Saturday, 30 September 2017

News, What News?

There's always 'news' but it doesn't always get broadcast here... This site will get a general nip and tuck soon with new 'news' and updates all round, (though the Discog & Gig pages do tend to be kept reasonably up-to-date)... In the meantime (anti)social media offers the most up-to-the-minute overview of Lee-related stuff ;-)


Thursday, 22 September 2016

London Date + Tour Poster

I'm delighted to announce a very special addition to our (Billy Bottle & The Multiple) Autumn tour: On the 20th November we'll be playing at The Camden People's Theatre in London as part of the 'All The Right Notes' festival, (which features both music-driven theatre and music acts - such as ours - with a theatrical leaning). We're thrilled to be a part of this programme, and look forward to bringing 'The Other Place' to the heart of London (not too far from the 'other' Other Place).

So here's the full list of autumn venues as presented on our official tour poster, (beautifully designed by Rosie Harbottle):

Poster by Rosie Harbottle Illustration

If you've managed to miss prior updates regarding this show and my role within the band then please check back over the past few posts and become enlightened re: one of my major projects this year...

As always the most relevant and current gig info can be found on (surprise surprise) my Gig Page (here), which is regularly updated with the most up-to-date particulars and venue links. Please help us to spread the word, and hopefully come visit 'The Other Place' yourself :-)

Until then...


Monday, 29 August 2016

The Multiple: Autumn / Winter 2016 Dates

After our brief summer hiatus the band (Billy Bottle & The Multiple, of which I'm currently an active member - see my previous post) will soon be reconvening 'The Other Place' tour with a number of new dates across the South West and Southern England.

Band photo by Jack Gorman (edited by LF)

One or two further locations may yet be added, but the first seven dates are now confirmed: We'll be playing in Penzance, Falmouth, Redruth, Plymouth, Frome, Brighton and Margate, though not in that specific order! Please check my Gig Page for full details, including ticket links as and when they go live. (I regularly update the listings so it's worth checking back periodically). I hope we can announce a further date or two soon...

Incidentally, for those asking (and they are) we do aim to venture above the M4 corridor next year. Offers have already come in for potential Northern shows and we're looking at putting together a longer 2017 tour in order to cover more ground geographically, so "fingers crossed" and all that. It's likely that this show will stay active for at least the next year... But in the meantime, if you can possibly get to any of the current dates please do. Logistically it's quite a challenge taking this show on the road without a tour manager or external funding, etc. so we really do appreciate each and every person who makes the effort to come along and bring their energy to the performances! Thanks to all who have done so to date :-)

In related news, we plan to release a new single to coincide with the upcoming dates. I'm donning two hats for this, both as producer / arranger (an Unsung Production) and band member, which is a new twist on the working relationship I've had with previous incarnations of the band... There will most likely be an album eventually, however the show is primarily a live thing (with semi-improvisational elements and a strong narrative) so we're not in a hurry to take the bulk of the material into the studio. Barring the odd single, live is the way to experience it, for now.

Finally, in unrelated news, I'm also working on various other musical projects but here and now is neither the time nor place for those...

See you around!


Monday, 20 June 2016

The Other Place: A Vox-Popera (Live)

So here's a thing... After working on and off with Billy Bottle & The Multiple as producer / mixer / contributor (and perhaps more importantly connecting with the core members on a personal level) I was invited to join a new 5-piece configuration of the band earlier this year with the intention of putting together a new show. Having consciously abandoned live performance *many* years ago in favour of studio work my inclination was to give a swift "thanks, but no thanks", yet the lure of working with good friends on something that would drag me out of my all-too-comfortable comfort zone was strong... So, without a good enough excuse to decline I quickly found myself attending band meetings and rehearsals as we worked-up new material in readiness for a series of summer and winter gigs.

'The Other Place: A Vox-Popera' is a suite of songs based on a journey to Westminster taken by Bill and Martine during the last seven days of the 2015 general election: Seven towns were visited per day, culminating in a milk float drive through London and the symbolic delivery of a bottle of milk in Parliament Square. These songs were essentially 'written' in real-time by the ordinary (and extraordinary) people they encountered along the way. Their views, stories and actual words formed the nucleus - As a band we merely filled in the colours... Jazz vocalist and painter Kate Westbrook describes the show as "A diary in four dimensions".

