Sofa Sound  Newsletter

20/ May 2001


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A new set of recordings, not before time (and, perhaps literally, about time!) is now about to be released.

My somewhat haphazard early comments form the bulk of this newsletter.

I'm already looking forward to and thinking about What Next even as "What, Now?" comes out.

Expect much more in the next twelve months, of wide variety.

I'm still - as if you hadn't gathered - as fired up about music and work as ever, I'm happy to say, and intent on whatever the future may bring....

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



And yet...

I realise that it's been a slightly longer than normal interval since the last, but finally my latest CD will be released on 25th June. Titled "What, now?", it's a songs album of widely differing styles but with a certain/uncertain uniformity of manner.

As you'll doubtless have realised, I spent a considerable amount of time last year remastering the VdGG ouevre for "The Box". Exhilarating though this was it carried with it an element of emotional debt and a demand for self-examination. I determined that my own next release should be conventional (as in songs) rather than experimental and I therefore put to one side a collection of material I had been previously been working on and began assembling the "What?" of "Now".

Clearly there's a degree of joke in the title, which is open to several interpretations. I won't labour any points, but in this case at least the primary intended import is finally revealed in the material itself....

Recording proper began in the autumn of last year, though some pieces were started much earlier. As will be evident from my touring schedule in the last six months, it's clear that I wasn't engaged only in recording but, as has been my wont of late, took some time away from the analytical world of the studio to remind myself of the immediacy of the stage. It's my feeling that a lot of the playing has an extra looseness as a result of this.

There are eight songs of varying length and style. On three or four of them one finds, in various combinations, the members of the (erstwhile and maybe some day to be again) pHQ: Manny Elias, Stuart Gordon and David Jackson. This line-up remains one of which I'm very fond and which I believe has an extremely wide sonic palette. This is not, though, a revisitation of "X my heart", for the remainder of the tracks are fundamentally me playing alone. This time my stabs at instruments are divided fairly evenly between guitars electric and acoustic, pianos/keyboards and bass. Of course, there's a lot of singing, both lead and backing vox/choral. Naturally, although there are elements of familiarity, it is not the same as what has gone before.

As always, I'm writing rather early in the state of things, since it's not so long since the recordings were finished and doubtless I won't achieve a definitive view of them for some time to come. However, here are some guidelines....

In general the tenor and tempo is pretty slow, but not without moments of sudden shock value. Lyrically I guess you can tick the "usual suspects" box in terms of my themes: distance, identity, passage of time, who we were, what we did, where have we come to & where are we going.... This much, I suppose, is evident from the title alone.

The songs, in order, then, subject to the usual caution that really they must speak for themselves....

"Here come the Talkies" uses a fair amount of filmic metaphor. The central theme is the awareness - or lack of same - that something new is always bound to come along and upset our cosy conceptions of how life is and will ever be. "Hair in the gate", a lynchpin phrase in the song, is, incidentally, a double-edged saying - on the one hand it cuts the take because of a technical problem; on the other it's the technical excuse given when somehow the performance is just not up to par. Take it as you will.

The song gradually opens out from a simple piano/bass/drum/violin (fx-ed) intro of contemplative nature into something much more systems based. And then there comes A Riff.... Eventually there's a return to the original voice and piano room.

|"Far-flung (across the sky)" originally appeared, in a different version, on the "Across the Sky" charity compilation CD of a couple of years ago. Its evocation of distance, possible regret and potential hope for the future seems to fit in here. Musically it's a bridge between the more band-like pieces and the semi-ballad ones. Guitars, guitars: e-bow electrics treated to the point of being pure noise counterbalanced by picked acoustics. Over this the tune itself is bitter-sweet.

"The American Girl" is a story of displacement and misplaced enthusiasm. Jackson (on soprano sax) and Gordon are in fine semi-orchestral mode here. The original inspiration for this song is emphatically not, incidentally, any ambitious blonde who might come to mind....

"Wendy and the Lost Boy" again skirts around what was once found and was then - almost deliberately - lost. The boy in the man, the man in the boy. Bare piano and pizzicato strings is the sound-world here.

