Floating in my warm and comforting bath this morning, watching rain clouds gather in the grey air above the bathroom skylight, I heard, for a few magic seconds, the first cuckoo of spring. Its call echoed on the wind from the nearby fields, summoning archytypal English Albion country images, Powell and Pressburger 'Cantebury Tale' landscapes, the music of Elgar, ('though Delius immortalised the bird), Post Office film unit documentaries from the 'thirties and 'forties, children's stories from post-war annuals and a host of other sweet n' sentimental nostalgias. A pity that the glorious sunshine and clear blue skies of the last few days were nowhere to be seen.
Not that I've been able to enjoy the outdoor life of late. I have been and still am, feeling 'proper poorly', to use an Albert Fitzwilliam Digby style phrase. (I wonder what American readers of my diary make of such hermetically sealed 'British' terms and references?) It all started last Saturday, whilst visiting my Mother in Wakefield. I suddenly felt that inner chill that warns of an impeding cold. Within an hour I was feeling dizzy and sick and had to return home where I took straight to my bed, shivering and feeling absolutely bloody awful. My temperature shot up, my stomach sick and uncomfortable, I didn't want to move. During the night, I was throwing up acidic bile. By Sunday my temperature had dropped but I felt like a man trapped between two worlds, neither of them desirable holiday locations. I've remained in this aching, fuzzy limbo ever since, only yesterday applying a razor to my face and shaving off the four day growth I'd accumulated. It's some years since I've sported a beard and I was horrified to see that, these days, it's predominantly grey, despite the fact that the hair on my head, though thinning dramatically, has hardly any grey in it at all.
I also, yesterday, took the chance that some fresh air might revive me and ventured out of the house to accompany Emi on her trip to Leeds. This was a mistake. After 20 minutes of shopping I felt terrible, wobbly, weak and dizzy. We quickly returned home where, after a rest, I began to feel a little better. Today, there's no great improvement, although I'm certainly better than I was at the weekend. Friends inform me that there is a particularly nasty virus doing the rounds, laying people low for a couple of weeks. Well... surprise, surprise, it appears I've caught it.
Emiko has been suffering ill health too. She's managed to hold off from catching my virus so far, but has been complaining of a pain under her armpit. On Tuesday evening, she suddenly announced a disturbing tightness across her chest and back. Both of us immediately thought of heart problems. The tightness got worse and Julia, a good friend and neighbour, generously offered to drive Emi to the 24 hour walk in clinic in town. I was too ill to take her myself. Three hours later, (three hours that saw me pacing the floor, worrying myself silly), Emi returned looking much relieved. The doctor had said that her heart was fine and that the problem was most likely caused by a trapped nerve. In fact, she'd lifted a heavy pot of plants at the flower shop some days earlier and this may have lead to the trapped nerve. The three hour wait at the walk in clinic was simply because of the number of patients queing to be seen by a doctor. These sort of incidents really make you think. I don't know how I'd cope if anything should ever happen to Emiko, (God forbid) She's the rock that I cling to in my troubled sea...
The prediction I made in my previous diary entry, (21st April), that my Dreamsville site would be up and operating by then, turned out to be overly optimistic... at this precise point in time, the lauch date is still somewhere in the future. The delay has been caused by the complication of transferring the .com address over from Permanent Flame's server to the new U.K. Dreamsville one. It's taking longer than anticipated. I also suspect that Chuck, (Bird), is away on one of his regular business trips and hasn't been available to deal with things at the U.S. end. We're now hoping to have it all sorted out in time to launch the site next week. This could, of course, end up not being the case. However, if you are reading these words, then Dreamsville will have finally opened its gates as this diary entry and the previous one have been posted exclusively on the Dreamsville site, and not on Permanent Flame.
Permant Flame, as I may have mentioned before, has now been enshrined as an exhibit in 'The Permanent Flame Museum' within the 'Pleasure Park' area of Dreamsville. This means that the ten year old website has been preserved, frozen in time, for future reference and as a tribute to Mark Rushton and Chuck Bird who began and ran the first ever Bill Nelson website, long before I even had a computer to look at it.
