As Intimated….

So, as I intimated might be the case, I’ve finally managed to miss the month of May in terms of getting a Journal entry up here.

I have, though, been working towards – and meeting – a more serious deadline at the end of last month: I’ve now managed to do mixes for all of the pieces set for the next solo album.

As you’ll all know, this set of recordings has been under way for a long, long time and it’s really quite something to have arrived at a stage where they *could* be in a releasable state.

It’s been interesting to come back to all these songs for the mixing. Since they’ve been recorded over such protracted period (and in fits and starts) I haven’t held a definite memory of each one throughout the process and therefore haven’t really known what’s coming as I loaded each one up. There were *lots* of things which I’d completely forgotten about, many of them given cryptic (or no) names which didn’t really reveal much of a clue as to their nature in advance of hearing them.

In  way this meant that I didn’t feel particularly precious towards any of the parts and so was fairly liberated in re-imagining what each piece should be made up of in its final form. In other words, fast decisions at the end of a long and painstaking progress. There’s been a degree of instantaneity of response in these mixing sessions which has made them very much of The Now.

Mixing’s one of the things which has changed the most in the entire recording process over the years. When I began making records it was very much a question of simply balancing the tracks which had been laid down. Reverb was restricted to (probably only one) Plate Echo and delay to tape machines. By the time VdGG was fully under way quite a lot more outboard effects were available. But because the resulting mix was going down to a single 1/4” tape it was still very much happening in real time and became in itself something of a performance. The more complicated the moves that needed to be made then the more pairs of hands were needed to make them.

That’s something which has disappeared over the years. First, automated desks came in, so that minute adjustments could be made, accurately and repeatedly. These days the advent of computer recording means that the moves can be made in software land as well as onboard desks. Often modern mixes are made “In the Box” – entirely within the computer.

I must say that I still miss something of the mix-as-performance, the feeling that This One is (and is going to be) the definitive version. Of course, I appreciate the fact that one can go back and adjust things and wouldn’t *really* want to go back to that Analogue path in toto…but I still try, at least in part, to act on impulse.

So as I’ve said I’ve now got *some* versions done of each track. It’s likely that over the coming weeks they’ll all be tweaked or, indeed, completely reworked. But another plateau of achievement in the process has been reached and, for all that a degree of thought, consideration, work remains, the end of the project is now in sight.


14 Comments on “As Intimated….”

  1. Gamer says:

    When is the new album going to be ready ?

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  3. Tensis says:

    It was a time of rancour and vitriol. Caustic whisky and soda imbued the flocked wallpaper of the Exeter University VdGG/Ph Society: it was 1979.
    That year we led the list in defects/defectors. Czechoslovakia was second. Just nobody would embrace the Messiah. We doubted.
    We had (anachronistically) dissed the Future Now and Poo-pooed pH7. Membership was at rock bottom. Whilst the Buzzcocks played the Union I read the message from the Edmonton Pawn Hearts sect to almost an empty room. It was a flockless flocked room.
    But how were we to know the Sentinel-like Arthur C Clarke Monolith was about to be excavated: The Black Box. Membership Rocketed. And my God it’s full of songs.

  4. Andrea says:

    Dear Peter
    Nice to know you are preparing your next solo album, did’t know about.
    I am waiting ! Knowing details about the process of “building” makes me ever more curious to listen to the result.
    Yes, technology had changed a lot the way of developing music, but the artist focus and skills is the gasoline of all this engine: here’s why I sincerely appreciate your work ( let’s say LOVE !!!, what’s wrong with it !!!)

    All the best
    Andrea, Italy/Brasil

  5. Anonymous says:

    I find it very interesting: how the process of mixing and versioning has changed over the years…Has it allowed a lot of ‘oldies’ to rerelease back catalogues with numerous versions of the same song? Not a bad thing by a long shot, but sometimes I ask myself ‘exactly how many versions of John Martyn’s Big Muff do I really need?’.

    Interesting also to note that Neil Young has spent many years and probably shed loads of money on his own digital sound system and then he goes and records his latest album on a 1950s gramophone making it sound like those old blues field recordings. What’s that all about then?

    Enjoy your work greatly Mr Hammill. Long may you run.

  6. johnfitzj says:

    I find it very interesting: how the process of mixing and versioning has changed over the years…it has allowed a lot of ‘oldies’ to rerelease back catalogues with numerous versions of the same song. Not a bad thing by a long shot, but sometimes I ask myself ‘exactly how many versions of John Martyn’s Big Muff do I really need!’.

    Interesting also to note that Neil has spent many years and probably shed loads of money on his own digital sound system and then he goes and records his latest album on a 1950s gramophone making it sound like those old blues fields recordings. What’s that all about then?

    Enjoy your work greatly Mr Hammill. Long may you run.

  7. hugh manatee says:

    every time you post a behind-the-scenes entry like this i get as excited as a kid waiting for christmas! hoping i don’t get a lump of coal. all the best to you & yours

  8. Anonymous says:

    The mixing process fascinates me. It’s the alchemy behind modern music. Thanks for your insights. I wonder, could one write a book about this, like your article without it becoming a dull technical manual?

  9. Doug Watson says:

    “Many of them given cryptic (or no) names which didn’t really reveal much of a clue as to their nature in advance of hearing them.” This is excellent advice: a strategy to help one to stay open about a piece for as long as possible by avoiding even subtle preconceptions. Thanks for the update, Peter.

  10. bayernmike says:

    I thought Plate Echo was a Greek philosopher

  11. dpcoffey says:

    Re: the delay… We know you were just waiting on an email from Fripp. 🙂

  12. Gareth Price says:

    You can’t beat hands on, as the Actress said to the Bishop 😉


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