Here comes everythingPosted: September 30, 2016 Filed under: Uncategorized 31 Comments
As of today – at long last – the latest set of VdGG recordings, collectively titled “Do Not Disturb” is released. It’s been a long wait but, we believe, well worth it.
We’d begun discussing the project back in April 2015 and from the very earliest stages were aware that this would possibly be the last album we’d make. At this point I’ll stick in the heavy caveat that I am not, we are not, saying that this is definitively the last…it would be a bit ridiculous to make such a statement right now. However, it won’t have escaped your attention that we’re all of, ahem, somewhat advanced years now. Happily, we’re all still in reasonable condition mentally and physically and long may that continue. But we’re aware that time is marching on and, of course, that heading into making an album remains a pretty major undertaking for us.
It’s not something which had really been on our radar before – except, of course, for the fact that the original reunion in 2004 was spurred on by the demise of a few of our road crew, which we took as Time wagging its finger at us in a certain way. Anyway, for whatever reason, the consciousness was there from the off this time.
And of course the area on which this immediately impacted was the writing of the songs. As I began working on this – a protracted process this time – it seemed to me that as well as addressing where we now stand there was some necessity to trace the paths we’d taken in reaching this point. So, without being entirely autobiographical exercises, there are at least a couple of songs here which have some historical reference points. Naturally, there’s a degree of stylisation, even of reinvention and re-imagining going on – these are works of fiction, of course – but some of our common life experiences have definitely gone in here.
I won’t over-elaborate and I don’t mean to say that the entire album is meant to be taken as some valedictory exercise. It remains an album we needed to make precisely because we do currently feel that we’re in the now and with stuff to do in the now…rather than one where we’re (reluctantly or not) signing off.
The writing for the album took a number of months and a greater than normal level of mutual consultation. At an early stage I’d asked HB and Brain if there was anything they thought I ought be covering lyrically and a couple of ideas came through there. I also sent them regular CDs of work in progress; these weren’t exactly demo versions but they did show the basics of the proposed material.
Every time we’ve made a record (actually, any time we’ve undertaken any activity) in this current incarnation of the group we’ve tried to do something different. In this case we made the decision to fully rehearse the songs before doing any recording. It’s probably the first time we’ve ever done this. Obviously, back in the days of “Godbluff” in particular we were fully rehearsed before entering the studio but this had been with the intention and actuality of playing the songs in live ahead of time. (That’s not really an option any more since any new material would be sure to be out there on t’interweb approximately ten minutes after coming off stage….)
We worked at Stage 2 Studios in Bath, a far cry from luxury residential complexes but absolutely ideal for our purposes, heads down without distraction. We spent a full week working through the material and the fact that we weren’t diving straight into record mode meant that we were able to explore a couple of different approaches to various sections. Then we headed off in our different directions for a week of consideration and private practice; some of this stuff was quite complicated enough for us to need some quiet time alone with the riffs…. There were also quite a few email exchanges along the lines of “I *think* it’s meant to be like this”.
Then we returned for the sessions themselves. HB told us that he’d never come to recordings with quite so many written notes. So…we knew, in principle, what we were meant to be doing. The songs – or their component parts – stretched our capacities as a trio as never before. Some elements, deceptively simple, required fully empathetic playing; in other places fiendish non-repetitions and slippery time signatures kept us on our toes. As ever, we had a number of different instrumental combos to get through…some of them new even to a our long-standing trio.
Quickly, it seemed, we were done with stage one, the backing tracks.
A couple of months work awaited us. First the elements of the songs had to be stitched together in multitrack form. Most pieces consisted of wildly different parts and, rather in the fashion of “H to He” or “Pawn Hearts”, would only make sense when actually connected together. In the 70s this would have been after the mixing stage but now we could make masters that run all the way through. Thus overdubs could take place over junctions, making the structure appear, we hoped, seamless.
All of this was as planned but it still took a degree of knitting to make sure that everything worked and that all the correct takes were used (!). Once done, each of us had the comploete set of sessions in our respective studios and set about the overdubbing – or, in my case singing & dubbing – part of the work. It took a while, as I’ve said. Guy was particularly pleased that this time he was able to apply his own overdubs only once it had become clear exactly what HB and I were up to – a luxury/burden that hadn’t really been available to him on previous outings.
(I should say at this stage that a couple of bits were overdubbed onto pre-prepared pieces of music, rather than things we’d done in the studio in Bath. And, most significantly, HB came forward with a completely new piece, “Shikata Ga Nai”, at a comparatively late stage in proceedings. It’s perhaps significant that we all felt that both this and the (similarly un-band-like) “Go”, fitted perfectly well into the sound world we were creating.)
This time the mixing process was down to us. I did the bulk of the setting-up and the passes, informed/spoken sternly to at all stages by the others. Gradually we approached the finishing tape, mostly happy with most things; a final couple of days were spent all together in the same room making absolute and final adjustments. There, done.
