Sofa Sound  Newsletter

29/August 2006


Past Newsletters


It might seem strange that I've been so very quiet - publicly - in 2006.

In private (and for a handful of shows) I've been making quite a racket but of course not much evidence of it has emerged so far in the year.

From now on, though, there's going to be an absolute welter of stuff released in the coming months, from the brand new to the positively ancient.

I'll also be hitting the boards on tour once more once autumn comes.

This newsletter, then, trails the arrival of all sorts of things and even more will emerge later on....

In the meantime and until later, as ever, thanks for listening.


Of the Old, of the New...

Suddenly I find that another half year has passed by. For most of it I've been buried away in the studio and barely visible in real or cyber worlds, I'm afraid, with precious little of newsworthy note to present to you. All of that's about to change in the second half of 2006.

I should start with a few words about "Veracious", the most recent Fie! release, which snuck out onto an unsuspecting world earlier this year. This was, of course, a documentation of (some of) the extremes to which Stuart "Hooly" Gordon and I have taken things on stage. I've done more live playing as a duo with Stuart than in any other format over the last few years and it always comes as a pleasure to do so. There are usually a few musical surprises for both of us as well. By now, naturally, we have a pretty good inkling of where the other is going at any given moment and there's a great deal of flexibility and adventure built into the basic architecture of the arrangements. There are also a large number of songs in the common repertoire by now, too, though some of them are always approached with a degree of trepidation, at least on the singer's part.

In any event, last year definitely seemed to be the right time to put some of this performance stuff forward in album form; both to celebrate what we'd done over the years and also in some small measure to draw the point that solo/duo performances would be ongoing even in a world which - on a sometime basis at least - contained the reunited VdGG.

As ever, I still hold to the idea that the whole point of a live performance is that it's happening right here, right now, in a particular room with particular people on stage and in the audience. Any recording of it is a documentation of rather than the event itself. So I'm not pretending that "Veracious" is the Whole Truth of what my shows with Hooly are about. However, it's clear that a live recording will embody a lot of the fire and many of the principles which inform the Entertainment and differentiate it from the - perhaps more considered and controlled - studio versions of things. One doesn't have to choose either/or between them; in fact, for me, it's important to keep both irons in the fire since, contradictory to each other though they are in some respects, both are needed in order to stay balanced about making music.

Without being definitive, then, "Veracious" certainly captures at least the main elements of a duo show with Stuart. The three performances from which it's culled are separated from each other by considerable time, distance and subjective experience; this, too, is part of the ongoing game. While assembling the running order I was conscious of the fact that there are a number of songs which have already appeared in live recordings (whether solo or group) but which still make regular appearances in sets today. I decided to leave these out of the reckoning when assembling the CD, even if our duo versions are markedly different from those previously released. Instead, since we've regularly been adding new pieces to our repertoire over the years, I thought that I'd construct an album which consisted almost entirely of songs which had only appeared before in their original studio versions. Naturally, these are a long, long way away from what we've ended up with as a "folk duo".... Pass me the Arran Sweater, dear boy!

Naturally I was very pleased that I managed to go out on tour again with Stuart for a brief spin in May this year. There'd been a long gap since the last shows, as Van der Graaf had evidently taken up most of my touring time in the preceding period. In the end we only did a few dates...apparently some World Cup thing was happening in Germany so it was impossible to fit in anything there. Happily, though, the duo shows are ongoing, with UK dates (yes! a tour!) coming up in October and European ones in November. (OK, I *know* Britain is a part of Europe...I think you get my drift?) The dates are now up at Touring.

Meanwhile, as I say, I've been working on the next solo album proper since January of this year. As of a few days ago, it's finally finished, bar the odd remix/final overdub/last minute panic or re-ordering of tracks. I expect that it'll be out in early November or even late October. As yet it's still untitled (though I've *almost* decided...); in turn, of course, the cover is not yet designed. That's a normal sate of affairs for an album at this stage. I'm not going to say any more about it at present, except that it's a genuine solo effort.

