Diary

Read Tim's diary entries here

September 11 2015

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The waiting is over and the results are in (sort of, anyway).

The last few months have seen a whirlwind of activity, with a new album release, a (by my standards) extensive ‘World’ tour (of 4 dates in 2 countries, no less!), a ten ton truckload of interviews, and a social schedule that involved more than just waving to bleary-eyed kindred spirits on ‘the school run’.

Stupid Things That Mean The World achieved the most (and highest) chart positions of my career. This was both incredibly gratifying and, as always, something of a relief. After the comparative success of ADD, this time there was a degree of expectation surrounding the new album. The consensus was that ADD would be a hard act to follow and I was very much aware of that. Luckily – both in terms of sales and reactions – Stupid Things That Mean The World has appeared to generate just that little bit more than ADD did and maintain forward momentum in a way that I was hoping it would.

This time round there were three Top 10 chart positions (official UK Rock, Prog and Vinyl charts), an entry in the lower end of the ‘general/mainstream’ chart and more reviews and interviews than I can remember doing since the early days of no-man. When you’re at the wrong end of middle age and involved in something highly personal, these unexpected mini-triumphs really are something special.

Though I can’t say Stupid Things is better than ADD, the album did feel as if it was more probing and perhaps an even more honest representation of what it is that I do (and like). Stupid Things possessed more diversity and seemed harder and softer, complex and simpler, and both more accessible and more experimental than ADD. Though coherent, I hoped it had a greater sense of playing with possibilities than its predecessor (which I felt worked as a consistent body of songs). Ultimately, I’m pleased with both albums, which I think have managed to establish a recognisable identity for me outside of my work with no-man and Steven Wilson.

It’s mostly felt like a period where things have been progressing apace, but it’s also sometimes felt like a time of running around frantically in order to maintain the position I was already in (Bono may have said the same thing more succinctly at some point!).

————

The ‘World’ tour of 2015 was a mixed experience and a reality check, in that it pointed out the difficulty of attracting an audience and the fact that to get to a higher level sacrifices have to be made on what will probably always feel like an uphill struggle.

The Rehearsals:

Holed up in rural Wiltshire with the streamlined five piece Tim Bowness Band, a joyous noise was made for five days in a row. Despite playing a significantly different set than any we’d played before (including 50% new songs), things went surprisingly well and quickly. It was perhaps the best rehearsal period we’ve ever had. The music worked, relationships were good, coffee breaks were plentiful and optimism was high.

In the middle of the rehearsals, I travelled with the newly crowned super-boffin Professor Bearpark to BBC Bristol for an interview and accompanying acoustic session. Enjoyable and relaxed, it reminded me of many similar performances I’d undertaken in the early 1990s with Steven Wilson. Like other things to come over the next few weeks, there was a strong sense of past experiences invading present moments.

As a quintet, the band’s approach had by necessity turned to the more Rock end of what I do. The new material suited the musicians and vice versa. A powerful guitar-heavy counterpoint to the graceful electronica of the 2004-2006 My Hotel Band, without sacrificing the melancholy or introspective nature of much of the music, it felt like we were managing to create something that could communicate on a wider level than we had done previously.

On the fourth and fifth days, we multi-track recorded what we did with a view to a future release of some sort. The live versions of songs had been developing a character of their own and we felt they needed to be chronicled. So chronicled they were.

The gigs:

Straight from an almost flawless rehearsal, we arrived at a Bristol venue that wasn’t quite what we were expecting and promptly massacred two songs in the soundcheck. We were unlearning in real time! The gig itself was on the smallest stage we’d played on in years, which wasn’t conducive to ‘the big gesture’ (or physical movement of any kind!). The sound onstage was poor and the optimism (along with the onstage banter) ran dry. That said, the rehearsing must have paid off in some way as the performance possessed some powerful moments and the audience reaction was extremely positive and warm (justifying the whole affair).

The next day was London. From the off, the venue and sound were much better and the performance reflected this. Reminiscent of no-man’s 2012 show at the Islington Town Hall, there was a confidence on display that seemed to be acknowledged by the audience response.

