This album has a future….

Well, I’ve been working on it for a while now and it’s definitely heading forward. The lyrics, of course, are all completed (after complete rewrites in a couple of cases) and so are the (Lead) Vocals. More contradictory, supportive or argumentative vox stuff in the BV and/or Choir range may still need to be added at a later stage, though some’s already on there.

But I’ve moved back to instrumental work, pasting stuff on, scraping stuff away. Immersing myself deeply in the songs one at a time, so that the last one is semi-forgotten the minute I’m onto the next. All the fun of album recording. I still love doing it and it’s still the main drive of my work, allowing that live performance is a wilder, different thing.

I still couldn’t say exactly what (if anything) this set of recordings is “about” but a couple of linked subjects seem to have emerged. That’s part of the function of working intensely over a comparatively short period: the things which are of interest to me, musically, lyrically, soundwise will poke themselves up like rocks through earth and define the tone of the collected work. I don’t, consciously, aim for “concepts” but I do want to have some sense of a rounded whole from a project.

So I intend to carry on working this way as long as I still find things to do.

I worry, though, that the album as a form is under threat as never before.

The other day I watched a documentary about the making of “Bridge over Troubled Water”. The sense of search and discovery, particularly from Roy Halee , the producer/engineer, was astonishing. And these people were striving for, making, Hits, not Art Rock. (By the by, “Bookends”, by the same team, was actually my preferred S & G album….) Is there the slightest chance that such work could be done under the aegis of, ahem, a “major label” today or at any near-incoming time?

Indeed, would anyone with any measure of sanity make the investment of time, money, enthusiasm required for such a  project at this time?

I really don’t mean to whinge about the olden, golden days. I remain lucky enough (last time I checked, or so I like to think) to have something of an audience who have an interest in owning physical product, be it CD or vinyl. That gives me something of a living, though the man-hours of work involved probably put me a tad below minimum wage for each project if truth be told.

But I know for a fact that people coming in now – with quite a degree of success – don’t have a chance of earning such a living from sales and must rely on either live earnings (always a gamble on the profit/loss front, believe me!) or, of course, merchandise.

So we’re now at the point where effectively the spin-off stuff is the make-money part of the equation. That’s simply not one that’s going to produce the restless, go-forward thing that was at the heart of album-making back in the day.

No blame. The day has, perhaps, gone.

Instant download – or stream, or file-share – of individual tracks is evidently the main game now. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that. But even that’s not quite the same as the old days of, effectively, vote for the single you think is on the Good Side by buying it, to get it up the charts.

Anyway, as for me, well, I’m still making the album.

 

p.s. I appreciate the various comments which appear. But I’d very much appreciate it if no-one posted as “Anonymous”. At worst it’s not hard to make up a fictitious name and that would give at least a (spurious?) sense of personal connection and responsibility for one’s own opinions. But if not, then not, I suppose.


61 Comments on “This album has a future….”

  1. charles says:

    “The day has, perhaps, gone.”

    I’m posting a comment to a blog, one which, not only has the Artist written himself, but one where He will undoubtedly read this comment. This would have never been probably back in the day.

    It’s true, there are no Gatekeepers anymore, and no black or shiny discs. The entourage has scattered. It has been replaced with Software, webmasters and search engines. But how, then, will the shepherd find his herd? This will be the challenge.

    The day has, indeed, gone.

    • donald says:

      “He”, with a capital “h”? “Artist”, with a capital ‘a”? As for the rest…. I sincerely hope that you are taking the piss. You are, aren’t you? As a piss-take, it’s superb; so superb that I fear it may be genuine. That’s the sign of a good piss-take. “This would have never been probably back in the day.” Gaun yersel!

  2. David says:

    Just a side issue of the whole upload /download generation, is this, that producing music is now open to just about everyone with a song and a laptop. This ought to be a good thing for budding genii to make an entrance into our eager ears and synapses. I find the opposite is true in reality, as the amount of music available is of Tsunamic proportions and I drown in it. I get tired of sifting through the resulting mud to find a gem or two. I am still quite happy to buy hard copy and will buy the CD Peter, your audience is mostly of that touch & feel generation. Thanks for all your work over the past decades and indeed currently, you touch our souls and lift our hearts in a way you might never realise,

  3. Frank C says:

    At the risk of engaging in so much cane-waving … the loss of the album certainly seems part and parcel of a greater sea change, and runs hand in hand with the loss of the book, the triumph of the video game, the endless regurgitation that is modern “cinema”…. our city entirely lost our only orchestra last year, and can barely pull together the remnants for 3 nights of nutcracker, at a loss…

    are younger people still buying abums (outside of conspicuous exceptions like radiohead)?
    are younger people still buying and reading books they don’t have to (outside of established formulas or manga)?