My musical role is primarily contributing electronics (synths / keys / soundscapes / beats), though I do bang on a few bits of wood and metal along the way ;-) It's entirely possible that I may (or may not) add Touch Guitar to my arsenal for the 2nd-wave winter shows, depending on how the material develops... The full band line-up is as follows:

Billy Bottle: Vocals, Keyboard, Guitar
Martine Waltier: Vocals, Violin, Guitar, Percussion
Vivien Goodwin-Darke: Flute, Vocals, Percussion
Roz Harding: Alto Sax, Recorder, Percussion
Lee Fletcher: Synths, Soundscapes, Percussion

(Incidentally three of my bandmates appear on recordings that will eventually form a future LF solo album...)

Band photos by Ed Harbottle (edited by LF)

Following a low-key but very well received preview show back in April we're taking 'The Other Place' to Exeter, Bristol, Southampton, Penzance, Falmouth and Brighton, with further stops (most likely including Plymouth, Canterbury, Whitstable and London) in the pipeline... Please check my Gig Page for details, including additions as and when they're confirmed. Incidentally, we aim to play further afield next year so if you have any location requests / suggestions don't be shy in coming forward.

We'd love to see you at these shows :-) Please try to come along, and if you do make sure you say "hi".


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Radio Silence


Those paying attention will probably have noticed that I haven't blogged in quite some time, (13 months I do believe)... There's plenty news and happenings that I could potentially discuss, but for now I'm happy existing under a virtual rock ;-) This extends to social media where my activity is currently, and contentedly, zilch.

Projects / collaborations come, go, return again, and overlap one-another. Suffice to say that in the main I've been creatively active during my "radio silence". My solo album project (which was the focus of a previous cluster of posts) is still very much alive and important to me - There's no official deadline, and I'm juggling (as well as procrastinating over) a number of things, so it'll land when it's good and ready. Dates are unimportant (to me), for now.

Oh, and David Bowie... I wrote a long piece reflecting on the recent turn of events, but ultimately decided that I didn't need to share it with anyone. At least not yet :-)

Until I lift the lid / rock - Adios x


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

"Happy Old Year - Resolutions and Chores"

"New Year, much the same as before. Happy Old Year, resolutions and chores..." This quote constitutes the 1st (public) lyrical extract from my next solo album ;-) But don't read too much into those isolated words, eh? Context is king.

For much of 2014 I openly blogged about the album "making-of" process because my private enthusiasm compelled me to say something about what I was doing. No regrets there, however the downside to commenting publicly about a project-in-progress is that any shared enthusiasm by generous readers leads to inevitable queries regarding release dates, and external assumptions that the thing is about to hit the 'shelves' of record stores (real or virtual)... Well it's going to be quite a while yet as I'm not working on it full-time, plus some contributors are still yet to be added to the recordings due to people's busy schedules / lives. What I can say is that it should be completed by (or soon after) my next end of / beginning of the year blog :-) Meanwhile I'll continue to sporadically post titbits of info if and when the fancy takes me.

Here's a mini update on proceedings: After several months with no major activity the album project burst back to life just before Christmas with further recorded contributions from Cathy Stevens (violin, viola and 6-string Violectra), grand piano courtesy of Bill Harbottle (aka: Billy Bottle, of The Multiple), and Tony Levin's bass parts. Having been on the road (with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Stick Men and The Crimson ProjeKCt) throughout much of 2014 Tony was finally at home long enough to track his parts in the days leading up to Christmas – In fact I received his final set of files on Christmas Eve! :-)

For trivia fans out there the piano we used (for Bill's overdubs) belongs to renowned jazz pianist / composer Mike Westbrook – The session was recorded at his and Kate's Devon home, for which I'm extremely grateful. The photo above was taken by myself midway through a take.

And for completeness here's a Tony Levin 'selfie' that he took during the sessions for my tracks:

There'll be another pause in proceedings as I'm currently producing a couple of singles; one for Billy Bottle & The Multiple which we're (tentatively) aiming to complete later this month, and another for an artist that I'll talk about another time. Sorry to be 'mysterious' about the latter, but I'll post details when it's more appropriate.

So, 2014 was a mixed bag of a year – Aren't they all? I've already blogged about some of my music-related highlights (including Kate Bush's 'Before The Dawn'... The hairs on my neck still tingle at the memories) so there's no need for repetition - They're all here for you to read. I attended more live gigs than usual (for me) and experienced a lot of wonderful music, some of which formed part of the monthly 'A Message From' series in Exeter. In October I met another of my favourite guitarists, the wonderfully unique Reeves Gabrels, when he performed with his Imaginary Friends (band) in Birmingham. Professionaly-speaking I donned various audio 'caps' and contributed to twenty musical releases over the past twelve months, plus several others that are yet to be publicly released.