Last Friday, I travelled over to Fairview studios to transfer the Rosewood recordings and master them with John Spence. John cheered me by saying that he thought they sounded fabulous and needed hardly any equalisation changes The masters, and the packaging artwork, have now gone off to the manufacturers and finished copies of Volume One will be available soon. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished result, the first release on Sonoluxe.
I had to borrow Emi's car to get over to Fairview as my vehicle has a rapidly deteriorating exhaust problem. In fact, the car needs a lot of work on it at the moment, particularly body work. There are some increasingly alarming areas of rust that need treatment. As the house is also in need of several structural repairs, both internal and external, it's a matter of deciding on priorities and letting the rest rot. Truth is, the economics of the situation make it difficult to keep up with it all.
In some ways, I wish we could afford to move house, find somewhere a little bigger and more private. I really need a dedicated, roomier space for my recording and musical equipment. Considering the fact that recording work is right at the centre of my creativity and career, finding myself and my gear crammed into such a small box room is both ironic and uncomfortable. Meanwhile, developers in and around the city continue to exploit every bit of land they can get their hands on. We've recently been trying to stop attempts to turn the fields next to us into an industial storage unit. Boundary queries have temporarily slowed down their plans but you can bet that it hasn't halted them. It's all going to the dogs. (In fact, a dog track was one developer's proposal for the same field!)
The area that Emi and I chose to live in eight years or so ago has changed quite a lot since we came here, particularly in terms of our own privacy and outlook. Had we known how much our immediate environment would suffer, we probably would have looked elsewhere to make our home. We're saddled with it now, of course. Things could always be worse, but still...
Sometimes, I long for the seclusion of a home bounded by its own space, immune from the claws of development. Haddlesey House, where I was fortunate enough to live in the 'eighties, was such a place. I really cherished that old house and it's surrounding, protective walls. Plenty of room to set up a drum kit, marimbas, amplifiers and no need to worry about noise. AND a river bank at the bottom of the garden where I could sit at twilight, listening to ripples and blackbirds whilst waiting for lyrics to materialise like ghosts. Even that lovely old place, as regular readers of this diary know, was eventually raped and pillaged by the amoral greed of property developers. It's like a cheesy, up-market housing estate for accountants and insurance salesmen now.
What I really need is to land a lucrative Hollywood film score commission. Then again, could I put up with all that bullshit just to earn enough money to build myself a proper studio space? Probably not... but I could try.
The truth is, my nature doesn't really lend itself to such careerist manipulations. You really need to hang out, network, put yourself about, etc, etc. Oh, I've got ambitions enough but they're not of much practical use. It's all dreams and dreaming, techniques designed to encourage the flow of, (gulp), beauty and magic through my life, not to hold onto the bland material signifiers that seem to become the alpha and omega of contemporary achievers. Still... I'm no purist. I'd happily drive an Aston Martin or a Bristol or some equally beautiful, exclusive and snotty assembly of steel and leather, should I ever be able to afford such a luxury. As the old Buddhist saying has it:- 'it's fine to drive an expensive car, as long as the expensive car isn't driving you'. It all comes back to the notion of attachment/non-attachment. More than ever these days, people find it hard to let go.
Watched a lovely documentary film on DVD last night. It's called 'Dharma River, Journey Of A Thousand Buddhas' and was made by John Bush. It is a filmic record of river journeys through Laos, Burma and Thailand, visiting ancient Buddhist temples and communities along the way. It's visually stunning and brings home the tremendous beauty of Buddhist art and architecture. Some of the larger temples, over two-thousand years old, are breathtaking. I commented to Emi that, of all the religious options available to us, Buddhism, for me, remains the sanest, the clearest, the gentlest, most rational, simple, direct, humane and downright beautiful.
