All posts by Tony Kinson
Two blogs in a month. Clearly a sign of bad things to come or a serious mental decline!
This diary entry is partly prompted by Jakub Kurek and Piotr Zdunek, two very enthusiastic and knowledgeable no-man fans from Poland. Not only did the dynamic duo send me songs from the 1990s and early 2000s that I’d completely forgotten I’d recorded, they also reminded me of the fact that it’s the 20th anniversary of the release of no-man’s Dry Cleaning Ray.
The unreleased tracks were a revelation in many ways, not least because I’d entirely erased them from my memory and don’t have copies myself.
My ‘hard drive of doom’ contains several album’s worth of unreleased material. Some of it’s good and some – probably courtesy of my Bandcamp downloads page – might even end up being heard. Sadly, it doesn’t contain the original – Flame outtake – version of Wild Opera’s Taste My Dream, which I recorded with Richard Barbieri.
Amongst the lost and lonely:
- A half-finished Bowness/Chilvers album of Nick Drake songs from around the time of California, Norfolk. We were genuinely pleased with our versions, but felt that there were too many Nick Drake covers in existence at the time and didn’t want to add to the clutter. The result, one abandoned project.
- A Bowness/Chilvers album of Ambient/Electronica meets spoken word. Fully completed (around 2001) and featuring some interesting music, this was deemed too pretentious to ever be heard (by anyone, including us!). Consequently, the lock and key is strong on this one! The spoken word parts were drawn from poems and short stories I’d written in the 1990s.
- A very eccentric Postcards From Space (me with Alistair Murphy) album circa 2007. Hugely ambitious, this never felt quite right to me. The first side contains five self-contained, and slightly melodramatic (in an early Bowie/Hammill sense) songs, while the second consists of a demented 22-26 minute ’suite’ which has elements of very early Tangerine Dream, Stockhausen, Pawn Hearts-era Van Der Graaf Generator and some prettiness to counter the aural horror. This was put aside when I started to write for no-man’s Schoolyard Ghosts. Alistair and I subsequently got together to co-produce and co-write Judy Dyble’s Talking With Strangers and that album’s 20 minute epic Harpsong scratched my sidelong itch.
- An EP with Tony Harn from 1998. Containing four songs – one of which emerged on World Of Bright Futures – this was a surprising and surprisingly accessible fusion of Tony’s virtuoso Summers/Fripp meets Pat Metheny guitar approach and my vocals. Lyrically, the songs were more in the Modernist/disjointed style of no-man’s Wild Opera and Centrozoon’s Never Trust The Way You Are.
- An EP’s worth of Samuel Smiles’ World Of Bright Futures rejects from 1999. Of the many tracks brought to my attention by Jakub and Piotr, these were perhaps the best and most fully formed. With a line-up of me, Michael Bearpark, Peter Chilvers, Sandra O’Neill and Myke Clifford the music operated in a lyrical, Ambient-tinged singer-songwriter style. Take The Sadness was perhaps the strongest of the pieces, with rich textures, ethereal flute solos and nice vocal harmonies. Should it ever happen, these outtakes may find their way onto a World Of Bright Futures reissue.
- Outside of the above, ‘the hard drive of doom’ also contains many solo experiments/songs, half an unreleased no-man album, the original 1992 version of Loveblows And Lovecries including a 12 minute take on Tulip, the completed Plenty album, the very nearly finished Bowness/Chilvers 2.0 (we’re almost there!), an EP with Jacob Holm-Lupo, two unreleased collaborations with James Matheos, two unreleased pieces written with Kit Watkins, dozens of Henry Fool works in progress etc etc.
The horror, the horror!
As for the odds and sods mini-album that is/was Dry Cleaning Ray:
Originally, it was intended as a single or an EP featuring Wild Opera outtakes and alternative mixes of songs (including the shorter – re-recorded – version of DCR itself). Pretty quickly it became something more substantial.
