William's Study (Diary Of A Hyperdreamer)
Thursday 24th September 2009 -- 8:20 pm
This diary entry begins in almost exactly the same way as the previous entry of 20th August, that is to say with Emiko departing, once again, for Japan. She left very early this morning and will be away for an indefinite length of time, looking after her seriously ill mother in Tokyo. (I'll write in more detail about this latest trip towards the end of today's diary entry.)
Emi was away, last time, for two weeks, but, even though I had a long list of Nelsonica preparations to occupy me, her absence felt more like two months. As always, I missed her terribly and found it very hard to fulfill my Nelsonica duties whilst having to deal with various home commitments plus responsibilities to my own mother.
For Emi, the situation in Tokyo was very difficult. Her mother came home from hospital where she had become very depressed and insular. It seems that there's little that can be done for her in physical terms but it was hoped that the return to her apartment, coupled with Emi's presence and personal care, would raise her mum's spirits. It did so, noticably, but required constant attention on Emi's part and a daily care routine that hardly allowed Emi to leave her mother's apartment the whole time she was in Japan.
Nevertheless, Emi WAS able to briefly return to the U.K, just in time to help with the final period of my convention preparations, taking care of domestic issues whilst I concentrated on the work remaining to be done.
This included the selection, assembly and mastering of my live performance backing tracks and the last minute creation of several drawings for the Nelsonica auction along with the custom decoration of an Eastwood 'Ichiban' guitar, (generously donated by Eastwood boss Mike Robinson), for the Grand Prize Draw.
I also took time out to arrange some essential guitar repairs with Gordon White at Music Ground in Leeds, the very nice man who does all my guitar set-up work for me: (www.singlecoil.co.uk) I had Gordon apply his talents to the Gibson 'Black Beauty' Les Paul Custom guitar generously gifted to me by the late Michael Grime and his very kind wife Kate, (I had a new nut and heavier strings fitted and a general set-up). Gordon also worked on my Campbell Nelsonic Transitone signature guitar, (a slight lowering of the action and an intonation adjustment in this case).
Two days before Nelsonica I'd spent a busy afternoon in a Leeds rehearsal room with guitar tech Pete Harwood and sound engineer Ian Thorpe, making sure that my full stage equipment set-up was functioning properly whilst reminding myself of its myriad features. Unfortunately, I don't have enough space in my home studio to accomodate this rather complex live performance rig, so it's essential that I hire a room big enough to wire everything up and get to grips with its various pedals and sounds before I give any concerts. As I only perform live once a year these days, an awful lot rides on that brief afternoon of rehearsal.
Whilst Emi had been away in Japan, (from 20th August until the 4th September), I'd individually signed 250 special presentation tins that were designed to hold the Nelsonica convention album and various other 'welcome pack' items. (The autographing of these tins took far longer than I'd originally anticipated. In fact it took me several evenings and two permanent marker pens to complete the task!)
During this time I also put finishing touches to the two new presentation audio-visual pieces created for the convention, ('Materialisation Phenomena' and 'Welcome To The Dream Transmission Pavilion'), as well as beginning and completing an eight minute long video piece designed to accompany a new 'Orchestra Futura' live performance track titled 'Machines Of Loving Grace.'
Along with the above, I also managed to record 12 new backing tracks for the Nelsonica concert. However, I found it impossible to fit them all into the set list as I needed to leave enough space to include several older pieces alongside the newer material. I actually spent a few fraught days assembling draft running orders and changing them around until eventually arriving at a version that came close to satisfying me...but even then, I was forced to leave out several other pieces that I'd hoped to perform.
Nevertheless, the final result was a live solo set lasting over 70 minutes and consisting of 14 numbers with a further three tracks on reserve as potential extras, plus seven extended improvisation 'Orchestra Futura' pieces for the separate live trio set. 'Orchestra Futura' musicians Dave Sturt and Theo Travis each contributed their own starting points/backing tracks to add to my own two Futura pieces, so this year we had a full set to present to the audience rather than the brief 'taster' of last year.
