The RFH concert was recorded in full multi-track mode (as
the final production rehearsal had been, "just in case" -
which shows just how fearful the aura surrounding the
enterprise was in some ways....). Hugh Banton stepped up to
the plate to mix it, in the period between the summer shows
and those in October/November. He did a fantastic job; as
with the "Present" sessions early versions were passed
around between us and various boos and hisses came from
fellow-participants at perceived ill-treatment of their
(naturally, always beautiful) playing and, indeed, of the
overall sonic thrust and balance. Thanks to HB we have ended
up with a genuine picture of the event both musically and
Indeed, temporally as well: we decided that the *only* way
to present this material was in verite fashion with no edits
moving the thing along (apart, of course, from the gap
between end-of-show and encore; and a slight elision while
cd1 is exchanged for cd2....) Boy, does it go by quickly in
this form; how very little time there was to think....
Probably all the better for that.
The Cover is by Ridout, with photography by Ed Clarke, our
estimable Monitor/FOH man, and a colour shot (somewhere
during "Lemmings") for which we have to thank Daniel
Thurnes. In a shamelessly cynical commercial move the
audience is as much visible as we are, if not more so; the
compunction to buy must, then, be absolute!
I got to write the sleevenotes, a difficult task for such a
project. I struggled to find some centre of balance and in
the end tried to get across the feeling of what it was like
to stand stageside just before the start, a whole cocktail
of (natural) drugs flooding the brain...
The experience of "Real Time" stands as a testament to our
aspirations, our collective will, our belief that if we
acted in concert something was possible. Later during the
year, we certainly played "better"; but later we *knew* that
we could do it. On the night of the RFH it wasn't clear to
any of us, I think, that we would manage to get through at
all, let alone play well. What had begun in idle emails,
become urgent in the first Pyworthy sessions, developed,
somewhat fearfully, through rehearsals, first privately and
then in full production mode, finally came to fruition here
in an enduring moment of celebration, enjoyment and hope for
It might, of course, look a little bit strange that we, as
the new trio VdGG, appear to be touring in support of a
release by the "old" 4-piece. Well, i) we've never exactly
"toured in support" of anything in a conventional sense and
ii) this is really the only way in which things could have
worked. We would *not*, for instance, have felt happy
starting to tour in the new format in the oncoming months
only to be referred straight back to 2005 by a later release
of "Real Time". So if it didn't come out now it would have
to spend some years on the shelf at least (on the assumption
that we'll shortly be releasing new material....).
And for "Real Time" to be released now it had to be, in the
end, on Fie! Records.
Often before - while negotiations were foundering in
mid-Atlantic - I'd expressed the view that I did *not* want
Fie! to be the label, both in terms of public perception
("Hammill takes everything over as usual") and inward
responsibility. It's quite enough to be responsible to each
other as members of the group without the added pressure of
a record company relationship. However, the runes have
fallen this way; and we have come to agreement in a way
which should prove unproblematic and non-exploitative for
all concerned. (Including, since you ask, David Jackson, of
One of the reasons why we originally wanted an early (!)
release for RFH was that it was clear to us that a new era
in the VdGG saga was about to unfold in the light of David
Jackson's exit from the group. The release of the CD would
mark both the excitement of the dawning events of 2005 and,
simultaneously, the closing of a chapter, the drawing of a
line. Thus our frustration was fuelled day by day as 2007 -
and the beginning of Trio work - approached. The saga of how
agreements ultimately failed to be reached with various
labels is a long and sorry one, fairly typical of the way in
which things work in Music Biz. The fact that we began by
saying that any release had to be made in the full knowledge
that we would *not* be touring the US in its support only to
discover, months down the line that this was, apparently, a
necessity if a deal was to go through bears witness to how
witless things became. (Incidentally, this does *not* mean
that we discount the prospect of N. American shows; but it
is markedly more complicated for us to undertake them than,
say, European ones. Additionally, we're a bit long in the
tooth to even consider going to chase that illusory Fame
At an early stage we had been persuaded, with some
reluctance, that the RFH audio should be packaged a DVD of
the Rockpalast performance in Leverkusen. Eventually we even
became enthusiastic about the fact that such a package would
document the beginning and end of this phase of the band's
story. In current circumstances, though, such a thing was
clearly ruled out.
