Diary

Read Tim's diary entries here

8th September 2019

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The seven month gap between diary entries has been taken up with the release of solo album #5, a mini-tour, recording for no-man’s forthcoming studio release, and – most recently – the start of what may very well be solo album #6.

Yippee ki-yay!

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In terms of recording, the first part of this year was spent re-singing the vocals for no-man’s new album and adding guest musicians to the framework SW and I had come up with in October 2018.

Bringing professionalism and skills aplenty to the table, Ash Soan, Adam Holzman, David Kollar and the Dave Desmond Brass Quintet greatly enhanced the energy and texture of what was already there, while Bruno Ellingham – known for his work with Massive Attack, amongst many others – provided the final mixes and particularly enhanced the dynamics and rhythms.

Without giving a great deal away, the album feels definitively no-man while being completely unlike anything we’ve released previously. Consisting of two long (lyrically and compositionally related) pieces, in some ways the album is the logical follow-up to Flowermouth that Wild Opera wasn’t (albeit a follow up filtered through two and half decades of accumulated experiences and influences).

The opening section of the core piece – Love You To Bits – was written in the Summer of 1994 (around the time of Flowermouth’s release) and the original idea for what we wanted to do emerged around that time as well. As it better represented the way we were feeling by the end of 1994 (bad!!), the more aggressive and spontaneous Wild Opera material took over and became our focus. As a result, Love You To Bits remained on the no-man back burner, occasionally being added to but mostly being ignored and never feeling quite right for inclusion on any of our subsequent releases.

Once we took the decision to complete LYTB in late 2018, ideas flowed and it finally became what we’d always wanted it to be. As with Lighthouse, Angel Gets Caught In The Beauty Trap and Days In The Trees, this was a piece many years in the making, but as a lot of writing and the majority of recording has been done over the last year (particularly on the second piece) the album also feels fresh.

For me, what we’ve come up with is exciting and unexpected. It’s also something that needs to be listened to as a whole (it evolves in a way wholly unanticipated by the beginning) and as they always used to say on records, ‘loud’. As with Flowers At The Scene, only more so, I have no idea what the reaction to the album will be and at this stage of my music making that’s a good thing.

The late 2019 release is still on.

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Due to work on the no-man album and the recent live dates, I had the longest period of not writing in some years. From October 2018 to August 2019, I spent time recording and re-writing music, but didn’t come up with any new material that could be added to my bulging ‘hard drive of doom’.

Over the last month I’ve written and co-written six songs – just over half an album’s worth of material – plus several instrumental fragments that might end up being used somewhere. Emerging in an unforced way and pretty much out of nowhere, it’s been a relief to know that I still feel compelled to write and an even greater relief that what’s been written is a departure from both Flowers At The Scene and no-man’s forthcoming album.

The song that kickstarted the process – One Last Call – shares something of the atmospheric desolation of What Lies Here, though it has a very different sound and is conceptually a world away.

Lyrically and musically the new pieces are strongly related and the mood and soundscapes are deliberately limited, and very coherent as a result. As with FATS, my chief collaborator on these pieces is Bobian Hulse. Elsewhere, those mighty fine critters John Jowitt and Tom Atherton have been adding parts.

Working title, Late Night Laments.

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Flowers At The Scene was released in March to possibly the best reviews and definitely the best chart positions of any of my albums. A genuine and pleasing surprise.

The album felt like a new beginning and being so different from Lost In The Ghost Light, it was difficult to know what the response might be.

Feeling somewhat like no-man’s early work – in that it presented several directions my music could possibly take in the future – it was truly gratifying that FATS seemed to connect with an audience.

Thanks to those of you who bought the album.

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Bar the ‘funeral in Berlin’, all the live dates were enjoyable with Wroclaw and London being highlights – for very different reasons – and The Night Of The Prog a suitably grand finale. At the latter, Gary Kemp and Saucerful Of Secrets were great company and performed the early work of Pink Floyd (a little-known beat combo I’m rather partial to) with genuine enthusiasm and flair.

Bobian Hulse’s return to the stage after a 31 year absence was a roaring success. The bow-tied Beau Brummel cut a dash, while John Jowitt’s addition to the band continued to pay dividends both musically and in terms of his powerful stage presence.

A big thank you to everyone who attended the shows and an avalanche of pats on the back to Graham Harris and Nellie ‘Lady Nellington’ Pitts for their help.