Another unique feature of this year's convention was a live on-stage interview with legendary record producer John Leckie and myself. John and I co-produced Be Bop Deluxe's recordings from the 'Sunburst Finish' album onwards, plus the Red Noise 'Sound-On-Sound' album and also my 'Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam' solo album. We've kept in touch over the intervening years and I count John amongst my dearest friends, even though his busy schedule and my own crazy work ethic makes it difficult to actually meet up as often as we'd like.
Luckily, this year John had a gap in his usually packed diary and contacted me to say that he'd like to come up to Yorkshire to attend Nelsonica. I immediately asked him if he'd be willing to take part in an on-stage interview alongside me and he very kindly accepted.
Plans had already been put in place for me to take part in a live interview, (to be conducted by Nelsonica team member Ian Haydock), on the subject of Red Noise's 'Sound-On-Sound' album, but a last minute adjustment switched the theme over to the broader topic of the work that John and I had accomplished together in the past, plus some more general questions about John's extensive post Be Bop Deluxe production career.
It was lovely to see John again...we always seem to resume where we left off, no matter how much water passes under the proverbial bridge in between our meetings. I guess we've always had a natural rapport which made the experience of working together a happy and comfortable one.
The actual convention was very well attended and enthusiastically received. My two nephews, (my late brother Ian's two sons), came along, as did my mother and my cousin Ian.
Guitarist/singer/artist Brendan Croker also was a guest, as was Kate Grime and Michael Grime's sister Sheila and her husband Brian. Kate had travelled from France to attend. Ian Gilby of 'Sound-On-Sound' magazine joined in with his brother Paul to enjoy the day too.
My only regret with these things is that I'm so constantly 'on-call' throughout the event that I don't get enough time to properly attend to the needs of my guests. My mind is always whirling around, thinking ahead to the next part of the day's programme, stressing out about one thing or another, racing to get clothes changed between live performance sets, trying to speak to fans who come up to me with compliments or questions, etc, etc. However hard I try to relax and enjoy the day, I always end up worrying that I've not given enough time to everyone as a result of my pre-occupation with the event's performance and presentation duties.
Anyway, the live music performances apparently went well, despite some very frustrating on-stage monitor problems encountered by myself during my solo set.
Working with pre-recorded backing tracks, plus direct to pa system guitar feeds means, for me, that every single component of my performance exists only in the monitor speakers at my feet. There are no guitar amps, drums, acoustic instruments, etc on stage with me...the entire 'virtual band,' as it were, along with my live guitar playing and vocals, are only audible to myself via those basic on-stage monitors.
This always presents problems of one sort or another, particularly as rock band pa monitors do not behave like studio monitor speakers. Bass frequencies and high frequencies tend to become over emphasised whilst the middle frequencies, (where much of the important detail resides), often gets overlooked or simply muddied by the extended low bass drones. Couple this imbalance with a hollow wooden stage that inadvertantly acts as a kind of huge, boomy bass cabinet, plus a hall that throws the front of house sound back at the stage as if from a long reverberant tunnel and you end up with a guitarist struggling to guess exactly where he is in the track. It was very difficult, on Saturday, for me to hear the cues and chord changes essential to finding my way through the music. Unsurprisingly, my playing always suffers because of this problem and so I ended up being a very disheartened bunny indeed.
But, judging by the many positive comments I later recieved from the audience, it seems that the front-of-house sound was more than fine. This was, I'm sure, due to the care applied at the mixing desk by my good friend John Spence who was looking after the sound mix in the hall itself. I just wish I could have had something more comfortable to work with on-stage.
'In-ear' monitoring has been suggested as one possible alternative to the problem...but it's an expensive solution and one I'm not sure of.
Actually, one of the best live performance experiences I've had was at two Leeds University School Of Music concerts when the on-stage monitoring was handled by a pair of in-house Genelec recording studio speakers, rather than the usual rock n' roll monitors. The sound was clear, detailed and inspiring to play to.
My own selfish concerns aside, Nelsonica 09 was a big success and the friendship, warmth and kindness of everyone involved, from the fabulous and talented Nelsonica team, through to the various guests and the fans themselves, made it a wonderful day. I've said it before but these conventions have evolved to the point that they're more like extended family gatherings than fan conventions. I'm very lucky to have found such loyal and enthusiastic support for my music and I'm extremely grateful to everyone involved.
