Somehow another month seems to have drifted on by. I’ve been fully back into my solo-artist mode, of course; while at home I’ve continued to go through various live recordings with the intent of releasing some kind of disc/discs in the very near future. It’s a daunting and at times confusing task: there’s a wide variety of material and, happily, equally wide variations in individual performances. Whatever finally emerges will not, of course, be (or be intended to ba taken as) any kind of definitive set of versions. After all I do intend to continue playing many of these songs and therefore need to have a continuing relationship with them. However, on the evidence so far assembled I think I can say that both the selection and the performances will be fairly representative of the current approach to solo shows. In which, as it happens, I’m still feeling particularly keen and strong.
Of course I’ve had a couple of opportunites to test that keenness this month in my two Iberian adventures. My visit to the Gouveia festival was the third time I’ve been there (once with VdGG) and as always was a thoroughly civilised experience. Bilbao, the second port of call, has long been one of my favourite cities. In terms of my personal history it’s also the only place (so far) where a hotel-recorded guitar has become an album backing track, on “Stumbled”.
(I usually carry with me enough of a basic hardware/software rig to have the capacity to record while on tour but rarely actually get down to it unless there’s some serious downtime. Likewise, I *could* in principle have been working through auditioning the solo live recordings while out on the road with VdGG. But somehow I find, more and more, that i) energy needs to be conserved in anticipation of the inevitably upcoming show and ii) that one of the abiding joys of touring is allowing the mind to slip into free rein, the eyes into neutral, slow observation. Long ago I described this as “slow time” and it’s something I still appreciate; as a result I tend not to get a lot done while on tour in tangible terms. Except for the shows of course, quite enough for me…. )
Part of the tradition at Gouveia is that there should be a panel discussion at lunchtime on the last day and this year it addressed the question of how can it be possible for any musician to actually make a living these days. Obviously I’m in the incredibly privileged position of having spent a lifetime working in music and supporting myself and my family while doing so. This is a long way from most musicians’ experience, either historically or, significantly, in the present. For instance, none of my fellow-panellists are currently able to live entirely on their musical work and have to subsidise it with other employment.
Needless to say, wide ranging debate in front of and in reaction to and with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience failed to come up with any sure way forward for musicians of the future, let alone the present. People expect Free Music as a right. The industry expects mega profits from a few Major Brands and is no longer remotely interested in innovation. Everything’s going to work out in some strange Cloud Future. But the Radiohead model of working can only exist for a group who are already million-sellers as a direct result of previous major label releases. Meanwhile musicians – as they must – keep a brave face on things. For heaven’s sake don’t whinge!
In fact all in all it was a fairly sombre discussion; but these are, indeed, Interesting Times. Personally, I was grateful to be able to articulate certain ideas which have been bubbling away below the surface for some time. The mere speaking of them made some clarity for me. Happily the opportunity to actually play, rather than debate the impossiblity of continuing to play, awaited a few of us in the evening.
In any event, onward the playing goes and, indeed, the recordings of the playing. May finally saw the release of the VdGG Metropolis DVD. My, that seems a long time ago now! It has to be said that this is a pretty unique document and that the event was absolutely a one-off. As I write I still haven’t got round to viewing it all the way through (at times I’m significantly less self-obsessed than I might seem) but perhaps I’ll be able to give some perspective on it next month. You can order it at http://www.sofasound.com of course.
Another new release is “Warm Winter” by Memories of Machines, one of Tim Bowness’s projects. On this I contribute guitar on one track. There’s an interesting cast of other contributors and you can find out about it at http://www.burningshed.com/store/artrock/multiproduct/119/2185/
Ah, contributions, collaborations, there’s another topic ready for debate!
…maybe next time.