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It was an honour to be in Prog magazine’s centenary issue list of Prog icons. Even though what I do doesn’t operate within recognisable Prog Rock styles (bar Lost In The Ghost Light and Henry Fool, perhaps), the magazine – which has an admirably eclectic musical scope – has been very supportive of my music since its inception and I remain extremely grateful for it.

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Anil Prasad managed to extract a War And Peace sized interview out of me earlier this year. Thinking about it, maybe that’s why I didn’t find the time to write any new songs for the first eight months of the year! As always, Anil got some things out of me that I’ve never shared in interviews (the redacted version had far more).

I think that the section near the end – regarding the current state of the music industry – does hit on issues rarely openly discussed and I’d suggest people who haven’t seen it take a read. Audiences don’t owe musicians a living (though most even well-known musicians struggle to make a living via music alone these days), but I think it’s worth considering the repercussions of the future the current industry model is dictating and may define for decades to come. In short – and I accept that this may just be natural selection in action – the sort of music that inspired and inspires me is at risk of disappearing altogether. Given the state of the world politically and environmentally I realise this is a very First World problem, but as someone who still considers music important I think it’s worth fighting for.

Here it is https://www.innerviews.org/inner/tim-bowness

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This will be the final diary entry formatted by my long-term webmaster Tony Kinson, who’s been a great help in sympathetically promoting my music for many years (his no-man – a confession… site was an excellent resource).

I’d like to thank Tony for all his creative input and assistance over the last decade and a half, and also introduce Rob Skarin (one half of the wonderful Crystal Spotlight) who’ll be taking over my web activities from this point onwards.

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Farewell!

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Listening

Babybird – Photosynthesis (2019)
Be Bop Deluxe – Futurama (1975)
Cate Le Bon – Reward (2019)
Johnny Cash – American IV – The Man Comes Around (2002)
Dead Can Dance – Anastasis (2012) / Dionysus (2018)
B Eno / R Eno / Lanois – Apollo (1983/2019)
Richie Havens – Richard P Havens, 1983 (1969)
Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information (1974)
Pere Ubu – The Long Goodbye (2019)
Prefab Sprout / Paddy McAloon – I Trawl The Megahertz (2003)
Bill Pritchard – Midland Lullabies (2019)
Queen – News Of The World (1977) / Jazz (1978)
Klaus Schulze – Mirage (1977)
Labi Siffre – The Last Songs (1998)
The Specials – Encore (2019)
Swans – The Burning World (1989)
Eberhard Weber – The Following Morning (1977)
Yes – Close To The Edge (1972)

Reading

Stan Barstow – The Human Element and Other Stories (1970)
John Le Carre – Call for the Dead (1961) / The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1963) / A Legacy of Spies (2017)
Roger McGough – joinedupwriting (2019)
Brian Patten – The Book Of Upside Down Thinking (2018)
Claudia Rankine – Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004) / Citizen: An American Lyric (2015)
Crystal Zevon – I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Life and Times of Warren Zevon (2008)

13 Feb 2019

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Solo album #5 is now ready and about to make its way into the wider world. As mentioned in several interviews, Flowers At The Scene feels like something of a necessary refreshing of the palette. At the very least, it’s a decisive move away from the long-form conceptual nature of Lost In The Ghost Light, which was an album that always felt like a satisfying end in itself.

FATS is a collection of 11 quite different songs with 11 totally unrelated lyrics that all seem to possess a cinematic short story quality. For the first time since Returning Jesus, there’s no overriding theme and no overriding concept, yet Flowers At The Scene still feels very much like an album.

When I’m making albums, I always record what I want to while also trying to view the project from a more objective external perspective. I’ve always preferred the ‘classic’ 38-45 minute album statement. Partly because I think that length suits the intensity of music like mine and partly because I think it provides discipline and structure that enhances the overall listening experience. I’d rather be left wanting more than feeling drained. The CD age ushered in albums that were far too long (for the sake of filling available space) and streaming has cultivated even longer albums (because it can), as well as a more pronounced emphasis on singles, mixes and EPs.

Beyond multiple alternate versions of pieces, Flowers At The Scene had two songs dropped from the final track list. One – Beyond The Firing Line – was arguably as strong as anything else on the album. It’s an ambitious and atmospheric piece with some great contributions from the likes of Adam Holzman, Peter Hammill and Colin Edwin. On reflection, it felt too similar to one of the other pieces on the album so out it went. The other outtake – Newblood – is the shortest and most obviously ‘Pop’ piece I’ve come up with since no-man’s Only Baby. The horror, the horror!