    so many forms of art seem to be degenerating into rehashings, formulas, or minimal data clips… is there even room for something worthwhile and new to develope? how can a new, experimental musician possibly make it today? how many would-be artists must instead become bank tellers?

    but it seems deeper; at work and in occaisionally teaching at uni, the younger generations really do seem to have lost attention spans (that albums or books might require). and if the news be believed, their parents are no better…. if the trajectory of art wasn’t bad enough, what about their parallel lines in today’s political “life”? the lack of attention span, and ultimately even bare concern over life, death, or justice, scares this breeder no end…

    i guess my point is … happy holidays everyone!

    but, back on topic… i have to say that the recent ALBUM that is Thin Air was truly magnificent, and everything I always hope to find in your most recent release (and more)! Though it be little recompense, please know, Peter, that while precious few of us may appreciate these works, those of us that do, do so most greatly!

    I doubt many artists who have had more widespread impact (evern those I genuinely enjoy or respect) have had a fraction of the impact you have with your works (i.e., albums). Certainly none who spit music out bit by bit.

    Much Mahalos,
    Frank C.

  4. matt hillier says:

    Much respect peter and its interesting regards the death of the album , i myself grew up on conceptual long player albums and years later i am involved in releasing alot of ambient and electronic music.

    Me and alot of my freinds make a semi or full living from the music and still adear to the same blueprint.

    All the music i release is via an album theme and always as limited editin cds and this form of release is still very important in the ambient music genre i work in and its being kept alive in that genre by many labels.

    Every label i know who shifted to mp3 only has in time closed now.

    I personally was inspired 25 years ago to begin writing music after falling in love with the conceptual / full albums from the 70’s by people like Vg and your works peter and all these years later i still find my motive for writing and releasing music is centred on this inspiration and follows that same form on cd.

    I feel and do see a new trend is forming where cd is beginning to be seen as a way to validate a musical work above an mp3 only release .

    Things are quite cyclic in some sense .

    Anyway many thanks for 25 years of inspiration

    matt hillier

    • Chris Blackford says:

      Matt, good to see your name on Peter’s site, though not surprising I should add. I have a great fondness for your work in its many manifestations and I can see/hear how you have applied that 70s conceptual continuity of ‘the album’ to the various genres in which you now work. ‘Conscious Pilot’ is an exceptional ‘album’ in the old sense of the word and the new appropriated sense too. Many fans of ambient and electronica speak of enjoying ‘the journey’, which only an album of interrelated tracks can provide. In fact, it’s not uncommon for many ambient/electronica albums to be seamlessly presented without obvious breaks between the tracks. Sometimes there are musically thematic motifs or otherwise it’s a question of mood connections that link the ‘individual’ tracks, though quite a lot of ambient/electronica tracks turn up later on compilations where they are recontextualised (often successfully) into ‘new’ albums. Whatever the case, ‘the album’ is alive and kicking, but I don’t think we should be too dogmatic about its survival. After all, who is not ‘guilty’ of skipping over ‘dull’ tracks to find their favourites, or even of compiling their own compilations for those long car journeys. Do what thou wilt…

  5. On the format question, download the track vs buy the CD, or the vinyl. The debate comes down to what the musical content is, if it stands up on it’s own, or is part of a culture where single track will sell better to it’s intended audience I will not complain, though I probably won’t take part, the music that market typifies is usually less than immersive to me. My choice is to buy the CD for the whole of the tracks being more than their sum. I preffer to have the product and get it legitimately, as the artist intended.

    I cannot think of an artist who’s career arc compares with Peter Hammill’s, from the touring, and being creative, for modest financial returns from nearly the word go, to having a back catalogue which seemed like an unintentional loss leader at the time, but which gets richer by the year and remains cogent. Roy Harper is the nearest comparison, but his last new material was a decade ago and his health has been intermittently poor, he is half retired. Charisma backed Hammill the way EMI backed Harper, with hopes of stardom that never panned out and independent recording and labels beckoned for them both near simultaneously too. Kate Bush? Certainly the comparison holds for creative use of the studio, and a way with a voice, lrics and a tune. John Cale? He compares in the male angst and wild experimentation stakes, All three artists have a part comparison, but Peter Hammill is remarkable for his longevity, and continuity. I am sure some of this is because he has been utterly himself, and for being so has lived under the radar of all the fads and changes that he has outlasted…. …perhaps for this he is the exception, and his friendly bark of a voice, and passion, is a one off.