The word 'religion' however, at least in my opinion, is a limitation and an encuberance. Buddhism's direct pointing at reality goes way beyond such limitations, right to the heart of things. But what do I know? I'm not a very good Buddhist, (as I've said before in these pages). In fact, by some people's definition of the term, I'm not really a Buddhist at all. My 'organised spiritual group' days are behind me. I prefer to walk my own path at my own pace, nor am I in search of a guru or an avatar. Perhaps I'm just trying to enjoy each moment without hurting anyone, and offering my art as thanks for that.
Insight and inspiration are all around us, always. This too, is Buddha nature. There's a key here that, once grasped and turned, opens a door onto infinite possibilities. It's so impossibly direct and simple that it is usually overlooked, misunderstood or considered invisible. That it can't be communicated by words does not neccesarily make it an impenetrable secret. Letting go, is part of the process of discovering this marvellous and subtle thing. It's a jewel beyond price.
And now I'm tired again and my shoulders ache from sitting in front of my Mac. My computer screen's background image, for those who may be interested, is a lovely, vibrantly coloured painting of the Tibetan White Tara Buddha. Sometimes, I exchange her for an image of a vintage green and cream Blackpool tram. The two things, ultimately, are the same. Theories as to why this should be are welcome down at 'The Dreamsville Arms' which can be found in 'The Pleasure Park.'
More communications from Harold. Good words from him about Rosewood. He says:- 'That's the album you've always wanted to make...' He also has two titles/pieces settled for us to work on for his concert at Brighton next month. Nearer and nearer now. As soon as my health returns, I need to prepare a couple of guitars or more in readiness. Some set-up work needed with intonation and action. I'm planning to take several variations of equipment so as to be prepared for whatever the music demands. I have no idea, at this stage, how it will turn out, or what the music will be. I'm sure it will be fine in the end, despite my trepidation.
All for today... I need to take a break.
Today is our wedding anniversary. Emiko and I have now been married ten years. Hard to believe as it genuinely feels like yesterday that we tied the proverbial knot. We had planned a small and quiet affair but were pleasantly surprised when a number of good friends, many from 'down south', (and one from even further 'up north'), travelled to Yorkshire for the occasion:
Richard Chadwick, Roger Eno and Family, Kate St. John, Emi's friend Kyoko, my eldest daughter Julia and several others, plus local friends such as John Spence and my brother Ian. It was a lovely sunny day and we all got fruits of the vine happy after the ceremony at the Gateforth Hall Hotel, just behind the tiny apartment Emi and I were renting at that time. Besides being the culmination of a lengthy, (and beautifully on-going), love-affair, it was a treasured day spent amongst our best pals. Anyway... ten years ago today! That old time warp thing, yet again.
Emi's anniversary present to me this morning was a little tin steam train containing chocolate hearts, (tin is the symbol of ten years of marriage), and a marvellous bottle of Pecksniff's 'Oriental Wood' Cologne. This company is the last traditional, English-originated and owned perfumiers in the country. They create some wonderful perfumes and colognes. Fragrances are one of my many passions and I'm a sucker for trying out different ones in shops whilst on my travels. I often emerge from Harvey Nichols' store in Leeds smelling like a million dollars without spending a single penny. (They have a great selection of testers). I usually try out the 'Creed' range and a few other specialist perfumier's products, mainly the one's that cost the earth and smell like paradise. I stay well clear of those obvious famous footballer colognes, the Versaces, Hugo Bosses, etc, in favour of more unusual and exotic scents. I prefer such things as Czech and Speake's No 88, I and E Atkinson's 'I Coloniali' range, a couple of Penhaligon's classics and the eternally elegant and clean 'Acqua Di Parma'. I'm more of a sensual aesthete than a macho athlete anyway, a bit of a waxed mustache twiddler, had I got the mustache to twiddle.