"Lunatic in Knots" is the first of a couple of kit-driven set-pieces. I'll leave it up to you to name the lunatic and to decide whether his howls to the moon are justified. This is, in any case, a man some way from being in control of himself or his destiny; and his dreams are populated by thieves and mischief-makers. Even on waking he has a certain sense of self-observation rather than engagement. A bedrock of guitars, again mostly picked, forms the core of the instrumentation. Against this the drums and bass punctuate, while Stuart is free to dream across things. Urgency and wildness gradually take over until finally, after a krebs-technik transition, a semblance of uncertain calm returns in a conclusion with bare vox and guitar

"Edge of the Road" follows. The lunatic is out there with the wildest of eyes set on the horizon and it's doubtful that he'll ever make it back. This slowly evolving 10-minute piece brings to a close the cycle of distance/hope/regret/re-evaluation. Lots of Jacksons - horns, whistles, flutess - here, over a very loose electric guitar (some with slide), basss and drum foundation. Keyboards and backing vox fill out the colours.

And then there's "Fed to the Wolves". I've had this piece for some time; its theme of clerical abuse doesn't fit anywhere in "entertainment". But it's something worth stating and so (finally) is included here. This is uncompromising stuff, in which brutal feedback guitar (heavily edited from free improvisation) gives the sonic structure.

Finally, "Enough". Originally choral in character, this is a semi-improvisational piece of odd structure which brings things to an endless conclusion. Upfront lead vocals sit on the choirs, backward guitars and sonic murk, doing their best to keep hopes and spirits up. There's both duality and directness here...but not finality.

The cover is, of course, by Paul Ridout. It's possibly interesting to note that at first he found this album to be one of the most difficult to find a graphical key for. Eventually - after an entirely different conception had almost been put in place - a series of long-exposure motion photographs, undertaken almost as a side venture, thrust themselves into the foreground and spread their way through the booklet from cover to cover.

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The Miscellany

You may or may not be aware of my touring schedule of a few weeks back...Mexico, Japan, London, Israel and Italy in short order: the most intense period of live playing I've undertaken for some years. In all of this I was accompanied by Stuart Gordon and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank him, as ever, for his magnificent and sympathetic accompaniment. My thanks too, of course, to all those who attended the shows.

At present I have only one mini-tour in prospect, which I will be doing solo: 2 shows in Nuremberg on 27th and 29th of July as part of the Bardentreffen festival. On the 28th I'll also be playing Aschaffenburg. I hope to be doing much more, here and there, later in the year.

While on the subject of thanks, I appreciate the positive feedback received re the VdGG Box; it's very gratifying to know that the care taken by all concerned in putting this together is appreciated. I, too, am very happy with the way the whole thing turned out.

A propos of this, a number of people have enquired about the likelihood of Virgin releasing the albums themselves in a remastered/repackaged form. I'm afraid I have no news of any kind to report on this, although I have offered such encouragement as I can to them in this direction. In the end it will be down to their budgetary considerations. The same thing applies to some of the solo CDs, which currently appear to be out of stock. Sorry I can't be more encouraging.

Apart from "What, now?" a couple of new things are going to appear in our sales list fairly shortly. "Avalanche", the (double) album by Random Hold which I produced way back when is due to be re-released shortly; so, too, is "The View from Now" by David Ferguson, keyboard player in RH. This is a compilation of his film/TV work, which features some solo soprano vox by my eldest daughter, Holly....

Additionally, Paul Ridout has two sets of postcards available; one is a collection of PH/Fie! covers, the other a companion set of graphics to "The Box". Cheap, yet arty! (These will only be available from the website...)

These things are not yet available, but will be soon, from the on-line shop, which is, of course, at Assuming that they're still around at the time of the next newsletter we'll include them on the order form then.

One VERY important point about ordering. The eurocheque scheme has now finished, at least as far as the UK is concerned. They're now treated as foreign cheques and we can't, therefore, accept them in payment any more, sorry!