  6. Chris Blackford says:

    Peter, the digital download and home-composing software revolution will ensure the future of The Album as long as composers are prepared to invest the time and effort into making albums. Money is almost an irrelevance these days for all but those greedy mega-capitalist artists that some/most of us despise. The small-scale or avant-garde areas of music making have always regarded music as a part-time activity funded by regular full-time jobs, but the music has kept on coming and to a high standard because the artists working in those areas are dedicated to what they are doing. If music is about the profit margin then god help us. The illegal download is the consumer’s long overdue revenge on a greedy mainstream music industry with its overpriced products which we can do without and the sooner its walls tumble the better. Necessary, important artistic music will always be created by artists who are not in it for the money, but do what they do because music making is their lifeblood. From what you write now and what you have created over the years, the act of making music (even at less than the minumim wage) clearly matters to you more than the need to make lots of money. There are some of us out here that are depending on you and your albums for our musical sustenance and we will keep on buying them as long as you keep crafting them by whatever means and in whatever format that seems necessary.

  7. Ian Beabout says:

    Mr Hammill,

    As a relatively young fan of yours (I’m 19 and first heard “Pawn Hearts” a few years ago … on Christmas morning, no less!), I would like to offer you what I believe to be a unique perspective that you may not realize.

    I am diehard music fan and musician and I have been actively listening to music since I was born. At a certain point in my life, I came to the realization that I was receiving (and saving) a good deal of money that I wasn’t spending, from birthdays, Christmases, etc, and that the only real thing I had an interest in was music.

    So, I started to put my savings towards buying CDs and listening to music almost every chance I got. My interests spread so far that CDs were the only things to appear on my wish list and would wake up on Christmas mornings to a dozen little neatly wrapped square packages – I had no interest in anything else.

    When I first heard of the iPod, I immediately boycotted the thing, forseeing it, in my own way, as the decline of the physical medium I so cherished. You see, its more than just about the music to me, Mr. Hammill, its about the overall experience. With the physical medium, you get something that you can hold, you can collect and look at on the wall, and dive into the liner notes and pictures to learn more about the artist and the recording process itself.

    Now, I’m into vinyl. I get chills when I find a record that I want, because I see it as a way of connecting with the era in which the album is from, further engrossing myself into the recording. I’ve also managed to collect a few VdGG on the way … “Pawn Hearts” and “Godbluff” are much more stunning and effective on the LP art than those tiny little squares. But its more than that … with vinyl, there’s something personal about the needle in the groove, something very real. I don’t think I’ll ever get that excited about a download.

    So, Mr. Hammill, I hope I’ve given you something to think about when considering your audience and perhaps a different view on the physical vs. digital medium. I will be looking forward to owning your new record and being able to display it in my collection and read the liner notes while listening.

    Ian

  8. We totally agree with your feelings about albums. They are a kind of “package”. neatly wrapped for you by the artist. The “download the song” method of today feels as if you are being thrown some scrap. “Here, Fido, a bone of the turkey for you, with some leftover meat on it”. In a way it is a step backward to the time before albums, when you had to buy a single, only there is no B-side with downloads.

    Jeanine and Friederike

  9. Andreas G says:

    Looking forward to it. You’ve really been on a roll. “Thin Air” is one of your best albums ever. And, yes, it is an album in which there is an atmosphere that flows from one track to the next. The operative words here are “art” and “artist”., as opposed to “commerce. Someone who is just using tunes as muzak is concerned about neither, and so really has nothing to say to me about music. Granted I usually listen to my i-Pod in shuffle mode, though. I wonder how much of this is a generational thing. Music to the younger generation does not seem to have the same importance on a cultural and social level that it did for previous generations. Hopefully I’m wrong about that.

    So when are you playing in LA again 🙂

  10. Sylvain Arth says:

    Needless to say “Carry on!”, he will seek, he will search, he will finally find….. for our pleasure.
    I wish I could tell more If I could…
    Burning by a language that is not my native one.

    Take care

  11. Robert Beriau says:

    The pleasure of listening to what an artist has to say is way more complete, comprehensive and intimate through out a whole album rather than song by song.

    From my view, buying a few singles songs from an album rather than the full album of a musician is equivalent to saying, « I don’t really care about what you have to say to me … I just need to hear what I like … for the rest, keep it for yourself. ».

    If someone takes the time and effort to create (without been payed, because his salary will come only when (and if) his music will be sold), we have two choices: listen to what he has to say or not…not something in between !

    Maybe if most of music purchases are now « tune by tune » transactions, perhaps it’s because there is very few artists left who still have interesting things to say.

    So, thank you Peter to have stayed true, intense and dedicated over the years, despite the ups and downs of the industry.

    Take care…and keep talking, there is interested poeple to listen outthere !