If it’s the weekend, it must be Poland! Ino-Rock provided a great educational experience. The same set that had been effective in a club setting felt sometimes exposed when performed in front of a couple of thousand people at an open-air festival. Two thirds to three quarters of the music genuinely worked in the larger environment, while a quarter to a third seemed more fit for intimate theatre performance than stadium assault. Regardless, when it did come together the performance was a powerful example of what this particular band can do well. The audience was very receptive and a post-gig wander through the crowd yielded many wonderful encounters, countless selfies and some of the most probing questions I’ve been asked in years. As in Krakow in 2012, the Polish experience was energising and a lot of fun. The organisers, the fans and the people we met (including Fish and his very fine band) were a delight, and over two days in the hotel lobby I conducted one of the most in-depth interviews I’ve ever done (for the US-based Progression magazine).

After a week’s absence from the stage, the end was nigh in Manchester in a similar venue to the one in London (though smaller, both in terms of audience and stage size). We were supported by old friends and former band mates Nerve Toy Trio, who unexpectedly proved to be more Prog than Rick Wakeman’s golden cape (in a good way). The T-Bo Band started off well, but tentatively. Half-way through something seemed to click. The audience had been vocally supportive throughout, but from Dancing For You onwards I was at my most verbally communicative and the band locked into some powerful grooves with absolute conviction. An additional – genuinely spontaneous – surprise was that the encore of All The Blue Changes featured the Nerve Toy Trio’s Howard Jones on drums (alongside Andrew Booker). Howard is a gifted drummer who was a major part of several of my earliest bands including The Roaring Silence and After The Stranger, and this was the first time we’d appeared on a stage together since 1986 (past experiences invading present moments, once again). A double drum solo was hinted at and then it was all over. After the gig, the members of the audience I spoke to seemed extremely appreciative of the evening’s music, and on a personal level it was genuinely nice to reconnect with old friends and even older family.

Conclusions:

Aside from the Polish festival, stupidly, I’d organised everything myself. And at a bad time of year. As such, promotion was minimal (being a gig promoter is clearly not my forte) and attendances were on the low side bar Poland. Artistically it felt good, though. The new music thrived in a live setting and the band seemed stronger than ever. Being reduced to a five piece meant that the instrumentalists had more space as well as more to do to fill some of the extra space. Colin, Mike, Stephen and Andy raised their already high games. Time Travel In Texas was harder, funkier and stranger, Sing To Me soared, the guitar solo in Dancing For You became an unexpected concert highlight (grown people wept at the Professor’s emotional six-string outpourings!), Know That You Were Loved hit a sweet melancholy spot and Smiler At 50 sounded bigger than Digby. Whatever disappointment there was about attendances seemed insignificant in light of the band’s performances and the encouraging audience reactions.

————

Outside of the tour, I attended the hugely enjoyable fourth annual Prog Awards and also saw the mighty King Crimson live (for the first time since 1995).

At the awards, I was on the Inside Out table, and it was tremendous fun to meet up up with the likes of Peter Hammill, Bill Nelson, Steve Hogarth, Nick Beggs, the genial Gentle Giant and, of course, Steven Wilson (amongst others).

King Crimson, as ever, asked as many questions as they answered and, as ever, they remain a firm touchstone in my musical world. The band’s collective sound was immense and it was great to see Mel Collins back where he belongs, Jakko fronting his favourite band, and to hear new songs mingling with old classics

————

Next up is a special one-off gig in Cardiff with Lord Peter Chilvers, David Rhodes and sax royalty Theo Travis. There’ll be more work on the forthcoming Bowness/Chilvers release and Third Monster On The Left, and there are semi-concrete plans to create a live Tim Bowness (and band) album and studio single.

There’ll also be more school runs, I expect.

————

Listening:

Be Bop Deluxe – Sunburst Finish (1976)
Ornette Coleman – Dancing In Your Head (1977)
David Crosby – Croz (2014)
FFS – FFS (2015)
Led Zeppelin – Presence (1976)
Magazine – Magic, Murder & The Weather (1981)
Bill Nelson – Quit Dreaming And Get Off The Beam (1981)
Siouxie & The Banshees – Hyaena (1984)
Troyka – Ornithophobia (2015)
Kamasi Washington – The Epic (2015)

Reading:

Kent Haruf - Our Souls At Night (2014)
David S Wills - Scientologist!: William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’ (2013)

Watching:

Grace And Frankie
The Last Man On Earth
Transparent
True Detective

————

may 12th

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Stupid Things That Mean The World, my third solo album, was finished in mid-April.