Here's Reeves and I larking about post-gig, (snapped by chum Matthew North who played on the same bill):

2015 may turn out to be a milestone year for me when I get around to completing the solo record, plus I'll be aiming to redress the balance in a number of professional areas. "Aiming", though not necessarily succeeding. One can but try ;-)

Huge heartfelt thanks to everyone who takes the trouble to read these blogs, as well as my posts on social media (when I'm not taking one of my frequent online sabbaticals). When you comment on a post, share an article, send me private messages, and especially listen to (or preferably buy) the music it makes a difference :-) I hope the work that will come this year (not only my own compositions but several productions / collaborations) will bring you a little pleasure...



Sunday, 14 September 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #6 (Before and After The Dawn)

After a string of "album making-of" blogs in quick succession I've been a little quiet here since late June... Sometimes I enjoy sharing the process publically and other times I'd rather just be doing it, getting on with life, and generally keeping my head down ;-) Also, as a self-employed practitioner I often have to prioritise other work (mastering, mixing, master-classes, etc.) in order to pay those pesky bills.

OK, in summary things are progressing nicely. I have no fixed deadline, (though I'm tentatively looking at Spring 2015 as a potential release period), and am allowing myself time and space to make things the way I envisage them. The world can wait ;-) It's important however to emphasise that this "time and space" includes a lot of downtime where I focus on other projects and just listen and/or think about what I'm doing with the album.

I've been editing, physically and mentally - Honing performances and refining the overall arrangements. Lyric writing and tweaking, plus the vocal sessions have recently begun... I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned that I'm singing most of this stuff myself. Previously I've tended to sing the demos then blend my backing vocals / harmonies in with another lead singer, most notably my wife Lisa (who will still contribute to this project), working from the shadows as a vocal arranger / coach / producer. Well, from early on I knew that I needed to put myself on the line with this particular set of songs – it felt like the honest thing to do - and that also goes for the level of instrumental composition and general pre-arrangements. It all seems quite natural to me so I hope people will generally feel that in the end. But either way, this is how it is and I'm running with it ;-)

Several more contributions have been recorded and/or scheduled, including recent sessions with two wonderful guests that I've worked with previously:

Tim Motzer (who appeared on 'FiWT', 'Islands', and contributed a knockout remix to 'The Cracks Within') appears on three songs here, mostly playing acoustic / rhythm guitar, but also contributing an array of electric parts for one particular piece. Tim has a great musicality about him, and always feels the material, instinctively knowing how best to respond to what he hears and my brief.

Here's a snap (taken by Tim) from one of his tracking sessions utilising an AEA R84 ribbon mic - for any 'gear heads' out there...

Pedal steel legend - and I don't use that term lightly - BJ Cole (with whom I've collaborated on both 'FiWT' and the GRICE 'Propeller' album that I produced / arranged / mixed) also makes a welcome return. He and I recently worked together on a song that has undergone many stylistic changes. His beautiful contributions actually inspired me to rework the track in question so that I could showcase more of his playing in the early sections...

I'm very pleased to announce that renowned bassist Tony Levin (who contributed to last year's award-winning Fletcher / Fletcher / Reuter 'Islands' single) is also confirmed to appear. Tony's pretty busy with the all-new King Crimson tour (also featuring Pat Mastelotto who appears on this record), as well as more upcoming Peter Gabriel shows. But he'll be working his magic on two of my songs in the not-too-distant future. I'm mostly handling the bass parts myself, but I had Tony in mind for these particular compositions from the outset so it's great to have him onboard.

Another announcement I'm happy to make is that Cathy Stevens and Udo Dzierzanowski (pictured above) of Europa String Choir will shortly be recording parts for the album. I've known them both for as long as I've known Markus (16+ years), and we've been talking about doing something musical together on and off all this time. Finally this project made it possible and I'm really looking forward to their contributions! Cathy will be performing a number of chordal string parts that I've written, and both will be adding their improvisational spark to selected songs.

There are still further players to announce - Maybe in the next update?...

