I realise that it's been a slightly longer than normal
interval since the last, but finally my latest CD will be
released on 25th June. Titled "What, now?", it's a songs
album of widely differing styles but with a
certain/uncertain uniformity of manner.
As you'll doubtless have realised, I spent a considerable
amount of time last year remastering the VdGG ouevre for
"The Box". Exhilarating though this was it carried with it
an element of emotional debt and a demand for
self-examination. I determined that my own next release
should be conventional (as in songs) rather than
experimental and I therefore put to one side a collection of
material I had been previously been working on and began
assembling the "What?" of "Now".
Clearly there's a degree of joke in the title, which is open
to several interpretations. I won't labour any points, but
in this case at least the primary intended import is finally
revealed in the material itself....
Recording proper began in the autumn of last year, though
some pieces were started much earlier. As will be evident
from my touring schedule in the last six months, it's clear
that I wasn't engaged only in recording but, as has been my
wont of late, took some time away from the analytical world
of the studio to remind myself of the immediacy of the
stage. It's my feeling that a lot of the playing has an
extra looseness as a result of this.
There are eight songs of varying length and style. On three
or four of them one finds, in various combinations, the
members of the (erstwhile and maybe some day to be again)
pHQ: Manny Elias, Stuart Gordon and David Jackson. This
line-up remains one of which I'm very fond and which I
believe has an extremely wide sonic palette. This is not,
though, a revisitation of "X my heart", for the remainder of
the tracks are fundamentally me playing alone. This time my
stabs at instruments are divided fairly evenly between
guitars electric and acoustic, pianos/keyboards and bass. Of
course, there's a lot of singing, both lead and backing
vox/choral. Naturally, although there are elements of
familiarity, it is not the same as what has gone before.
As always, I'm writing rather early in the state of things,
since it's not so long since the recordings were finished
and doubtless I won't achieve a definitive view of them for
some time to come. However, here are some guidelines....
In general the tenor and tempo is pretty slow, but not
without moments of sudden shock value. Lyrically I guess you
can tick the "usual suspects" box in terms of my themes:
distance, identity, passage of time, who we were, what we
did, where have we come to & where are we going.... This
much, I suppose, is evident from the title alone.
The songs, in order, then, subject to the usual caution that
really they must speak for themselves....
"Here come the Talkies" uses a fair amount of filmic
metaphor. The central theme is the awareness - or lack of
same - that something new is always bound to come along and
upset our cosy conceptions of how life is and will ever be.
"Hair in the gate", a lynchpin phrase in the song, is,
incidentally, a double-edged saying - on the one hand it
cuts the take because of a technical problem; on the other
it's the technical excuse given when somehow the performance
is just not up to par. Take it as you will.
The song gradually opens out from a simple
piano/bass/drum/violin (fx-ed) intro of contemplative nature
into something much more systems based. And then there comes
A Riff.... Eventually there's a return to the original voice
and piano room.
|"Far-flung (across the sky)" originally appeared, in a
different version, on the "Across the Sky" charity
compilation CD of a couple of years ago. Its evocation of
distance, possible regret and potential hope for the future
seems to fit in here. Musically it's a bridge between the
more band-like pieces and the semi-ballad ones. Guitars,
guitars: e-bow electrics treated to the point of being pure
noise counterbalanced by picked acoustics. Over this the
tune itself is bitter-sweet.
"The American Girl" is a story of displacement and misplaced
enthusiasm. Jackson (on soprano sax) and Gordon are in fine
semi-orchestral mode here. The original inspiration for this
song is emphatically not, incidentally, any ambitious blonde
who might come to mind....
"Wendy and the Lost Boy" again skirts around what was once
found and was then - almost deliberately - lost. The boy in
the man, the man in the boy. Bare piano and pizzicato
strings is the sound-world here.