As a fan of the 1980s vinyl single – short Pop song on one side and experimental piece on the other – at some point this year I’m intending to release a 7” vinyl single with CD featuring the two outtakes.

Be afraid.

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no-man finally got together to complete an album in Autumn. Over three days and late evenings, SW and I participated in the most immersive and enjoyable session since the early days of the band.

We traded ideas and just got on with trying to realise them with no external distractions. As is always the case, the ideas ended up taking us somewhere unexpected. The resulting album is something that’s 100% no-man – in terms of its mood, atmospheres and collection of disparate influences – while being completely unlike any previous no-man release.

Recording is currently ongoing and we’re hoping for a late 2019 release.

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Playing the Summer’s End festival in October was a great experience for the T-Bo band. The Booker Boy / John ‘JJ’ Jowitt rhythm section were on astonishing (almost elastic) form while Maestro Bingham played like a fiddler possessed.

The main thrill, however, was being able to perform to a genuinely attentive and responsive audience. A 12 minute whisper to a scream version of Days Turn Into Years provided my personal highlight.

2019 will see the band playing in quite a few places over Europe (several we’ve never been to before).

Be very afraid.

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2018 Favourites

These are in alphabetical order rather than order of preference.

If I had to choose a winner it would be Eric Chenaux’s Slowly Paradise. Eric has an incredibly sweet and soulful voice that contrasts beautifully with some extreme guitar textures/playing. Imagine Terry Callier singing gently over Derek Bailey free form experiments or Nick Drake crooning atop a more organic/acoustic My Bloody Valentine.

New releases:

David Byrne – American Utopia
Bernice – Puff: In The Air Without A Shape
The Caretaker – Everywhere At The End Of Time (Stage 4)
Eric Chenaux – Slowly Paradise
Julia Holter – Aviary
Paul McCartney – Egypt Station
Joshua Redman – Still Dreaming
Steve Reich – Pulse / Quartet
Suede – The Blue Hour
Thumpermonkey – Make Me Young Etc
Joshua Trinidad – In November
Devon Welsh – Dream Songs

Reissues:

The Beatles – The Beatles / The Esher Demos (50th Anniversary Edition)
David Bowie – Welcome To The Blackout (Live London ’78)
Kate Bush – Remastered Back Catalogue
The Carpenters – Carpenters With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Alice Coltrane – The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda
John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once – The Lost Album
Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions
The Durutti Column – Without Mercy (Deluxe Edition)
The Flaming Lips – Greatest Hits Vol 1
John Foxx – Metamatic (Deluxe Edition)
Rush – Hemispheres (40th Anniversary)
Jethro Tull – Heavy Horses (New Shoes Version)
Frank Sinatra – Only The Lonely (60th Anniversary Edition)
David Sylvian – Dead Bees On A Cake (Deluxe vinyl)
This Mortal Coil – It’ll End In Tears
Pete Townshend – Who Came First (Deluxe Edition)
Yes – Fly From Here (Return Trip)

August 26, 2018

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A gap and then some! This constitutes the second blog entry this year and only the third over an eighteen month period. Below, find some reasons for my protracted ‘slow blog’ absence.

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Work is now complete on T-Bo solo album number five. It feels very much like I’ve pressed reset and, in some ways, has the air of an exciting debut release about it.

Produced by me, Steven Wilson and Brian Hulse, 13 pieces were assembled and though inevitably there’s a suicidal ballad or four in the mix, it’s perhaps the most eclectic and accessible collection of pieces I’ve put together since no-man’s mid-1990s output.

Feeling a little like a re-awakening, it reconnects with elements of my early work while also stretching out into new territories (for me). Overall, it’s the boldest album I’ve made for some time and notably re-introduces the bittersweet early no-man quality of combining uplifting music with downbeat sentiments.

Abandoned Dancehall Dreams logically emerged out of Schoolyard Ghosts and Stupid Things was an extension of the possibilities ADD suggested. Lost In The Ghost Light took an element of the preceding albums – the epic Smiler At 50 – and blew it up into a unified album experience. By comparison, the new album has nothing in common with Lost In The Ghost Light and little that echoes aspects of ADD or Stupid Things.

