Welcome to Napier’s Bones’ fourth outing and they have decided to create their own mythology for this new album, ‘Alpha-Omega Man’.
A rare thing for me to quote biblical/religious texts but it’s appropriate
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
I have played and played this to get to the core of the meaning but I believe it has many levels for those willing to look. Gordon Midgely and Nathan Jon Tillet have, in the previous albums, looked at local and/or established mythology and drawn that their inspiration from that. Tregeagles Choice, which is referenced in the track Without Sentimentbeing an old legend form the south west.
This album appears to be the journey of the creation of a Messiah or Deity figure from its formation in some unseen mechanism attached to tubes and machines, comatose awaiting consciousness. This is essentially Awakening, the opening track. A being out of time and space cast adrift on the oceans of an empty void. The music is classic prog with Mellotron and guitar work and what sounds like analogue Moog synths. At 13 minutes long I could go down a black hole of paranoia and ‘End of Day’s’ language in massive volume here but I won’t, I promise.
The Messengers, a distant American News Anchor tells us of an all seeing, all knowing news service bringing harmony from discord, from Alpha to Omega. Heavy fuzzed bass and guitar with a mono synth is the insistent back drop. The voice of the creator in the void that our hero inhabits.
Leading Straight into Citizen, we finally hear the voice of the Alpha-Omega Man. The music makes you feel like you are travelling, a solid pressing bass line and massively distorted guitar solo of which John Lees or Andy Latimer would be proud. He surfaces slowly into the next track Hypno-Sapiens, a suitably ethereal track fitting its name and place.
You could take the concept of this album as that of a comatose man recovering from a near death experience, slowly lifting from the darkness. You could also take this as the second coming of the messiah from Judeo-Christian mythology, placed into a modern framing of St John’s Revelation.
I will not go track by track for the rest but, instead, I suggest you listen to them and seek your own meaning. I don’t want to spoil the ending either.
Musically I think that we have a definite ‘Napier’s Bones’ sound that makes them distinct from other bands and it is definitely one for the classic Prog fan. It is prog at its most ‘proggiest’, theatre, sci fi, mythology, death and deity all rolled into a musical epic. 3 tracks coming in over 11 minutes and a narrative that runs true from end to end. Yet, it is neither pretentious nor self indulgent, it is Gordon and Nathan pushing their musical boundaries out of the comfort zone of the previous albums to see where they can go musically.
Fans of The Tangent, Camel, Barclay James Harvest, Genesis, Big Big Train and their ilk will find something of worth here, but not in a plagiarist’s way.
Called ‘Denmark‘s next big thing’ byMetal Hammer, GHOST IRIS have released new single and video ‘Save Yourself’ from their upcoming album ‘Blind World’.
Vocalist Jesper VicencioGün said “Save Yourself is the next level of Ghost Iris. We wanted to create almost a pop song but with metal instrumentals, which I think we achieved. The video is our bid for a “Euphoric State” pt. 2. We upgraded from the bicycle to a limo. We’re funny like that.”
Blind World will be released worldwide on 17 February via Long Branch Records. The album contains 10 brand new tracks from Denmark’s most streamed metal act in 2016, including the singles ‘Pinnacle’ and ‘Save Yourself’.
The Vicious Head Society, the brainchild of Irish guitar virtuoso Graham Keane today reveals that debut album ‘Abject Tomorrow’ will be finally released on 24th March 2017. Featuring guests such as keyboardist Derek Sherinan of Alice Cooper fame, fellow Irishman and bass player Pat Byrne, and drum machine Kevin Talley ‘Abject Tomorrow’ is sure to please the ears of progressive metal fans and those with a taste for all things guitar.
Having initially started as a pet project around 2010 after returning to the Emerald Isle from music school in the UK, Keane was tutoring aspiring musicians when he decided to start writing original material purely as a self gratifying project. He figured that living in a remote area of Ireland with not many musicians interested in his style of music, metal, hard rock and prog, he would be best to forge ahead alone. As with many creative types Keane had a very laid back attitude about the whole thing and on many occasions just sat there noodling on his guitar while life passed him by. It wasn’t until his wife’s cancer diagnosis in 2013 that he started to take things a bit more seriously. The shock of realising his own mortality threw Keane into action.
