Thursday 16th June 2005 -- Mid Evening.
Damaged my left hand last week, mainly middle finger, by accidentally hitting the bannister on the stairs whilst rolling up my shirt sleeves. Yes, I know, a dumb thing to do but, as pathetic as it sounds, it hurt like hell. The blow pushed the finger inwards, against the joints and tendon. It's been painful, swollen and red and I couldn't play guitar for a few days. Difficult to grip things and to drive without discomfort too. Finally on the mend but still a little tenderness. I seem to be either much more clumsy in my late middle age or simply more accident prone than of yore.
Two envelopes from Harold arrived in the post last week, one containing photographs of the desert house within which he composed the 'Bride In The Trees'/'Widow In The Trees' pieces that we duetted on at the Brighton concert. The other envelope contained a letter with Harold's thoughts on his 'retirement', his reflections on the concert itself, and more general chit-chat. Harold's letters are always a joy to read and I consider myself fortunate to receive them.
Whilst on the subject of communications, I received a long and generous email from artist Russell Mills recently. Good to hear from him. I'm going to try to contribute a few 'off cuts' of music to a sound assembly project he's working on. Lots of interesting people involved in it. Hopefully, I can donate some prima materia to the communal sonic soup.
Also recieved an email from Kate, (St. John), and spoke with her on the 'phone. As I've mentioned before in this diary, I'm very fond of Kate, she's one of those rare people who I can relax around and talk openly about anything. I hope to ask her and Theo Travis to join me for parts of my London concert this coming November, if I can come up with some music worthy of the two of them.
Actually, the writing of new music is not going too well right now, and not just because of my hand injury. After I returned from Brighton the other week, I listened back to the unfinished tracks I'd been working on prior to Harold's concert and suddenly decided to abandon them. They just didn't tweak my nipples. Not a writer's block, just a barking up of the wrong tree. You'd think that, after completing the Rosewood project, I'd be full of confidence and optimism... but I'm not. All I can hear is its flaws. Perhaps I need to lose my current 'weight of the world' worries, rid myself of the various doubts and fears that have been bothering me, just let things flow more. I've often given this same advice to friends who have hit a similar sort of creative obstacle but, typically, I find it hard, if not impossible, to deal with myself. I just seem to be overburdened with self-doubt and existential angst at the moment. Or is that my regular condition? Anyway... I've consigned the unfinished pieces to the, 're-consider several months hence' bin.
I've now started on an entirely new piece, a vocal one, for both the tour and the tour album. I've completed a couple of mixes of it but... not sure if it's right yet. So, still more tweaking to be done and then a backing track mix of the song to be made for the shows. The song is called 'AND THEN THE RAIN', yet another melancholic rain song, the sort that seem to have become a regular part of my musical vocabulary. This particular one could be said, (by some), to be a 'classic' Bill Nelson romantic rock/pop tune. (Is there such a thing?) There's nothing stylistically new about it but it certainly fits into a certain melodic niche that a lot of people tell me they like. Not that I composed it with that specific result in mind. Like everything else that happens to me, it just happened. More worryingly, I'm pretty much ambivalent about it right now. I'll see how it stands up after I've forgotten about it. Let it settle.
Because my digital recording system allows me extra control, further options, I tend to spend far more time recording each piece than I did with the old analogue tape system I used for so many years. An inclination to fiddle about presents itself. And then, because I spend longer working on each piece, I become bored, indifferent or immune to it. There's a lot to be said for working quickly with limited means. It certainly speeds the process and stops the rot setting in. Not that I'd really go back to the old technology, even though I do, ultimately, prefer the warmth of tape.
The major creative problem I'm having at the moment is caused by the pressure to come up with lyrics. Perhaps it's because I'm not in a vocal-oriented state of mind right now. My passions are pulling me more towards the instrumental end of the spectrum. In fact, not just the instrumental end of the spectrum but the very abstract end of it. The bit that verges almost on silence.
Nevertheless, I've been pursuaded to present some vocal songs, (as well as instrumentals), at the autumn concerts so I have to come up with something worthwhile. Maybe, I'm panicking unduly, but panicking I definitely am. What I really need is a holiday or at least a healthy break away from all of this. (How often have I said that?) I don't seem to have stopped for the last few years now, a constant chasing of my own tail. Is it so surprising that I'm feeling exhausted? My own fault, of course, no-one to blame but me. But... Because of the amount of work I've produced over the years, people often think it comes easy, that it's stress free and constantly on tap. If only that were the case. The reason I've produced so much stuff isn't because it's easy, it's because I work very hard at it and with a passion, to the point where I regularly endanger my physical health and mental well-being. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it often feels like I'm emptying my life and soul into these things. I love doing this work, but it's much more of a struggle than people might realise.
