William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Tuesday 24th December 2013 -- 9:00 pm
Apologies, and not just one but an entire alternative universe filled with them.
Yes, ok, I know...I'm outrageously late with this diary entry...despite all good intentions. My previous diary was, (deep breath, flushed cheeks, lowered gaze), two years ago this month. Two dizzy, madly spinning, bee-hive buzzing years! Where did the time go? Why so fast? Why so long to write these words?
The truth is that music, along with various other pre-occupations, has made an increasingly severe demand on my time and only now have I returned to these pages in the vain hope of catching up. Heck, the word 'vain' should maybe read 'impossible.'
So much has happened since my December 2011 diary entry. I'm struggling to recall anything, (let alone everything), as there has been such a remorseless whirlwind of activity, particularly with regard to recording. A dust cloud of cosmic proportions stirred up and I'm forever stumbling away from the storm. My own damn fault, of course.
So...forgive me. I'm not even going to attempt to fill in that two year gap with what would amount to an endless list of activity. Should you, dear reader, be even remotely curious, please take a stroll through the last two years of the Dreamsville online forum, or browse the list of releases in the Dreamsville Department Store and you may get a vague idea of where the majority of my energies have been spent. Of course, those of you who regularly cruise this twinkling realm will already know of what I speak. ;-)
With the above in mind, I intend to start afresh and not cover the missing two years in any great detail. It would involve far too much typing and even more digging back into my archives to wrestle two year's worth of memories from the grip of oblivion.
Nevertheless...There have been more than a few album releases: 'Songs Of The Blossom Tree Optimists'; 'Joy Through Amplification'; 'The Palace Of Strange Voltages'; 'Return To Tomorrow'; 'The Last Of The Neon Cynics'; 'The Dreamshire Chronicles'; 'Blip!'; 'The Tremulous Doo-Wah-Diddy,' 'Albion Dream Vortex' and a short while ago, 'The Sparkle Machine.'
I threw a couple of exclusive album launch parties too, both of which were relaxed and enjoyable for both myself and my special guests. These events gave me the opportunity to give a pre-release playback of a new album or two and throw a little light on their creative evolution. I also threw in an intimate solo performance as part of the 'Blip!' launch. ;-)
Also, back in 2012, a Nelsonica fan convention was staged featuring 3 live sets and other special entertainments, (including the traditional, though rather exhausting, 3-hour long meet 'n' greet).
A lot of hard work and preparation goes into these Nelsonica events...so much so that I've begun to feel I should perhaps mount them only once every two years instead of annually. Coming up with concepts and content for them, plus musical preparation and the exclusive Nelsonica CD takes up an inordinate amount of my time for what amounts to a one day event....Nevertheless, the chance to interact with people who appreciate my work is valued. So, I do my best.
More recently I was involved in a unique fund raising concert for the Wakefield Unity Hall restoration project, held at Wakefield's award winning Hepworth Gallery where I performed an intimate solo instrumental concert for just over 300 people.
I have a personal family connection with the Unity Hall building. My father played there in the 1940's and 1950's, (he was a talented saxophonist). I played there in the 1960's with 'The Teenagers' and 'The Gibson 4' and even with Be Bop Deluxe in the early 1970's.
As I child of the '50's, I visited the the building with my mother and grandmother when it was the largest branch of the Co-operative Society in Yorkshire...Mum, Gran and I went shopping there every Saturday afternoon in the 1950's. At that time it was a kind of 'dream department store.' At least to a small child like me.
As part of the restoration appeal, I donated a limited edition print of an etching I made a long time ago, (in 1963), whilst I was still an art student at Wakefield Art School. The print has been put on sale in the Hepworth Gallery's shop to generate additional funds for the Unity Hall restoration project.
I was a teenager when I etched the original image and had no idea, at that time, that 50 years later it would be available as a limited edition print in such a setting. The etching shows a view of Wakefield from nearby Heath Common, (as it looked back in 1963), complete with the City's now long ago demolished power station and cooling towers. I remember spending that 1960's afternoon on Heath Common, sketching the view of Wakefield and later trying to transform it, (back in the Art School's print making room), into a kind of 'neo-cubist' rendition of the scene. The resulting zinc-plate etching had something about it, despite my relative inexperience with the medium. Can I admit that I'm rather proud of it?
I've also recently been involved with a more contemporary art exhibition. My 'Lacuna' video piece has been shown as part of 'Noise And Whispers,' an exhibition of sound art held at the GV gallery in London. I wasn't able to make the trip for the opening/private view (or the closing party), but I'm really pleased to have one of my video pieces exhibited as part of it. Hopefully, some of this diary's London readers will have found time to attend.
Other activities: I opened a Facebook page some time ago and have attempted to contribute to it and other Facebook pages/groups devoted to my music.
Despite its allure, I find Facebook to be a frustrating and time-consuming experience, particularly the latter. I'm amazed by just how much time people seem to have available to post superficial or banal comments. Don't they have work to do? ;-)
Facebook, it appears, is the perfect digital platform for the celebration of trivia, though it isn't entirely without redeeming features...but...sometimes it's a struggle to find them.
Anyway, I'm hoping that my less than enthusiastic embrace of Facebook might serve as a promotional device of some sort, a means of spreading my music to a wider audience, (though I'm wondering whether I really want to deal with such a possible outcome).
I'm forced to wonder, do these self-declared fans from the past really care about the music itself? Or is it just a social opportunity to wallow in feelings of nostalgia, a flickering, virtual space in which to re-live long-lost youth? Maybe I'm being a little too critical here.