Other than the dynamic duo of SW and Colin Edwin, I’m working with an entirely new team of collaborators. Virgin solo album contributors include Brian Hulse, James Matheos, Ian Dixon (the brilliant trumpet player on no-man’s Returning Jesus), Alistair ‘Curator’ Murphy (strings) and master drummers Tom Atherton and Dylan Howe.

The superstar guest slots are taken up by Peter Hammill (providing some superbly biting backing vocals, plaintive piano and off-kilter guitar), XTC’s Andy Partridge, Big Big Train’s David Longdon (backing vocals and flute) and one of my earliest musical heroes, Kevin Godley (10cc / Godley & Creme).

Elsewhere Adam Holzman has provided a gloriously impressionistic Wurlitzer part and Plenty bassist David K Jones has recorded three fine performances (including his truly wild debut on double bass).

It feels like an honour to be in such company on such good form.

As always, the fifty two minutes of new material has been whittled down to a classic album length of around 43 minutes and, as always, the process of eliminating songs and creating the optimum running order has been an obsession for me. The quality of the cutting room floor songs is unusually strong, with one piece being a showcase for Kevin Godley’s rich and mournful voice and another including some of the best playing on the project.

If Lost In The Ghost Light was a coherent summation of a very particular and intentionally archaic approach to sound and composition, the new album – likely to be called Flowers At The Scene – is closer to Brian Eno’s description of the Roxy Music debut, which he felt presented as many possible future directions for the band as there were songs.

The release date is looking as if it’ll be exactly two years after LITGL (in February 2019). The waiting for this will seem interminable.

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One of my favourite songs on the new album came out of my teaching ukulele chords and demonstrating studio overdubbing to Bowness Jr.

Finding a pattern I liked, I improvised a song called Lost Quiff (at the age of 7, Bowness Jr is preoccupied with that most contemporary of genres Rock’n’Roll and worships at the altars of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and many others).

The song quickly evolved into something else and the album’s most unlikely source of inspiration was found.

The father / son demo of Lost Quiff – a poignant tale that crosses continents – shall remain on the hard drive of doom!

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As mentioned previously, Bowness / Chilvers 2.0 was completed a year ago. For a variety of reasons, we’re still thinking of what to do with it and when to unleash it upon the world. The only certainties are that time will pass and tears will be shed!

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Despite featuring all too familiar material and being typically difficult to organise, the T-Bo band God Is An Astronaut support at the Brixton Electric in May was an unexpectedly emotional and powerful performance.

John Jowitt – in his first show with the band – was confident, assured and a great visual and musical addition. By God, he even looked like he was enjoying himself (a first for any of us!). Andrew Booker’s playing was as good as I’ve ever heard it – constantly finding new ways of delivering old songs – and the rest of us (me, Professor Bearpark and Baron Bennett) responded in kind by frequently changing our parts.

The audience response was incredibly encouraging, but regardless of the positives I felt out of place and out of sorts on the night. As soon as I walked on the stage, I wanted to walk off it.

The Summer’s End Festival appearance in October is all that’s left on the live agenda and may mark the last time this version of the band – albeit with the wonderful Maestro Bingham added to the cast – plays live together. (Or not.)

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Just to see if it could work if required, the Plenty trio convened – in the Woolley Valley near Bath – to make a collective noise for the first time in 30 years.

Initially, it was surreal going through ancient material in much the same way we used to. The approach echoed the Plenty of old and the early no-man, in that backing tapes were used and, consequently, no error in timing was allowed. Improvisation was also strictly forbidden. After a couple of run-throughs everything became more natural and the band sound re-emerged. On the final run-through, there were more than a few special moments.

Whatever it was we had was still there and whatever it was we had was different from the later incarnations of no-man or the T-Bo live band.

Before, after and during the rehearsals, we’ve been recording songs for a follow up to It Could Be Home. Featuring a more organic sound – plus drummer Charles Grimsdale – the music has opened up in some surprising ways. The 1980s well of songs hasn’t run dry (yet).

Talking of which, while clearing my house for an upcoming move, I accidentally found the very first Bowness / Hulse song from the Summer of 1986. A John le Carré inspired ‘Cold War ballad’ called This Side Of The Border, I’d remembered it existed while others doubted my sanity. I’d always loved The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, but could I really have written a song so directly inspired by it? As it turns out, yes I really could.