The main reason the project expanded in the way it did was that Steven and I were excited about three new songs we’d written. The songs seemed like a more crafted evolution of the Wild Opera ‘hourlong experiments’, and we liked the idea of material being released very soon after it had been completed. Outside of this, I think we already had in mind the notion that no-man’s next album proper would be something quite lush and different from Wild Opera. Consequently, the new pieces seemed out of place with what we imagined for the band’s future. By contrast, when we wrote Carolina Skeletons in 1998, we knew for certain what direction the band should take (a direction that led to 2001’s Returning Jesus).
Dry Cleaning Ray and Diet Mothers – which along with Wild Opera outtake Born Again Lovechild represents no-man’s solitary flirtation with Dub – were new mixes of Wild Opera material. Evelyn was a cover version of a Serge Gainsbourg song, which I believe we’d been asked to do for an American Serge Gainsbourg tribute album. Kightlinger and Urban Disco were outtakes from the Wild Opera sessions.
Jack The Sax, Sicknote and Sweetside Silver Night were the three pieces we wrote in 1997. Originally intended for whatever was going to be no-man’s official Wild Opera successor, all three songs share a similar sense of melancholy, fear and desperation. They’re softer than most of Wild Opera, but they still possess the sonically experimental edge and playful lyrical quality that marked out Wild Opera from all other no-man releases.
Twenty years on and I still like all three songs. For me, they point to something different for no-man and stand apart from the rest of Dry Cleaning Ray in terms of their quality and emotional intensity. In retrospect, my feeling is that an album could have emerged from a starting point of these songs – one quite unlike Returning Jesus – and that the pieces would have worked better had they been released as a self-contained EP. Conceptually, all three songs carried on the Wild Opera obsession with victims of fame and victims of the pursuit of fame, but there was a consistency and seriousness about these pieces that was absent from most of Wild Opera and the rest of Dry Cleaning Ray.
1997 was the year I left London and in some ways – lyrically, musically and in terms of its cover artwork – Dry Cleaning Ray represented a goodbye to a particular way of life and a particular way of writing songs.
I’ll be attending this year’s Prog Awards sitting at the Inside Out table alongside be-caped Gods from the past and present.
The cover for Lost In The Ghost Light has been nominated, which is pleasing as it’s the most detailed of any I’ve been involved in. I sent Jarrod images for reference and several pages of notes about Moonshot, Jeff Harrison’s character and the specifics of the place and time the cover should depict. As with Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and Stupid Things That Mean The World, the gatefold king took my ideas and made them into something far more substantial than I could (in the way Carl Glover does with no-man’s artwork). For me, this provides another example of the difference between the recent ‘Inside Out trilogy’ and My Hotel Year. My Hotel Year – with a title derived from a Douglas Coupland short story – was patchwork in all ways. The music came from a variety of sources, the title was ‘borrowed’, and the artwork was entirely Carl Glover’s concept based on the title and the feel of the music. While the last three solo albums feel like mine, My Hotel Year will always feel like somebody else’s compilation album with my name accidentally printed on the cover. As negative as that sounds, it’s not meant to denigrate the album, which contains some material I still like (especially Last Year’s Tattoo and Sleepwalker).
It looks like I’ll be playing at this year’s Isidurs Bane Expo (alongside Peter Hammill) in Halmstad, Sweden in November. Utilising the members of IB and associates, I’ve been encouraged to put together something I couldn’t and wouldn’t do elsewhere. A unique tribute to the Syco and Stock Aitken and Waterman catalogues could well be on the cards.
The Art Of Noise – In Visible Silence – Deluxe Edition (2017 / 1986)
Randy Newman - Dark Matter (2017)
Another belated blog and a belated thank you.
Lost In The Ghost Light was released in February to the best reviews and best sales of any of my work outside of no-man. Given the fact that the album was a time-consuming labour of love that took seven years to beat into shape, it was genuinely gratifying that people (and reviewers) embraced the concept and the music so positively. As pointed out in my last blog, it was very much a homage to the era of the ‘classic album’ – in terms of its densely detailed artwork and unified lyrical theme – and represented my attempt to personalise the aspects of Progressive Rock that – alongside other influences – were instrumental in me falling in love with music in my early teens.