Along the way the (original) US Record Company - with whom
we still maintain good relations - signed a contract with
WDR, the TV company, for the rights in "Rockpalast"; in due
course they will probably release this. But maybe breath
should not be held on this....
Fie!, then, it is for "Real Time"....
The Power Trio.
VdGG is, as you will all know, now a trio,
Banton/Hammill/Evans. How we've come to this state is
something of a sorry story but the fact that we *are* in
this state is, frankly, something to be celebrated.
We are now as rehearsed as we can be for the oncoming shows
(i.e. quite a long way from perfect!) and looking forward to
them with immense excitement and - once again - not a little
dread. As of now it looks as though we're pretty well locked
onto working strictly within song form - as opposed to
improvisation - but who knows what's going to emerge over
the various shows and coming months? The first three weeks
in April will take us around Germany and the UK, with brief
visits to Holland, Belgium and Poland. There will be more
shows in July. The first two are now confirmed: the Burg
Herzberg festival in Germany and the San Sebastian Jazz
festival. Two wildly opposed ends of the performance
spectrum! Details of shows are, as always, best found at
Naturally, many of you have written in over the last months,
shocked at David Jackson's departure from the group. I fully
understand that there's an element of frustration for many
of you in the fact that we have not made public any of the
events which led up to the current state of things but I
can't make any apology for the silence. We know that now
we're - almost - up and running again we're going to have to
give some more expansive answers; but to be honest we're
still, even 18 months down the line, pretty bruised and
bemused by the experiences we've been put through.
I can say the following.
We spent a lot of time discussing our hopes and fears for
the VdGG reunion long before we even set foot in a rehearsal
room and believed that we had established comprehensive
understanding of what may or may not be involved and of what
our responsibilities to ourselves and to each other would
We knew that we were not looking at a Pot of Gold (anyone
who thinks that VdGG is a gravy train has clearly not been
paying attention, *ever*!) - indeed, that a significant
element of risk was involved in undertaking the venture at
Once we had made "Present" and the RFH show was booked in we
agreed time slots which we would keep free for Van der Graaf
activity. We also agreed that after touring for 2005
finished we would take stock of how things had gone and
decide what to do next. (If anything at all: none of us were
committed to an open-ended group existence.)
Inevitably, all four of us encountered - different -
problems and complications in accommodating the work of the
group; on balance, though, no one of us to any greater or
lesser extent than another. To balance this, the experience
of playing together again as a band - and the response from
public and critics alike - was, of course, fantastic.
Over time, though, it became clear that David seemed to have
difficulty in understanding what we had mutually agreed and
that he was struggling to make the leap of faith which being
in this group has always involved. This put him into
conflict with us as a unit and as individuals.
After an increasingly fractious series of events (which I do
*not* propose to detail) it became clear to Guy, Hugh and I
that whatever happened in the future we were not going to be
able to continue being in a group with David.
At the end of November 2005 we did not know whether we would
be continuing or not. In January 2006 we met and expressed
the desire to do so; indeed, acknowledged the need to at
least try to carry on, if we were to be true to VdGG spirit.
This was not the "taking stock" moment we had planned for.
In summer 2006 we met to play, to see if there was indeed
something worth doing in trio format. (We were clear from
the outset that we would *only* continue as a three-piece.)
We found that there was.
Only then did we formally announce David's departure. Since
then we have tried to maintain a silence on these matters
which we hope has been taken as dignified rather than
secretive, which emphasised the positive nature of our move
forward rather than retrospective bitterness.
The simple fact of the matter is that David will not be
playing with us again. Of course, it will be Different; it
will Not Be the Same. Emphatically, though, it is the next
chapter in VdGG's history. Some of you may find it difficult
to contemplate a group without David. But without him is
precisely where we found ourselves at the end of 2005.
The issue of his departure will, I know, remain a disturbing
one for many of you. Believe me, though, not remotely as
disturbing as it was and remains for us.
But now...we're going onward. This is VdGG, now. The past
remains and what's done is done. The future in our hands,
What an opportunity! What a challenge! Let's go!