I decided to go ruffling through the various
documented live performances from the K Group, much as had
been done for the wilder live elements of VdGG's "The Box",
in order to include a second CD, "+", in the set.
The original Margin, while telling a coherent story, was not
exactly The Whole Truth. This period of live playing was the
one time that I've been in a straight two guitars/bass/drums
outfit. It follows that this was an at times pretty raucous
and sweaty affair, particularly in the period when we were
batting up and down the autobahns from club to club. It's
this aspect of the group's life - perhaps its true essence -
which I've tried to capture on the second CD.
"+" begins with an alternate version of "The Second Hand"
taken from the original "Margin" tour. The entire songlist
of the vinyl release is therefore replicated. Thereafter
things go into full-on leather jacket mode with The Loud
Stuff. It deserves to be out there and to my ears at least
still sounds fresh and...different.
The sleevenotes are more fractured than analytical or
narrative in form; but they do try to give something of the
flavour of the life of the group. A bit of a wink, a measure
of exhaustion, perhaps the odd shot of tequila or so...and
I recommend cranking the volume UP for this one!
Enough of the past; challenges remain. A recent one set and
met took place in Tokyo, where Stuart and I played 3 shows
in a 26-hour period in the TLG club. We decided to attempt
three entirely different sets, with no repetition of songs
at all. Hairy though it was at moments, we managed to play
48 different songs.
We're now going to attempt another version of this marathon
in three shows in London on 14th (evening) and 15th
(afternoon and evening) June at the Lyric Theatre,
Hammersmith. This time it'll be 50 songs over the three
concerts, culled from the entire career. Should be scary,
should be illuminating, should be, as always, fun.
Naturally, part of the process will involve designing three
sets of more or less equal balance, since most people will
only see one show.
Other touring: by the time you receive this I will have done
three shows in Spain (Leon, Madrid and Bilbao); on 29th June
I'll be playing in Dresden as part of the Elbhangfest.
If some of the aforementioned infernal circle of
invisibility is squared I sincerely hope that the way will
be clear for shows elsewhere in Britain later in the year ,
when I also expect to be back in various mainland European
countries; the US and Canada are also under consideration.
Of course, the simple fact is that there's a lot of world
out there and that I remain wary of burning myself out in
terms of both live performance and life. So if I haven't
showed up round your way lately, a measure of patience,
Meanwhile, an unaccustomed welter of publicity: you may have
been amused to see the spread on VdGG in Mojo (May 2002).
Our own reactions to it ranged from "a good laugh" to "a
complete work of fiction". No-one knows the whole VdGG
story, not even us. And in response to a number of
queries...no, Virgin don't seem to have any intention of
remastering past VdGG and PH stuff; and no, there aren't any
plans for DVD releases.
And do I need to say that, in spite or because of the fact
that we remain close friends, there remains no prospect of a
Van der Graaf reunion?
A note about ordering: we are now able to deal with credit
card (Mastercard or Visa only) orders sent by mail. You'll
find appropriate boxes on the enclosed order form.
Finally, I've been recording The New Stuff. It's now almost
done and will certainly be out before the end of the year.
More news next time....