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


Friday, 14 February 2014

2013: Things That Happened

I'm unfashionably late to the New/Old Year party, but hey, writing the obligatory "end of year roundup" blog in mid February is still acceptable, right? Getting past the hubbub of Christmas, New Year and whatnot made it easier for me to reflect on the previous 365 days collectively known as 2013. So, "what actually happened?"...

Whilst there was no new full-length Lee Fletcher album in 2013 I kicked-off the year by releasing an eclectic set of commissioned reimaginings (remixes) of songs from the previous year's 'Faith In Worthless Things'. As a companion piece rather than follow-up album (which it isn't) I think 'The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes' works pretty well, and the "name your price" digital download format helped to raise several hundred pounds for the MS Society through voluntary donations.

In July I released a cover of Mike Oldfield’s 'Islands' as a digital single together with collaborators Lisa Fletcher and Markus Reuter. My new arrangement was very different to the original and felt close to the ambience of 'FiWT'. That said we had some new collaborators working on this recording such as Peter Gabriel / King Crimson (and everyone else's) bassist Tony Levin and CENTROZOON member Tobias Reber... The track was positively received and garnered a little airplay on regional BBC shows plus various commercial / independent alternatives. In November it won Best Single at the South West Music Awards - Somehow I never mentioned this on the blog previously! So, I now have 'award symmetry' on the main studio shelf ;-) I've said it before, but awards don't really have ANY impact on the way I work, but they're undeniably a great way to get the music heard by new ears.

My main production gig of 2013 was for Billy Bottle & The Multiple, a wonderful 7-piece band with a semi-revolving lineup helmed by composer / musician Bill Harbottle. 'Unrecorded Beam' is a song-cycle woven around the poetry of (American author, poet and philosopher) Henry David Thoreau. It's progressive, it's jazzy, it's melodic and turbulent in equal measure – I was very happy to work with Bill and The Multiple (surely contenders for "the most polite / friendly band ever") on this special project. As well as producing I mixed and mastered the album and contributed subtle Fletcherisms throughout (treatments, soundscapes, electronics, etc.) augmenting the musical arrangements and underpinning the emotional dynamics. The digital version was released just before Christmas, with a physical "coffee table edition" CD coming out via Leo Records this very month.

Another release bearing my creative imprint was 'New Peace' by US drummer Troy Jones (and featuring a host of wonderful guests inc. Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and members of the Touch Guitar Circle). My Unsung Productions partner and friend Markus Reuter produced whilst I mixed and post-produced, sprinkling treatments and refining / shaping the arrangements. It's a pretty unique record, and I'm pleased to say that on the back of this collaboration Troy will be contributing to a future solo project of mine…

Getting out of the studio (and indeed the country) during a rare UK midsummer heat wave (remember that? It really did happen) I took part in the 2nd Touch Guitar workshop hosted by Markus (Reuter) and Trey Gunn (of King Crimson & David Sylvian / Robert Fripp notoriety). Together with other members of the Touch Guitar Circle I lived and worked in a ramshackle house high in the beautiful Austrian mountains for a week... It was a challenging and at times uncomfortable experience, not helped by the thousands of flies that gatecrashed our digs - I kid you not - nonetheless for the first time in years I enjoyed being "a player" rather than composer / arranger. The experience will undoubtedly spill over into future musical endeavors and at some point I'll acquire a U8 Touch Guitar and pick-up the process at home. This was a very important event in my creative calendar.

Donning my well-worn mastering hat I, well, mastered a great number of records throughout 2013. Many are listed in my Discography, though due to artist / label scheduling there are several still "in the vaults" awaiting official release... Mastering is still a much-misunderstood art that encompasses far more than merely "making it loud". I enjoy these projects as they often allow me to dip my toe into genres that I wouldn’t otherwise swim in that often. Plus the discipline and active listening skills required continually serve to improve my general production work.

I've always been quite a visual orientated artist, even when it comes to music, (I tend to 'see' arrangements in my mind's eye) so when upcoming film-maker John Tomkins asked me to provide the soundtrack for a short film ('Indietro') I was intrigued enough to get involved. Due to an incredibly short production schedule there was no time to score from scratch, so I prepared special alternate mixes / edits of pieces previously heard on 'FiWT' and 'TCW', mostly without vocals... This worked very well, and I’m open to doing more substantial film soundtrack work as and when the right projects come along.

So there you have it - Highlights of my professional life over the course of a year, summed up in a few hundred characters. I missed out a lot of details, (such as a series of production seminars presented to music academy students) and in-between all of the above I managed to have some kind of a life and be a father / husband too. Heck, I even rekindled my relationship with the great outdoors and started going out on regular costal walks, something that has already inspired future work.

Oh, and I almost forgot something very important - I began writing words that would eventually grow into a new solo album project... Already this year several of these pieces have been fleshed out into song structures and an album is in the making. This will be one of my major focuses in 2014, but there's no rush or panic to get it out - It'll come together as and when I feel it should.

Looking ahead I'm also going to be producing a new 'ambient' project by Markus Reuter, his first Soundscape-based album in several years, plus there are a few other potential productions currently at the "talking" stage... I've also rekindled my love of photography, so perhaps that'll work its way into my output along the way. (Who am I kidding? It definitely WILL do ;-))

So, we're mostly up-to-date here again ;-) As always, even when I don’t blog the latest news I do tend to update the other sections of this site, and there's Twitter and the Facebook page (when I can stomach it) too!

Cheerio, and thanks for your ongoing support x