Adrian at Opium asked if I could suggest four tracks from my catalogue that could be given to the agent to play to promotors to give them some idea of what my solo concerts are like. I certainly can do this, if it helps, but I'm pretty amazed that, after the extremely well attended 'Romance Of Sustain' solo tour I presented in 2003 and last year's sell out solo+band tour, that it's neccesary for me to 'audition' for promotors in this way. Or am I presuming too much? I'm not exactly expecting two weeks at the Albert Hall, after all. Maybe these people are too worried about losing money to really make any, too concerned with certainty to take chances. It's almost boringly predictable, safe bets all round. As my father used to say: ' jobs for the boys.' How unexciting, how banal. Unfortunately, such attitudes don't sit comfortably with my own. It's way too sleepy slow for me. Still, musn't grumble. I'm just as effective and happy in my little studio as out on the stage, probably more so. If the tour happens, it happens, if it doesn't, I've certainly got plenty of other things to get on with.
My CD burner still not fixed. My fault for not unwiring it from the studio set up and hauling it over to Leeds to get it repaired. Must do this soon. Must also do same with my Line 6 Vetta combo which is still sporting a broken volume control. Domestic repairs needed all over the house, too...not just my studio equipment. Serious repairs. Trouble is, I get terribly distracted by the ongoing creative stuff. It grabs me by the throat and won't let me think about anything else until it's had its wicked way with me. And not just that but administrative stuff too, little niggly things that take up time and make the things I really want to do more pressurised than they need be. Life at this end of 'the business' is far tougher than when I used to play the commercial game. God knows if it's art or not but, whatever it is, it's bloody hard going sometimes.
One area of progress: A new keyboard is on order, a Yamaha Motif ES 88. To replace my busted Emulator E4 K workstation. I should try to sell the latter, even though some of the keys need replacing. I've used it for the last ten years or so, some great sounds in it plus it operates as a sampler. It would be a fine instrument for someone who was prepared to get the keys fixed. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to getting the new keyboard in the hope that some unfamiliar sounds will spark fresh creative ideas.
Car troubles this last week. Both Emi's car and mine have been in the repair shop for work to get the vehicles through their MOT's. An expensive business. Cars are generally a nightmare, especially old, high mileage ones like ours. Four-wheeled money vampires.
A nice series started on tv last Sunday, about the English landscape and how it has influenced artists throughout history. Beautifully photographed and uplifting. Of course, Yorkshire figured highly in the first episode. God's own county, as they say. I never tire of having that glorious landscape on my doorstep. I consider myself blessed to live amongst it.
It's not all glorious landscapes though. Royal Ascot horse races are being held in York this week. A Royal pain in the arse, I call it. (Arsecot?) It disrupts the roads around here dramatically. An entire week of being stuck in traffic on some routes. (And when I say 'traffic' I mean mostly those flashy, 'look how much cash I've got' sort of cars, the type I gave up for lost 20 years or more ago.) Still, I've been able to giggle at all the drunken, flimsily clad women tottering around town on their high heels with their spotty boobs hanging out. Bolly dollys a-go-go. Cheap as chips and twice as greasy. Pink and purple and yellow and green...and that's just their faces. You can tell I love 'em though. Flirty tarts dancing to dated disco music around their tacky pink handbags at after race parties all over town. Pissed as arseholes. Absolutely! Desperate! The men are as just bad too, puffed up like red faced baboons in grey morning suits and top hats. Makes the place look untidy.
It's hilarious to see the fuss being made about the event locally. Shove the Queen (and the few other Royals that bothered to show up) into the equation and everyone starts strutting around as if they're suddenly in on something of earth shattering importance.. 'It's The Queen, you know... Yes, my dear, here in our town, on our doorstep...' (Actually, she's staying in our village, just a short walk from our house, so shove that down your majestic pipe and flush it. Of course, me and ol' Charlie were down the local boozer the other night, riffing about Abba. We're the same age, don't cha know...)
What this event has proved is that most people are so transparently desperate for celebrity that any slight brush or association with it will be gobbled up greedily. Endless lines of local traders clambering over each other to genuflect in front of the old boiler. Sad really, if it wasn't such a comedy. Still, keeps 'em in idle chit-chat if nothing else. Maybe I'm cynical and jaded, the 'been there, done that' attitude. I shouldn't begrudge them their little stab at self-aggrandisment. God knows life's dull enough for most folks around these parts. Let 'em enjoy their brush with 'royalty' whilst it lasts. Mind you, the weather has been less than cheerful for the event most of the week. Certainly dampened the silly hats down a bit. Then again, it's made those exquisitely flimsy dresses even more amusing. Wish I'd have had my camera handy to show you what I mean.
What's the word you're looking for to describe me? Incorrigible? Rude? Disrespectful? Scandalous? Anarchic? Jealous? (Gimmie a break!) Probably something much stronger if you're a saddo royal limo chaser. If nothing else, this event has provided me with a useful stage on which to act out my grumpy old man scenario. Royalty and advocates of blood sports...ripe for scorn in my book. Still, the betting shops and bookies will be happy. Plenty of pseudo-posh dosh being squandered, despite the current local opinion that the event has been something of a failure. Not enough people bothered to show up apparently. A case of Southern snobbishness and indifference meets Northern greed and shiftyness. Hotels and other local businesses were hoping to be run off their feet, dreaming of train-loads of cash flowing in from the migrating Southerners. Local prices went up with local expectations. Trouble is, the buggers stayed home in droves, (thankfully). Well, it's crowded enough 'round here at this time of year without mock-toffs and posh totty adding to it.
