Alternate Stuff….

Here we are then, steaming through the USA with the usual shifting set list. We’ve added “Flight” to the mix this time – something of a daunting prospect when we first started working on it but now an integral and exciting part of the set.

What we’re not doing, of course, is promoting the latest VdGG release, “Alt”. But maybe it’s time for me to pen a few words about it….

Even by our standards this is an unusual release. On the tin it says “Instrumental Improvs and Experiments” and that’s about the size of it. It’s not, though, a musical world which is alien to us, even if some of it is at the far shore of our communal music-making map.

Collectively and individually, we’ve got previous for this sort of thing. The second CD of “Present” showed up some of the wonky improv that has always been a part of VdGG sound world and is possibly the nearest neighbour to this new release. But going back to the Seventies – particularly on “Pawn Hearts” – sonic interludes would poke their heads above the surface, either as episodes within songs or, as evidenced in the expanded and remastered set, as stand-alone pieces.

My own solo “Sonics” series, which began with “Loops and Reels” is similarly concerned with raw and concrete sound. And my collaboration with Guy, “Spur of the Moment”, was another purely instrumental and almost entirely improvised piece of work.

So, as I say, there’s precedence…you have been warned!

The recordings which make up “Alt” have been with us for some time. The earliest – purely improvised and brutal of recording quality – date from the very first rehearsal period we had as a trio, at the Gaia centre in Delabole. At this time we didn’t really know what kind of group we were going to be, what kind of sound we were going to make IF we managed to go forward, so these recordings are somewhat historic, marking our first steps towards the band we’ve now become.

By the time we returned to Cornwall for the recording of “Trisector” we had some idea of our identity but retained a degree of openness about the nature of the album we were making. As it turns out, of course, “Trisector” was very much an album of songs, but at the outset we had under consideration several other pieces of more experimental aspect. Some of these were overdubbed at the time with a variety of strange contributions….

So this alternate album had a life of its own from that time on. From time to time we updated it, with the addition of material captured during sound checks for instance. Gradually some of the more excessively sonically challenged pieces were edged out. It became clear that the identity of the work was making itself known….

A couple of late entrants rounded things off and we’ve ended up with the album as it is…a mixture of the considered and the casual.

Actually, “the album” exists in two quite different forms. The CD is, of course, long form, with 14 tracks of varied length. On vinyl, naturally, there’s the division of side-turning and a reduction in the number of pieces. (Though there is also one tiny loop piece which doesn’t appear on the CD.) The works chosen for the LP version are all in the considered category – so for my money at least this gives the collection an entirely different feel to the CD one.

So there we have it. Don’t expect songs. But do expect music which, in its own strange way, is imbued with VdGG spirit….

An addition….

What I forgot to say in my initial post Is that we started making some of this music public at an early stage: we used early versions of “repeat after me” and “here’s one…” as into music for the very first trio tours….


13 Comments on “Alternate Stuff….”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for Nutter Alert …the only song that touch me since the famous reunion or whatever it is call….The rest i don’t get it…but it’s fun to see that people can still connect to VDGG and love it…reward for all those hard years of fantastic chaotic and sometimes perfect coherent erratic live music…Wish Jaxon was on those improvised songs but i don’t think i would get it anyhow…guess my brain is somewhere else…and it’s good like that…moving on…
    Thanks for all those years and all those tours and the amazing concerts (and backstages) specially the one i produce in 78 in Montreal and Quebec (vanity ….Brecht said that all is vanity LOL) …unique moments…unique memories…That’s why concerts and theater are stronger than Cinema…they leave stronger memories that you can only revisited through your “ souvenirs”… And like Shawn Phillips would say i wish you health love and CLARITY i will add in french LUCIDITÉ….hope your nose doesn’t get “ more red” as you grow old….it’s not a nice color…

    Daniel Thérien

    PS: Please get more some solo live (remaster) of the 70’s and the 80’s on cd…they are amazing jewels there..F****the quality ! Viva the music with no perfection!