Writing and recording became an asylum, from the emotional turmoil and with nothing to lose, the project began to grow in scope. Virtual instruments wouldn’t cut it anymore, as had been the norm to that point, and so Keane began to contact musicians worldwide to help bring it to life. Of course this brought with it several new challenges, not to mention the financial burden, the main reason it has taken this long to complete!
The vast majority of the album was recorded in Keane’s home studio with vocals, drums and other guest musicians being outsourced to their own recording facilities. The album was then mixed and mastered at Dark House Estudios in Mexico.
“It was a somewhat challenging process,” Keane comments, “financing being one of the major difficulties. There were times when it seemed like releasing the album would be impossible but I’m delighted to have overcome these obstacles and with the help of some really amazingly talented people, it is now complete!”
As with most progressive records ‘Abject Tomorrow’ is no different in the sense that it is a concept album. The story is based in a dystopian future in which all humans are required to have emotion inhibiting implants implanted from birth. One man’s implant fails and it chronicles his journey of discovery and reconnection with his humanity. Musically, it draws from a huge range of influences; from classic prog acts that influenced Keane growing up, such as Yes, Genesis, ELP and Rush to metal acts such as Death, Meshuggah and Megadeth.
Keane adds, “I hope it finds some kind of audience and that people enjoy it. For me, it’s a very emotive album. Even though it’s a concept album on the surface, there’s a lot of personal experience in it and there’s sure to be some people out there who can connect with it on an emotional level.”
1. The Sycophants
2. Abject Tomorrow
5. The 11th Hour
6. Psychedelic Torture Trip
7. Gods Of The New Age
8. Analogue Spectre
‘Abject Tomorrow’ will be self released on 24th March 2017 on CD:
Whilst most people who have read my reviews over the past 20 odd years for various places like the Classic Rock Society and here know I love me my prog, what you probably don’t realise, or hadn’t noticed was how much I love my folk music as well. I think it’s probably the yin to the yang, with the less is more emphasis that folk music has being as fulfilling as the intricate complexity of progressive releases.
David Elliott of Bad Elephant Music is also a massive folk, folk/rock music fan as well, and after the success of their reissue of Twice Bitten’s‘Late Cut’ album late 2015, there has been demand for the reissue of ‘Flightless’, Rog Patterson’s solo album originally released back in 1989 on vinyl.
So here it is, finally on CD and download, the original 6 tracks remastered and enhanced by three demo versions of tracks that would have appeared on the next album, had Rog actually recorded it!
When ‘Flightless’ was released Rog toured extensively, supporting such luminaries as Fairport Convention, Roy Harper and John Martyn amongst others, and it is into this arena that ‘Flightless’ nicely sits.
A solo album in the complete sense, where Rog plays guitar, basses, vocals and pretty much everything else, the 6 tracks on this album, are some mighty fine English folk prog, and the emphasis here is as much on the vocals as the music, as whilst Rog is an absolutely sublime guitarist (a touch of the Ant Phillips here, the Bert Jansch’s there) he is also an incredibly intelligent lyricist and observer. In fact both vocally and lyrically there is a shade of Bob Pegg about him, but I think that’s as much to do with the accent and attitude, as both men have a unique rather specific political world view, and this is reflected in the songs on here.
To a lot of people folk music is stereotyped as some twiddly nonsense with violins and Morris dancers, to those people who think that way I say ‘Poppycock’, folk music in its truest and strongest sense is the voice of the people, the voice of protest and the most potent form of politicised music possible, and like many others in that ilk, Rog uses this music to put across his concerns in a strong musical style.
From the opening An Englishman’s Home, with it’s well observed vocals and intricate guitar work from Rog, a pattern that will repeat throughout the album, it sets the tone for the rest of the album, and is the shortest track on the album.
Rogs acoustic prog roots show throughout the album, with Ergo Sum clocking in at 9 minutes plus has some of Rogs beautifully intricate guitar playing and strong lyrics railing against the Lords of the manor taking what they think is there right, the pounding bass and acoustic guitar drives the song along as Rogs passionate vocals weave in elements of Robin Hood, and rail against Mans stupidity in following the wrong leader (as apt now as it was then, maybe even more so) and as it builds, it draws you in and it astonishes me how a complex and intricate piece of music like this achieves its power by minimal instrumentation.