Compared with Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, the making of the album was a bit of a long slog with many obstacles (illnesses, recording problems, moving house and so on), but despite (or because of) this the result definitely feels like something of a progression from its predecessor, and very much like the second part of a new chapter that ADD began (which, luckily, was exactly what I was after when I started the process of making the album).

That almost all the album’s music was written in 2014 and 2015 (and mostly recorded in 2015) was also pleasing. Two very different songs emerged at the very end of the sessions and they may be amongst my personal favourites of songs that I’ve been involved in making. The Great Electric Teenage Dream is one of the most aggressive pieces I’ve sung on, while the other new song (Know That You Were Loved) shares the quiet ‘end days’ melancholy and introspection of perhaps my all-time favourite no-man song, Things I Want To Tell You.

One of the exceptions to the 2014 / 2015 rule is All These Escapes, which is a new version of an old Plenty song from 1988. Re-recording lines I’d originally sung over half a lifetime ago was less strange than I thought it would be, and it was surprisingly easy to inhabit the emotional core of the song, while also being aware that (certainly lyrically) it was something that I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) have come up with over the last two decades.

Another part exception to the 2014 / 2015 rule is Sing To Me, which evolved out of a no-man demo from 1994 called Best Boy Electric. I heard BBE for the first time in over 20 years when Steven Wilson sent it to me in October 2014 (for consideration for a possible reissue of no-man’s Lost Songs album). I’d completely forgotten the song, and on re-hearing it in 2014 couldn’t understand why we’d abandoned it (it being so at odds with the emerging Wild Opera material is my guess). I wrote a new lyric and a couple of new instrumental themes, and Stephen Bennett suggesting doubling the length. As a result, a one and a half minute fragment from 1994 turned into a six minute epic from 2015. Sing To Me reminds me of aspects of the early no-man that I loved, while also feeling very much a part of the music I’m currently making.

My STTMTW (not as catchy as ADD, I grant you!) collaborators have been both returning (Bennett, Bearpark, Booker, Edwin, Keeling, Phoebe, Hammill) and new (Bruce Soord, David Rhodes, Rhys Marsh) and, overall, there’s a greater diversity of mood and style than is common on most of my releases. Jarrod Gosling once again provided some unique artwork and Charlotte Kinson came good with promotional photographs (acting on the difficult instruction, “Make me look human.”).

As with ADD, it’s great at this stage of my life to still feel that I’m releasing some of my best work and to still be excited by the process of making and releasing it.

————

Listening:

Big Hard Excellent Fish – And The Question Remains (2013)
Bjork – Vulnicura (2015)
Captain Beefheart – Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972 (2015)
Electric Wurms – Musik, Die Schwer zu Twerk (2014)
David Cross and Robert Fripp – Starless Starlight (2015)
The Flaming Lips – Peace Sword (2013)
Glenn Gould – Bach: The Art Of Fugue (1962)
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975)
Sanguine Hum – Now We Have Light
(2015)
The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. (2015)

Reading:

Emily St John MandelStation Eleven (2014)
Chuck PalahniukHaunted (2005)

Watching:

Better Call Saul (2015)

Nov 20th

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The usual workload plus two house moves and the release and promotion of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams has meant finding gaps to write or record hasn’t been particularly easy since the early part of the year.

Luckily, things have finally settled down and I’ve recently started work on a follow up album to Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and continued to write with Peter Chilvers for our long-delayed successor to California, Norfolk.

Being able to realise ideas or find myself somewhere I wasn’t expecting creatively remains something I never tire of and after what seems like an age of inactivity, it’s felt great to be immersed in the process of making music once more.

———

Writing and recording again has led to the usual questioning of what it is I produce and why it is that I make the music I do. Despite eclectic tastes and a world of possibilities, a lot of artists find somewhere that feels comfortable to them and end up staying in that place. Although I do go off into some seemingly out of character directions – Henry Fool, Darkroom, Wild Opera etc – my ‘territory’ is still mostly that of the ballad (intimate or epic), the atmospheric experiment and the moodier than Ron Moody sentiment. Judging by what’s recently been coming out of my mouth and guitar, a shift towards Macarena-style euphoria or mid-period Robin Thicke isn’t looking very likely, but as with ADD it feels like the new material (and the refining of old material) represent a confident summation of previous approaches, which are also taking the music somewhere fresh.