Well, don't misunderstand...I'm not knocking nostalgia itself, of course not. I'm an old nostalgia fetishist myself, especially when the nights close in and life gets grim. At those moments I allow myself to drift back to more innocent times, opening my mental cinema to replay movies of childhood and days of romantic longing from an era before I was even born.. I'm ok with all that....up to a point.
But it's the reluctance of some people to balance the past with the here and now that bugs me. How to encourage them to step away from the damp fogs of yesteryear into the bright sunlight of the present day?
One thing the FB experience has revealed is the appreciation of certain fans who have taken the musical trip with me from the 1970's to now. I'm lucky in that respect...my current music resonates with many people and I'm thrilled and grateful that it does.
New projects? This year, I've enjoyed an absolutely lovely collaboration with the fabulously talented guitarist Reeves Gabrels. We've spent several days together in my little home studio, (across the year), creating an album which we are currently thinking of calling 'Fantastic Guitars.'
It's now finished, apart from giving the eleven individual tracks their titles and choosing a running order before finally mastering the album over at Fairview with John Spence . (Oh, and the package design needs to be done too.) But, this album is, I think, genuinely special.
I've long been a big fan of Reeves' playing, but the icing on the cake is that he has turned out to be one of the nicest people I've ever had the pleasure to collaborate with. And music is Reeves' heartbeat. His CV is enviable...David Bowie, Lou Reed, The Cure, to name but three major artists whose music he has graced. (But I don't need to tell you that, you already know.) I'm honoured to know him as a valued friend and inspiring musician.
'Fantastic Guitars' will, all being well, emerge around Spring of 2014. It's a rich, complex, quirky album of guitar instrumentals. Many hours of listening pleasure for those with ears to hear!
Even more work lined up for next year: I'm not allowed to reveal details yet, but there's something quite grand on the horizon. It looks as if it will make such an intense demand on my time that I won't be able to deal with much else for at least the first third of 2014. I was hoping to stage a 2014 Nelsonica but this new project may take precedence over it. I'll reveal all when the time is right.
What else? As mentioned earlier, the release of my latest album, 'The Sparkle Machine.' This is a guitar-based exploratory instrumental album. Richly textured with processed and filtered guitar sounds. It combines psychedelia with improvisation, mashing up rock and jazz and blues to such a degree that genres and barriers dissolve in a sort of widescreen 'guitar-scope.' This album builds a crystal bridge between 'Albion Dream Vortex' and next year's 'Fantastic Guitars' collaboration with Reeves. I'm limiting 'The Sparkle Machine' to strictly 500 copies, most of which have already sold out.
An item of sad news: On the 10th of December, jazz guitarist Jim Hall passed away at the age of 83. Jim was one of the true geniuses of Jazz guitar. I first heard him in my teens. His playing was refined and sophisticated and his influence and inspiration extended beyond the realms of jazz to so many other guitarists. I've been an admirer of his playing for years and was thrilled to receive a little note and autograph from him last year when a friend (and fan of my music) in America gave Jim a couple of my albums at an event where Jim was appearing.
Jim immediately and kindly wrote a little note to me, which my friend forwarded to me. I treasure it, even now more than ever.
Here's an excerpt from a tribute to Jim which appeared in Premier Guitar magazine. I hope that it will serve to introduce you to his work in case you don't know of it:
“Every time Jim Hall opened his case there was a sticker inside the lid that reminded him of his mantra. “Make musical sense.” Hall died in his sleep on December 10, 2013, at the age of 83. His contributions to guitar—both as a player and composer—elevated the instrument and made a deep and lasting impression on the musical world.
At times, Hall could be both elegant and angular with his approach but he never stopped searching for the next sound. Much in the mold of Hendrix, Michael Hedges, and Les Paul, Hall was an innovator who stretched, bent, and pushed the boundaries of modern jazz guitar and created a uniquely soulful language all his own. His approach to harmony, comping, and rhythm was groundbreaking and his landmark album with saxophonist Sonny Rollins, The Bridge, is a classic example of this.
The integrity of a musical passage always trumped the desire for technical flash. Hall's unassuming personality and sharp wit mirrored his approach to music. "He had the most incredible sense of humor andcould cast his listening like a light on everyone in sight, so when in his company, you felt like you couldn't ever go wrong," shares guitarist Julian Lage, who had recently formed a quartet with Hall. After a recent tribute concert organized by guitarist Joel Harrison, Hall tracked down the names and addresses of all the musicians who performed and wrote each one a handwritten thank you note.
It could be argued that the jazz guitar tree is rooted in four names: Django, Charlie, Wes, and Jim. Virtually every guitarist, from classical to shred, has been touched by the music that flowed from that quartet.
Even after some recent health issues slowed down Hall's physical abilities, he never lost his touch for the instrument. The notes that would flow out of his Sadowsky archtop combined the best of bebop, folk, blues, and Americana. His individual spirit brought joy to many people and he will be sorely missed.”
Jim had a reputation for being a really nice person as well as a maestro. His recorded legacy will continue to inspire me and so many others.
My birthday a week ago already...I'm now 65 and am in the first week of my 66th year. Life, as they say, is short and feels shorter with every passing moment. Not nearly enough hours on the dial of the clock and, sadly, not enough power in its batteries. So much more I want to achieve, so much to learn, so much to refine and bring to fruition.
When I was a 1950's kid, playing in the back garden of my parent's Eastmoor Estate council flat, in the West Yorkshire City of Wakefield, I caught summer's bright butterflies in old glass jam-jars. Now I try to catch fleeting moments in words and music. Time is a great mystery.
A big THANK YOU for your much appreciated support this last year. I hope I will be able to provide you with more listening pleasure in 2014.
Until then, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all!
Much love from your old pal Bill. xxx