A turning point, or any number of turning points. The
bridge between everything which had gone before and whatever
now is; definitely the start of The New.
(Not that I would have thought so, particularly, at the
time; in the way of things one moves on and forward and only
sees that a moment, a song, a record, was pivotal in
It's axiomatic that I couldn't do what I do, what I've done,
without a measure of self-confidence. On these recordings I
was positively infused with the stuff. Perhaps this came as
a result of analysis of what was right and what was wrong
with "In a Foreign Town". In any event, I now felt on top of
the technology and able to use it as part of the palette,
rather than having to fight it. As a result all sorts of
hybrid ways of working, of composition, of subject matter,
are on offer here.
Some of the principal characteristics: I began to play more
and more electric guitar...though most of the lead stuff was
still down to Fury. Much of this guitar was colour-wash
rather than structural. Most of the synth work fell into the
same category. (I think, therefore, that this was the
initiation of the style with which I've been most occupied
in the latest CDs, notably "Everyone you Hold" and "None of
the Above".) I didn't feel a compulsion to stick rhythm
parts on everything; this was a return to previous theories
("Chameleon, f'rinstance.) Where there is percussion it's
still a bit lumpy, but better than the last efforts! I felt
much more confident about string arrangements (after "Time
to Burn"). Above all I was right in the zone of "Why does a
"song" have to be a certain way, be constructed in a certain
way, be about certain subjects?".
The songs. "Goldfish" originated from a tune I'd had since
1967 at the latest, but had never got round to working.
(Originally called "Kandahar", trivia-lovers...). "Not the
Man" is the closest thing to a pop song here. There's a
degree of ambivalence about it...yes, of course it's "a love
song" but there's also a measure of addressing you, the
audience in it. If I'm not now perceived as the man I was
then what? No blame. By the same token, I now believe that
"Green Fingers" is as much an admonition to myself as anyone
else (though I did have someone else in mind...): got to
stay engaged, got to stay passionate, got to stay in the
real. "No Moon" is the first of (there have been a later
succession) what one might call zen hymns. The subject
matter is one of the koans from Zen flesh, zen bones. (Not
that I'm a total adherent or would want to proselytise in
any way, y'understand?) The backing track derived from pure
experimentation and editing.
"Our Oyster" speaks for itself still...and things don't seem
to have got significantly better since in the various fields
it addresses. "Ysabel" was another tune which took some time
to establish where it was going lyrically...it was
originally set in the disturbances of Paris '68. OK, I know
Tijuana isn't exactly a tourist hot-spot, but that's where
Mingus went! I guess "On the Surface". hovering between
dream/hope/consciousness/fate, fits squarely in my
long-running lyrical concerns.
And I'm not going to talk about "A Way Out".
Technical stuff. You'll note that the recorded and mixed
locations are a tad unusual. When the project began I still
had the studio at home and Crescent was still running in
Bath. I'd made an early decision to work on each song
individually, recording and mixing one by one rather than
finishing the recording process and then doing the mix. (I
chop and change between these methods to this day,
incidentally.) So a couple of songs were finished at Sofa
and mixed by David at Crescent. Then the studio had to close
down (because of roadworks which would take a year...) and I
took over the lease.This is the point at which Terra
Incognita came into being, in the old Crescent premises. So
subsequent stuff was both recorded and mixed there.
Simultaneously I changed my mixing desk and began using
(quite primitive compared with the SSL which had been in
Crescent) mix automation...and therefore increasingly began
to oversee the entire engineering chain myself and alone.
All of these were BIG MOVES.
"Ysabel" was also the first digital recording I made. David
Lord had moved into his control room upstairs and we shared
between us a coupe of X-80 stereo machines. We therefore
decided to do this song as a one-take job...I played and
sang to one machine and Stuart then overdubbed, also in one
take, to the other. This was a whacky way of working, but
OH, I should say something about the systems music basis of
"On the Surface". In (the modern classical form) systems
music (in my understanding) a note sequence or rhythm is
distended, altered, repeated,laid over itself to produce
interference patterns. Like a riff viewed through a
kaleidoscope. Elements f this approach have been there right
back to VdGG, but this particular song is its most naked
presentation, while still trying to make a "song"out of it.
The chain of responsibility for the note pattern moves from
one instrument to another in the course of the piece, but ~I
think I'm right in saying that no one instrument ever plays
it in its entirety...they're also changing round from
playing forwards to backwards and so on....and it ends up
more or less back where it started. Just some fun,
I hope all the above is of a measure of interest?
By the way, yes: "I believed all the words in the popular
(the reference is to "Not the Man"....)