Written at the same time as Towards The Shore – on an old school piano – both songs represented the best things I’d done up to that point. However, between those – still worthwhile to me – songs and Forest Almost Burning (in early 1987), my rare tape discovery suggested we were creatively adrift for six months or so (recording awkward A Better Mousetrap style versions of After The Stranger songs and even more awkward ATS style takes on ABM pieces).

A day after it’s rediscovery, This Side Of The Border was re-recorded with Plenty 2 in mind. It remains a favourite song for me and, due to its lyrical theme, a genuine outsider in relation to my other work.

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Recent sessions have included singing a duet (in the magnificent Real World Studios) with David Longdon on Big Big Train’s lovely Seen Better Days, performing an atmospheric version of This City for Twelfth Night, and writing new pieces with Italian collaborators of old Saro Cosentino and Stefano Panunzi (both lusher than lush).

Recent highlights have included meeting up with Pete Morgan and Baron Bennett at Ian Anderson’s rather impressive abode. IA was courteous and talkative and it was great to finally meet him outside of a more pressured back stage environment. Following the Tull tales, the Bowness / Morgan / Bennett trio of reprobates had an all too rare coffee and chat catch-up.

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Toodle pip!

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Listening:

A Certain Ratio – Sextet (1982)
Bernice – Puff: In The Air Without A Shape (2018)
Blood Sweat And Tears – 3 (1969)
David Bowie – Welcome To The Blackout (1978)
Chromatics – Kill For Love (2012)
Ian Dury And The Blockheads – Do It Yourself (1979)
Elvis Costello – Spike (1989)
Dylan Howe – Subterranean (2014)
Johnny Jewel – Windswept (2017)
Majical Cloudz – Wait And See (2016)
Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent (2017)
Joshua Redman – Still Dreaming (2018)
Joshua Trinidad – In November (2018)
Steely Dan – Gaucho (1980)
Yes – Fly From Here – Return Trip (2018)

Reading:

Elizabeth Taylor – Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont (1971)
Philip Roth – Everyman (2006)
Derek Taylor – As Time Goes By (1973)

1st January 2018

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Happy New Year and thanks to everyone who’s supported my music over the past 12 months.

2017 was a great year for Lost In The Ghost Light which gained the most reviews and sales of any of my work outside of no-man. The album’s artwork winning a Prog Award and live performances at the Marillion Weekend, IB Expo and Birmingham’s Blue Orange Theatre were also memorable and enjoyable experiences during the year.

Amongst other things, I have two albums prepared for 2018 release and some festival dates arranged (tba).

In some ways, the Plenty album – called It Could Be Home – is a debut release 30 years after the event. Despite this, it’s been a fresh and exciting project to work on and the end result is extremely satisfying and uplifting. The band has been writing songs since the album was completed, so hopefully a follow-up will take less than 30 years to finish! It Could Be Home will be released on Norwegian label Karisma in late March.

The Tim Bowness/Peter Chilvers album has recently been mixed by the wonderful Mr Peter Hammill and is certainly a step beyond California, Norfolk: Intimate, bleak and, hopefully, beautiful in places. Release date and label tba.

Outside of this, I’ve been rehearsing with the superb bassist James Eller (The The / Julian Cope) and the talented Toby Marks (Banco De Gaia). We’ve been writing music spontaneously and may decide to release some of the results in the future.

Here’s hoping that the frequently discussed new no-man album is also a possibility for the year ahead.

Some releases I liked in 2017 (in alphabetical order):

Big Big Train – Grimspound
Benjamin Clementine – I Tell A Fly
Ray Davies – Americana
Mark Eitzel – Hey, Mr Ferryman
Elbow – Little Fictions
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Samuel Hallkvist – Variety Of Rhythm
Peter Hammill – From The Trees
The Horrors – V
Morrissey – Low In High School
Randy Newman – Dark Matter
Max Richter – Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works
Sparks – Hippopatamus
Thundercat – Drunk
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
Roger Waters – Is This The Life We Really Want?
Devon Welsh – Down The Mountain
Steven Wilson – To The Bone

The magnificent 50th Anniversary Sgt Peppers reissue also deserves a mention and it was great to see A Certain Ratio’s excellent back catalogue getting re-promoted on the Mute label.

11 August 2017

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Listening:

The Art Of Noise – In Visible Silence – Deluxe Edition (2017 / 1986)
Randy Newman – Dark Matter (2017)