William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Thursday 22nd April 2011 -- 8:00 pm
As always, there's so much to tell, but I'm far too busy to tell it in detail so I'll attempt to condense things a little, turn the last few weeks into signals, ciphers and semaphore.
Just read between the lines...
The 'Legends' TV performance ended up being something of a trial, (as readers of my Dreamsville forum will already be aware). The audience genuinely seemed to love it and were loudly and positively enthusiastic, but the band and myself were less than happy with the uncomfortable conditions we were expected to perform under. And, as the artist with 'his name on the tin,' I was equally frustrated by the end result.
The 7-piece 'Gentleman Rocketeers' band was hindered by a makeshift stage barely big enough for us to be squeezed onto. We suffered from a muddy, uninspiring and confusing monitor mix and were physically unsettled by an environment that felt more like a sauna than a performance space. (My clothes were literally stuck to my body with sweat when I changed after the show.) The heat did no favours to the tuning stability of the guitars either. After over 30 years of playing in all sorts of concert environments, this particular situation came as a genuine low-point. Truth is, I'd rather not perform at all than let my musical dreams down so spectacularly.
The band's entire performance was an uphill struggle from start to finish, just deeply unsatisfying. Had it merely been a 'get through it and then forget it' type of concert, perhaps we could have accepted the situation and moved on...Unfortunately, much more was at stake than a simple one-off gig. The concert was being set in digital cement... (of the quick-drying variety too).
The production company's rush to get a DVD commercially released (by the end of May apparently), meant that deeper scrutiny would soon be applied to the entire show. For ever...
After the concert I was given a set of CDrs of stereo mixes of the performance but, after listening to them at home I became, er...(I'm sorry, there are no other words for it), utterly depressed and disillusioned by the result. This was not a fair representation of what we had spent several days putting together at rehearsals. It was a band shackled by technical and physical conditions beyond our control.
It immediately became apparent that there was little choice but to accept the option of mixing the multi-track recordings of the performance independently, (although the contract apparently stated that this option could only be taken up at my own expense).
I'm afraid I couldn't have lived with the recording as it was. Consequently, I'm now over £1,000 out of pocket as a result of having to spend four intense days in Fairview studios, trying to nudge things a little closer to the usual standard, (with the help of ace engineer John Spence, of course...plus some careful repairing of certain 'unstable' aspects of the performance itself, the majority of which were a direct result of the situation we'd found ourselves in.)
The upside of all this is that the recording now sounds much better than it did...and perhaps it now comes closer to doing justice to all the hard work that the band and myself put into rehearsals.
Having said that though, the concert still lingers in the memory as being a very uncomfortable and, (dare I say it), controversial experience for us. Such a shame that something so 'permanent' fell so profoundly short of what we'd hoped for.
However, the thing that concerns me most right now is whether the series will be broadcast on UK television or not. When the opportunity was offered to put a band together and perform in front of the cameras, it was pitched first and foremost as a television series which would be broadcast in June of this year. The impression given was that the DVD would be a secondary thing, an offshoot, as it were, of the television broadcast.
Unfortunately, at this point in time, I've not been informed that there will a definite UK TV broadcast. It seems that there's no guarantee that this will actually happen. However, the DVD has already been scheduled for an end of May release and has been advertised.
I have to say that I didn't decide to take on this project simply for a DVD release. I genuinely believed that a UK television broadcast was the first and foremost reason for doing it. I was pursuaded that the publicity generated by a tv broadcast might outweigh the old-school, 'sign-it-all-away' nature of the contract.
Anyway, perhaps I should withhold final judgement for now...I could be jumping to wrong conclusions. Perhaps my past career experiences and consequent distrust of the industry regarding this sort of thing are unduly colouring my interpretation of events...but, let's just say that I'll await further developments with interest.
For now, all I can say is that I'm substantially out of pocket as a result of my involvement with the project. Perhaps I would not have chosen to enter into it, had I fully understood what was in store for us.
Spring has sprung! Wonderfully and joyously. Two weeks of deliciously warm and sunny weather. Weather that would have graced Summer magnificently, but, considering that this is only April, it seems little short of miraculous. The cherry blossom tree in our front garden has become...what's the word, fecund? Prolific? Ecstatic with pinkness? Well, pretty marvellous, anyway. Apple tree blossoms in the back garden too, and, divinely... pear!
Yesterday was our wedding anniversary. Emi and I have been happily married for, what? 18 years? Well, we lived together for a couple of years before we tied the knot. I think it was '93 when we began our life together in England, though we'd spent time together in Tokyo first and had originally met way back in 1984. (Oh, the romance of it!)
The nice thing is that it doesn't feel like so long ago at all. Our relationship is still fresh and tender. Emiko is a wonderful person and life without her would be unbearable.
Last night we went to one of our favourite restaurants and afterwards came home to a bottle of champagne. I was given a book of Gnostic parables from Emi and I bought her a Nicole Farhi skirt that she'd spotted in a local store and very much liked. Our favourite clothes designers are Nichol Farhi, Margaret Howell, Adolfo Dominguez, Toast, Oska and some of the less, erm, 'blingy' Armani designs. Our taste leans towards the less commercially demonstrative brands but on a limited budget, it's hard to avoid the 'noisier' items these days. Most fashionistas seem hell bent on advertising, 'on jacket or shirt,' whatever particular brand of clothing they wear. Escaping label-brainwashing is not as easy as it might seem, although, for me, it is something to avoid whenever possible. Spending good money for the dubious privelege of becoming a walking billboard for some company or other seems like an insult to me. I simply want the clothes I purchase to flatter me, (as much as is possible at my somewhat advanced age), and to reflect my personal aesthetic taste. I don't give a damn whether it is considered fashionable, 'cool,' or not. Fashion is slavery, an illusion...but STYLE is beyond price, and timeless.