But now, only four days since the hustle and bustle and human interaction of Nelsonica, I'm once again alone in the house, typing these words in an empty silence and wondering how long it will be before I see my wife again.
Emiko's mother is still very ill but it seems that there is no way to estimate the speed of the disease's progress. Her condition has fluctuated, some days being worse than others but with occassional flashes of respite. We simply don't know what the future holds, other than an inevitably sad conclusion.
When Emi returned to England on the 4th September, her mother went back into hospital, but now that Emi is, once again, on her way back to Japan, her mother will come out of hospital so that Emi can take care of her at her mum's Tokyo apartment.
There is no social or free health care in Japan, everything has to be paid for and hospital costs are high. Emi's mum has no health insurance, nor enough money to deal with extensive and expensive medical costs, so being cared for at home by her family and friends as long as possible seems like the only practical solution.
In any case, Emi's mum has not felt happy in hospital and prefers to be at home with Emi looking after her. And Emi is glad to be able to spend some time caring for her mother at this depressing and painful time.
This morning, we were both up at 5 am to get ready for Emi's departure. Last time, she flew from Yeadon airport to Japan, via Amsterdam. As I noted in my previous diary entry, Yeadon (Leeds/Bradford airport) is very convenient for us but we just couldn't get a suitable flight from there this time.
The only alternative was for Emi to fly to Tokyo via Helsinki from Manchester airport. And the most comfortable way to get to Manchester airport from here is by train, although the journey takes a while.
So I drove Emi to York station at 6 am this morning and put her on the Manchester Airport train. After waving goodbye to her from the platform, I drove back home feeling predictably miserable and lost. Walking into our home, these sad feelings were magnified. It's just not a home without Emiko, only bricks and mortar.
Since beginning this diary entry, Emi has called me from Manchester airport to let me know that she'd arrived safely there and checked in at the departure desk for her flight to Finland.
Then, just over three hours later, she called again from Helsinki to say that she was awaiting her connecting flight to Tokyo.
It is now 3:35 pm, (U.K. time), and Emi will be 15 minutes into her flight from Helsinki to Japan. This leg of the journey will take around 12 hours so she will arrive at Narita airport sometime around 3:20 am tomorrow morning. I've told her that it's o.k. to telephone me at any time, night or day, so I'm hoping to be woken in the early hours by her calling to let me know she's arrived safely. Then she will have to take the more than two hour coach ride from Narita airport into Tokyo itself, then a taxi to her mother's apartment. All told, a frustratingly long and exhausting journey.
It is Emiko's 61st birthday next month, (4th of October), and it will be the first time since we've been together as a couple that we will not be able to celebrate her birthday together.
I bought her two birthday gifts on Tuesday...one of which she has opened already, the other which I've insisted she pack in her suitcase and not open until October 4th in Tokyo.
It's going to be tough, one way or another, because we will be apart for a much longer time than on her previous trip. Emi has an open-ended return ticket and the earliest she can estimate coming back home is the 19th of October. She also has a prestigious flower display commision for the Lord Mayor's Mansion House in November so will need to return to deal with that at some point anyway.
But, meanwhile, I must keep my chin up, telephone her every day in Tokyo, take care of our cats, remember to feed myself properly, keep the house clean, help my mother with her still unresolved legal matter, try not to panic or stay awake all night worrying about this and that...and so on.
Oh, and maybe make a start on the final preparations for my next two album releases, 'Non-Stop Mystery Action' and 'Picture Post.' There's packaging artwork to come up with for both of these projects, plus running orders need to be finalised and tracks mastered at Fairview studios with John Spence.
And maybe, because time passes more quickly when I'm making music, I should also turn my recording equipment on, pick up a guitar and see what loneliness might bring to my solitary musical table.
The images accompanying this diary entry are as follows:-
1: An outake from 'The Love That Whirls' photo session.
2: A filtered outake from the 'Do You Dream In Colour' photo session.
3: Bill on stage in the 1980's.
4: Bill passport photo from the '80's with goatee beard.
5: Bill's photography for Nelsonica '09.
6: Bill's old resonator guitar which he painted in the mid 1960's.