So, another thing I really HAVE to talk about (more so than my album production) is Kate Bush's 'Before The Dawn' concert series... After initially missing out on tickets and feeling thoroughly depressed about it I was incredibly fortunate to be handed a 'golden ticket' by a friend of a friend (now also very much a friend), and subsequently I attended the second night of her 22-date residency at the Hammersmith Apollo (still the 'Odeon' to me). This was one of the most profound audiovisual experiences of my life, and despite my feeble attempt to write about it here there really are no words to adequately describe the feeling of being that space – both the physical setting and the 'head space' - with Kate. Her work, both as songwriter/performer and producer/arranger has been inspirational to me throughout my life, and the three hours that I shared with her and "The K Fellowship" were absolutely spellbinding.

I ardently avoided spoilers as I knew this would be no ordinary gig and wanted to go in blind. Someone sitting behind me managed to ruin one surprise by loudly telling her friends about it, but hey, by then I'd already been swept away by the alchemy of it all so I didn't let her indiscretion pull me down to earth... And even though the web is now swamped with detailed critiques of the shows I'm not going to add to that noise myself – If anyone reading this is planning to attend one of the remaining performances and has (miraculously) avoided spoilers I urge you to remain as in the dark as is practically possible.

I used the term "audiovisual" because this was an amalgamation of live performance (with Kate in outstanding voice, backed by a wonderful band) together with spectacular theatre, cinema, puppetry, mime, dance, digital art, and a generous helping of "magic". Backing singers doubled as actors, and her son Bertie played a key role in the proceedings... When the inevitable DVD release emerges (much as I look forward to it) I can't imagine how it could possibly replicate the energy and alchemy felt in that room – Part of me is almost afraid to look again, in case it's not exactly how I remember it, and of course it won't be because it'll be edited / presented from someone else's perspective, devoid of context, time and space. But yeah, I'll buy it, and I still can't wait! ;-)

What does this experience mean for the new LF album? Quite a lot actually, though nothing will noticeably change on the surface. Just like the David Bowie exhibition in Berlin (that I wrote about here in May) this has been a stark reminder of why I care about music, what makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and why I'm literally driven to write, produce, and make records. Both experiences, albeit in very different ways, brought me closer to my inner youth, rekindling some of the magic and wonder that can so easily be dampened with the advancing of years and realities of 'life'. I do believe in magic when it comes to music, and artists such as David and Kate (along with a small cluster of special others) have always been there in a spiritual sense on my shoulder, reminding me that artistic compromise is seldom an option. These experiences also reminded me that they are "my" artists :-) Meaning when I 'discovered' their work I didn't know anyone else who felt the same way, and in those pre-Internet times that remained true for a lot of years, with the very few exceptions being people who I would forge strong friendships with...

The cumulative effect of these happenings on my next circular piece of audible plastic is yet to fully unfold, nonetheless my creative cells have been supercharged and this will sure as hell help me to remain true to myself, even when outside trends and opinions are leaning in a different direction, (and they usually are). That's not to say that I don't value input from trusted ears - I do - but if you have a clear vision it's important to never lose sight of it. Music is (for the most part) art, not product. Some people will never fully appreciate that, but that's OK - I do. I also recognise that art doesn't have to be incomprehensible to be true. It can be if that's what it needs to be, but it's not a prerequisite, so the 'pop' format can be as valid as anything. Artists like Kate (well, there aren't any quite like her, but you get my drift) recognise this and use whatever structure best serves the idea. Same with Bowie, (we'll overlook his 'lost years' in the mid-late 80s) ;-)

My pal Roz Harding (saxophonist extraordinaire, who also features on the upcoming album) went to the following two 'Bush shows - Here's her terrific blog about the experience, in which one of my text messages makes a surprising cameo ;-) We met over coffee this week to discuss (well, 'geek out' over) our respective experiences. It's clear that 'Before The Dawn' will be inspiring a great many folk, artists or otherwise...

More at some point. Until next time... x


[All pics © copyright Lee Fletcher 2014 - except Tim's snap]

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #5 (Alchemy, Seascapes and Windy Woods)

After returning from my recent Berlin trip (see the previous blog entry) I immersed myself in a prolonged period of audio editing - sifting through, selecting, comping and refining the many takes and variations recorded not only with Markus but also additional material flown in from Pat and Troy. For two of those weeks I went 'underground' (retreating from all social media) as I periodically do when the work requires my undivided attention. It's also good for the soul to escape the digital 'noise' and stop being concerned with (and affected by) what everyone else is doing...