Tomorrow is an anniversary of a much more melancholy sort. It will be five years ago tomorrow, (23 rd of April), that my much loved brother Ian passed away.
Time flies so fast. Ian's photograph hangs on the wall of my studio, (as it has done these last five years). In the photograph, he is perpetually fixed at the age he was when we last toured together in 2004, his saxophone forever in his hands, eternally blowing his own personal blues. If only I could share a stage with him now.
I've said this before but, I don't think I'll never recover from the shock of losing Ian. He left me, my mum, his family, with an emotional scar that never seems to heal. In that sense, we carry sweet Ian with us to the end of our days. We each of us, family members, bear him up in our own way, conjure his presence, remember his life, over and over and over again.
My mother admitted to me the other day that she can't let Ian go, despite the passing of time. I understand perfectly how she feels, 'though I worry about how unhealthy this might be for her at the age of 82.
Mum has become a constant source of concern for me. The unfair, shameful and cruel treatment she suffered as a result of the combination of losing her youngest son and then, a few years later, her husband, is hard to deal with. I try so hard to persuade her that life is still open for her, that she should seize opportunities and break out of the darkness that she has inherited, but her sense of loss and betrayal is hard to vanquish, though I continue to encourage her towards that goal.
Last weekend, we took Mum to Knaresborough and Harrogate for the day. Sitting in the open air by the River Nidd in Knaresborough, eating warm apple pie and cold ice cream in the pleasant spring sunshine was a simple but lovely treat for us. We later had dinner at Graveley's Fish Restaurant in Harrogate, which Mum always enjoys whenever we take her there.
But, sunshine aside, work is ever present . I've been pre-occupied with the EMI Be Bop Deluxe re-issues, (which are progressing at a veritable snail's pace). Lots going on with this, project but not enough to make sufficient progress, despite the time it seems to be stealing from my life.
Until this thing is completed and put to bed it seems that the Cherry Red career retrospective box set will be on hold.
I've spent many weeks, and indeed months, dealing with the proverbial 'Past' this year. I'm often accused of being dismissive of my career history, (though not without cause, in my opinion). You know, it's not as if I haven't given birth to a single musical idea since the 1970's, (unlike some artists). The opposite is the truth. The '70's constitute a fraction of my creative life. If anything, they are the aberration, the 'blip,' the wobble in the ether that surrounds me.
In retrospect, they don't define my deeper sensibilities at all. Still, maybe this year is a consolidation of things, an illuminated viewing of the bigger picture, not just a lazy reflection of some cobwebby, long lost, teenage nostalgic past.
Next month, (7th of May), I'm giving a concert in Sheffield as part of the city's annual 'Sensoria' festival. This will offer a deliberate contrast to the recent 'Legends' show. No '70's material will be performed whatsoever...no Be Bop Deluxe material or Red Noise either, in fact, no singing or rock music at all. Just me, solo, with a handful of shining guitars, a selection of my videograms, slo-mo, home-thoughts, drifting dreams. A gentle release, freedom, a pleasant opportunity to be absolutely myself rather than the ghost of someone else's past. I'm very much looking forward to it.
Before then, LOTS to do. A new 12 minute long piece titled 'Happy Realms Of Light,' to work on, plus the mastering of backing tracks, (at Fairview, with John Spence), of the 15 other instrumental pieces set for inclusion at the Sheffield concert. A haircut to book with Steve too, before then.
Also, videograms to co-ordinate, (with Paul's DVD assembly assistance), plus all sorts of other concert-live performance issues related to the upcoming Sheffield show. I'm way behind with all of this and, as usual, really should not be writing up diary entries. But: I feel guilty if I don't and guilty if I do...
Books by my bed at the moment are:
'Homage To Pan.' (a book about the art and occult practices of Rosaleen Norton) by Neville Drury.
'Eighty Years Of Book Cover Design' by Joseph Connolly.
'The Wonderful Future That Never Was' by Gregory Benford.
'Ode To The Countryside, Poems To Celebrate The British Landscape.' (Edited by Samuel Carr.)
'The Gift (How The Creative Spirit Transforms The World.)' by Lewis Hide
and 'Did You Really Shoot The Television? (A Family Fable.)' by Max Hastings.
Meanwhile the Easter Caravan Tide overwhelms us: The seemingly endless arrival of mobile homes in the two fields next to our house...obese people with dogs parading up and down the lane, our kitchen window like a tv set attracting their curiosity: "Oooh, look! Country folk eating their dinner!" It resembles a crowded mobile housing estate out there at the moment. An infinity of little white boxes on wheels. I can't see the attraction of this sort of thing at all...getting away from home, only to park shoulder to shoulder with a couple of hundred other caravans packed into the same field? Not my idea of an escape from the daily grind, I'm afraid. But I guess some people prefer being amongst a crowd to quiet solitude. I guess I'm simply not the social type.
Unfinished album projects: 'Model Village' and now, it seems, 'Fantasmatron.' (More of which later.)
Enough diary for today.
The images accompanying this diary entry are as follows:-
1: Bill at Castle Howard surrounded by Spring.
2: Bill's Mum and Emi at Castle Howard, Spring 2011.
3: Bill's original artwork for the limited edition 'Sensoria' performance t-shirt.
4: Bethany Nelson, Ian Nelson's grand-daughter.
5: Ian's grave in Wakefield Cemetary, Spring 2011.
6: A flyer/advert for the 'Fantasmatron' album.