Party Piece has a wonderful cyclical riff, with some great lyrics about the human condition, Rogs observant lyrics reflecting the obsessions of youth, and, as is evident throughout the album, Rog is one of those vocalists who doesn’t just sing a song, he lives it, and the closing part has an element of Jethro Tull to it, which is no bad comparison, as both Rog and Ian Anderson have a keen eye for human observations.
Speak for Yourself has a funky riff and another politically astute lyric, suggesting that people think for themselves rather than following the pack.
Conclusions is another epic on the album, clocking in at over 7 minutes long, with it’s brilliant guitar work, and the way Rog manages to make the guitars and bass sound like a much larger band, is a great skill, and brings the most out of this fantastic track that has some fantastic acoustic and slide guitar work, with an almost classical feel, again reminiscent of the work of Ant Phillips, and another impassioned vocal, as Rog lives the song, and builds it to it’s epic conclusion.
Another great example of where less is more when it comes to instrumentation and production.
The original closing track Flightless, the 12 minutes title track, is, as Rog describes the musical interpretation of Becketts Knapps Last Tape, which is a song about itself basically, referencing how it came to be, and how Rog ended up where he ended up, again wrapped up in some of that wonderful guitar work and vocals, rounding the original album on a high.
The three bonus tracks (Alien, Couldn’t HappenHere & The Name Of The Rose) all showcase the way that Rog was intending to go if he’d managed to get his next solo album finished (a work rate that makes Tom Slatter look like Prince by comparison..) and are fantastic additions to the album, rounding out the work of this period.
This is a great-lost folk/prog/protest album that ticks all the right boxes musically and lyrically, well observed, well produced and an intelligent and emotive listen that will finally get the recognition it deserves.
It’s just a shame that nearly 30 years on from it’s release, the political and human concerns observed on here are still current, and still causes for concern today.
THE FESTIVAL WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE WORLD’S BEST PROGRESSIVE BANDS COMPLETES THIS YEAR’S LINE-UP WITH THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, LEPROUS & JARDÍN DE LA CROIX.
Since its inception in 2014 the Barcelona based festival Be Prog! My Friend has played host to the likes of Opeth, Steven Wilson, Anathema, Devin Townsend, TesseracT, The Pineapple Thief, Magma, Agent Fresco, Camel, Meshuggah, Katatonia, Riverside, Ihsahn and Alcest.
Taking place in the beautiful open air surroundings of Poble Espanyol – a huge stone built architectural museum – the site is one of the most important and striking landmarks of tourism in Barcelona. Whilst by day the Catalonian hotspot may play host to some of Barcelona’s most interesting historical articles, by the end of June to the start of July it will instead play host to some of the world’s finest progressive bands. Last year saw the festival co-headlined by Steven Wilson and fellow progressive heavy weights Opeth.
So far for 2017 Be Prog! My Friend have announced legendary headliners Jethro Tull and Marillion alongside Norwegian music collective Ulver, Anathema, Animals as Leaders, Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress and Caligula’s Horse.
Now Be Prog! My Friend’s line-up for this year is complete with the addition of the Devin Townsend Project, Leprous and Spain’s Jardín de la Croix.
Devin Townsend returns to Be Prog! My Friend for an exclusive performance of his 1997 album ‘Ocean Machine: Biomech’ in full to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Devin himself describes ‘Ocean Machine’ as ‘a labor of love that was born more out of adversity than almost anything else. I’m very proud of this album, and has a very obvious ‘blue’ feeling to me’
Joining Devin will be one of the best progressive metal acts in the world, Leprous. The festival organisers comment: ‘we were stunned by their technical genius, the absorbing personality of frontman Einar and their almighty live shows’. At Be Prog! My Friend their performance will be a ‘By Request’ show, where all fans of Leprous can vote. The songs with the most votes will be played at the festival.
The final band that completes the line-up for Be Prog! My Friend 2017 is Jardín de la Croix described by the festival as ‘one of the most beloved bands in the Spanish rock scene at the moment. With their excellent live shows they are definitely one of the best instrumental rock bands in Spain at the moment. We proudly welcome them to the festival and hope you enjoy Jardín de la Croix with us!’
