Guest Appearances

I don’t do that much of it but it’s always a pleasure to put in a guest appearance on other’s work. Since one of these contributions has recently been released this seems a good moment to write a few words on the subject.

I’ve spent so much of my recording life being responsible, either individually or as part of a collective, for how the project is proceeding that it’s a great liberation not to be It. In fact, even while being Main Artist I spend a lot of time trying to trick myself into being off the cuff rather than calculating in my approach. So that, for instance, I won’t really bother to look at the keyboard chords involved when doing the first passes at guitar overdubs. (Some might be justified in saying that it wouldn’t make any difference even if I did, of course…) Equally, I won’t usually go in with a specific plan for those moments when massed B Vox are called for, but just start with one harmony and then layer the others on and adjust as I go. The great But, though, is that once I’ve made these impromptu efforts I’ll then spend hours honing, adjusting, deciding.

As a guest, though, you simply present what you think is appropriate and see if it works for the other artist. And if the first idea doesn’t work, try something else. And if *nothing* works well, that’s too – bad but it’s not something to get unduly exercised about. The responsibility lies with the person/persons whose recording it is. (As the late great Randy California said to me when I asked which of his two solos on ‘Red Shift’ he preferred: “It’s your album, man!”)

What I do look for when taking on a guest appearance, though, is to get somewhere outside my normal sphere of reference. Obviously, I’m a man of – ahem – idiosyncratic delivery both vocally and instrumentally and anyone who’d asked me to contribute something to their work will be aware of that. The hope, though, is that an element of surprise will be involved for all concerned: that something new will emerge from one style/modus operandum rubbing up against another.

So here are the most recent things I’ve done in this area. My contributions were all made some time ago – that’s another aspect of this kind of stuff, you do something and it can be months or years before it sees the light of day. Or sometimes, it never gets seen at all….

The work which has just been released which I flagged up at the head of this piece is “Warm Winter”, by Memories of Machines, a collaboration between Tim Bowness and Giancarlo Erra. I got to bother my electric guitar on one of the songs thereon, “At the Centre of it All”. This was definitely in the modern style of guest stuff: Tim sent me files on which to overdub, with a completely free remit. (All boxes ticked, then!) And in turn I sent off files of recorded stuff from which to select, without prejudice, anything which seemed interesting. Happily the main line which I pursued on the track got the thumbs up and is clear on the final mix…though not as interminably repeated as in my original version, thankfully!

Rather more traditional in terms of “doing a session” was the morning I spent doing B Vox for the David Rhodes album “Bittersweet”. I’d done stuff for David before and of course we had the Random Hold history behind us so we both had a pretty clear grasp of mutual studio work ethic. So we biffed our working way through four or five or more songs, with DR very clear about what style and stacking of vox he wanted from me. I was very pleased to oblige…the sometime supportive, sometime contrary role of B Vox remains something close to my heart. And as a guest contributor it can be *great* to be directed as precisely as this.

The “Bittersweet” album had a download-only release at first but is now out as a CD as well, if you do a bit of a search.

Of recent years there’s one other project on which I guested, although in a more major, lead vocal, role, which has still not seen the light of day. Indeed, I now fear it’s unlikely to do so at any time in the near future. Worth mentioning though, I think.

Jo Bogaert, known in a previous lifetime as Technotronic, asked if I’d be interested in contributing to an ongoing project of his with Yannic Fonderie. I gave my usual (if my interest’s been tweaked) response of  “send something and if I think there’s something I can contribute I’ll send something back”. So stuff was sent and, as it happens, I found vox & lyrics stuff that seemed to make sense both for myself and for the stuff in hand.

Eventually I sang on four or five banging tracks. But as I write they still haven’t found a happy label home and so remain secret treasures….

As the visiting guest artiste in this scenario you just have to shrug and say that you hope that eventually something will emerge….

These have been the recent three. I learned and gained something from all of them and in a way that’s the most beneficial thing of doing such instant outside work. Maybe , later, I’ll reflect on other work like this from the past.

Meanwhile, thanks for the comments on the last entry. I haven’t – yet – got involved in responding to comments and I’m not even sure that I should. But the option is there for you to put your penny’s worth in….

On to High summer, then….