The audio editing process is (for me) far more than a technical exercise. Choices I make here and the nurturing of raw material helps determine the character and shape of the record (that's "album" in old money). Improvised parts get deconstructed and 'recomposed' into arrangements. Sometimes seemingly small incidental phrases are repositioned and repeated, thus becoming part of the composition. Also the written parts (which account for the majority on this project) require comping and massaging in order to bed them into a production, no matter how good the performances are (and believe me they're pretty much all of a super-high standard). Making a record is (usually) a different art to simply capturing a performance - I'm a passionate advocate of live music, however I recognise and embrace the difference and possibilities presented by recording and producing in a studio environment. Personally I aim to blend the best of both worlds with a side order of "magic"... I really do believe in the alchemy of the recording and production process.

Those who know me personally will be aware that I like to balance my 'indoor (studio) life' with regular walks and outdoor exploration, particular along the coast that I'm fortunate enough to live by. These "sea walks" are not only a good head-clearing opportunity but many of my creative ideas begin life and/or take some kind of form whilst kicking hot sand with my bare feet, wading through salt water, or walking along a windy headland. When this particular album is complete and released I'm pretty sure that the influence will be evident, with one particular (and major) composition directly referencing the experience... It's easy to become immersed in the work to the point of neglecting the outside world, but I always try to avoid that trap and recognise that these 'breaks' are in themselves very creative experiences, as long as one is present and "in the moment", (i.e. not blocking out the environment with headphones or obsessing with phones and touchscreen gadgets).

Yesterday a new phase of tracking kicked-off (to use a currently topical - though not in this house - term) with a second round of flute performances by Vivien Goodwin-Darke. Written parts were recorded for two further songs as well as a series of breathtaking improvisations for a third! It's always a pleasure to work with Viv who is not only an astoundingly good player with a distinctive musical voice but also great company. Cake (of the very recent "40-something" birthday variety) was also consumed ;-)

Whereas the initial flute sessions were recorded at Viv and husband Tim's artist-friendly country B & B (Coombe Brook) today we worked in my home studio base, also known as Studio Fletchertronics. Here's a snap taken mid-performance during the final improv...

I'm currently prepping material for further contributors who'll be gracing these compositions in the coming few weeks. I'll 'introduce' the guests in forthcoming blog entries - I'm trying to report details as and when they become relevant, loosely in sync with the production timeline, rather than dumping everything online in one hit. Plans evolve and change, so it's best to make announcements at the appropriate time, plus I'd rather put the spotlight on individuals one or two at a time... I know, withholding information in these "share everything" times is pretty retro, huh? ;-) Well I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy in that respect, and I wish more were so inclined :-) To quote myself (from 'The Inner Voice' on Faith in Worthless Things): "I know it’s out of fashion, but I’ve never been in step".

On that note I'll bid you farewell until the next update. Cheers for caring about this stuff - It's never taken for granted x


[All pics © copyright Lee Fletcher 2014]

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #4 (Shredding in Berlin)

I've always had a slightly romanticised fascination with Berlin, despite only ever having visited once before (for a 48 hour period, which was spent almost entirely indoors - filming a band)... It largely stems from having read so many articles about David Bowie's time there in the late 70's and my love of the music that came out of that 'new wave' period, (both from Bowie himself and numerous other associated artists). The city is steeped in so much history, much of which is still in (my) living memory, thus adding to the allure.

So when my friend and frequent musical collaborator Markus Reuter recently relocated his base to the city it seemed only natural that I would record his contributions to my in-progress solo album out there. It also presented an opportunity for us both to explore Berlin a little and catch up with a few pals. All of this took place just over a week ago.

It was always a given that Markus would appear on the album. He is one of the most unique and visionary musicians I've ever heard, and we have an extremely good / intuitive working relationship. Each understands how the other works and consequently we get a lot of material out of our recording sessions. For this record (as mentioned in recent blogs) I created more detailed demos than I have in the past, so many of the key guitar parts were already written, nonetheless having them written and having them played with personality are two equally important parts of the desired whole. Furthermore, despite preparing a ton of lines and phrases for him to learn and play I had also earmarked numerous sections for Markus to add soundscapes (loop-based improvised guitar textures) and/or solos, so we had plenty to occupy our time!