Maybe I could adopt a decadent lothario persona, perhaps a cross between Leslie Phillips and Charles Rennie Mackintosh? Or Aubrey Beardsley and Harrison Marks? Hmm... maybe not... But given the opportunity of a foppish ribbon bow tie, a crushed velvet suit and a boudoir filled with gilded mirrors and brocade, I'd be handing out those Phillipsian oily "hellos" to every pretty dolly within earshot. And me married for ten years too. Mucky bugger, says Emi, ('though she says it in Japanese, which makes it sound like an exotic attribute, rather than a summing up of my senile lusts). For a wedding anniversary gift, I bought Emi a tin clockwork rabbit that plays a pair of little drums when wound up, and a beautiful antique,1920's, costume jewellery necklace. She is going to wear it tonight when we go out for a celebratory dinner at a rather up-market and old-fashioned restaurant sited in a beautiful nearby manor house. We haven't been before but, as this is a special day, we decided to push the boat out and indulge ourselves, just the two of us and to hell with the expense. I must try not to get a hangover though, as I'm booked into Fairview studios tomorrow morning to begin the work of mastering the two volumes of Rosewood with my engineer pal John Spence. Then the albums go off to the manufacturers and finally to the Dreamsville Department store where the music can at last be accessed by its audience. Well worth the wait, I think. It's a complex and richly detailed work. I'm unusually proud of it.
All being well, this particular diary entry will be the first to appear on the new Dreamsville website. We're really close to launching it as I write... hopefully, it should be live and on-line sometime early next week.
It's only at the first stage of its existence but I'm soon to lay plans to launch stage two. As soon as possible really. Obviously, there are financial costs involved in all of this but by taking things a step at a time, I hope to be able to afford the site's development. As much as cash, time is at a premium too. My year is already planned out ahead of me and I have a full schedule of projects to work on. Adrian at the office emailed me a year planner with the next seven months or so mapped out on it. I was impressed.
Will I really achieve all that? Fingers crossed. It seems as if the website will need to fit around the more pressing tasks on the cards. We'll get there in the end, fear not. No holiday again this year, though, that's for sure. I grumble to myself but it's all pretend. I love what I do.
A solo tour is planned for the autumn and I intend to pursue a new direction with this. Although I've toured as a soloist in the past, it has always been based around my instrumental performances. This time, I hope to include some vocal items too. I've made a tentative start towards writing some brand new songs that I might be able to sing without the aid of a band. These would use 'foundation tracks' in a similar fashion to my instrumental performances but would be tailored to support my vocals as well as my guitar playing. At this point in time, it's difficult to say exactly what the ultimate concept or mood of these songs will be, but current working titles for the project are 'The Lovely And Mysterious Tour' or 'The Dreamy And Mysterious Tour'.
At least, that's the mood I'm aiming for... a few dream-like, beautiful songs, melodic and swoony but with strong, lyrical guitar playing. I'll also include some new and some old instrumentals in the concerts. I need to create fresh video backdrops too although this will be dependent upon how much time I can spare to work on these. The videos take an eternity to make.
There will certainly be some new visual material though. The plan, at the moment, is to attempt 15 to 20 concerts around the U.K. Also to travel further South than last year's tour. Now that Dreamsville and The Dreamsville Rocket Newspaper are in place, I'll be able to keep fans informed as this project progresses. It will be good to have The Dreamsville Inn in place for fans to communicate too. I have to admit to missing their input. Looking forward to a bit of good natured banter.
Next year, (2006), I'll be looking at the possibility of putting a new band together for another tour and creating some new songs for that project.
Unfortunately, a band-based tour, as I was reminded last autumn, takes much more time and money to mount than a solo tour, even with the extremely generous sponsorship that Sound-On-Sound magazine contributed last year.
Without their help, that event would simply not have been possible. Because of this year's workload, (the unforeseen need to design and build a new website, plus the intensely involved two-volume Rosewood project and various other 'in-the-pipeline' issues), a band project, with all it's complexities and costs, is impractical. I need to be able to set everything else to one side to give such a venture my full attention. So... next year will be the best time to assemble a band, particularly if all goes well on this years forthcoming Autumn solo tour. I'd like to approach the band thing from a different angle anyway, sharpen up the act as it were. It's important to me to keep pushing the envelope.
In fact, this Autumn's outing is intended to break new ground for me, both in terms of music and territory. It will offer an opportunity to explore a different approach to songs in a live presentation. I'm very excited about it., although It will be quite nerve-wracking, (singing alone on a stage, I mean), but it's a tremendous challenge that I'm looking forward to meeting.
