Here comes everythingPosted: September 30, 2016
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 So, without being entirely autobiographical exercises, there are at least a couple of songs here which have some historical reference points.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.