There's a mutual trust there, and consequently Markus will generally play whatever (and however) I envisage for a piece, but equally I'm always open to his instinct which often dovetails neatly into the sound world I'm painting - He knows that I like options too, so even if we record multiple takes of a written part there'll often be variations thrown in for good measure. It means more work in terms of sifting and editing, but I'm a sucker for not taking the 'easy' route ;-) Markus also used this project as an opportunity to try out several new pedals and treatments, so there are some unique sounds in there... I tend to record his parts 'clean' where I'm likely to want more flexibility in post-production, but also balance the sessions out with more 'coloured' sounds which I know are more fun for him as a player - It all depends on the context.

During these sessions Markus played U8 (Touch Guitar) on ten songs, which is currently where I'm at with the album. (There are one or two additional song ideas that may be added, in which case we'll do overdubs via the web). Though the U8 is principally designed with touch-style / tapping techniques in mind it's also a "universal" instrument (hence the "U") and on these recordings he taps, strums, picks (with a plectrum), and employs a whole bunch of other guitar playing techniques. I really like that fact that when playing on my material Markus sometimes steps into territory he's less known for, thus highlighting his versatility.

Btw, I brought home a 'guest' with me at the end of this trip - A beautiful white Touch Guitars U8 Deluxe :-) I'll be playing most of the bass parts (aside from one guest spot - more on that later) with this instrument having already written and demoed lines that occupy a slightly lower range than my standard four string bass can easily handle. I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted with the instrument and techniques after last summer's TGC course in Austria.

Whilst out walking during a break on Day 2 Markus and I spotted a poster (the first of many) for the V & A David Bowie exhibition (currently 'touring' the world) which was due to open in Berlin the day before my flight home. When first exhibited in London last year I hadn't felt compelled to make the trip despite being a lifelong fan of his work, but the coincidental timing of this Berlin opening felt like a good omen and we decided to end our week by attending... I wasn't prepared for the effect it would have on me - Once inside I was in a permanent (but contained) state of excitement! So much adrenaline, and so much material to take in. I'm not normally that affected by 'stuff', but experiencing this exhibition in Berlin where much of (for me) the most interesting content had a strong connection was something very special. On exiting the museum I felt rejuvenated in a way that I can't easily explain - I just knew that the creative energy I had absorbed would feed into this album project in some way.

Once the album sessions were complete I engineered Markus's final overdubs for Fabio's upcoming Moonbound record. We used the same mobile setup (namely my audio interface, hard drive and MacBook running Logic Pro 9) that had served us well all week. On the other side of the Atlantic Pat Mastelotto completed his drum sessions and sent them over to my Dropbox while Markus and I worked...

All in all a productive, fun and positive week in which Markus and I also made plans and "to do" lists for Unsung Productions (our audio production cooperative), his forthcoming projects, and mine. The city had a great vibe and didn't disappoint - I only had one minor gripe: it's near impossible to use a credit (or debit) card anywhere! ;-) Strange (though perhaps refreshing in an equally strange way) in these 'virtual money' times. I'll know for next time... There's now a huge stack of material for me to work through, which will take at least four times as long as it did to record it ;-) Plus I have Pat's latest contributions to tie-in, and Troy (Jones) is currently laying down further overdubs, so the next couple of weeks are going to be busy. Further album sessions are being scheduled for June - More on who / what / where in the next blog 'instalment'.

- - - - - -

As a footnote - while we're talking about Markus - I should mention that his acclaimed classical piece 'Todmorden 513 (Concerto for Orchestra)' is officially released on the 17th June. I mastered the CD, and lots of great people were involved in its creation, not least Thomas Blomster who orchestrated the work. The accompanying 70 minute documentary (as featured on the deluxe CD/DVD edition) is available to stream for free here:

Until next time... x


PS - There are a few additional photos from the Berlin trip over on my Facebook artist page:

[All pics by moi - © copyright 2014 - except the shot of me which was taken by Markus]

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #3 (Sax and Drums and Rock 'n' Roll)

So, the next solo record is rocketing along... Although I should be clear here, I'm not looking to put it out until next year, but the instrumental tracking phase is well underway and at this rate I can see the main production being completed this year. New compositions are still emerging, and though I'm at a point where there's a healthy album's worth I've no desire to stem the flow just yet, so we'll see where it goes in the coming weeks. It would be nice to have some 'spare' material that I can potentially use for any single / EP releases, but the album is my focus right now.