In using a veteran Rock musician as a protagonist, my aim was to question how the music industry (and music itself) had changed between 1967 and 2017. Unexpectedly, one possible answer emerged during the promotion for the album when I spent a day signing postcards in the Sony Music building in London. Sony occupies a vast and impressive open plan office, and what used to be independent record and publishing companies now work side by side in almost invisibly divided cubicles (Inside Out are next to Music For Nations and both face the Now That’s What I Call Music staff and so on). Business seemed good and as always it was a delight to meet the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Inside Out team. The fly in the ointment, however, was that the offices of Pop svengali Simon Cowell’s Syco label were located on the floor above the canteen staring on all below. I’d like to say that there was a larger than life cardboard cut-out of Simon laughing and pointing at the unfortunate worker ants beneath (while crushing copies of Dark Side Of The Moon, OK Computer and Bitches Brew in his other hand), but I’d be lying. Despite that, I suspect that Jeff Harrison wouldn’t have liked what the all too visible supremacy of Syco suggested about the state of music in 2017.
Talking of labours of love, Bowness / Chilvers 2.0 has been tantalisingly close to completion for the last four years. As of the writing of this blog, guess what? It’s still almost ready.
On hearing the latest version of the album in June, it became obvious that two of the tracks were out of sync with the other pieces sonically and stylistically, and also seemed overlong and underdeveloped by comparison.
The final touches – hopefully – to The Boy From Yesterday and Blog Remember Me were applied earlier this week as new vocals were recorded over what have been constantly evolving arrangements. ‘The project with no end’ feels like it really is nearing its completion, though don’t be surprised if it’s still ‘almost there’ by the time of my next blog (sometime in 2020 probably).
While California, Norfolk was recorded in one location over a very short period of time, its successor has been pieced together over more than a decade in a variety of places. Despite that, the singular and highly intimate nature of the music’s character remains. Yes Sirree, you’ll be glad to know that we sound completely and utterly defeated and doomed!
Talking of long gestation periods, the Plenty album It Could Be Home was finished in May.
Masterfully mixed by White Willow supremo Jacob Holm-Lupo, the album possesses the lushness and scope Plenty had always wished for its debut album. Given that that debut would have been released some time in 1987 or 1988, we waited a long time for wishes to be fulfilled. At 30 years and counting, It Could Be Home holds the honour of taking longer to complete than any other album in my catalogue. Take that Bowness / Chilvers 2.0!
As I’ve written about in a soon to be unleashed Album Notes blog, I was genuinely surprised that re-interpreting the melodies, words and mindset of a me more than half my current age wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d imagined it would be.
We stayed close to the original 1980s arrangements and very quickly inhabited the ‘Plentyverse’ of old. The band sound returned without any self-conscious attempts to evoke it. Brian and David’s playing and attention to detail had evolved and the present day me (hopefully) improved upon the original vocal and lyrical performances, while the younger me re-introduced ways of singing and writing I’d long ago abandoned. The ghosts of old relationships and old feelings were evoked, but the experience was firmly rooted in the present and felt as creatively ‘current’ and challenging as anything I’ve done.
The resulting album is due out over the next six months and may even be accompanied by some live dates. The band’s first for three decades.
As it always did, Plenty’s music operates in a 1980s Art Pop territory that has crept into aspects of music I’ve subsequently made, such as the Electro-Pop elements of early no-man and the ballads of Bowness/Chilvers etc.
Without doubt, it’s been an enjoyable and emotional experience finally fulfilling a long-held ambition to properly realise songs that I still believe to be amongst the best I’ve been involved in co-writing/co-creating.
The limited edition release Songs From The Ghost Light collects songs relating to the Lost In The Ghost Light concept, some of which appeared on Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, Stupid Things That Mean The World and Lost In The Ghost Light. In all cases, in order to make a coherent album statement, the versions are different (either newly recorded or live). In many ways, the stripped-down nature of the new studio arrangements and the harder-edged quality of the live performances make Songs From The Ghost Light as much a sonic successor to My Hotel Year as a companion release to the Inside Out label albums. That said, for me, the quality of the material and the consistency of the subject matter ultimately make for a more satisfying listen than My Hotel Year.