It’ll be with you (if you’re so interested) imminently, so I won’t go into any further descriptions now. I will say, though, that I believe it’s the best work that we’ve done in the modern era of the group.
The years of the K Group are now, or will be soon, coming under the spotlight. The TV performance by the band in Hamburg for Rockpalast has (finally) been released on DVD and is already out there. Coming soon will be vinyl re-releases of the studio albums which date from the K Group era: “Enter k” and “Patience”. Other stuff will follow in 2017.
For those who don’t know, the K Group was – more or less – a beat group in which I played gtr and pno and sang. The other members were Brain on drums, Nic Mozart bass and John “Fury” Ellis on lead guitar. It’s good fun and, of course, has very serious moments as well.
Here come the ads:
Both “Do not Disturb” and the Rockpalast show are available from http://www.sofasound.com
They can also be had at http://www.burningshed.com. Burning Shed are also now taking advance orders for the vinyl re-issues; sofasound won’t be selling these.
Like most of the acolytes of this blog I am eagerly anticipating the next news!
However I wish to record the following point:
Whilst I have enjoyed reading all blog’s responses over the years I feel that most of the reports concerning the University of Exeter VdGG/PH Society have been both misrepresented and exaggerated. I, myself, was a member and wish to point out that not all our meetings ended with violence or acrimony. Indeed I remember many Thursday evenings which were profound, thought-provoking, and, for the most part, abstemious.
I wish to salute their endeavours which has imbued a lifelong regard for the majesty of which ever direction Peter embarks upon.
are you still be there?
It would be nice to hear of you……
Should there not be a PH Album in springtime??
—I whish it could.
“I”m hungry” – “Of what?” – “Of what should be”
I’ve been listening to the new album now for quite a while, and my verdict is that it is definitely one of the band’s best, pre or post reunion. It would be great to see a live gig for one last time, but I’ll only go if you play as much of ‘Do Not disturb’ as possible. Yes yes, I love the old stuff, but I’ve heard it all a million times, and I’d really love to hear the new stuff played live, as I may not get another chance if this turns out to be the last album. Thank you for the last 50 years.
Do Not Disturb appears redolent not of time passing but time passed. As a quasi-tribute both to the feel and direction of the album and it’s retro-ness we had an anything-but-digital evening at the University of Exeter VdGG/Hammill Society. Alken’s contribution we held off for the finale: no less than an 8 track cartridge of Still Life she had somehow salvaged from her father’s attic in Diss! She had diligently jerry-rigged an Ebayed 8 track player into her Nissan Micra and to a select few she drove around the highways and byways of this fair university city blasting out the most exquisite polyphony. True, the tape had stretched and warped but our adamantine memory of the tracks kept it tightly in focus. Unfortunately we over-egged the pudding and during a raucous sing-along at the end of La Rossa we totalled the Matlock Roundabout and Alken chipped a tooth. I later bought the 8 track from her but quickly sold it at a profit to a buyer in Japan who coincidentally told me in his (less than 100%) feedback that he was there on the second night at the Pit Inn but wished he’d been there on the first evening as the set list was better.
Lovely to hear a rusty old 8 track can engender such affection. I wonder if any other readers can regail us with their shared expriences with a Beta-max and a copy of Godbluff Live 75 – Charleroi, Palais des Expos. I would imagine that plumbing that into the back of a Citroen 2CV (other models are available) would cause serious harm.
Yours Expectantly etc.
Greetings from the North.Having acquired DND at reasonable price and at acceptable risk to life & limb, I am suitably impressed. Congrats to HB for another fine organ demonstration,; I mentioned his prowess to my other half and received a quizzical eyebrow. Song 2 prompted swift search which revealed that you can pick up an Alpha Romeo Berlina for £21k. I reckon DND is still a better investment. Forever Falling is catchy, I must say. I think you getting the hang of this pop business. I caught myself humming this one whilst ironing…success! Happy to see that blasting VdGG can still attract worried looks in Tesco’s car-park. For some reason thing brings me great joy. Thanks chaps. I might not be cool but my choice of music can stll prompt strangers to have a WTF moment. I feel this contributes towards my mental well-being. Thanks again. Keep on carrying on.
Well said that man! We need to challenge the system by our choice of in car music at all times. And it pays to keep the Asda rabble at a distance by playing such music loud!
Happy birthday Peter!
I’ve got something to say, and it ain’t the usual sob-story that you hear every day! May this be a birthday special to the music man of my lifetime! Hope all if possible is well and thanks again for your career. Your career helped create so much pleasure in my lifetime – I can’t give you enough plaudits. 50 + albums 50 + years – What a ride! And it ain’t over yet! Happy Birthday,
Scott – Los Angeles
Next time you play a series of dates in the UK, why don’t you tell your fans (on this site or elsewhere) so we can get tickets? Instead of just letting the touts get them all and rip us all off? This has been going on since the 1960s we all know but honestly Peter there’s no need for it in this day and age. I refer to the Oto Cafe gigs, sold out and (no doubt) tickets on eBay at many times face value before a word has been uttered on any official site.