Aside from adding a couple of new tunes to the roster since my last blog there's been more in the way of recording over the past week or so: Having already included flautist Vivien Goodwin-Darke in the proceedings I'm delighted to add fellow Billy Bottle & The Multiple member Roz Harding to the line-up of core musicians. Roz is a phenomenal alto saxophonist whose outstanding jazz trio WAVE (also featuring Mike Outram and Jim Bashford) has become a live favourite of mine :-) She's also a member of the esteemed Mike Westbrook Big Band, and if there's any justice in this world is surely heading for great things music career-wise... Since working on the 'Unrecorded Beam' record Roz and I have discovered a succession of shared musical passions and eccentricities, so it was only fitting that I should invite her to play on this record ;-) Moreover her approach to the instrument changed my perception of it considerably - for the better! To my delight she was enthusiastic about joining the party, and so earlier this week we spent more than six hours recording a combination of written parts that I had prepared in advance and blistering improvisations! Speaking of Viv, she and husband Tim kindly facilitated the session at their beautiful and relaxed Dawlish guesthouse Coombe Brook, (which I'd recommend to anyone - particularly musicians / artists - visiting the area) :-)

Here's a snap from the session...

Inviting brilliant players is one thing, but it's especially gratifying (for me, but also them) when they understand what I'm doing musically and are enthusiastic about their role. This is happening a fair bit with the current album I'm pleased to say, which maybe indicates that I'm doing something worthwhile ;-) I'm certainly feeling fired-up by the material and the process of dressing the songs, so for me at least it's a thrill!

[UPDATE: Roz has written about this session in her latest blog, which you can find HERE ...]

I made mention of a "second drummer" on the album in a previous blog, but I'm now happy to announce (even though I let slip on Facebook the other day) that it's Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson / Mr. Mister / Stick Men (and a thousand other great bands) notoriety :-) I've gotten to know Pat over the past few years and have mastered several of his releases as well as assisting with post-production on various Crimson ProjeKCt and Stick Men albums, but this marks the first occasion where he'll be playing on my compositions. It's terrific to have him onboard, and in fact he's already completed his parts for two of the pieces... He'll appear on at least four songs, including a drum-duet with Troy on one!

Here are a couple of snaps of Pat's main kit setup for these recordings (at 'Mastelotto Central', Austin, Texas):

Incidentally I first saw Pat play in 1993 with Sylvian & Fripp at The Royal Albert Hall, London... A very special gig for me, and one that doesn't feel like 21 years ago - Crikey!

Another person joining the ranks for this project is my friend Fabio Trentini who has just recorded some funky-ass rhythm guitar for a couple of songs. He's such a professional - I gave a clear brief and got exactly what I'd hoped for within a couple of hours ;-) After working with Fabs in a number of capacities it's great to finally get him on one of my recordings, (it nearly happened a couple of years back but that's another story), and at the same time I've just completed my contributions for his next Moonbound album: As mentioned recently Lisa is singing backing vocals and harmonies on several tracks, and I've created the arrangements (as well as recording and editing the performances) for these parts. They sound great and Fabio is currently mixing the record.

In a few days I'll be heading out to Berlin to hang with my pal, Unsung Productions partner, and frequent collaborator Markus Reuter. I'm looking forward to exploring Berlin and meeting up with friends, though part of my time there will be spent working on the album: Markus and I plan to devote a few days to recording his U8 (Touch Guitar) contributions which will be a combination of parts that I've written, improvisations, ambient soundscapes, and anything we devise together during the sessions... I guess I'll write about that next time ;-) In the mean time I have a ton of recordings from the recent sessions to sift through and edit, so I'll call it a day for this blog.

More soon - and now that I'm getting into the habit of regular updates I guess I really do mean that!


PS - Kudos to my friend Simon Northcott for this blog title which I stole from his comment on my recent Facebook post ;-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #2 (Woodwind and Brass to the Moon)

I'm trying to blog a little more often, so here’s a second (mini) update re: the production of my next solo album...

As indicated previously I'm already tracking parts for several songs while others are still forming. At this point there are about nine pieces 'on the go', with a few others hatching or close to existing. I don't yet know how many will make the final cut, but it’s already clear that this album will have a longer running time than the previous.

