Sofa Sound  Newsletter

25/Dec 2003


Past Newsletters


Until later, as ever...thanks for listening.


The end of another year is almost upon us. Doubtless I'll stand corrected quickly if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first time in thirty-five years that a calendar year has gone by without the appearance of some kind of new work from me. Thus there is little by way of news to report at this time.

It's not that I've been idle, nor, indeed, that the creative juices have dried up. But this has been a period of change, of consolidation and of concentration whose fruits will only be seen in the next year.

The greatest change has been, of course, the move of the studio from Bath out into Somerset, as I wrote about in the last newsletter. As I broadly hinted there, the exit from Terra Incognita Bath was not exactly a stress-free experience. From about two years ago things had been quite strange there for various reason which I do not intend to rehearse, at least in public. While a measure of uncertainty and stress can be good fuel for the creative process, I had had quite enough of these by the time I left Walcot Gate. The final year of sharing with Will and Alison was a civilised experience for the most part (recording is never entirely civilised!) but many changes had taken place in my twelve years of tenancy and the most recent ones had left something of a sour taste in the mouth. Back in May I was still finding my feet and my sea legs in Somerset...and breathing a sigh of relief, it must be said.

I am now as fully settled as I can expect to be, granted that this is unlikely to be such a long-term deal as was ex-Crescent. (Though when I originally moved in there it was initially only for an experimental year....) I now have a calm and predictable daily drive to work and do not have to suffer the distractions of being city centre based; I am, therefore, able to focus and concentrate absolutely on writing and recording, at least when I'm not wearing the record company mogul hat.

At first sight (because of the current lack of sight of new material) it may seem that I've slowed up since becoming a country cousin but this is far from the case. Traditionally I've been reluctant to write about future work until it's actually ready to be released and that reluctance is currently undimmed. I can say, though, that the recordings I've been working on and to which I'm now putting the final touches have been extraordinarily dense and demanding. That they have taken a long time is undeniable - almost continuous work from march to today. I have had to hold ideas in mind in both macro- and microcosm for most of that period, feeling, as ever, towards the goal, but with even greater intensity than normal. I think it's been worth it and I think it's unusual and different work. All will be revealed early in 2004. For now that's all I'm capable of saying.

Meanwhile you will know that audio-visual footage of Van der Graaf has come out on DVD, on the Classic Rock label. At the time of the last newsletter this consisted of the Belgian TV version of "Lighthouse-Keepers" and "Theme 1". Shortly afterwards they also acquired the rights to a "Godbluff" era live show in Charleroi, in which we played the whole of the album, possibly even before recording it. (Consultation of The Box's list of tour dates would confirm or contradict this but my anorak is currently resting on its peg....). They have coupled this with the Belgian footage and this is now the one DVD which is on release, under the title "Godbluff". For some reason you only come across the inclusion of "Lighthouse-keepers" in the blurb, which seems something of a strange marketing ploy, but heigh ho. We were originally concerned that there was a measure of customer-unfriendliness in this replication of material so hard on the heels of the original release but are now assured that this will be the one and only product they're putting out. (The audio CD version of the Belgian show also remains on sale, though.) Incidentally, none of us have a clear recollection of the Charleroi show being filmed, or for what purpose it was intended; but I suppose that fits in with the unreliablity of our memories and the chaos of the times.

I do have to say that from the outset of these DVD releases Classic Rock have seemingly been in a continuous re-pressing state, so Sofa Sound sales have often suffered serious delays in getting stock. I do apologise for this to those of you who've had long waits but can assure you that we do our best to turn things around as quickly as possible. Naturally, Fie! Cds are always in stock but when we get things from other suppliers we - and in turn you - can be let down at least in terms of speed of delivery.

Meanwhile after the success of "The Box" it seems that Virgin are finally turning their attention to the individual components of the band's back catalogue and plans are in place for full remastering of the albums for release at some time in 2004. A (small) number of rarities have been unearthed in the tape stores and these are likely to be included as bonus material on the appropriate CDs. Doubtless there'll be more on this in the course of the next months....

A number of people have enquired about the possibilities of DVD releases of my own archive material to mirror the VdGG release. I think this unlikely for a couple of reasons. Firstly I'm not sure how much stuff is out there in un-wiped TV video vaults but I suspect not an enormous amount. Secondly I'd be reluctant to divert Fie! (an audio-only organisation to this day) towards the different technology of DVD. And while I'm happy for third parties of past or present to put out VdGG stuff I remain intent on keeping control of my own things to the fullest extent of which I'm capable. Perhaps I will come round to addressing the audio-visual world at some point in the future, either in terms of archive or new material, but for now my finger's definitely on the Pause button.

A few more answers to general question: "Enter k" was remastered because we'd run out of stock and the original production masters, both audio and cover, had been lost somewhere along the way. It therefore seemed a good moment to apply some of the dark arts to the material and bring the - originally minimal - print work up to speed. Revitalizing an album from scratch is an expensive business but this seemed worthwhile. If, as and when we run out of stock of "Patience" similar work will probably be done on that.

As you'll know, "In a Foreign Town" has been deleted from the Fie! catalogue. Again, we ran out of stock. In this case of this CD, though, it was licensed back from Enigma who, I understand, were/are going to put it out again themselves. Additionally, the sheer expense (see above) was prohibitive. In spite of my somewhat gugarded comments in the Artist's notes section of the website about these recordings I do still....

At 6 in the evening on Saturday 6th December I had reached the above stage of writing up the second newsletter of the year. Very much a "not much news around here" kind of deal. I stopped to go and have dinner and stay overnight with the Jaxons, intending to finish things off on my return on Sunday.

And then.

We all know, do we not, that our lives come to us in orderly, predictable and unruffled sequence?

At mid-day on Sunday, while walking by the Thames at Henley, I had a heart attack and was rushed to hospital by ambulance.

That changes a lot of things. In the circumstances it seems right to leave this newsletter hanging somewhat inelegantly in the air and, in its printed form, with a lot of blank space.

I have now been released from hospital and hopefully am on my way to recovery.

More in 2004....

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