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May 27, 03
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Friday 7th September 2007. 1 : 00 pm
BILL NELSON DIARY ENTRY: THURSDAY 6TH SEPTEMBER 2007. EVENING.
The edge of Autumn...So where did August go? Come to think of it, where did my entire summer go too? I've spent the last few months, day in, day out, cocooned here in my studio surrounded by guitars, keyboards and recording equipment. No time for diaries, website forums or much of a family life. Even by my own standards, it's been an intensely busy time.
Long, long hours spent on the American Stamps film project: 7 days a week, 12 hours per day on average. The music all completed and delivered now.
The film makers seem genuinely pleased with it, very generous, positive, feedback from them.
The film music generated over fifty mixes on my dat tapes. Not neccesarily fifty different compositions but mix variants, alternative approaches and so on. Terry and Nori, who are the creative dynamos behind the project, selected the final choice of pieces from the ones I'd offered as possibilities for the various scenes. I then mastered this selection over at Fairview studios with John Spence and the tracks were then posted to San Francisco to be wedded to the final cut of the film itself.
It's been a challenging project in many ways, as I've noted before in this diary...The most tricky thing being how to work around the almost constant dialogue without the music just becoming a background hum. I hope I've managed to keep it interesting and to pick up on the mood of each section of the narrative story. Looking forward to seeing the finished result. I'm told it will have around six screenings on tv in the US. It may possibly be picked up by one of the satellite tv arts channels for European screening too.
No time for a breather after the soundtrack music was delivered. I had to plunge straight back into more recording, this time for a pair of new albums.
I felt that this year's Nelsonica album needed a little more thought regarding track listing and running order. I also wanted to put together a brand new album to coincide with the proposed concert that Sound-On-Sound magazine were planning to promote for Harold Budd and myself at The Sage in Gateshead. Unfortunately, due to a series of events far too complicated to go into here, the concert didn't really get off the ground. A shame, but hopefully it can be re-scheduled for next year when there will perhaps be more time to plan for it.
Nevertheless, I've ended up with a new album. Just been through to Fairview studios today to initiate the mastering process, not only for this album but for the Nelsonica limited edition album too. 31 pieces of music in total, between them.
Both albums have undergone some dramatic changes since I began working on them.
The new, 'main' album is all instrumental and more or less follows on from 'Gleaming Without Lights' but in an even more singular and drifting fashion.
However, it began life somewhat differently:
The album's original title was 'Frankie Ukelele And The Fire In The Lake.' It also contained a track bearing that title. I saw it as a surreal, dream-like thing. Who was Frankie Ukelele? And why was there a fire in the lake?
But, as I made progress with the recording, the dream-like thing slowly became a little more abstract, fractured, non-linear and melancholy. The album title started to sound like it belonged to a different album. To some degree, so did the title track's music. Almost at the last minute I decided to remove several tracks from the album and record new pieces to replace them. One of the pieces I removed was the actual title track. Obviously, the album's title went with it too.
The album is now titled: 'And We Fell Into A Dream.' It contains 15 pieces of music, all along similar lines. The tracks have melody but are not particularly structured in any compositional sense. By that, I mean they don't have discreet sections that progress through the usual routine of verses, bridges and choruses. The music kind of floats and drifts and hovers around, dreaming to itself.
It's built on guitars and loops and reversed effects, little atonal pin-pricks and delicate chimes. A few of the tracks have 'beats' but they're often trance-like and quite discreet. Hard to describe but, it's like 'Gleaming'...but it's also different.
Dave Graham and myself have been working on the album's packaging art and this is now complete. The images suit the album's tone and suggests some kind of 'Gnostic' fall from grace, a descent from a higher state into a world of illusions and imperfection. It's also slightly 'Disneyesque,' post-modern baroque, toy-town-roccoco. Matching my somewhat otherworldly, psychedelic cherubim mood of late.
Here's the album's track listing/running order:-
'And We Fell Into A Dream'
(IMPROVISED COMPOSITIONS FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR.)
1: 'And We Fell Into A Dream.'
2: 'Somewhere In Far Tomorrow.'
3: 'Fever Dream Of The Starlight Man.'
4: 'The Raindrop Collector.'
5: 'Night Song Of The Last Tram.'
6: 'Dreamt I Was Floating In A Summer Sky.'
7: 'The House At The End Of Memory Lane.'
8: 'A Line Of Trees Gives Rise To Thought.'
9: 'Blue Amorini.'
10: 'Here Come The Rain Comets.'
11: 'Cloudy Billows Kiss The Moon.'
12: 'The Rose Covered Cottage At The End Of Time.'
13: 'Streamlined Train, Passing Fast.'
14: 'At Home In High Clouds.'
15: 'Chapel Of Chimes.'
'Blue Amorini,' a piece I've been performing live for around three years now, seemed to fit the mood of the album, as did 'Fever Dream Of The Starlight Man,' a piece originally created for the 'Orchestra Futura' project at last year's Nelsonica. Both these tracks appear on 'And We Fell Into A Dream' in their studio form.