The two albums currently in progress subtly reflect different aspects of what I do and what I’m instinctively drawn to. As with no-man and ADD, ADD 2.0 has a bolder, more dynamic approach, while the new Bowness/Chilvers songs develop further the narrative-based material on California, Norfolk (though the sadness may be even sadder than before!).

————

ADD 2.0 got off to a very special and quite unexpected start in late October when I recorded a song in the studio of one of my long-term musical inspirations, Peter Hammill. Peter provided guitars and backing vocals for one of my songs (and its bizarre, spontaneously conceived coda) and was an encouraging and accommodating presence throughout the process. I was very aware that the teenage me – in awe of Over and Pawn Hearts – would have been delighted to be a part of this experience (the adult me was rather pleased too!).

The next stage of ADD 2.0 will comprise several days of full band recording, plus overdubs aplenty (including the return of Andrew Keeling’s very fine string arranging and Anna Phoebe’s superb violin playing), all followed by the time-consuming process of editing and mixing. At this early stage, the material assembled feels like a logical advancement from ADD and I’m really excited to see where it goes.

After writing what I regard as four of our best ever collaborative pieces in a burst of activity late last year, Peter Chilvers and I resumed ‘the follow-up that’s taking forever’ a fortnight ago. Straight off, we came up with a stark piano, oboe and voice piece that developed into something we weren’t expecting. Lyrically, the song tells a very specific story unlike any I’ve written before. Overall, the new lyrics have something of the narrative flavour of Post-Its and Smiler At 50, and as with California, Norfolk there’s a strong ‘album’ coherence emerging with themes exploring the contrast between youthful optimism and mature reflection. Musically, the pieces vary from being heavily electronic to incredibly spartan and organic, and show how Lord Chilvers’ abilities have impressively evolved as a result of his ongoing work with Brian Eno and Karl Hyde.

————

If writing and studio recording remain things that excite me, the ’solo’ live experience is something that I still feel needs work before it fully satisfies me.

The recent shows were all enjoyable in different ways and I particularly liked the dynamic shifts in the music and the fact that Smiler At 50 and Dancing For You seemed to come off as well in performance as in the studio. Additionally, the relentless grind of Mixtaped continued to be a pleasure to play.

Myke Clifford was as good as I’ve ever heard him and his temporary replacement for the final gig, Theo Travis, was equally inspired. Doctor Bearpark and Baron Bennett showed their range as soloists/texturalists and the Booker/Edwin rhythm section were tough and flexible giving the band a real scope. The merger of no-man, Tim Bowness and Henry Fool identities was perhaps less effective than the band as a unit, though.

For me, as they all represent aspects of music I’ve made, the fusion made sense, but I could see that rather than present a united creative front, for some people, the combination of styles only served to emphasise the differences between them. My decision not to play guitar (which I did in rehearsal) undoubtedly played a part as it left me physically adrift from the Henry Fool instrumentals that I’d played a major role in writing/creating.

Next time, with another solo album to draw from, I suspect that the live approach will be a very different one.

————

In very different ways, the 2014 releases by David Bowie, Scott Walker, Peter Hammill and Pink Floyd have been inspiring to me, and have shown that it’s still very possible to make great music well into long-established and seemingly defined careers.

Perhaps the most radical of the releases has been the Bowie double whammy of Sue (or In A Season Of Crime) and ‘Tis Pity She Was A Whore. Experimental Jazz-inflected songs with little relationship to previous Bowie work (or anything really), they’d make for a remarkable statement at any stage in a career. I genuinely enjoyed The Next Day (which seemed to me a logical continuation of Heathen and Reality), but these two pieces have surprised and thrilled me in a way that Low, Lodger, Scary Monsters, and 1.Outside did when I first heard them.