    Robert

  12. Adrian from Monterrey, Mexico says:

    Mr. Hammill, you are great at sequencing songs in albums, so it will always be a pleasure to hear complete albums from you and not just some singles. Right now two of my favorite records (of any artist) are Thin Air and Skin; I think they are good examples of that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Skin? Are you mad?

      • Adrian says:

        Dear Mr Anonymous:
        Skin was a great 80’s record 🙂 The production may sound dated, but it makes good use of it.

      • Anonymous says:

        “Skin” has one of the best songs of Peter :”Now lover”.Nine minutes of exciting music.

      • Ricardo says:

        …and “Shell”, and “Four Pails”, with one of the most moving PH moments (the ad-lib ‘no-no-no-no’ at the end) of the entire canon. Real pearls. And “Painting by Numbers” and “Perfect Date” are FUN, folks 🙂

      • Pierre says:

        My apologies for the previous post anonymous.I agree Ricardo, but for me, “Now lover” is the best.

    • Paulo Gonçalves says:

      “Now Lover” and “Shell” are two of my favorites from ‘Skin’, but my all-time PH solo album is ‘In Camera’. Paulo G – SP, Brazil

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree that the “album” certainly has a future, be it a digital download, LP or whatever. I did go through a stage of just selecting certain songs from an album to play on my MP3 player, but after a while found that I was bored just hearing parts of an album, so invested in a better player with higher storage so that I could have complete album to listen to when I wanted. Even songs I’m not so keen on seem better when in their “proper” place.

    I’m certainly moving back from digital downloads back to CD and in some cases LP, I dabbled for a while in the download world, but lost a certain sense of ownership with the music, which I get even with CDs.

    Anyway I’m looking forward already to the new album; also when is the Christmas single out?

  14. Simon Wenham says:

    For me it is albums at home, individual songs on the move…

    LPs are my source of choice. I was delighted to be able to get “A Grounding In Numbers” on the black stuff. There is nothing to match the feeling of cueing up a record then sitting back, beer in hand, to let the music wash over you. The whole package with LPs is great, their size allows for great artwork and many extras. My only, slight, grumble is that they are rooted in my music room and not available to play elsewhere (but then it makes them that much more special).

    CDs are something I have grudgingly accepted (I didn’t buy a CD player until 2002) and although they can sound great they are no substitute for LPs. I struggle to read some of the notes in the booklets, even with my reading glasses on! The cases all too often break or fall apart. CDs are just a means of storing/transporting digital music. I shall not miss their passing. At home I still play them on my CD player but when that finally breaks (hopefully not too soon) it won’t be replaced with another but some form of digital streaming kit.

    My CD collection is all ripped to itunes for use on my ipod (there are other portable music players available). In the car, or at work, I play music on my i***, mostly in shuffle mode (that way I don’t get distracted for too long when a favourite crops up – although I do have a copy of “Lighthouse Keepers” on there*).

    I have not really embraced downloading yet. I have a few LEGAL downloads of albums (bought on vinyl with a free download). I use Spotify to see whether I like some things that have been recommended to me.

    Whether downloading is the future is still unclear. At present it seems to be still in two camps – buying individual tracks (on the fruity site) or via an album (on the South American river site) – buy it all for £Xx or individual tracks for £Y.YY!

    The “cloud” is the current new thing. It opens up the access to vast libraries of music but only to be rented. This actual *may* help new artists via the ‘people who liked A also liked B’ recommendations available.

    Not sure either will help the “album” to persist. I think that is more down to the artists involved – they are out there (I won’t mention them here but Peter has worked, directly or indirectly, with some of them).

    My real worry is that, in the future, the degradation of the sound quality of music. That “MP3 is good enough” for most people and that this will be the only format available. The “Loudness wars” have already ruined too many CDs for my liking. (OK, I admit it, I am an audiophile.)

    One last point, I heard an LP recorded by Christine Collister which was analogue from start to finish – it sounded wonderful.

    *ripped from my copy of “The Box”

  15. Adam Matlock says:

    The idea of an album as a form is not dead, but is certainly falling by the wayside. From certain independent artists you see a real refinement of the craft of “making an album,” that is a cohesive entity, not just a haphazard collection of songs. Many even are producing what would resemble the “concept album” of days past in spirit if not in flesh, and it is those artists who are, through composition and packaging, making it worthwhile to own a physical product and devote 35-50 minutes to it.

    I think the shift in the music industry does have a lot to do it – even before downloading became a means of capitol, the industry started seeking out sleeker and more digestible packages from new artists, many of which never received a follow-up single.

    My lament as a songwriter just getting around to it in the last 6 or 7 years is that so much of the thrill of experimentation has been usurped by DIY recording software. I’m extremely gracious for a program that demystifies everything like Logic and Audacity, but it makes the idea of “finishing a song” in the studio somewhat impossible without ending up in some kind of template.