  2. Bruce Hatton says:

    So, we already have Gog and Flight in the live set.
    Just Lighthouse Keepers to go, and we’ll have the perfect Christmas DVD 🙂

  3. Louis Dosch says:

    Funny as I ordered you’re last solo album along with Black Box, ony to recieve you’re solo album, and a refund for no Black Box. This was done before you performed at nearfest. I purchased Black Box on a “cut out” vinyl when it was released, and I finally had the erge to buy a decent copy, to no avail.Dissipointed but thankful for all of the great music you have given me. I did meet you in the early eighties, you played at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.I wished to see you again, but could not make it to the east coast….I too believe in Improv, to let the music channel through me, as if I’m just a puppet.

  4. Hi Peter,

    What you refer to as wonky, I think of as a unique crafting of sound. It’s a listening adventure that I always enjoy undertaking. Thanks to you, HB & Brain for giving us an ALTernate view of the VDGG experience.

    From Scorched Earth through Flight to Childlike Faith and finally an emotionally charged Refugees, the NEARFest show of 22 June was indeed the show that I have waited 37 years to see (after getting Godbluff for a Christmas gift in 1975). Your music is woven throughout the tapestry of my life and you have provided me with many shows that I will treasure forever. With this NEARFest show, I finally have the long sought after feeling of completeness, peace and happiness that I have been searching for.

    Many thanks and God Bless you all.
    Art Mifflin

  5. Ian Beabout says:

    Peter,
    I enjoyed your set at NEARfest 2012 and we met briefy in the lobby of the Comfort Suites. Thank you for taking the time to speak with someone who’s admired your work for years and to get a picture. I haven’t listened to the new record yet, but I will once I finish some projects around the house.

    Best,
    Ian Beabout

    • Ian Beabout says:

      Also wanted to add that “Flight” was a wonderful treat. I’d never heard it but I ran out and bought “A Black Box” on Saturday morning. Kudos, Peter.

  6. fromanotherpeter says:

    Thanks Peter, Guy and Hugh for making the trip to the US. I thoroughly enjoyed the show at the Regent (June 28th). ‘Flight’ was really special to hear.. thanks so much for doing it.. quite an undertaking and a (possibly?!) risky move.. but really, really worth it! The ‘newer’ songs (from ‘Trisector’ and ‘Grounding’) heard together with the ‘older’ works, you do get this sense when heard live, new or old, it all is Van der Graaf Generator!!
    Great show, and again, thanks for making new music! (Looking forward to ‘Alt’.. and all future releases!)

  7. […] blog. Today, Peter Hammill, the unofficial spokesperson for the band, writes about the album on his blog. It’s interesting to see the overlap between his take and mine, and my assumptions going into […]

  8. Simon Wenham says:

    My copy arrived today. Can’t play it yet though – parent’s evening at school!

  9. VdGGfan says:

    Thank you Peter for taking time out of your busy touring schedule to give us this.
    The inclusion of Flight in the setlist has certainly generated a great deal of excitement among the fans.
    You never fail to come up with surprises.
    Your comments re ALT have me champing at the bit. Was going to order from Sofa, but too impatient – waiting for it to pop through the letterbox any day.
    Enjoy the tour – the American audiences are certainly in for a treat.

    Best wishes to all,

    Douglas

    Isle of Bute

    • Andy Lewis says:

      ‘Flight’ – my, I’d like to hear that.

      I hope we get a chance to do so in Britain.

    • Yes I’d like to say ‘thank you’ too Peter for taking the time. As far as ‘Flight’? a) I would’nt nor have expected it. And really it might sound odd, tho I don’t think it’s odd or unique at all..but myself I draw a fine (pourous?) division line between the music that is VdGG & your solo stuff. Same lyricist..but the way the character of the different songs unfold…VdGG’s band members have allways given it their all (and it shows). Maybe this does’nt come out right but it seems VdGG’s core-spark is different from your core-spark? b) The song itself..it’s just so relevant . The first verse/chorus (?) with the song…imo it’s in your top 7 (brilliant. even for you). Yes, definitely Flight times: Euro Zone flight (now Cyprus too), U.S./Mexican drug war Flight, U.S. impatience & back to a Conservative Gov’t Flight, and Putin/Soviet Russia what-do-you-know Flight (my favorite one). Yea fun times. Who can look at them? I don’t know if I can.

  10. What would be really great is to have some of this “wonky improv” make its way into a live show!


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