Almost April. That time thing again. Life passing me by whilst I work myself into a state of stress. And for what? For what I hope will be a beautiful body of music. I complain, I endure, no matter what the turn of events. In an apparently meaningless world, music is the one illusion of meaningfulness that I cling to. My personal, proud folly.
I've been struggling and struggling with the running order for my 'Rosewood' album. I'd hoped to keep the track count down to twelve tracks but couldn't slim it down beyond nineteen. (The total recorded now stands at 29 pieces of music.) Listening back to my choice of nineteen tracks in the correct sequence, I was struck by how rich the listening experience was. Perhaps too rich for some people. I worried that it might overwhelm the listener and be difficult to take in at one sitting, thereby diluting its impact. So... I eventually decided to split Rosewood into two separate albums. Not a double album set, but two individual volumes: 'Rosewood Volume One' and 'Rosewood Volume Two'. That way, I won't be frustrated by losing some of the music to lesser projects and the album's audience can access the music in two, much more easily digested, chunks.
Having said that, the track count on Rosewood Volume one is still more than my original twelve track target. But at least it is fifteen tracks now and not nineteen. And, more importantly, it works a treat. I listened through to a draft CD-r assembly of it last night and I think it constitutes some of my finest work. It's intense, emotional, thoughtful and spontaneous and very musical, avoiding the fashionably glamourous lure of 'avant-guardism'. I guess you could say it's a mature work. Or as mature as my Peter Panic nature will allow. I think that the final track listing for Rosewood Volume One will be as follows:
I e-mailed Dave Graham the sleeve notes, credits and track listing last night so that he can lay them into our design package. The album artwork is virtually complete for volume one. It looks really strong and features a lot of my photography. A package as rich as the music it contains.
The next task is to assemble a running order for volume two of the album. Dave is already making draft layouts and I need to sort out which remaining tracks fit where. I suspect though, that I'll record at least couple more pieces of music for this to balance out volume two's 'feel'. Rosewood, for all its acoustic implications, is a dense and complex piece of work. It has taken a real bite out of my being, one way or another. I've worked on Rosewood all through the Easter weekend (and for the last couple of months as well). Emi is off work for a week as the flower shop is closed whilst its owner goes on holiday to Egypt. Our lot is far less exotic. Emi gave the kitchen a spring clean yesterday whilst I stayed hunched over my mixing desk in my workroom. We've not been anywhere. Can't really afford to anyway. My output certainly overshadows what comes in. It's been a horrendously expensive few months... so many bills and unforseen domestic expenses. Poor Emi... I'm so lucky that she understands and tolerates my almost non-stop work ethic. I'll try to take her out somewhere today.
Hundreds of Caravans lined up in the field opposite... At night, each one flickers with the cathode glow of its internal television set. These folks like to get away from it all but not too far from their soaps and game shows. Or from other people. I don't really understand the attraction of spending a weekend cheek by jowl with hundreds of other campers all boxed up together in a field. Maybe it's a social thing, rather than an escape. I'd prefer to be somewhere miles away from the herd. Of course, I'm an absolutely unrepentant social misfit anyway, so that's to be expected.
More and more, these days, I look at the world outside my window with a mounting sense of semi-amused horror. I'm amazed by the shabby attitudes that seem to have become the norm in our society. What happened to the idealism, optimism and enlightened ideals of our 'swinging 'sixties?' Where did our liberated and liberal attitudes go? I suppose these once sweet dreams became nothing more than cheap, easily manipulated signifiers of an impossible utopia, fodder for advertising copywriters, unimaginative designers and middle aged, one-time mods, now sofa-landlocked on an endlessly nostalgic faraway domestic atoll. Poor sods. Maybe I'm one of 'em.