I intend to release an album of these new songs to coincide with the tour... plus some surprises that I'll keep under my hat for now.
Talking of nervousness... Harold Budd's tribute concert is looming ever larger. We have yet to settle on a little duet piece... I've posted a couple of suggestions to Harold, just to see if there's something there that we could pursue together. Harold is also working on a piece for us at his end.
I recently posted him a copy of my published 'Diary Of A Hyperdreamer' book. He wrote generously about it last night, said he was very impressed by it. For me, praise from Harold is praise indeed. I'm extremely grateful and flattered. I'm also extremely nervous about the Brighton show.
General election stuff pouring through my letterbox daily. The Tory party promotional bumph seems to be never ending. 'Are You Thinking What We're Thinking?' is their chosen slogan this time. Well the answer is, "NO, I'm not, so please bugger off and take your slimy nationalistic fear-mongering with you... " Michael Howard and his cronies give me the heebie-jeebies. What an arrogant, manipulative, condescending bunch of hypocrites they are.
Mind you... politicians, eh? Fertile soil for the seeds of corruption, the lot of 'em. Steer well clear and don't let them kiss your kids. I'm tempted to go back to the kind of creative anarchism I advocated during my art-school years. But we were just kids... what did we know? Actually, come to think of it... what do I know now? Only how to make music and not much else. Ambivalent and proud of it. A bad boy.
Talking of elections... seems the Catholics have got themselves a new boss. Tougher than the old boss. What's his name, Pope Rottweiller or something? Apparently he was a member of the Hitler Youth Movement as a kid. Seriously. Well... He seems to have the old hard-line attitude to contraception and homosexuality. Religion: always happy to do the devil's work. Oh, dear.
Still haven't got around to listening to the new Vic Chestnutt album that I bought the other week. Bill Frisell's on it. So I bought it. I'm still a big Bill Frisell fan. Somehow though, I've been far too caught up in my own music to have much of an ear left for anyone else's. Despite this, I have heard Emi constantly playing Rufus Wainright's latest two albums downstairs. I bought both of them after hearing the first one last year on a visit to Opium's offices in London. Richard and Adrian turned me on to him.
Now, Emiko and I have actually got tickets to see him live next month. He's bound to make me insanely jealous as he's nauseatingly gifted. I enjoy Rufus Wainright's baroque pop songs very much although they can sometimes veer from the stunningly gorgeous to the oppressively over-sauced. Sometimes, I wish a little more restraint had been applied, but he's young and I guess you could level the same criticism at my work too, (and I'm not young).
Nevertheless, I've always liked to gild the dear old lily, so what can I say? It's back to that perfume thing again, that extravagant, lush, fertile fecundity. Music as cornucopia, fountain of plenty, sheer ecstatic sensuality. Sound you can swoon in and swim in. Naked if possible.
Better change the subject... getting a bit sticky. From the sublime to the ridiculous: Found a DVD of 'Torchy The Battery Boy' the other day. A charming puppet TV series from the early 1960's, one of Gerry Anderson's first productions. Torchy has a big magic lightbulb in his hat that can find things that have been lost, (my long lost youth perhaps?) He also has a spiffing rocketship that I wish they'd manufacture as a commercially available model. But I'm probably the only saddo who'd buy it.
All together now: "Torchy, Torchy, the battery boy... He's a walkie-talkie toy... " Yup, those were the days.
Reading several books at bedtime, as usual. At my bedside at the moment are:- 'Peter Blake' by Natalie Rudd; 'The Rise Of The Sixties' by Thomas Crow; 'Audio Culture' edited by Cristoph Cox and Daniel Warner; ' 'The Making Of Modern Britain' by Jeremy Black; ' Jazz Modernism' by Alfred Apel Junior; 'Satori In Paris' by Jack Kerouac; and 'The Lion Annual, 1957'. At least a dozen more books sit in a pile on top of some bedroom shelves, awaiting their turn at my bedside. Hope they're patient... Wish we could move to a bigger house where I might have one room set aside as a dedicated library to house my treasured tomes.