Recent sessions have focused on recording the French horn and flute parts. My old friend Jacqueline Kershaw performed the horn lines I had written - This will be the third time she's appeared on record with me having previously featured on several 'Faith In Worthless Things' tracks as well as my production of 'Propeller' (by GRICE). Jax and I go back to our early school days so it's great to be making music together after all these years :-)

Vivien Goodwin-Darke is the flautist for this project and performs both written parts and a little free-improv. Viv is a member of Billy Bottle & The Multiple whose recent album 'Unrecorded Beam' I produced. It's so great to work with her again and add her flavour into the mix. And speaking of "flavour" she makes a mean 'swamp' soup (tastes better than it sounds) which helped fuel our recording session ;-)

Both Jax and Viv are pictured above during the actual sessions...

Troy is soon to record an additional track and I'm currently prepping several demos for my second drummer / percussionist to do his thing in a couple of weeks, as well as a guest bassist who will most likely appear on one song. I'll reveal more next time... There are lots of sessions to be arranged with players located all over the world, so the next few months will be busy (but interesting).

In other news I'm currently arranging backing vocals for several tracks on Fabio Trentini's upcoming 3rd Moonbound album. Lisa will sing the parts which we began recording just a few days ago :-) It's sounding great!

More soonage x


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #1 (Dreams, Demos & Drums)

So, my next solo album is now properly "in production" (cue virtual fanfare) :-) As the year progresses this project will doubtless compete with my other musical work commitments and periodically rest on the shelf, but right now I'm ultra focused on the songs (some completely written and arranged / others still emerging) that will fill up my next circular piece of plastic... Huzzah!

Though it's early days I already feel that this is the strongest set of compositions I've penned to-date, both in terms of the musical and lyrical content, but also simply (yet importantly) as an uncompromised reflection of where I'm at right now. None of that guarantees an audience of course, but I'm unusually at ease with what I'm doing which must be a sign of some sort.

I've recently put together demos (mainly played / programmed via MIDI keys) that both I and contributing players will use as a road map, and in fact am still doing so as new songs emerge – Some parts are written exactly as they'll be performed, whilst others give the players a little room for interpretation. It's the 'old-fashioned' approach of writing songs up-front and leaving fewer arrangements to the production process, though one could also make the case that this *is* part of the production process... I like to work in a variety of ways, and there'll doubtless be a lot of digital arranging as parts are recorded, however I'm starting out with more defined compositions / arrangements than I have previously. Who knows if it'll end exactly the way it began? That's part of the fun though, eh? ;-)

Some (though not all) players from 'Faith In Worthless Things' are returning, with a number of new folks in the mix. I'm keen to move things around and incorporate new people as a way of keeping things fresh and also best serving the material. Naturally my old friend and Unsung Productions colleague Markus Reuter will appear, as will my vocalist wife Lisa, though I'll be taking lead vocal duties on several songs this time which may surprise some folks... The words and melodies of 'FiWT' largely came from me but were channelled through Lisa's beautiful voice – That gave the album a particular quality that was conducive to the landscape I was painting, however this time I'll be more obviously present in the recordings. It's partly a confidence / challenge thing – I've reached a point where I'm (somewhat) less inhibited as a 'performer'. But it's equally (maybe mostly?) a reaction to the type of material I've been writing, much of which felt like I should deliver it myself.

The first major sessions have already taken place: US-based drummer Troy Jones (whose wonderful 'New Peace' album I mixed last year) is one of two players occupying the drum stool for this album. He has already recorded drums and percussion for five songs, and will appear on at least one more... Initially I was hesitant about producing drums long-distance, though I had no doubts about Troy's abilities. Nonetheless the sessions turned out to be incredibly productive, positive and fun, with Troy responding well to direction and quickly learning to interpret my demos and commentary as if we were working in the room together! Lots of e-mails were exchanged, as well as Skype conversations and file transfers, but the results prove that the relationship is ultimately more important than location or distance. I've already devoted considerably more time to arranging the drums on this record than I did for the whole of 'FiWT', which further indicates the stylistic differences and direction of this project... 'Faith' was deliberately lite on drums (for the most part), but from from the outset I envisaged this set as being more rhythmically dynamic, and Troy's brilliant contributions have solidified that. The above snap of him was taken whilst hitting things for my album :-)

Next-up are sessions for both French horn and flute, taking place (this time more locally and in-person) over the next week. I'll also be heading to Berlin in a few weeks to work closely with Markus on his contributions... I'll blog periodically (come on, you know I don't do "daily updates" ;-)) during the production process and aim to publish at least a few pics along the way.

That's all for now. Cheerio and thanks for caring x