Saw a rough draft of the Dreamsville site last week. Some things need a bit of a tweak. The trick is balancing graphic visual quality with practical download times. Something of a trade-off. The site is still in the hands of the technical chap and being knocked into digital shape, 'though the main visual components have been completed. I'm hoping we can launch the site fairly soon. But I've said that before. The consolation in all of this is that I don't want to just 'knock something up' for the sake of getting the site in place. It needs to be right. It will be, as I've also said before, an open-ended, ongoing project... something that will be developed slowly and carefully with attention to aesthetic detail. An extension of my musical and personal life, rather than a peripheral thing.
I really need to escape from my room today... health suffering again, various aches and pains, twinges, numbnesses, a general feeling of being drained, exhausted even. I really ought to limit how much of myself I allow to be damaged by all this stuff. My own fault entirely of course. I can't even begin to address the problem. I'm hardly likely to change the habit of a lifetime at this stage of the game. If I really wanted to, if I genuinely felt more than just a romantic revulsion for this arty-farty lifestyle, I would. Throw it all away. It's obviously a tender trap I'm caught in and my wriggling is nothing more than a token defiance. Well... there you go. In the end, I submit to the painful deliciousness of it all. What a loser, what a lucky guy.
Signs of Spring on the increase and some sunshine, 'though yesterday was wet and grey. I ended up stuck in the house anyway as I suddenly found myself unable to send any e-mails. I usually deal with the first e-mails of the day immediately after breakfast and before taking my bath. Yesterday, however, I was still stuck in front of the computer at 4pm... and still in my dressing gown.
The e-mail service provider I use had changed the way their system worked, now insisting on smtp authorisation. I followed the provider's website instructions to reset my e-mail settings but to no avail. My computer still wouldn't send any e-mails at all, various error messages flashing up on screen. It took me a long while and several phone calls to tech support teams to discover that the problem was with my e-mail browser software... .It basically didn't support smtp authorisation, being somewhat antiquated. Antiquated? Hell, it was only five years old! Software ages rapidly in computerland, it seems.
I then had to find and download some new e-mail browser software and install it. This was accompanied by panics about whether I would lose my many thousands of stored e-mails from my older system. I eventually figured out how to make back up copies of these and installed the new software. It took only seconds to install, despite having taken almost one hour to download. Thank goodness everything worked once more and nothing was lost from my e-mail archives. I was surprised by how panicked I was by this escapade. A few years ago, before I had a computer, I poured scorn on those people who seemed unable to function out of arms reach of their PC's and Macs.
I couldn't see the need for e-mails and the internet and even avoided the telephone unless it was absolutely neccesary. Now, I realise just how pathologically dependent I've become on the computer to communicate with the outside world. In some ways it's quite amazing, in other's it's sad. The truth is, I now have to give up a great deal of time to answering e-mails and dealing with computer-related activities, time that was once spent making music. My intention, yesterday, was to work on the final selection of tracks for the 'Rosewood' album. Unfortunately, this task was postponed whilst I dealt with the technical problems posed by my Mac. I'll try again today, after dealing with this diary entry.
'Rosewood' has now accumulated 27 possible tracks. As I've mentioned in these pages previously, I need to select around a dozen of these to go on the album proper, the rest being reserved for the Nelsonica Convention album. Choosing the 12 that will best work together will be difficult. The trick will be to only use tracks that work together towards a particular goal. There's some variety amongst the pieces but I think I need to make this album head off in one fixed direction, rather than become too diverse. It has elements of the 'Dreamland To Starboard' album in that it is quite 'interiorised' for want of a better word... 'Mellow' might suit it better, I don't really know. Until I start to get to grips with choosing and sequencing the running order, it's difficult to say exactly what the final effect will be. At this point in time, I'm feeling a bit clueless about it all. I recently remarked to Harold (Budd) that I approach music like a blind man with a stick. I should have qualified this further by saying, 'like a blind man with a stick approaching a dangerous highway'. I changed the titles of two or three pieces to better suit their mood.
The list of possible track choices for 'Rosewood' is now made up of the following pieces:
Somehow, I have to boil these down to twelve cohesive tracks for the album. I must make some progress with this today.
