Sunday 23rd October 2005
A sense of relief and satisfaction this morning. And a hangover. Yesterday's annual Nelsonica Convention turned out to be another grand day out for all its attendees and particularly for myself. It's always a pleasure to spend the day with such devoted fans and friends but yesterday's event was particularly heart warming for me, in so many ways.
As always before these conventions (and indeed, before any public appearance of mine), I seem to get myself worked up into a state of nervousness approaching outright panic. I had been working flat out over the past few weeks, preparing new material for the forthcoming tour, including video pieces to project behind me on stage. In fact, I lost a lot of time when two days worth of video footage and seven days worth of render files were inadvertantly erased from my computer's hard disc... the second such loss this year (although the first time it happened was on my multi-track hard-disc recorder, rather than my computer). The days before the convention saw me working into the early hours to try to catch up with lost time. In the end, I managed to make videograms for 10 of the pieces of music in the set. But it was tough going. My friend Paul Gilby burned my finished digital video tapes to DVD for me, literally on the night before Nelsonica opened its doors to the public. It was all very much a last minute thing.
Fortunately, Jon Wallinger and the convention team of Ian, Eddie, Ged and Dave had pre-planned the actual event to perfection and didn't suffer from the computer malfunctions that blighted both myself and Paul's efforts.
Everyone attending the event commented on how extremely well organised the day was. But, what appears on the surface as relaxed and smooth running is actually the product of months of hard work, forward thinking, careful teamwork and organisational skill. The Nelsonica team coped superbly with all the logistics involved and, apart from a frustrating mistake at the pressing plant involving the manufacture of both the 'Sailor Bill' album and the convention's limited edition 'Orpheus In Ultraland' album, all went like clockwork.
The pressing plant problem was completely unforseen and entirely out of our control. It seems that they hadn't printed up the albums sleeve art in time to deliver to Nelsonica and it was only after some very formal complaints from Paul that we got anything from them at all. In the end, they sent up just enough convention albums to give to ticket holders, but, unfortunately, minus cover artwork and sleeves. We now have to send each convention ticket holder the artwork through the post. Once the factory gets around to delivering them to us, that is. Annoying, frustrating, etc, etc... especially after all the hard work that went into finishing those albums in time to get them manufactured.
Nevertheless, this problem didn't seem to mar people's enjoyment. I heard nothing but praise from attendees and the event was a great success.
There were many familiar faces there but also many new ones too. People are always extremely sweet and kind to me at Nelsonica and this year's convention was no exception. I was bowled over by the warmth of sentiment shown to me by everyone I spoke to. It was also a pleasant surprise to meet up with someone I hadn't seen for many years, someone I remember fondly from the very earliest days of Be Bop Deluxe, before we were professional musicians. The band played the Leeds pub circuit in the early 'seventies and the person I'm referring to used to be a regular audience member.
Although she was usually accompanied by her boyfriend, she managed to slip away from him to spend a little time with me. I was very flattered by this attention, particularly as she was an attractive 17 year old at the time and I wasn't the typical, 'party animal' type of rock guitarist. I hope I was a bit more sensitive than that. I'll admit to always having a deeply romantic nature and I guess that was the way that this particular relationship took me, although I was actually married at the time... but not happily, or for long, I must stress!
Of course, I was a much younger, less wise man back then, skinny, selfish and ambitious. What time does to us though, eh? Well, the years have certainly changed my waistline for the worst, if not my ambition. But maybe the ambition is focussed elsewhere now, less concerned with commercial success and glamour. But I still want to achieve so many other things. But I do hope I've developed more compassion for others and have tamed the wilder aspects of my ego. Anyway... it was lovely to see that the person mentioned above looked hardly any different from those long ago days, apart from a rather vivid change of hair colour!
I, on the other hand, have less and less hair to worry about these days... (Probably as a result of bleaching it blonde, back in the 'eighties!) The stresses and strains of a life spent battling to preserve some kind of musical freedom have left their unfortunate mark, I guess. I'm sure my appearance must have come as something of a shock to someone who hasn't met me for over thirty years. It comes as a shock to me everytime I catch my reflection in a mirror! But life is strange and things go around in circles it seems. Old faces return out of the mist with warm smiles and welcoming eyes. It's beautiful, sad and poetic all at the same time.
As well as the happy opportunities to meet with friends, Nelsonica this year provided a new item on the programme. I was the subject of a 'live on stage' interview with Simon Warner who coaxed out my thoughts about the arts in general and their influence on my musical career. I really enjoyed this part of the programme and, from what I can gather, the attendees did too.
There was also an opportunity to give everyone a preview of the 'Sailor Bill' album, even if we had no copies available for them to take home. I included a piece from the album in my live performance, the song 'The Ocean, The Night And The Big, Big Wheel'. I chose this track as it is one of the easier songs to tackle from the album, at least in a 'solo performance with backing tracks' style. (Which is what my forthcoming November tour will be.) I had some reservations about including vocals in the set at all, but the four I've allowed myself to perform seem to work quite well. Much better than I expected.
As with all the recent Nelsonicas, I end the day feeling a little bit melancholy as well as happy. It's the celebratory aspect of the event that both encourages and warms one's heart but it also helps to underline the passing of the years and how much is still to be achieved. So many possible ideas to pursue and yet nowhere near enough time to fulfill them. I could never be one of those self-conscious minimalist types who squeeze out an album once every few years as if it was some gargantuan triumph over a kind of creative constipation, or some precious god-like artefact torn from deep within the soul. Music for apartment dwellers and aging yuppies? That sort of approach feels a little too restricting for me, too tedious and slow and too obviously tweaked to fit a certain marketplace. I prefer the constant fireworks display, the snowstorm of thought, the perpetual fountain of sound. The Kerouac continuous roll.
Having said that, 'Sailor Bill' just about exhausted me beyond anything I've ever done before. A lot of work and attention to detail... But it was made over a few months, not years. I'm still very pleased with the way it came out though, compromised or not. Considering I made it on a non-existent budget, without the help of other musicians, engineers or whatever, I think I can allow myself to feel a little pride and satisfaction with regard to the end result. I think that time will vidicate me on this one.
Now I'm back in video making mode, creating further videograms to project behind me on next month's concert dates. More slow and painstaking work, but it is getting there, bit by bit.
Weather definitely colder now, leaves falling faster from the trees, rain and grey skies, darker earlier. I'm glad we have such seasonal changes and not the less dramatic seasonal uniformity of mediterranean countries. Living here in Yorkshire, the landscape really allows one to see nature's cycle in a vivid and wonderful manner. I consider myself extremely lucky to have such beauty on my doorstep. And, as Nelsonica serves to remind me, to have such beautiful, warm hearted fans to share my music with.
I'm hoping to dream up some new ideas to incorporate in next year's Nelsonica, to try and make it even better and more unmissable. With a fair wind and the blessing of the fates. Thanks to everyone involved in this year's event, both on the organisational side and the attendee's side. You gave me a day I'll never forget.