    So unfortunately, the pressure on the artist is to make to a statement that is as memorable/cohesive as albums of yore, but (usually) without the funding to make a full length album. I find it lamentable, but in the process have seen several EPs and short albums, between 18-25 minutes usually, that pack just as memorable a punch as any long player of a previous era. As an artist, I say “challenge accepted,” but I would certainly love to have the opportunity to make as effective a statement with 40 minutes as I have been required to with 25.

    cheers,
    Adam

    • I remember the first Peter Hammill album I listened to , ‘The Silent Corner and The Empty Stage’ in 1983, the height of the syth pop boom which was mostly singles oriented. I remember how it was best to listen to it one side at a time, and take a rest between listening to the second side. So the idea of an E.P of 20-25 mins may well have been the right one, if the music has the punch keep it taught and exciting….

      • Adam Matlock says:

        Agreed. And it doesn’t always have that punch. As everything is dictated by trends, so artists who would be better served by either a lengthier statement, or a single, (or no statement at all if we’re to be brutally honest ) release a 20-25 minute EP with little thought for the conception, programming add sequence of the format.

        I am a premature curmudgeon at 26 but my familiarity with Vinyl growing up has helped my appreciation for that aspect of writing an album – I usually plan releases to be consumed in one fell swoop, with appropriate interludes to sustain a mood, or to be consumed in 20-25 minute sides when working on a longer album. (Of course, all of those albums have been released digitally so I’m sure I’m the only one to have noticed.)

  16. patricia says:

    Peter,
    It’s a great pleasure to read your post. It always is.
    My teen-agers sons do not understand – not yet! my tradition of buying music – and books of course. ICTs impact on those industries is huge but now a new kind of change is required, perhaps one that we have never experienced before. Individual compromise in order to nourish collective wellbeing. Your work is part of my life – I was 19 when I heard “Over” for the first time. All my constant gratitude from this far-away spot in the world.
    Patricia from Argentina

  17. Adrian Vogel says:

    Not only Bridge… same applies to Blonde on Blonde, Jimi Hendrix Thick as a Brick, The Nice, you guys, Springsteen’s Born to Run, etc., etc. True that talent was not as scarce as of today, but also there more entrepreneurs launching record labels! Artist development was key. Bridge was their last effort. Who can afford this nowadays?

  18. I’m also a physical manifestation junky, but increasingly for a limited number of artists – PH, VdGG, David Sylvian and The Fall are the ones that spring to mind. Every new release – CD, vinyl, both sometimes. Have successfully avoided illegal downloads (how’s an artist supposed to eat?) so far through a combination of being whiter-than-white (of course) and sheer technical ineptitude. Folks I know do partake of the rapidshare torrent, and in times past made sure they also bought a legal copy of their favourite artists’ output, but times are harder and excuses are being made.

    I know this isn’t the time or place, but PNO, GTR, VOX is ace!

    • Henry Martinez says:

      Hello RG

      PGV is very relevant to this discussion, given the nicely done mini-LP pacakaging. Peter’s comment that artists “…must rely on either live earnings…or, of course, merchandise…” points to a possible way to save the physical distribution of albums, which is already being done in the form of ultra deluxe releases such as the recent Immersion versions of several Pink Floyd albums, as well as similar releases from McCartney, Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, etc.

      Obviously, not every artist can afford such distribution, but treating CD (or vinyl) packaging as merchandise with inherent value from creative artwork and high production values could revitalize these formats. A few examples that meet this standard are David Sylvian’s 2003 remaster-reissue of Gone to Earth, the King Crimson 30th Anniversary remaster-reissues, the mini-LP edition of VdGG’s Real Time, the mini-LP remaster-reissue of Santana’s Lotus with the original Japanese packaging.

      It seems to me that the reason the vinyl medium persists, if only as a niche market, and that the CD will not entirely disappear is that they are physical artifacts of the ritual of music, and we use ritual to enhance meaning and value in life. Files on a hard-drive just don’t do it!

      In closing, you’re right, PGV is ace!

      Cheers!

      HM

  19. Dave Winstanley says:

    Hi Peter,

    You can count me in with the pro- ‘physical product’ school of thought. Through the Classic Rock Society I know of many aspiring musicians/composers who are struggling to make ends meet because of the lack of CD sales – and one (very talented) artist who has left the music business altogether because he lost heart with it all through the downloading trend.
    Also, there’s nothing quite like the excitement of tearing open the packaging (with the aid of the obligatory oxy-acetyline cutter that you need to penetrate much of it nowadays – present company’s excepted, of course) of a new album or CD and reading the sleeve notes/admiring the artwork. I live in hope that in today’s materialistic society, the youngsters who are tomorrow’s market might be persuaded that CD’s and albums in physical form are treasures to be coveted – the audible equivalent of bling, perhaps? After all, vinyl has made something of a comeback when people were sounding its death-knell a few years ago….