In my last diary entry, I mentioned that one of my proposed May live performances had been cancelled due to venue unsuitability. I also mentioined that I had one more live concert up my sleeve. Well, as bad luck would have it, this also didn't work out. I had been asked to play at the Coventry Jazz Festival but the organisers seem to have changed their plan and I'm left clutching empty air. So... the only scheduled appearance for me at this point in time is at the tribute concert for Harold Budd being held as part of the Brighton Festival on the 21st of May. From three shows to one.
Received a nice letter from Harold yesterday. Briefly discussing some concert performance plans but mainly talk of other things. Also got an e-mail from the Carlsbro Amplifier company. Seems that my custom, self-designed Carlsbro amp and speaker cabinet has generated a fair bit of interest and the company are proposing that they manufacture a limited edition run of the design, with my approval. Each amp would carry a metal plaque with my signature and a number to indicate its limited edition status. Apparently, quite a few people have asked if they could buy an identical amp to mine. I'm pleased it has captured some player's imaginations.
Dave Graham has come up with Rosewood's CD 'on-body' label and it perfectly suits our front cover image. I still have to create the images for Dave to fit into the rest of the package and will try to make a start on this today. I could do it whilst listening to and assembling the draft running order. I'll need to book Fairview studios soon to master the album prior to manufacturing it. I'm praying that 'Rosewood' will be appreciated. Certainly, those who enjoyed my 'Dreamland To Starboard' album shouldn't find it too much of a challenge.
After getting sore fingers and thumbs with the acoustic guitar at the heart of 'Rosewood', I'm itching to record some new electric guitar pieces, using a plectrum. I also ought to think about getting to grips with a new song-based vocal album. Right now, though, I'm not in a lyric-oriented mood. I'm sure that something will come to me sooner ot later... it usually does.
I'm told that the launch of 'Dreamsville' is not too far away now. I'm in the hands of Adam, the technician who is building the mechanical side of the new site. I'm told he's on with the job and I'll have something to look at very soon. But, there's months and months of work ahead to get all the actual content I have in place on the site. Still, fans can watch it grow bit by bit. The idea is to get the essential stuff in place first, including the town's 'pub' (The Dreamsville Inn), where fans will be able to communicate and discuss to their heart's content over a 'virtual pint' of Dreamsville's best ale. I may even make a real bottle of 'Dreamsville Ale' available in the future, a limited brewing to be sold exclusively at Nelsonicas. I'll need to liase with a nice, small, local brewery to see how this could be manufactured and what the costs would be. Absolutely inessential, of course, but sort of fun in a surrealist way. There's no shortage of ideas for Dreamsville, just a limited amount of time available to put them into action. Ultimately, the music has to take pride of place.
I've had a nice response from fans to my request for Red Noise era photos. I now have a few good ones to send off to Paul Sutton-Reeves for his 'Music In Dreamland' book. Music to be selected now, so... back to work.
Friday, 18th March 2005 -- 6:00 PM
Rosewood now has a front cover. Dave Graham and I finally arrived at the best solution. It's appropriate, colourful and fun... It has fish on it! And electrical circuits! And a guitar! Now I have to make and choose images for the rest of the package. Went out and took more photographs of an old Hoyer archtop guitar of mine for this purpose but need to work with these in my computer before passing on to Dave for him to work his layout magic. I've now recorded 24 pieces of music to choose from for the album but haven't begun the final selection process. It's going to be difficult to boil them down to my intended 12 track running order. The one's that don't fit will be made available on this year's Nelsonica convention album, so nothing will be wasted. The basic form of my Dreamsville website is at the technical assembly stage and should be up and running in a week or two. It will be in a rudimentary form at first but I'll fill it with content over the next year or two. It will look great once it's properly 'stocked.'
