Whether you've been receiving newsletters and/or
following my music for years or mere months, I'm sure it's
abundantly clear to you that for me live performances must
be events rather than mere repetitions. 1996 has seen some
genuine ones. The most "normal" part, evidently, was the
phQuartet mini-swing through Europe in Spring. If I needed
any further proof of the commitment, intuition and
musicality that David, Hooly and Max bring to this loose
concept it was there in abundance. My feeling generally is
that it's for grown-ups...but with a twinkle in the eye....
I still don't know exactly what kind of group it is, but I
hope that it can continue to prosper on the occasions when
it's feasible for it to do so!
Meanwhile I have been off on various solo ventures, all of
which have been genuinely exciting.
The concert with the Orchestre National de Lille had first
been posited some years ago. The opportunity for me to sing
a couple of ditties with "the band" eventually aligned with
their Twentieth Anniversary Concert. Having decided - for
the simple reason that the parts were already in existence -
that "This Side of the Looking-Glass" would be one of the
songs I was disinclined to take a similarly Romantic subject
for the other and as a result commissioned David Lord to
arrange "Traintime". Such doubts as were expressed about
this were, I have to say, met with an adamant front.
Confidently was the only way to approach this one.
Rehearsals were minimal, as one might expect, and mutual
trust high on the agenda; the orchestra's trust in me was
doubtless diminished not a little by some creative pitching
of mine in the acapella introduction to "Looking-Glass" in
the final run-throughs. Modern, or what? In the event I hit
the right note and so did the concert. With several other
solo performers and a wide variety of material being
involved it was altogether positive to feel a sense of
mutual encouragement and communality in making music. And
from the (not-so-) simple perspective of being a singer it
was a wonderfully alternative flight to be searching for the
beat in the air which is orchestral world. Priceless.
In Israel I did two shows without any repetition of songs at
all. It had been many years since my last performances there
and I was particularly struck by the youth of the audience.
The Masterclass was more in the nature of monologue than of
education; from my own point of view I found elements of the
free-association quite instructive. Fundamentally, I traced
such elements of the path which have led me to the current
uncertain spot as I can discern.
The two "Sounds of the Dolomites" shows in the summer were
absolutely top of the world. This is the second year in
which this festival (two shows per artist per weekend) has
run and I was the first non-classical or jazz artist to be
involved. The shows took place at Alpine Refuges, 2000
metres up the mountains. Audience and artist (and, indeed,
artist's family) alike walked/climbed for some hours to get
there; after a spot of lunch and a beer or two the concerts
took place outside without benefit of any electricity at
all. Choose the rock on which you'll sit and get going with
Vox and Guitar. Both locations were magical; the first show
was in brilliant sunshine; the second in gathering mountain
clouds, rain and thunder. When these became genuinely
threatening rather than merely inconvenient, we all moved
back inside the refuge. This was fundamentallt designed for
fifty or so people to rest and fuel themselves before a bit
of serious mountaineering; two hundred people cramming it
the gills to hear the rantings of a somewhat drenched singer
was certainly a unique event. The whole experience will live
long in the memory....
And for the last act of the summer I re-assembled the phQ
for an appearance at the Sziget Island festival between Buda
and Pest in Hiungary. Ah, festivals, don't ya love 'em!
Actually, no: usually chaotic and undisciplined, without any
real possibility of PLAYING. Hence my general reluctance to
approach them; I can't remember when I did my last, in fact.
I have to say that the organisation for this was exemplary
and felt that though it was tough to get the true tenor of a
phQ performance over in a field we managed to do so. The
wildness of eye and of feeling was certainly exacerbated by
the fact that I was sharing the bill with Iggy Pop....
Lessons of '96 (so far) then, in terms of That Live Stuff? I
haven't stopped, I haven't stopped, I haven't stopped that
The New Stuff
Well, actually let's start with a melange of the old. When
Fie! was licensed to Discipline in the US and Japan a
compilation of songs was put out in tandem with "X my
Heart", offering - at a budget price, naturally - some
insight into the world of PH music for those who might
otherwise be reluctant to get their feet wet. It's now
released over here as well, for much the same purposes. By
definition, then, it might not be of much interest to you,
since you probably own these recordings in their original
context. Nonetheless, it's interesting (for me at least) to
bang things of disparate nature and time together into the
apparent solid form of a CD rather than a tape and you might
find it so as well.
This is not a collection of Greatest Hits (well, it wouldn't
be, would it?), nor exactly an easy-listening calling-card.
The intention is to give some genuine perspective on things.
The songs are taken from the Fie! studio albums catalogue,
but excluding "X my heart" (too new) and the titles licensed
back from Enigma. The tracks are: A Kick to kill the kiss; I
will find you; Accidents; His Best Girl; Sharply Unclear;
Patient; Planet Coventry; A Ritual Mask; The Noise; The Gift
of Fire; Traintime; Gaia; Your Tall ship.
So to get the effect you can just get to work with your CD
and cassette players...no blame! I would point out, though,
that the CD is at a CD single price, and there's a voucher
within it offering any CD in the Fie! catalogue @
£7.00. Roll up, roll up - Marketing Ahoy!
In other words, in as much as anything I do ever has a
target audience (it doesn't), this isn't particularly aimed
at you, but you might be interested anyway....