Er, he did. On Twitter.
The complexities involved in composing and recording this album are fascinating to read about – but have you considered how hard these songs are to whistle? In attempting to adapt the works to labio-pneumatic form, some of our most gifted performers have suffered spasms of the epiglottis and trauma to the uvula – we will, however, persist in our efforts…
I’m more amazed how he has kept his voice in such great shape, before I listened to DoNotDisturb I was listening to his earlier masterpiece Enter K his voice sounds powerful as ever on here especially on the tracks Brought to book and forever falling
Really loving “Do Not Disturb”!!! VDGG are part of a small minority of legacy art rock bands that can still deliver compelling music. Magma are in that same, small club. It just goes to show, they always valued art over money, and over time, that’s the music that lives on.
A few days after our revolution in 25 April 1974, a friend show me “Pawn Hearts”. And… my life change. I remember a PH solo show in Teatro S. Luis (Lisbon)… Man, what a night! And many other shows (PH solo, K Group, VdGG) in Portugal. Just a personal lament. I never see Mr. Jaxon… Today, I have to say this: Thank you very much for all those years!
I’ve just listened to the CD for the 1st time and it definitely ranks among VDGG best works!
Merci Peter, Hugh, Guy !!!
Said it before…. VdGG should/must play at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona. If there is to be ‘one last hurrah’, please make it here and ensure Susie and I get 2 tickets please Peter!!
It has become a truly great album. And hopefully it will not be the last !! Sophisticated rhythms, impressive guitar sounds, a melancholic accordion and – surprise – an imaginative guitar solo in “Oh No …”
Well done guys.
For the past two days I have had a sickness bug (first the body goes). Last night my glasses fell apart (then the vision), Today “Do Not Disturb” arrived (and the spirit was renewed). This is a bloody masterpiece. Thank you Peter. Thank you Hugh. Thank you Guy
Thanks, as ever, Peter. This and the video interview put everything more or less in perspective.
Been listening to a lot of VDGG lately and really appreciating the quality of the remasters. Then this comes along. Many thanks to you all – it’s superb. The lyrics, the singing and the musicianship.
It is Friday 30th 5pm, I have not pre ordered the album, so I am seriously thinking of walking into Bristol centre *now* (3miles) to get it. Can I really wait until tomorrow to hear it? If I walk quickly I’ll make it before they close…
Great news, Peter! And hopefully this is not the last work you do. I’m sure there’s still a lot of music in you.
Cherry Red sent me two copies today the numpties ! I’m sending one back in exchange for their poster which didn’t come with either of them. Really looking forward to the first listen tonight…. May VDGG have as many last albums as Status Quo ! Hooray for our side ! 🙂
Waiting for my copy of the new CD to drop through the letter box. I was 12 years old when I first saw a poster for VdG at the Derby Technical College around the corner from my house in Allestree. I was too young to know what that was about. I learnt over the next 5 years Thanks to the three of you for giving me the chance to be hearing new VdGG material when it is released, rather than coming at them as a historical article.
Fantastic stuff – so much going on – so many styles – and we dedicated followers are collectively crossing our fingers of course that it’s not the last release!
I echo my friends’ Douglas and Mik’s sentiments here – in thanking you all – but I do hope you see fit (and feel fit enough) to take some of these tunes out for a live airing – as they deserve it.
Especially in the Liverpool Philharmonic. (hint hint)
The Liverpool Philharmonic would be perfect!
My LP arrived yesterday from Burning Shed. Once cleaned on the RCM I span it last night for the first time.
I must admit it didn’t hit me immediately, there are definitely some WTF moments in the songs – it IS very different from anything you’ve done before. This is a good thing as there is loads there to digest and the best albums are always those that grow on me slowly.
Further spins over the week-end should bring it into better focus and it feels like it will sit very comfortably next to Pawn Hearts and Godbluff.
I also ordered the CD as the LP is missing a couple of songs this should be with me early next week.
Having had the chance to listen to the album a couple of times now, I totally aagree that this is the band’s finest work since the reunion.
It is the sort of album I can’t wait to listen to again on return from work.
There are many highlights. The musicianship is spot-on. Some of Guy’s work is beautifully understated and Hugh is a superb multi-instrumentalist; and may I add, Peter has developed into a very accomplished rhythm guitarist. The lyrics are, as we have come to expect, of the highest order.
If this really is the last album, it is a pinnacle of achievement.
“Go” is a beautiful peace of music and a fitting coda to down tools, but…..hopefully not.
Thank you Peter and co.
As someone called out as the band took to the stage in Glasgow in 2005…….Genius!
Waiting for my copies (im)patiently…. Thank you so much for everything!