    Happy festive season.

  20. Matthew Hansen says:

    Peter,

    I have enjoyed reading this post and only the other day I was having this discussion about wanting to hold something in ones hand, something tangible. Collecting music since I was 12 and appreciating all the packaging, effort and time that goes into these things I am grateful for your effort. All that said and done I think you are in a very fortunate position being able to record your own music and have your own label. I recall a discussion we had on the Marillion tour in 1983 when you told me that the whole situation was hopeless. Having world wild recognition and respect would have to be a good thing Peter. Me here in Australia, I love; purchase and look forward to every release (and have done so since PH7) I wonder sometimes if you really know how much pleasure you give us.

    Matthew Hansen Australia

    • davidgr1200 says:

      To me it appears as though what happened it the latter half of the twentieth century was just a temporary deviation from most of the rest of history. Suddenly music could become a big business and a lot of people could make a lot of money writing/making/producing music. It now appears that we are returning to a situation not unlike that of earlier times, when the live performance was the source of income. This is a big problem for a lot of artists, but I think, Peter, you have a great advantage over many others in that your live performances are not just rehashes of your recordings, but often new interpretations. Artists who do no more than just reproduce the recorded sounds in a live performance are going to have it tough.
      I am old enough to remember buying vinyl (I remember rushing out and buying Refugees when it first came out) but I have gone over to digital for most of my music now. Sofa sound releases being pretty much the only exception. Not everybody has the space to keep all vinyl and CDs (I recently sold off all my vinyl as it was just languishing in the garage).

      David
      Sweden

  21. Anonymous says:

    Peter,

    I have enjoyed reading this post and only the other day I was having this discussion about wanting to hold something in ones hand, something tangible. Collecting music since I was 12 and appreciating all the packaging, effort and time that goes into these things I am grateful for your effort. All that said and done I think you are in a very fortunate position being able to record your own music and have your own label. I recall a discussion we had on the Marillion tour in 1983 when you told me that the whole situation was hopeless. Having world wild recognition and respect would have to be a good thing Peter. Me here in Australia, I love; purchase and look forward to every release (and have done so since PH7) I wonder sometimes if you really know how much pleasure you give us.

    Matthew Hansen Australia

  22. John Dobson says:

    I have just returned home after watching a local band I rate very highly play before a depressingly small audience. They were headlining the opening of a new venue but there had been no promotion and the venue was, as a result, less than packed. They are currently recording their debut album and have used the Pledge system to raise the necessary funding. Without that, there would be no album. If they are to make a career from their talent it will have to be through touring and merchandise because the music is now so easily stolen that it is worth (financially) very little. As things stand, I fear they may return to their day jobs, which would be a huge loss. Thank you for highlighting this issue, which threatens the future of real music.

  23. Nice to hear some thoughts about the album as an art form in 2011. As a musician also currently crafting one and constantly thinking and writing analytically about albums it’s comforting to hear that the desire to make and hear thought-out collections of mutually-enriching songs hasn’t gone away completely. I can also second your assertion that new musicians are finding it extremely difficult to make a living based on recording sales alone, which is a pity since I personally have much less interest in attempting to earn a profit from touring. And yet, the hungrier you stay, the purer the artistic impulses…best of luck with your new album!

  24. Peter Neumann says:

    I still like to hear complete albums – because I “learned” this in the seventies when I was a young boy discovering music and especially the world of van der graaf and peter hammill and some other guys from england. But we are getting older and now the music life is back to singles (as in the sixties) as downloads or to live shows. Which is a good thing but I can not go to a show every week or so. But I am still waiting for every release of vdgg/ph and of course I must have a physical copy. And I hope there will be another solo-hammill-tour in germany next year.

    Thank you for your work and music.

  25. leo hermens says:

    I feel some kind of nostalghia thinking about the time i saved money for the latest Hammill LP, riding home on my bicycle in eager anticipation with The Future Now in a flapping plastic bag hanging on the handlebars. Indeed we used to wait. Had energy for patience and attention. We are getting old.