Obviously, I've never been one for frequenting the old betting shop... can't afford it of course, being a tortured artist and all that. And probably wouldn't if I could. My Dad used to like the 'gee gees 'though. But personally, those high voices and beards never appealed to me.
Actually, Dad used to occasionally win some money on the horses. Even though he was far from being a wealthy man and couldn't place large stakes. But he had a certain way with 'accumulators', the winnings from one race being immediately placed as a bet on the next, and so on. A sort of a 'system', he claimed. He was pretty good at it. Won enough to pay for our family's entire holiday in Blackpool once. The bookie behind the Pleasure Beach banned him from placing bets there ever again, told him not to come back. Dad cleaned him out, it seemed. Oh, how we laughed. It was extra sticks of Blackpool rock all round.
My Dad liked soccer too but that never appealed to me either. I do know the name of one football player though... Stanley Matthews. Little guy with big shorts and Brylcreemed hair from what I recall. A 1950's schoolboy hero for some. Actually, (and obviously), I'm playing the fool a bit here... I did actually go to a soccer match once. My Dad took me to a game in Blackpool, when we were on holiday there, (but not the time when he got banned from the bookies). He hoped I'd be enthused by a real live soccer match but I was bored rigid. Much preferred going to the Tower Circus or listening to Reginald Dixon play the mighty Wurlitzer in The Tower Ballroom. Or go for a spin on a promenade childrens ride called 'Fairyland'. My mother says I really liked that one. Sounds about right. I was, so I'm told, a sensitive kid and according to my school chums something of an odd-bod. And there's me thinking that it was everyone else that was strange. Times change but maybe not so much.
Watched Fellini's delightful and shouty 'Amacord' on DVD the other night. Music by Nino Rota. Great name that, 'Nino Rota'. I really like Fellini's colour sense and the way that his camera moves against the wonderfully choreographed crowd scenes. 'Juliet Of The Spirits' is one of my Fellini faves. And 'Eight And A Half' of course. Great opening scene in that one. Lets go fly a kite but dreamy-weird.
I'm reading 'In The Half Light' by Anthony Lawrence. The author is a poet and this is his first novel and it's a cracking one. The entire book is imbuded with the quality of poetry, a flowing, beautiful, compulsive read. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys intelligent, unusual, imaginative and elegantly written prose. This is a book that doesn't treat its reader like an idiot. I was initially attracted to it by the cover image which is subtly haunting. These days, in my opinion, book graphic design has overtaken album sleeve design for inventiveness.
Recently bought a 'moleskine' blank notebook and a graphite pencil from Salt's Mill. Had a late Sunday lunch there again last weekend. Emi and I love visiting the place. The combination of Hockney's work and the historic 'utopian model village' setting creates a very civilised atmosphere. The excellent book shop in the gallery previously had several copies of my 'Diary Of A Hyperdreamer' book on the shelves, but they've sold out now. (I know because some Japanese friends whom we took there recently wanted to buy copies but the assistant at Salt's Mill said they'd all gone.) Anyway, I intend to carry the moleskine notebook with me in my shoulder bag at all times, to use as a sketchbook. Always to hand should inspiration strike. Of course, I'll either forget I'm carrying it or I'll be too busy trying to create music for the autumn tour to get any sketching done, more's the pity.
Must write to John Foxx soon. Harold and John and I should try to get together to record something. Despite Harold's retirement. I meant to contact John a week or two ago but seem to be constantly distracted by one thing or another. I really should make more of an effort to stay in touch with people. By 'people,' I mean those whose sensibilities would encourage me towards a less pessimistic outlook. Those who would inspire me to take a few more sunlit chances. Positive creatives who understand all this stuff. But, left to my own devices, I retreat into shadow, spitting and hissing to no effect at all, other than to alienate those who might otherwise share their time with me. Darkness and light, and not much of the latter. Something's up, but what? Depression again? Maybe... but as I said, it doesn't get any easier. Come on, William, you're raving. Buck up... just get on with it!
Sound of helicopters passing overhead, ferrying the wealthy to and from their royal race meeting. There must have been thirty or more 'copters parked in a field near the race course at the start of the week, just opposite the allotments. Less now though. Some local farmer will probably be making a few extra bob by allowing them to land there. I've seen the pound signs in so many people's eyes these last few weeks, the sudden lust for personal glory. Can't say it's a surprise. Police everywhere too... What this nonsense is costing us locals is anyone's guess. Outrageous, probably. Never mind... Back to normality next week. The right wing nouveau-rich will be back in their kitsch little boxes where they clearly belong. What a relief! All that frilly, fluffy pink bad taste makes the place look untidy. Pip pip! Cheerio chums!