Whilst on the subject of websites, Jon Wallinger pointed me in the direction of a temporary Bill Nelson discussion board that someone has set up. He said I should check out a posting by Alan Myers on there, so I did. When I read them, Alan's comments came as a real disappointment to me as I've always been appreciative of Alan's website (and Mark and Chuck's too, for that matter), and have tried to offer what input and help I could over the years as well as be supportive of events Alan asked me to endorse. I know that Alan has had some difficult personal times of late and can only think that these have contributed to the underlying bitterness suggested by his posting. What a shame. I won't comment further other than to say that the only reason I've had to look at ways of putting a website of my own together was a direct result of Alan telling people, last year, that he was shutting down his site. And yes, as I once pointed out to some people who were getting far too unhealthily wrapped up in things, it is only a website and, in fairness to Permanent Flame, RWBV was neither the first or only Bill Nelson website on the planet, just the one that I was once pursuaded to contribute most towards. I had hoped that Alan might, once he'd come to terms with his personal life, seen fit to continue the site alongside Dreamsville, as a purely fan oriented site, which is what it was supposed to be when it began, but it seems that was simply naive of me.
After all the previous co-operation between us, I'm extremely sorry that Alan has seen fit to make such negative comments in public. What's the point in that, other than to cause damage and distress to myself and my friends? But, needless to say, there's probably much more to this sad story than meets the eye. I'm personally upset but, from past experience, not at all surprised. So... perhaps it really was for the best, after all, despite my initial doubts. Life's way too short for these kind of intrigues, especially at my advanced age (and with the amount of work I've got to accomplish before I'm too old to accomplish it). In any case, people are intelligent enough to judge the real situation for themselves without me getting involved. But at least I know where I stand now. Move on, move away. Life's stressful enough.
An e-mail from Harold this morning. He's sending me a brochure from an exhibition of English watercolours that he attended. Harold's Maytime Brighton concert coming up soon. I'm trying not to get too nervous about it at this stage. Hal is his usual laid back, 'when it happens, it happens' self. For all his protestations to the contrary, he's one of the most Buddha natured people I've ever met. Absolutely artistically ruthless but sweet as a nut with it. I envy him his balance. And his aesthetic gifts.
Finished reading 'What Did I Do?' by Larry Rivers. I enjoyed it tremendously and ended up admiring the guy for his totally self-absorbed, passionate mission to squeeze as much out of life and art as possible and fuck himself senseless at every available opportunity. An irredeemable rogue who led a scandalous life driven by a fiery, burning intelligence. It really inspires one to cut the crap out of one's own life and make art with all the energy available. Ed Ruscha's book, (which I'm still reading), on the other hand, is cooler, more collected and, at times, as dull as dishwater. More greats gone to Valhalla: Phillip Lamantia, Arthur Miller, Hunter S. Thompson and Jimmy Smith (the latter the best organ grinder in the business).
One of my planned but unnanounced live performances in May now cancelled due to venue unsuitability. So I won't announce it. Still one more up my sleeve though, besides the Harold spectacular. Now it's dinner time and then a mixing session. Next week... the Rosewood assembly begins in earnest.
A quick diary entry today. Lots going on. Have now finished 16 pieces of music for my latest guitar instrumental album and I'm trying to settle on the correct running order. As I mentioned here before,12 tracks is my goal but it's good to have more to choose from. I'm hoping that, by my next diary entry, I'll have a final list to announce. (And an idea of when it will be available.) This task is occupying me almost full time but I think it will be well worth all the effort.
Now, I have a special message to convey:
Regular users of the Rooms With Brittle Views website will have noticed that it was no longer in existence today, due to webmaster Alan Myer's switching it off for good. Unfortunately, it seems that Alan no longer felt that he could spare the time and energy to operate the site and, sadly, has decided to close it down. Like many others, I want to express my thanks to Alan for his input over the last five years and for doing his best to maintain the site under sometimes difficult circumstances. I'd hoped that Alan might have felt like continuing his site alongside the forthcoming 'Dreamsville' one but it was not to be. Alan's day-to-day business has increasingly taken up more of his time of late and maintaining RWBV has become an obstacle. As I have said in earlier diary entries, I have no desire to add further pressures to Alan's situation and I wish him well and hope that he will find life somewhat easier without the time-consuming responsibility of running a BN fan site.