This year's Nelsonica album has also had a re-shuffle. It is still titled: 'Secret Club For Members Only' to fit in with this year's convention title but has several vocal pieces scattered amongst the instrumentals. In fact, there's a kind of miniature pop album hiding at the heart of this one. Of course, my own definition of 'pop' is probably far from the accepted norm. It would most likely perplex anyone in search of a perfect pop moment.
It's definitely the kind of album that fits the Nelsonica Convention remit though: a collector's piece, a collection of quirky leftovers, fun experiments and whimsical musings. No attempt at cohesiveness or 'major statement' preciousness. Just fairly interesting, reasonably accessible, hopefully entertaining bits and bobs.
The album's track list /running order is as follows:-
'Secret Club For Members Only.'
(The Nelsonica 07 limited edition album.)
1: 'Blues For A Broken Time Machine.'
2: 'Symphony In Golden Stereo.'
3: 'Station Clock In Cloud Of Steam.'
4: 'All Hail The Happy Captain.'
5: 'Boyhood Shadows.'
6: 'I Remember Marvelman.'
7: 'Secret Club For Members Only.'
8: 'Venus Over Vegas.'
10: 'The Futurian.'
11: 'Ghost Show.'
12: 'Jet Pack Jive.'
13: 'That Was A Beautiful Dream, She Said.'
14: 'Men In Search Of The Milky Bosom.'
16: 'Hey, Bill Diddley!'
Although there's a bit of everything on the album, there are also a couple of deliberate 'jokers' in the pack, 'Hey Bill Diddley!' being the most obvious and the nearest thing to a 'novelty item' that I've done since, well, God knows when.
I loath it and love it at the same time. But maybe I should never have let the damned thing leave the studio in the first place. I agonised over that.
Maybe some people will like it too much. It's an abberation, a cute-ugly mutant child, an atomic throwback. It's also a lot of fun. It sports a dirty blues guitar groove middle-section that sounds like it came from a bar on the edge of a Texas swamp. And, as far as I know they don't have swamps in Texas.
Two of my own favourite tracks here are 'All Hail The Happy Captain,' (which is a vocal piece,) and 'Astron,' an instrumental that sprang from the same fountain as 'Streamlined Train, Passing Fast' (on the 'And We Fell Into A Dream' album.) 'All Hail The Happy Captain' could almost have been from the 'Sailor Bill' album, if that album's coastline had been located somewhere off the constellation of Orion instead of the moors of North Yorkshire.
And what has become of Frankie Ukelele and his mysterious fire in the lake? Well, there are now ten tracks left over from this recent recording orgy, tracks that found no home on 'Secret Club' or 'Dream.' It may well be that they will constitute the proper foundation for the abandoned Frankie Ukelele album. I haven't abandoned the project, (yet,) just postponed it. I'll work with these 10 leftover tracks, put them together in some sort of running order and see if they function within the original title/concept. Maybe even release them in time for Christmas. If that pans out it will mean three new albums in the space of three months. Inspired or isane? I care not a whit. Music industry protocols are non-applicable here. I'm not interested in being faint-hearted or precious, just bold.
Out in the real world, the news of Tony Wilson's death. I knew Tony a long time ago. In fact, Be Bop Deluxe appeared on the pilot show for Tony's 'So It Goes' tv series. I opened the show with a short, unaccompanied guitar istrumental. This was at Tony's request. He asked if I'd just blast away on my own for 10 or 15 seconds with some flash, stunt guitar trickery. He requested this with such enthusiasm and charm that I felt it churlish to refuse, even though it wasn't quite 'where I was at' at that point in time. I liked him. He later also championed Duritti Column, which singled him out as a good man in my book. (I'd sold Vinni my original four track tape machine when I moved up to eight track.)
The last time I saw Tony was at one of those 'In The Park' (Or should that be 'In The City?') festivals in Manchester. I'd been invited to take the stage with Steve Cobby's 'Ashley Jackson' band. (I believe there was a commercially available video of this event at one point in time though I can't recall seeing it myself.) Anyway, Tony Wilson was at the festival and wandered over to the mobile dressing room we'd been given to have a brief chat with me. I haven't seem him since except for the occassional tv appearance. I was saddened to hear of his illness and his passing.
That whole Manchester scene was quite vibrant for a while, back in the 80's/90's. I somehow got involved with several of the local artists, John Cooper Clarke, The Mock Turtles, Martin Hannett, and some others whose names have slipped into the fog of memory.
I'm planning to take a weekend break in Paris in November. The first proper break for several years. (I don't count Tokyo trips as breaks as they're tiring and stressful.)
The last proper holiday that Emi and I enjoyed was in the South Of France. Must be around nine years ago now. And before that was in the early '90's when we went to Bali for a few days. (Probably the most 'exotic' holiday I've ever had.)
Bali was wonderful and I got to play with some local Balinese musicians, an unforgettable experience.