Walker and Hammill have both continued their bold late career adventures with passion and enthusiasm. Both are in superb voice and both are creating some impressively unique textures. Along with Bowie, it feels as if there’s an urgent sense of forward motion propelling these careers that are approaching 50 years ‘in the business’.

By way of contrast, the Pink Floyd release is a gentle elegy that reflects many aspects of the band’s past. Fusing elements of Echoes, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, The Division Bell and even the tribal drumming and textures of Saucerful Of Secrets, it’s an affectionate tribute to the strengths of the band’s more atmospheric identity, and a touching farewell to Richard Wright. Possessing a dreamy timelessness, the album lacks the edge of The Wall and the seductive melodies of Dark Side Of The Moon, but it wasn’t intended to have either and works well on its own terms. To do what you once did as effectively as you ever did, is also an achievement I think, and Gilmour’s voice and guitar tone seem as rare and accomplished as ever (ditto Robert Fripp, who seems truly energised by the recent King Crimson activity).

In the under 65 department, 26 year old Keaton Henson’s Romantic Works has been generating quite a bit of play on my iPod of late. It’s a beautiful, grainy, ‘lo-fi Classical’ collection that sits somewhere between Arvo Part’s transcendent Alina, Max Richter’s soundtracks and Virginia Astley’s underrated 1980s gem From Gardens Where We Feel Secure. At once familiar, but also strange in its eerie intimacy.

————

Listening:

Craig Armstrong – It’s Nearly Tomorrow (2014)
Colin Blunstone – Collected (2014)
David BowieSue (or In A Period Of Crime) / ‘Tis Pity She Was A Whore (2014)
Jack Bruce – Harmony Row (1971)
John Coltrane – Infinity (1972)
Francis Dunnery – The Gulley Flat Boys (2005)
Peter Hammill – All That Might Have Been (2014)
Keaton Henson – Romantic Works (2014)
King Crimson – The Elements Of King Crimson (2014)
Pink Floyd – The Endless River (2014)
Steve Reich – Radio Rewrite (2014)
Rotary Connection – Hey, Love (1971)
Stravinsky – The Rite Of Spring (1913)
Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – Soused (2014)
Wings – At The Speed Of Sound (1976)

Watching:

American Hustle (2013)
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2013)
Le Weekend (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)

Reading:

Simon Gray – The Year Of The Jouncer (2005)
Marcus O’Dair – Different Every Time – The Authorised Biography Of Robert Wyatt

7 July

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I’ve been really grateful for all the positive comments about ADD. Thanks to everyone who’s bought the album and left feedback about it.

After such a long time living with the music and obsessively trying to make it what I wanted it to be, objectivity had long since departed. As such, I suffered plenty of trepidation regarding the potential reactions to what had become a year long labour of love for me.

The making of the album was a great experience and although the starting points and final say were mine, the likes of Steven Wilson, Stephen Bennett, Andrew Keeling, Colin Edwin, Pat Mastelotto, the no-man live band and others also deserve credit for making the finished material work as well as it did.

I hope that what came out was an honest summation of what I’ve done previously, but with occasional surprises that hinted at fresh possibilities ahead.

As I’ve said many times before, albums seem to have their own defining qualities and their own sense of momentum. They often become what they become in spite of artist intervention and this was very true of ADD. The album always seemed to possess a level of confidence and coherence whatever the circumstances involved in putting it together were. Generally speaking, things went right even when the situations suggested that failure was a more likely outcome.

The critical response, both from journalists and those who have bought the album, has been as good as I could have hoped for. One of my favourite emails regarding the album amusingly stated, “I got the Abandoned Dancehall that I ordered. It has the required melancholy. Thank you.” In response to that and other messages of goodwill, I can only say, my pleasure!

————

ADD reaching #18 in the official UK Rock chart was also genuinely pleasing.

Seeing my name improbably wedged between Linkin Park and Green Day felt a bit like coming across a photo of Emma Thompson out on the town with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, but it also felt like the original spirit of Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show was accurately being honoured.