I do think you will find this interesting! You may or may
not know that David Jackson has been involved in Music
Therapy for a number of years now and that one of his
principal tools in this work is the Soundbeam system. This
is, for want of better terms, a MIDI keyboard in the air -
cutting the beam will trigger notes or events in the same
way that playing a keyboard would; the nature of the beast
means that results are rather less predictable and more
exciting than that, though!
Ever since David told me about this system I've been bugging
him about putting it to creative use, particularly in
conjunction with improvisational playing; finally I had to
put my Studio Time where my mouth was and in January we
arranged a couple of days in which we'd begin explorations
and see what emerged. Months later, it's a CD, "Fractal
Bridge", which I produced but on which the music is all
David's own. It's extraordinary stuff: not all of it is
improvised, but all of David's playing is imbued with his
idiosyncratic approach. Some of the Soundbeam-played music
in particular could not, I believe, have been reached with
any other system. I thoroughly commend it to you...well,
what greater personal endorsement can I make but that this
is the first non-PH release on Fie! Records? And in terms of
its mystery and mysterious effect I can give you no further
description or information which would be useful unless you
actually have the music to hand and in your ears....
This is my own new/old stuff, although not exactly in the
world of the song; the bulk of the CD is taken up by film
and dance music. You may recall that I wrote and recorded
the music for the film "Emmene-moi" some time ago; this year
I have also spent some time working on a dance commission
from Luis Bruni and Raffaella Rossellini; the first
performance of this work was at the Catania festival this
summer. It's fundamentally piano based, if of a rather
strange nature. Their original idea had been that I play and
sing live; for a variety of reasons I found this completely
mad, but did come up with the conceit that the modern, MIDI,
version of a player piano could spring into life
centre-stage after a taped intro had been played, later to
be joined by my singing, also on tape. This, then, is the
final nature of the work - although for reasons of
expediency as much as sonics I did not use the player-piano
in this, somewhat edited recording. It's a musical muse on
the subject of labyrinths. The film music present is rather
more than was actually present, for one reason or another,
in the movie; so churning pads and guitars are as much to
the fore as Hooly's controlled violin and viola playing. A
couple of pieces of pure experiment in sound and
music-making round things off.
My own feeling is that this is something of a second cousin
to "Loops & Reels" - do NOT, evidently, expect Songs.
Paul Ridout, who is still grappling with the cover even as I
write, says that if that's so then the cousin is certainly
wearing a suit and tie compared to the relative's T-shirt
and jeans. Possibly.
"Sonix" is set to be released in mid-November; if you order
it now it will be sent to you as soon as copies are
available - but that won't be till late October. Be prepared
for a slight wait...or wait to order!
One forthcoming show of no little passing interest: on
November 3rd I will be performing with Guy Evans at the
Union Chapel in London. Whatever finally transpires on this
night it should certainly be whacky - such actual songs as
we play will be arrived at tangentially and will probably be
seen from unusual angles! Although the fundamental
responsibilities - and the basis of the set - will be ours
as a duo, there will also be other players - but the who,
what and how of it all remains somewhat in the lap of the
gods as I write. Tickets (£10) are available from The
Union Chapel Project, Compton Avenue, N1 2XD or by credit
card from Ticketmaster: 0171-344 4444. Further info at
present there is not...but it should be fun.
Another one-off will be at 'sHertogenbosch in Holland on
23rd November in the UNtitled music festival. At the moment
I've no idea what kind of performance this will be. There is
also some possibility of a couple of shows in Russia in
December, but apart from these I have no word of any other
upcoming live events as I write; they are more likely to be
in '97 than this year in any case...
Finally, dare I whisper it? I will be starting to record the
next album in the next few weeks. Out in the spring? Nature?
Style? Players? All remains to be seen.... What is and is
You'll find that some things have dropped off the list of
Sofa Sound stuff with this newsletter. As a point of
principle, we try to offer for sale only those things of
which we can be assured of regular supplies! We are no
longer stocking the "Passionskirche" video; they're simply
proving too difficult to get hold of. My apologies to those
of you who've waited in vain and increasing exasperation.
Nor is "Offensichtlich Goldfisch" retained on the list.
Certain Virgin titles are deleted (at present, at least): "
The Margin" and "Over". They will probably reappear in due
The monogram sweatshirts and T-shirts are now out of stock
and the book is also closed on the "Fireships" and "The
Noise" posters. On the other hand, for your sartorial
delectation there IS a new generic T-shirt on offer: this is
a Fie! one. Black on white, logos akimbo!
Some of you may aready have come across a CD of my
performance at the Lanzarote festival some years back,
called "Tides" , which occupied a curious position between
being bootleg and official. That is to say it was on a
normal label but without the slightest approval coming from
my direction. I've therefore had to spike it. At one point
it seemed likely that we would sell it through Sofa Sound,
but this proved altogether too difficult. Just to show you
how much care was taken over the production of this CD, 4
out of 8 track listings were wrong, including "Still Life"
going under the "Untitled" moniker! I do now have the
masters, though, so there's some possibility of an official
release at some time in the future. Virgin have also
released yet another compilation, "After the Show", but I
don't know why exactly; so we don't stock it!