I used to have a library when I lived at Haddlesey House in the late '70's and through the '80's. It was oak panelled, had a stone 'Minster' fireplace that crackled with logs in the winter, a huge desk with a captain's chair and my Hornby train set spread out on the deep green carpet. I used to love going up there and closing myself off from the outside world. Between that and my Echo Observatory studio, I had all the cultural, creative isolation I needed. Now I'm crammed into a small box room surrounded by junk and broken keyboards. And lots of lovely guitars. Shouldn't grumble.
Finally, 'Rosewood' is complete. Last night, I put the finishing touches to the final track of Volume Two, a newly recorded piece to nicely round off the album and bring the listener back to the starting position of Volume One. It's hard to say which of these two albums I like most. Perhaps Volume One at this point in time but this could easily change according to my mood. They belong together, basically. One compliments the other. I made an unmastered copy of Volume One for my friend Paul Gilby who, after listening to it said:- "beautiful, emotional and mature... a masterpiece!" Well, there's one good review! Jon Wallinger, upcoming Mayor Of Dreamsville has a cdr copy of it at the moment also and has promised to write a review of Rosewood Volume One to upload to my new official website, once it goes public.
More tweaks being done at the moment to compensate for varying screen resolutions amongst the computer-using public. A bit of a design compromise but nothing too drastic. A new discussion board has been arranged in the form of 'The Dreamsville Inn' so that visitors to the site can communicate with each other and discuss whatever. 'The Dreamsville Inn' will go live when Dreamsville itself officially launches. Not too long now, I think.
Dave Graham has completed the layout work on the packaging for Rosewood Volume Two now and, once again, it's hard to choose a favourite between them. Each follows the same visual concept/layout/plan but has different colours and uses different photographs from Volume One. But, as on Volume One, these are photograps that I took of my old Hoyer acoustic guitar in various locations around Yorkshire. Together, the two albums will look quite stunning.
The track listing/running order for Rosewood Volume Two will be as follows:
It has been an exhausting project, this one. I can't recall any of my previous albums having quite this intensity of effort, other than perhaps the gargantuan Noise Candy project. (Which reminds me, it's time to remind Lenin Imports about accounting again, I think). I feel quite drained by the 'Rosewood' process but, of course it doesn't end here. The next step is to book myself into Fairview Studios to master both albums, all thirty tracks of them. Then it's time to get them physically manufactured. I'll release Volume One as soon as it's ready and hold Volume Two back a while, perhaps until the Autumn.
Autumn looks like it will be an interesting time, for various reasons that I'll keep under my hat for now, but I do have a lot of work to prepare for that part of the year. A slightly new venture which I'm looking forward to. Once my Dreamsville site is on-line, subscribers to the town's newspaper, 'The Dreamsville Rocket', will be able to keep up with the latest developments as they happen.
I've also spent a lot of time and energy this last couple of weeks on the 'Museum Of Memory' section of the Dreamsville site. I've been piecing together a visual history of my early life, including my great grandparents and my parents. I've found and scanned well over fifty photographs so far and I'm writing text explanations for all of them. It amounts to a sort of 'potted autobiography', not as detailed and complete as my 'proper' one, 'Painted From Memory', but reasonably interesting, nevertheless. The text accompanying each photograph tells the story behind them and puts things into a chronological context.
'The Musum Of Memory, of course, is just one area of the Dreamsville site and there are many other areas to develop. All the foundations are laid but, as I keep stressing, it will be an ongoing task to build the entire town, a task which will occupy me for a long time. Bearing in mind that my priority is music making, a little patience will be required from Dreamsville's visitors. They can rest assured though that quality is of the utmost importance and nothing will be done just for the sake of it or simply to cobble something together. In time, this will build into a fantastic resource for fans of my work and become an extension of that work for myself.
Harold's concert getting nearer... more emails from him this week. The tension mounts and all that. It will be upon us before we know it.