For those of outside the UK (or too young to know), The Friday Rock Show was a popular BBC radio programme that started in the late 1970s. On an average show, Jefferson Airplane might be followed by a Kate Bush ballad, or a new Rush single would be preceded by Elvis Costello, or a knotty Robert Fripp instrumental. The incidental music came from the likes of Van Der Graaf Generator, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Stanley Clarke, there were innumerable Genesis and Pink Floyd specials (always a good thing!), and Folk, New Wave and Jazz Rock artists were played alongside emerging talents in the Metal and Progressive scenes. In retrospect, I realise that it was via Vance that I was introduced to enduring favourites of mine such as Sandy Denny, The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and Neil Young. I’ve never been a great radio listener, but in my early to late teens, along with John Peel’s equally eclectic show, the early episodes of The Friday Rock Show were an invaluable source of musical knowledge for me.

Holy procrastination Batman, I digress….

————

… and talking of digression, I’ve probably done more interviews over the last month than I’ve done in the last five years.

As always, I very quickly got to the stage where I felt I had little to say of any substance and that my rambling was in some way betraying the music (or at the very least had nothing to do with it). A melodramatic response perhaps, but I feel the best of me creatively is found in the music and lyrics and that most of my attempts to describe them are superfluous/nonsensical.

Email interviews (and Album Notes) are preferable to me as at least my thoughts are ordered and more succinct. The tendency to go off on meaningless tangents in real-time conversations constantly gets the better of me.

Despite that, there have been some good interviews published (Anil Prasad’s Innerviews epic, for example) and many of the conversations with journalists have been genuinely enjoyable. As it stands though, I am seriously considering not doing interviews for whatever I release next. My theory is that getting a cardboard cut-out of myself or randomly picking a stranger off the streets to answer the questions might produce equally satisfying results.

————

The rehearsals for the forthcoming shows went well.

As with no-man live, we’ve been playing to the strengths of the band rather than working on creating replicas of existing recordings.

The no-man material has developed in a way that echoes the 2012 live approach, while the ADD songs have translated into a live setting far better than I was expecting.

Colin Edwin and Myke Clifford’s involvement has given the material a looser feel compared with the Pete Morgan / Maestro Bingham combination (which worked really well in a more disciplined Minimalist Classical meets Post-Punk kind of way). Myke Clifford’s ‘Jazz hat’ may have provided an early clue as to his personal contribution!

The final rehearsal took place at Real World Studios and a day later we played a ‘secret gig’ as part of the Eppyfest in Stroud. All the band were relishing the prospect of seeing how the music worked with an audience rather than a solitary DAT machine in attendance and, luckily, the very nice and receptive crowd in Stroud made the hours spent in darkened rooms seem worthwhile. It was particularly good to see how the new tracks came alive in front of an audience. With two of the crowd doing a ballroom dance to the song section and the ’noise’ finale working as we’d hoped, Smiler At 50 generated the most positive response of an enjoyable evening.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the forthcoming shows. An experience awaits!

————

Listening:

Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots (2014)
Art Blakey – A Night In Tunisia (1960)
Kevin Coyne – Blame It On The Night (1974)
Eno / Hyde – High Life (2014)
King Crimson – Starless And Bible Black (1974)
Funkadelic – The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (1981)
Jon Hassell – City: Works Of Fiction (1990)
The Knells – The Knells (2013)
Joni Mitchell – For The Roses (1972)
Propaganda – A Secret Wish (1985)

Reading:

JG Ballard – The Atrocity Exhibition (1969)
Simon Gray – The Smoking Diaries (2004)

6th May

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To honour its recent completion, I’ve written a 4000 word ‘album notes’ account of the making of my new album Abandoned Dancehall Dreams and its individual songs (to be given away free with pre-orders of the album).

The notes chronicle a very exciting time for me and what has been an exceptionally hands-on process for the last six months or so.

While ADD may well have provided the basis of a strong no-man follow-up to Schoolyard Ghosts (as originally intended), I think it’s become a coherent release in itself and not only represents a far more genuinely solo recording than My Hotel Year, but also a more powerful band-style statement than most things I’ve done.

As I say in the album notes, ‘although I have a strong affinity with intimate approaches to making music, ‘big and bold’ is as much a part of my taste and musical identity as ‘small and stark’. In terms of what I enjoy and what I aspire to create, the ‘grand statement’ is as personal to me and as great an interest as the stripped-down song. I like Apocalypse Now as much I do Kes, Pink Floyd as much as Pink Moon, The Wasteland as much as Not Waving But Drowning, and so on.’