Mixed by my MoM companion Giancarlo Erra and containing three tracks taken from a 2015 Band On The Wall performance, the release accurately captures the character of the live band, which differs greatly from the studio ensembles, and gives a flavour of the live mini-album I was planning to release in 2016.
If all of that shenanigans wasn’t enough, I’ve started a Bandcamp page as a means of presenting official releases I own as downloads, and also providing an outlet for unreleased projects I deem interesting but not worthy of physical release (including singles and EPs, that are sadly no longer financially viable to issue physically, and live performances).
Talking of live performances, the April support to Marillion at the band’s annual Weekend event provided a great excuse to get the gang back together again. Although it wasn’t Team T-Bo’s best performance it was still decent. Particularly so given that we had only one day of rehearsal beforehand, yet still managed to insert some new and untested material into the set. The event itself was inspiring and uplifting, and I was truly grateful for the audience’s patience and friendly disposition.
Next stop is Birmingham in late September, with a version of the band that sees the return of bass colossus Colin Edwin. Expect Rocked-out explosions in addition to intimate Ambient excursions.
Outside of that, it’s looking likely that I’ll be performing at a few festivals over the coming year, one in Sweden in November 2017, one in the Netherlands in March 2018 and, possibly, one in Norway in June 2018. Four dates in a year? My Lord, it’s a World Tour!
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Giles Martin remix) (2017 / 1967)
David Byrne – David Byrne (1994)
Focus – Hamburger Concerto (1974)
Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood (The Country Set) (2017 / 1977)
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (2017)
Bill Nelson - Plectrajet (2015)
Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife: Further Listening (2017 / 1996-2000)
William S. Burroughs – Exterminator! (1973)
Milan Kundera – The Festival Of Insignificance (2014)
Tim Bowness Bandcamp page
Tim has set up a Bandcamp page for downloads only. This will include downloads for albums Tim owns plus collections of rarities. The store currently contains a pre-order for Songs From The Ghost Light, an expanded Schoolyard Demos (including the original version of The Warm-Up Man Forever) and a five track Voiceloops EP. Visit Tim’s Bandcamp page for further details.
New mini-album – Songs From The Ghost Light
Songs From The Ghost Light is a companion release to Tim Bowness’s acclaimed Inside Out label albums, Abandoned Dancehall Dreams (2014), Stupid Things That Mean The World (2015) and Lost In The Ghost Light (2017).
Comprising an eclectic combination of radical re-imagings, live performances and atmospheric outtakes, the 34 minute mini-album collects songs relating to the Lost In The Ghost Light concept (which revolves around the onstage and backstage reflections of a fictional ‘classic’ Rock musician in the twilight of his career).
Find out more about the album, which is now available to pre-order in limited CD and vinyl editions on the Songs From The Ghost Light page.
It Could Be Home
Tim has completed work on the 45 minute album, It Could Be Home. Mixed by Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow), mastered by Steve Kitch (The Pineapple Thief), and featuring guest performances from Michael Bearpark, Peter Chilvers and Steve Bingham, this is a debut album 30 years after the event by Tim’s Liverpool-based pre-no-man 1980s Art Pop band Plenty (Tim Bowness, Brian Hulse and David K Jones).
Whilst re-writing some lyrics and streamlining elements of the songs’ arrangements, the band have remained faithful to both the spirit of the original recordings and the era in which the songs were written. A label and release date are currently under discussion.
Beautiful Songs You Should Stream
Tim has curated five hour long Spotify playlists, Beautiful Songs You Should Know Volumes One to Five. The third playlist is dedicated to ‘Pretty Prog’ and the fifth to ‘Alternative Beauty’, while the remaining three contain favourite tracks of Tim’s through the years. This will be an ongoing series.
You can listen to (and follow) the playlists on Tim’s Spotify page or listen to the individual playlists via the links below.
Beautiful Songs You Should Know – Volume One
Beautiful Songs You Should Know – Volume Two
Beautiful Songs You Should Know – Volume Three (Pretty Prog)
Beautiful Songs You Should Know – Volume Four
Beautiful Songs You Should Know – Volume Five (Alternative Beauty)