Piles of books at my bedside, as always. My reading still confined to ten or fifeteen minutes before sleeping and maybe an hour and a half in the early hours when insomnia strikes.
I recently bought the big, hardback catalogue for David Lynch's Paris art exhibition, 'The Air Is On Fire,' (very expensively produced with two cds of interviews included.) I also found a thick book/catalogue put together to coincide with the exhibition of Cocteau's works that was held at the Pompidou Centre in Paris in 2003;
Also a book titled 'Austerity Britain' by David Kynaston which documents the political, social and cultural climate of Britain in the immediate post-war years, (the era into which I was born,) and 'Trains And Buttered Toast,' (a collection of transcriptions of John Betjeman's BBC radio broadcasts.)
Also have been enjoying a wonderful, charming autobiography, 'Night Song Of The Last Tram' by Robert Douglas. It depicts the author's childhood in Glasgow in the 40's and '50's. The actual title of the book inspired the track of the same name on my 'And We Fell Into A Dream' album.
Managed to buy a few DVD's too: The series 'How We Built Britain,' presented by David Dimbleby is fascinating and well made. Also picked up the recent double disc 'Forbidden Planet' coupled with 'The Invisible Boy.'
Plus I bought a new clean, digitised re-issue of Korda's 'Things To Come,' (an amazing film for 1936, a kind of British equivalent to Lang's 'Metropolis.')
Also, (at long last on DVD,) Terrence Davies' wonderful, moving, 'Distant Voices-Still Lives,' one of my all time favourite films. Now if only they'd follow it up by releasing the same director's 'The Long Day Closes' on DVD, I'd be a very happy man.
Music-wise, I've had no time to listen to much apart from my own work, but I did buy the recent Paul Motian Trio's album, which features Bill Frisell, (whose playing I always find immensely satisfying.)
But the work pace musn't slacken as there is so much yet to prepare for next month's Nelsonica convention. I need to design my live performance set, make up a master disc of the tracks I will improvise over, sort out the video backdrops, think about other presentation items, talks, make drawings for the auction, try and cram in a rehearsal two days before the event, etc, etc. A hell of a lot to prepare still.
This year's Nelsonica venue promises to be an improvement on last year's. An even bigger space, more seating and so on. I just need to try and keep my energy levels up for it. I have to admit to feeling washed out and exhausted at the moment. Then again, I've recorded almost one hundred tracks since the end of Spring until now, it's no wonder I'm feeling the strain. Spending so much time in this little workspace is not healthy, as I've often noted. I could do with some regular exercise and fresh air.
Other work done or still to do: I gave six nationwide radio interviews at the request of EMI records to help promote their recent Harvest Records compilation cd. There's a Be Bop Deluxe track on it, 'Jet Silver And The Dolls Of Venus.' One of the earliest and least original Be Bop pieces and not a song I would personally have chosen but, there you go. Anyway, it was interesting to talk to the various radio dj's at different stations around the country. They were very complimentary about Be Bop and I was able to bring things a little up to date. It is the 21st Century, after all.
Have been contacted by Pomona Books regarding their desire to publish volume 2 of my diaries. They also passed on a message from poet Ian McMillan who would like me to collaborate on a music-poetry idea for his BBC Radio 3 programme 'The Verb.' I intend to contact Ian shortly about this as I'm rather intrigued by the proposal.
Have to start on mixing these ancient Be Bop Decca audition tapes soon. I've not had time to deal with them as so much new work has been coming down the pipeline. My reticence regarding old material is not exactly news though, is it?
An interview yet to do for a feature in 'The Stage' newspaper / magazine. Maybe next week.
A series of ads for Eastwood Guitars has been appearing in several guitar magazines in both the United States and the U.K. They feature full page photo's of myself holding my Saturn 63 guitar. It's been a little disconcerting, turning the pages of these magazines and finding myself staring out of the page. I guess I'm not used to being on such public display. Hopefully though, the ads may cause a few more people to investigate the work.
Also on the subject of guitars: Whilst reading the newspaper over breakfast the other morning, a BBC tv news programme was on in the background. Something caught my ear and, when I glanced up at the screen, I was surprised to see a close-up shot of one of my Campbell Nelsonic signature guitars. The news item was, I think, about teaching rock music to young kids in schools and one of the adult participants in this exercise was weilding one of the guitars that I'd designed with Dean Campbell. I'd missed the main drift of the story so have no idea who was playing the guitar. (The only full length shot I caught of him was with his back to camera.) Still, nice to see the instrument being used.
Much more that I could tell about this and that but it would take too long. As per my last diary entry, some things will have to be sacrificed to practicality and an attempt at brevity. Now back to work.
The images attached to this diary entry are:
1. Front cover of the 'And We Fell Into A Dream' album.
2: Bill and Harold budd in Monk Fryston, 1990?
3:: Bill playing with Balinese musicians. '93
4.Emiko Nelson in Bali Pool, '93.
5. Bill and Emiko in Bali, '93.
6: Bill in Bali. '93