Which brings me to the future... We are reasonably close to opening up the new Dreamsville website, which it now seems will have to function in a slightly different capacity to the one I originally planned. I'm looking at ways to develop the new site in a broader direction, providing some of the facilities to fans left by the closure of RWBV. By this, I mean more than just the production and distribution of my recordings, which was the original reason for starting Dreamsville. This will obviously be a little more time-consuming for me but, because of the help I've been generously offered by various people who have already contributed to RWBV's past existence, I think everyone will eventually be satisfied by our efforts.
I'm now looking at setting up a discussion board to replace the loss of Northern Dreamer so that fans will continue to have a place to meet and talk. Eventually, this will be incorporated within the Dreamsville site. It will take the form of a 'pub' which, for the moment, is to be called 'The Dreamsville Arms'. This pub will be located within an area of the site known as 'The Pleasure Park'. The Pleasure Park will hold various buildings connected with general entertainment, including a 'box office' where live concert tickets and so on can be purchased on line. There will also be a facility to secure tickets to special fan events such as the annual fan convention which we're hoping to put in place as before, perhaps in an expanded form. More news of this as it develops. The Pleasure Park will also contain 'The Guitar Arcade', an essential building to visit for anyone with an interest in guitars and guitar playing. Dreamsville is a fictional town and it's various buildings will have different functions. There will be a 'Villa Nelsonia' where my diary entries will be found. Villa Nelsonia will also contain other odd musings.
Then, there will be 'Dreamsville Town Hall' which will act as a central office for the site. Here is where the 'Mayor of Dreamsville' will reside. The Mayor will act as a public interface for fans and will work closely with myself on the development of Dreamsville itself. My good friend Jon Wallinger has kindly volunteered to fulfill this role and will become the official 'Mayor Of Dreamsville' the moment that the site goes on line. The Town Hall will also contain a guide to the site and regular messages from The Mayor and The Architect's Department about the ongoing development plans. In the Architect's Department, a team will work on the site's structure. Obviously, I will be overseeing this with the help of my long-time design collaborator David Graham and also with technical assistance from Paul Gilby and others.
News will be handled by the newspaper office of 'The Dreamsville Rocket'. This will be a fairly regular news bulletin with the visual look of a newspaper. People will be able to subscribe to this for free and will be sent e-mails linking them to each new edition. It will contain visual treats as well as text. Copies of 'The Dreamsville Rocket' will be archived at the newspaper office in the town. Another building will be 'The Museum Of Memory'. This will hold my personal memorabilia and photographs from my private life. Much of the material contained here will not have been seen by the public before.
'The Academy Of Art' will contain examples of my visual work, 'The Music Salon' will document my musical career and 'The Dreamsville Department Store' will provide a facility for people to obtain my recordings, both old and new, plus other merchandise. 'The Post Office' will contain a guest book for visitors to Dreamsville to sign. 'The Transit Lounge' will be where links to other interesting sites can be found and 'Dreamsville University' will provide an unusual educational facility where all kinds of odd ideas will be gathered together.
'Sunny Bungalow', a sweet looking 1930's style building, will contain photo's of my toy collection and other kitsch collectables. And so on and so forth... More things will be added to the town as time goes on, including a radio station and a cinema if the technical side of things works out. A LOT of work to get it up to full strength but all websites have to start somewhere and, with determination and patience (and some encouragement from the outside world), we should eventually end up with something quite special and unique.
Until the first stage of the site goes on line, these diary pages will act as a news bulletin as well as a regular diary. As soon as facilities are in place for people to subscribe to the Dreamsville mailing list, I will let everyone know and we can start to populate Dreamsville with real citizens. Keep checking billnelson.com and this diary to stay in touch. More news as it happens.
Now it's back to working on the new album. Its title, by the way is: 'ROSEWOOD... Ornaments And Graces For Acoustic Guitar'. It will be released on my own 'SONOLUXE' record label. A rough draft of the artwork already underway. Patience, dear reader and... Stay tuned!