  26. iain mcleish says:

    Peter
    Loved the S&G prog too – always interesting to hear a perspective different to that of the listener – very grateful to the amount of time you spend on talking about your music-making – it can add a great deal to having nothing other than the sound to listen to.
    An interesting feature of internet use is being able to acquire more knowledge about a song/piece of music/”LP”. However,I don’t necessarily view this as a positive. For example, it has become increasingly easy to know more about the background and detail of each Beatles’ song. But to know an aspect then spoils wherever you may be or have been with that song, especially if it is part of the “story of your life”. Penny Lane & Strawberry Fields have moved on vastly from how they entered my life in 1967! Hope that makes sense!
    Love your music now just as much as I have over 40-odd years.
    Thank you
    Iain

  27. Dear Peter Hammill,

    thanks for all the music over the years (for me since 1976/77). It has influenced my life in a way I can’t find words for – LP or not, CD or not, Digital Download or not … I hope it goes on – until the end …

    Christian, Berlin, Germany

  28. Gozon says:

    Dear Peter,
    I agree with you regarding the financial aspects of the “industry” – things have only developed for the worse as far as I’m concerned. I’m no professional musician and count myself lucky to have a regular, well-paid full-time job, which, on the other hand, means that in order to make an album, it takes much longer than it would, had I the opportunity to spend more time on it. Anyway, the physical product as you call it, is still important to us all, I believe and *might* or should I say may not vanish!

    Another thing I want to tell you is that I’m glad you still enjoy writing/recording/producing so much – having listened to some of your more recent solo work, it definitely shows that there’s still much enthusiasm in what you’re doing, so keep it up.

    How do you feel about the idea of releasing something like an album of out-takes or demos (works in progress if you like)? Do you have alternative versions at all? That might be interesting.
    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland, Robert

  29. tjarlz says:

    Rocks? Or the fruiting body? 😉

    “…in the death of mere humans life shall start?”

    The vampiric crone of digital music woos us with promises of perfect sound forever…

    I think that listening to music is a human-experience, and the ways in which this process remains analogous to our humanity strengthens the experience (and possibly out humanity too).

    Arguably, whatever supports the music to reach my ears/brain is ‘just packaging’. And yet, as a human being I come with packaging too, and there is pleasure to be had in the physicality of that ‘packaging’. I would rather that it not be neglected.

    Arguably, an album can be broken into songs, and sold off a penny a piece. And yet, as a human being I come with a story, and the crafting and ordering of that story is my identity. If it is broken up and scattered, then I suffer a loss.

    Indeed, the day has gone, and I wonder what else goes with it?

    All the best,

    Charles

  30. Roy Weard says:

    This is something which has touch many musicians. My good friend, and master musician, Nick Pynn and I discussed it recently when driving back from a gig. Nick’s last solo album, ‘Colours of the Night’ took many hours of deciding which track should follow which and yet you can grab a random track from i-Tunes and remove all that artistry. The same goes for my own band’s last CD. I feel you lose something by not having a physical product adn reduce the impact of the work by dispensing with a sleeve and a body of work, but then I too am old enough to have seen Peter play ‘Octopus’ solo at the Lyceum, which atarted me listening to his music so I too am ‘of an age’.

  31. Gareth Price says:

    Always has been, and always will be, ‘The CD’ (and of course before that ‘The LP’)

    None of this digital nonsense

    Sent from my iPad LOL

  32. Don’t worry Peter, still buying your physical products! (since 1976, I think)

    Very curious about the new project.

    Keep up the good job! I’m a die-hard fan of your work.

    Rolf

  33. Dimitris Antonopoulos says:

    Can’t wait for the new album…!!

  34. Peter Anderson says:

    After amassing a huge vinyl & cd collection I have come to the conclusion that it is the music that matters, not the physical product (you’d be suprised at how many collectors have it the other way round). I have therefore switched to digital downloads to buy my music. I still want to buy an “album”, but like the recent excellent “pno gtr vox” the digital version is (apart from a simple cover pic) provided with none of the information/lyrics/artwork that would come with the CD. A simple pdf file would suffice and not necessarily straight copies of the CD booklet etc (where the artist may be worried about bootlegging). I believe this is holding back the sales of album digital downloads, especially to the somewhat older consumer. Even more amazingly some new album releases from “classic artists” are not available as digital downloads at all, albums which I want but have not purchased because I am fed up amassing plastic CD cases.

    • David Dyson says:

      As a “somewhat older consumer” I prefer to have a physical product (vinyl/CD/DVD). This does create storage (and filing system) problems, but I’m reassured that I won’t lose the whole collection when the PC or other new technology fails (which I believe they do only too readily). However, for mobility, I’m perfectly happy to download (if free) music to play on the MP3. But this is music I already possess in the collection. And I think that’s the nub: For many of us it’s about collecting and possessing. Yes … it has to be the music we actually want/enjoy. But we must possess it.
      An analogy might be the old jukebox in the pub: If it was on ‘Free Play’ you might experiment with music you didn’t know. But on ‘Pay to Play’ you’d select what you really wanted (and usually the LONG tracks!). If music downloads were free I might do more of it and experiment. But when paying for music, I want something to hold.

