Updated: Dec 6, 2018
This is the first opportunity I've had to write a journal entry since before last Saturday's 'Plectronica' event. Where to start? So much to tell...
The event went extremely well and I was happier with my performance than the one I gave in 2017. Only a few minor moments when I lost the downbeat on the backing tracks on a couple of numbers, just for a few brief moments, but nothing to get depressed about.
The audience were, quite simply, wonderful. From the moment I walked on, right through to 'goodnight,' they were extremely warm and very enthusiastic. I couldn't have wished for a kinder crowd and their appreciation went some way to calming my usual nervousness.
This year was extra special as I was joined by 'Orchestra Futura' for three improvised pieces. And to put the icing on the cake, the trio of Theo Travis, Dave Sturt and myself were joined by very special guest Harold Budd on piano. Harold is one of my oldest and dearest friends and it was a joy to be on stage with him again, (the last time being his 'farewell' concert in Brighton, quite a few years ago.) Harold had flown over from his home in California to attend the concert, initially just to see my performance but generously agreed to sit in with us without any rehearsal.
During the performance my guitars were tuned and brought on stage for me by guitar tech Andy Newlove who did a great job of helping to speed the transition between one guitar and the next. The sound was handled superbly by my old friend John Spence who also dealt with the live stream sound as well as the sound in the room. The live camera mix was directed by Paul Gilby who also took care of projecting my own backdrop videos onto the screen behind me. I was too busy concentrating on my guitar to have time to look around and enjoy the backdrops but I'm told it all looked marvellous.
The event was split into two main sections, the performance itself and a live interview with myself conducted by Ian Haydock. I suspect we were only able to deal with a fraction of the very incisive and interesting questions Ian devised for the interview, (probably due to my rambling anecdotes,) but the audience thoroughly enjoyed it.
There were a couple of surprises in store for me: First of all, Ian read out some lovely tributes from other musicians, all of which touched my heart and were totally unexpected. The tributes came from Harold Budd, John Foxx, Stephen Mallinder, (of 'Cabaret Voltaire' fame,) Kate St John and Iain Denby, the great bass player who recorded with me in the '80s. Extremely grateful and deeply touched by this. I never expected such a thing and everyone was so very kind in their tributes.
Another huge surprise came when it was revealed that a number of fans had got together to fund the purchase of a very special Backlund 'Super-100' guitar for me. I'd mentioned, in an earlier journal entry, how much I liked this guitar which was being made in a limited edition of just 12 instruments. However, I also said I dare not buy one as Emiko would most likely go up the wall with me! But now, it seems some very generous fans have solved the problem by purchasing one for me. It will be delivered sometime in January, (once built,) and I'm very much looking forward to playing it. I may even have to set up another performance next year to show the instrument off...
Backstage my mother, son, two daughters, grandson and nephew all helped to make the event a family affair. So nice to see them all together in one place. My eldest daughter Julia and grandson Luke had travelled up from London specially to attend. All in all, a wonderful evening...
Getting home after the show I was greeted by all my guitars and equipment stacked in the dining room and lounge awaiting me to haul them back upstairs to their respective storage locations. It had taken me three days to get everything downstairs and ready for guitar tech Andy Newlove to collect. I suspected it might take about the same time to cart everything back upstairs. However, only today have I begun the process of moving the equipment because during the previous three days I've spent some absolutely lovely times with Harold Budd and his beautiful partner Elise.
Harold and Elise travelled from Leeds on Sunday morning to check into a B+B in our village and Emi and I spent as much time with them as possible, thoroughly enjoying their company. On Sunday we took them out to Castle Howard for the day which, though rather rainy, was very pleasant. In the evening we went to a restaurant in town and had a fulsome meal and a bucketload of wine plus a lot of laughter.
On Monday we took them to The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield and then to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park before driving back to York and a meal in our favourite village pub. Harold and I reminisced about our various adventures together, the recording of 'By The Dawn's Early Light' in New Orleans, our concerts at the York Arts Centre and at The Ferrens Gallery in Hull, plus concerts we gave in Lisbon, Rome and Japan. Our friendship goes back a long way now, I think to the late '80s, very early '90s.
Harold is, (if not already apparent,) a hero of mine, a remarkable, unique, intelligent man, highly knowledgable about art, a greatly respected composer and pianist. His work garners the highest regard from his contemporaries and I'm honoured to count him as a close and much loved friend. Looking at my own modest journey through music, I never cease to be amazed that Harold would share any musical time with me at all, but I'm thrilled and grateful that he does.
I first came across Harold's work during the recording of the Red Noise album, 'Sound-On-Sound.' I was recording at The Townhouse studio in London and during a lunchtime break had gone into the West End to Tower Records in Piccadilly Circus to try and find some new albums to enjoy. Browsing through the racks I pulled out an album titled 'The Pavilion Of Dreams'. The title immediately struck a resonance with me and I saw that it was by Harold Budd. I turned the cover over and read the track titles, which also echoed my own sensibilities.
I bought the album without hearing it and took it back to The Townhouse studio where I got John Leckie to put it on a turntable and play it back through the studio monitor speakers. And that was it...I fell in love with Harold's compositions, beautiful piano playing with that unmistakable touch that Harold has, and I've been a fan ever since.
We didn't get to meet until a little later, after we'd both had tracks on the 'From Brussels With Love' cassette issued by 'Disques Du Crepescule' a Belgian based label. The cassette featured tracks by several artists, Harold included. My track was a kind of ambient piece titled 'The Way To The Shadow Garden.' Harold apparently heard it and liked it. A year or two later a mutual acquaintance, (Kevin Cann,) arranged for us to meet. We immediately hit it off and have been good friends ever since. It's been one of the most meaningful friendships of my life...
On Tuesday we took Harold and Elise into York and wandered around the Christmas Market after visiting York Minster and 'The Shambles.' Then we retired to 'The Guy Fawkes Inn' for a rather nice lunch with a couple of glasses of wine before ambling though the city to spend a brief half-hour in York Art Gallery looking at the Lucie Rie pottery exhibition before taking Harold and Elise to the railway station for their trip back to London and their eventual flight home to Los Angeles.
Always hard to say goodbye to friends who live so far away. You never know when you will next get a chance to spend time together, and time travels so fast these days. Emi and I missed them as soon as they disappeared into the station. The last few days had been filled with so much conversation and laughter. I'm usually quite a solitary person, not feeling a great need for companionship, other than dear, sweet Emiko and Django the cat. But Harold and Elise brought a certain spark, filling the days we spent with them with something special. A treasured memory...
Now back to reality, (of sorts.) With almost all my equipment carried upstairs, I now have to reconnect the various cables to my studio set-up. Once that's accomplished I need to look at working on this year's Christmas instrumental and getting it recorded. Also need to take my camcorder into town and film the Christmas market and lights for the video which will accompany the music. And all this will then need to be uploaded to my website before Christmas itself. Considering that I will have to devote a fair amount of time to Christmas shopping, sending cards, getting food in, etc, this may be a tall order this year. And we haven't yet put the Christmas Tree up or decorated the house with the usual illuminations.
Cherry Red Records were in touch today about another interview request, which I'm to do this coming Friday. And that's about it for now...
Dave Sturt, Theo Travis, Harold Budd and myself at The Clothworker's Hall in Leeds on December 1st 2018. Photographed by Emiko Nelson.
Harold at the piano, Clothworker's Hall, Leeds, 2018. Photographed by Emiko Nelson.
Bill and Harold at The Hepworth Gallery, December 3rd, 2018. Photograph by Emiko Nelson.