While not an extreme departure, I’d like to think that the music possesses a scope closer to no-man’s work than my other projects. I’d also like to think that it’s taken what I do into some unexpected areas.

Aided and abetted by some very talented people, it’s been a delight hearing the material evolve in the way it has. The likes of ‘Hurricane’ Pat Mastelotto, Colin Edwin, Anna Phoebe and the no-man live band have added a great deal to the songs, and along with some superb string arrangments by Andrew Keeling and typically wonderful mixing from Steven Wilson, given ADD a strong character of its own. ADD may be something I’ve produced and co-ordinated, but like a lot of solo albums it owes a tremendous amount to the collaborators who helped develop the material and wouldn’t be the same (or as good) without the contributions of others.

Outside of the main album, I’ve compiled a bonus disc containing outtakes, alternate versions (including recordings the no-man live band made in a studio recently vacated by Motorhead!) and three very different mixes. One mix is courtesy of Grasscut (one of my favourite bands of the last few years), one is by UXB (one of my favourite business partners of all-time!) and one has been done by Richard Barbieri. Richard’s mix features his vision of the piece and his inimitable atmospheric musical contributions. 20 years after our last major collaboration Flame, beyond his mix being special, it was nice to reunite with Richard for what felt like unfinished business.

Jarrod Gosling has provided the artwork and, as with his imagery for Henry Fool, has managed to create a distinctive visual universe that encapsulates (and defines) the feel of the songs on Abandoned Dancehall Dreams.

With less than two months to go to its release, my nerves and anticipation surrounding the prospective response are greater than usual. A good sign perhaps in that it shows I still care! :-)

——–

The release of ADD will be commemorated with what will be my first two ‘proper’ live performances since the no-man mini-tour of 2012. Playing with what is effectively a fusion of the no-man and Henry Fool live bands, I’m really looking forward to hearing how the album’s material works in a live context.

My hope is that what we produce will be a logical progression from what was suggested by the 2012 performances. Colin Edwin and Myke Clifford offer a Jazzier perspective than Steve Bingham and Pete Morgan‘s root Minimalist classical/Post-Punk influences, so the band’s balance has subtly shifted.

As noodling comes with a punishment of broken fingers, the difference in musical flavour will be an interesting one, I think.

——–

The result of my collaboration with Nick Magnus has now been released on his very fine Esoteric label album N’Monix.

The session was very different from any that I’ve done before and Nick and his collaborative partner Dick Foster acted as much like theatrical directors as music producers. The episodic nature of the recording and the performance / stage instructions weren’t remotely typical of my previous recording experiences, but definitely brought out something new and more dramatic than usual from my vocal delivery. Whereas normally I’d write lyrics and melodies, this time I submitted to somebody else’s idea of what my voice should do and could be. Resulting in an emotional 8 minute ballad about Alzheimer’s, the track also featured Steve Hackett and the wonderful sax playing of
Rob Townshend
.

All in all, it was incredibly enjoyable to be a part of and it was something my teenage self would have been very pleased with*.

* I first saw Steve Hackett in the early 1980s with Nick on keyboards. The live versions of the likes of Clocks and The Steppes were incredibly powerful and highlighted Nick and Steve’s rare abilities, as well as the phenomenal ‘presence’ of the Taurus Bass Pedal (and, yes, I still want one!).

——–

Coinciding with the recording of Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, I’ve moved cross-country from Norwich to the Bristol / Bath area (with no disruption to my Burning Shed commitments), and signed a contract with Inside Out Music.

In all cases, interesting new beginnings, I hope.

——–

listening:

The Kate Bush back catalogue (1978-2012)
Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wake Up Ghost (2013)
Elvis Costello – Blood And Chocolate (1986)
Mark Eitzel – Glory (2014)
Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything (2014)
Eno / Hyde – Someday World (2014)
Steve Hackett - Wild Orchids (2006)
IQ – The Road Of Bones (2014)
Sun Kil Moon – Benjie (2014)
The War Against Drugs – Lost In The Dream (2014)

reading:

Julian Barnes – Levels Of Life (2013)
Wendy Cope – Family Values (2011)
Jeanette Winterston – Weight (2006)