      • Gareth price says:

        So true actually having a physical product in your hand (or on your shelf) is so much rewarding than a collection of digital…um…digits(!) stored on a PC, iPod or whatever, even though like you I still rip a lot of my purchased CDs to this form (close your eyes PH lol).

        Not sure I can agree David with your comment ‘but we must possess….(the music)” I always like to think of it as having it on loan from the artist (you can open your eyes again PH).

        Only joshing David, we know what you mean.

      • Paul Dove says:

        I agree completely with David. Being from the prog-rock concept album generation I’ve always viewed vinyl, and then CDs, as more than just a music delivery system. For me the physical presence of the disc with its sleeve, art work and cover notes is an integral part of my enjoyment when I first listen to music. Strangely though it’s much less important to me after that; thirty years ago I’d listen to an LP while reading the cover notes and at the same time copying it on to a cassette for my walkman, today I do the same with a new CD but instead I’m ripping it so that I can listen it again without having to find the disc.

        In my loft I still have boxes of old vinyl LPs, only ever played once, and stacks of CDs also only ever played once. But I can’t bear to part with them, and neither can I bring myself to just download mp3s from iTunes or Amazon. I think that this is partly because of my love of the album as a complete package, but it’s also because I don’t see digital copies as anything more than an ephemeral copy and not the real thing; destined to be lost when a hard drive dies or to become useless when there is no longer a way still play that particular file format.

        But I guess my kids see me as an anachronism trying to hold on to something that for them is just another disposable commodity. They download and listen to songs the way that I would have listened to the radio thirty-five years ago, and then discard them to be replaced by something new.

        I think they have no doubts that there’ll always be something new, or old, out there to be downloaded. I’m much more cynical and fully expect there will come a time when the digital infrastructure fails us. I have my “collection” of albums from the last five decades and I expect to still be listening to these, and other newer stuff, in twenty or thirty years.

  35. leslie medford says:

    …Sorry…”A Grounding In Numbers”, of course…

  36. Chris Weir says:

    But is it now…? Of course it is, as always I look forward to the new album. I am never quite sure what I am going to experience. Will there be the immediate appreciation, or will be “interesting” but not quite sure yet… I usually hope for both, (very) occasionally I am dissapointed. I suppose I am from the old school, I like to listen to an album in it’s entirety, in the intended track order. That way I can grow into into it and my understanding of what I think it is about can develop. I dislike downloads and random play, it leads to extracting the immediate highlights and losing the structure.

    I like the these occasional blog posts, and the insight into your creative process that they provide.

    As always, thanks for the music.

    • kuky says:

      Same here
      Hate those downloads snippets out of context ..unless I’m looking for something specific and that’s great if found – instant gratification 😉

  37. leslie medford says:

    Dear Peter,

    Absolutely agree. Simon & Garfunkel made lots of lovely music through their years, but Bookends is the highpoint.

    I was watching you perform the Usher Suite last night (I’ve owned the Passionkirche VHS since its release) and the entire Usher opera is a highlight of your (always interesting) “stream” in my opinion. I have always wished it could be afforded that the orchestration would sometime become truly orchestral ala Through The Looking Glass.

    My next favourite dream for Usher is for it to be given – or at least some good slice of it – full VdGG treatment and get recorded or performed live by the trio onto CD or DVD.

    I love so much of your work, Peter. Since encountering you in the early-mid Seventies you have remained one of my very favourite artists. I continue to collect all of your stuff and I have been enjoying Grounded In Numbers.

    I was in a band on Rough Trade (The Ophelias) and I was lucky enough to chat with you on several occasions. I still hope to see VdGG out West!!!

    Love and best wishes,
    (Mr) Leslie Medford

  38. Danny O'Dare says:

    Looking forward to it, as always!

  39. Mathias Maierhofer says:

    I think the album has a future as long as we take the time to experience art. It is like visiting an art gallery. Do we only rush through checking out the works the guide schows us as “Best of” or do we take the time to stand before a painting, checking for details, maybe even thinking about what the artist might have wanted to achieve or what reaction it provokes for the spectator.

    Anyway I’m looking forward to your knew album. I really enjoyed the last one, “Undone” being a special favourite.

  40. This message was a bit spooky, I’ve just finished bashing out a terrible version of Been Alone So Long on my mandolin, then this popped up.
    Can’t wait to hear the new album. I’ve seen your last couple of performances at the Sage, any plans to come back?

    Keep rockin’,
    Paul.

  41. Jim Keyerleber says:

    Always very excited by a new Peter Hammill project. Continuing to get stronger with each and every release. Hope to see you near or in Cleveland Ohio in 2012. Keep up the killer, great in USA, work!


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