"Lunatic in Knots" is the first of a couple of kit-driven
set-pieces. I'll leave it up to you to name the lunatic and
to decide whether his howls to the moon are justified. This
is, in any case, a man some way from being in control of
himself or his destiny; and his dreams are populated by
thieves and mischief-makers. Even on waking he has a certain
sense of self-observation rather than engagement. A bedrock
of guitars, again mostly picked, forms the core of the
instrumentation. Against this the drums and bass punctuate,
while Stuart is free to dream across things. Urgency and
wildness gradually take over until finally, after a
krebs-technik transition, a semblance of uncertain calm
returns in a conclusion with bare vox and guitar
"Edge of the Road" follows. The lunatic is out there with
the wildest of eyes set on the horizon and it's doubtful
that he'll ever make it back. This slowly evolving 10-minute
piece brings to a close the cycle of
distance/hope/regret/re-evaluation. Lots of Jacksons -
horns, whistles, flutess - here, over a very loose electric
guitar (some with slide), basss and drum foundation.
Keyboards and backing vox fill out the colours.
And then there's "Fed to the Wolves". I've had this piece
for some time; its theme of clerical abuse doesn't fit
anywhere in "entertainment". But it's something worth
stating and so (finally) is included here. This is
uncompromising stuff, in which brutal feedback guitar
(heavily edited from free improvisation) gives the sonic
Finally, "Enough". Originally choral in character, this is a
semi-improvisational piece of odd structure which brings
things to an endless conclusion. Upfront lead vocals sit on
the choirs, backward guitars and sonic murk, doing their
best to keep hopes and spirits up. There's both duality and
directness here...but not finality.
The cover is, of course, by Paul Ridout. It's possibly
interesting to note that at first he found this album to be
one of the most difficult to find a graphical key for.
Eventually - after an entirely different conception had
almost been put in place - a series of long-exposure motion
photographs, undertaken almost as a side venture, thrust
themselves into the foreground and spread their way through
the booklet from cover to cover.
You may or may not be aware of my touring schedule of a
few weeks back...Mexico, Japan, London, Israel and Italy in
short order: the most intense period of live playing I've
undertaken for some years. In all of this I was accompanied
by Stuart Gordon and I'd like to take this opportunity to
thank him, as ever, for his magnificent and sympathetic
accompaniment. My thanks too, of course, to all those who
attended the shows.
At present I have only one mini-tour in prospect, which I
will be doing solo: 2 shows in Nuremberg on 27th and 29th of
July as part of the Bardentreffen festival. On the 28th I'll
also be playing Aschaffenburg. I hope to be doing much more,
here and there, later in the year.
While on the subject of thanks, I appreciate the positive
feedback received re the VdGG Box; it's very gratifying to
know that the care taken by all concerned in putting this
together is appreciated. I, too, am very happy with the way
the whole thing turned out.
A propos of this, a number of people have enquired about the
likelihood of Virgin releasing the albums themselves in a
remastered/repackaged form. I'm afraid I have no news of any
kind to report on this, although I have offered such
encouragement as I can to them in this direction. In the end
it will be down to their budgetary considerations. The same
thing applies to some of the solo CDs, which currently
appear to be out of stock. Sorry I can't be more
Apart from "What, now?" a couple of new things are going to
appear in our sales list fairly shortly. "Avalanche", the
(double) album by Random Hold which I produced way back when
is due to be re-released shortly; so, too, is "The View from
Now" by David Ferguson, keyboard player in RH. This is a
compilation of his film/TV work, which features some solo
soprano vox by my eldest daughter, Holly....
Additionally, Paul Ridout has two sets of postcards
available; one is a collection of PH/Fie! covers, the other
a companion set of graphics to "The Box". Cheap, yet arty!
(These will only be available from the website...)
These things are not yet available, but will be soon, from
the on-line shop, which is, of course, at www.sofasound.com.
Assuming that they're still around at the time of the next
newsletter we'll include them on the order form then.
One VERY important point about ordering. The eurocheque
scheme has now finished, at least as far as the UK is
concerned. They're now treated as foreign cheques and we
can't, therefore, accept them in payment any more,