Apart from the new recordings I've been doing a lot of remastering of late. First of all, the latest pieces of reworked Fie! catalogue are now back in stock, to whit, "Patience" and "Fireships". Both of these are fully remastered and re-covered (by Paul Ridout, of course). They 'd been out of stock for some time, partly because their original production had been by a different company to the one we now use and the original masters of both audio and artwork were no longer available. In order to repress any copies at all it's therefore been necessary to start from first principles. Rather than just copying and cloning it seemed an appropriate time to do a serious job of updating the things. This is work done out of necessity, in other words, rather than prompted by marketing and resale drives!

"Patience", in particular, needed to be brought up to speed in the same way as its sibling, "Enter k", had been a few years ago. The sonic enhancements are most evident on this cd, therefore, as its recording predates the whole era of direct to consumer digital delivery...that's to say, it was originally put out on (and mastered for) vinyl. It now has much more punch, as befits the content. "Fireships", being a more recent record, required rather less effort to be presented in a buffed up and gleaming state; in fact, if anything I had to be wary of applying treatment for treatment's sake. I have to say I'm modestly pleased with the results in both cases and very glad indeed that they're available once again. Obviously any copies coming from us will be the remastered versions but if you have any doubt as to what you're getting from any other source... the Cd for "Fireships" now has a pictorial imprint on the CD, and the cover photograph of "Patience" has a sepia tinge. Oh, more simply, if the barcodes start 50245 then they're The New Thing.

These two albums are pivotal in my development at the different points in my career when they emerged. "Fireships", after all, was the first new recording to come out on Fie! Records. It was also highly significant in terms of my ongoing songwriting and arrangement attitudes. "Patience", as a collection of songs, is probably rivalled only by "Sitting Targets" in terms of containing enduring songs to which I would return again and again in live performance.

Moving right along on the remastering production line...following on from their release of all the VdGG stuff (and, indeed, "Fool's Mate") Virgin have now decided to put out the next eight solo albums which fall within their compass. I've been hard at work at the desk sprucing, buffing, polishing and shining them to present them in the best possible light. The earliest ones of these sounded decidedly odd from whichever standpoint you want to take, and were quite a handful to deal with in a sonic sense. But they all have their fascinations and there's some cracking content, of course.

The first four to emerge will be "Chameleon", "Silent Corner", "In Camera" and "Nadir"; they're due in September. They'll be followed by "Over", "The Future Now", "pH7" and "A Black Box". There are odd extra tracks, sourced either from BBC tapes or (as in the VdGG issues) from bootlegs, on all the CDs except "Nadir" and "A Black Box", which remain in their original form; it didn't seem right to add anything else to these two. I've written liner notes, of a sort, for all the releases and will write more about them here in a second newsletter later (but not much later) this year.

Several solo CDs on Virgin remain deleted at present; the company are waiting to see how things go in sales terms with the current eight before making a commitment to remastering the remainder. That seems fair enough to me. But obviously I'd be interested in as many people as possible buying the current remasters both for their own sake and also so that the whole catalogue becomes available (and properly presented) once more. End of promotional message.

Oh, yes, I expect I'll be putting up more "Artist's Notes" for some if not all of these albums in the near future. Several of you have lamented my tardiness in this regard and I apologise for it unreservedly. Well, slightly reservedly - I'd always rather be doing something new than dwelling on, commenting on (or even remastering) the past....

Much of this newsletter seems to be taken up with the "will let you know when all becomes clear" kind of stuff. Yet another item on the "soon come" launchpad is...The Digital Download. Not before time, at long last my recent albums are - gradually - going to become available online. The first two Fie! releases which will be yours at the touch of a mouse button and the flash of some virtual plastic will be "Patience" and "Fireships". They *should* be available in most formats and most "stores" in the very near future. As we get more information on services which provide them we'll put it up in the latest news section...or even , possibly, in a dedicated page.

At last, yes. Aural/visual evidence of last year's passage of VdGG across the live firmament should soon be available in concrete and legal form, CD (RFH) and DVD (Leverkusen). We've been in discussion with a couple of companies for what seems like a hundred years and - hopefully - things are now finally drawing to a conclusion. Dare I say more than that? Perhaps it would be too much of a hostage to fortune to do so at this stage.

Finally, while on the VdGG front I realise that some rumours and statements are abroad which are apparently contradictory. At this stage I can only say that all public statements remain true and consistent in their internal logic. Watch this space.

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