The complete line-up for Be Prog! My Friend 2017:
JETHRO TULL / MARILLION
MIKE PORTNOY’S SHATTERED FORTRESS / ANATHEMA / THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT / ULVER / ANIMALS AS LEADERS / LEPROUS / CALIGULA’S HORSE / JARDÍN DE LA CROIX
Tickets are on sale now at the fixed price of 130 Euros:
Be Prog! My Friend takes place in the heart of Barcelona and with an airport only 12km away, regular, cheap flights make it an easy festival to get and from the UK. Bands will start playing from mid/late afternoon each day which will also mean visitors have plenty of time to explore the stunning city of Barcelona while they are there.
Great news for cosmograf fans, the man behind it all, Robin Armstrong, has announced that there will be a limited -re-pressing of the brilliant 2013 release ‘The Man Left In Space’.
“As some of you know the 2013 release – ‘The Man Left In Space’ has been out of print on CD for some time. This has lead to odd copies turning up at Amazon etc. at eye-watering prices none of which comes back to the artist. The cost of re-pressing is pretty large but due to demand we are planning a limited re-press. Further info will be here and possible pre-order once we have confirmation.”
“In our race for achievement and success, we sometimes gamble with our lives only to collect isolation, unhappiness and failure.”
‘The Man Left in Space’ is a concept album exploring the themes of aspiration, achievement, and the failures that our quest sometimes brings. The story is played out against the analogous theme of a doomed space mission, launched in a bid to save mankind. The story provides a metaphor for the perils of success, such as boredom, isolation, unhappiness and ultimately failure…
The 9 track progressive rock album draws on many past and contemporary influences in music, and takes a journey into the unknown to feed the imagination, and appetite of the listener of intelligent music. It features a number of special guests from the progressive rock community including Nick D’Virgilio (Spock’s Beard/Big Big Train ), Dave Meros (Spock’s Beard), Matt Stevens, Greg Spawton (Big Big Train), Simon Rogers, Steve Dunn ( Also Eden ), Lee Abraham ( The Lee Abraham Band ), Luke Machin ( The Tangent/Maschine ) and Dave Ware.
Formed in 2010 by former members of Drift Effect and Morning Society, Meridian Incident (comprised of Ray Smart, Marc Hedman-Dennis, Adam Schmid and Tom Trenka) is a progressive rock group with a longstanding history of playing together on some of the Twin Cities’ most prominent stages. With a sound reminicent of A Perfect Circle, Tool, Porcupine Tree and a touch of Pink Floyd, MI is a tour-de-force of compositional and technical artistry.
I first connected with Meridian Incident through the positive power of social media. The band had shared a sponsored video for the track Yellow Wings on Facebook and I had a listen and thought to myself that I’d heard something just a bit special. I contacted the band and then things went on from there with me receiving their new album ‘Istology’ for review.
A concept album about an intriguing hero or heroine that lives in all of us, the forthcoming ‘Istology’ is based on a screen play (written by Ray Smart) that tells the story of Janey, a girl tormented by abuse as a child who embarks on an unbeaten path of self-discovery. Subtly including iconic worldwide spiritual imagery, ‘Istology’ follows Janey through a journey plagued by shadows of self-destruction and loathing, to a place of understanding and acceptance of self. The album tells Janey’s story as she evolves through a remarkable transformation: learning to overcome, learning to love, and finally learning to trust.
So, a complex story then but would the music actually be any good? Read on and find out…
Opening track Scene 13 is very much a scene setter with its laid back and measured introduction that you feel is just building up to something much more imposing. Layers get added to increase the complexity and the vocals begin, weaving their story into your psyche. Ray has a really good voice, complex and full of meaning and uses it to great effect throughout the album. The tension builds more and more as the tempo increases slightly and Ray gets more passion and even a hint of menace in his voice. The song begins to open up with Adam’s powerful drums and Marc hits us with some intense guitar work, Tom’s bass driving the whole thing. A really intense musical workout to get your synapses sparking.
Title track Istology opens with 90’s grunge inspired riffing and drums before Ray channels his inner Eddie Vedder and we are treated to a really classy track with an abundance of energy and dynamism. I was a huge Pearl Jam fan back in the day and this song reminds me a lot of those times with the lighter calmer verses being accompanied by the heavier chorus and that really addictive riffing. There’s a nice break in the middle where Marc gets to show off his technique to the full before some punchy riffage gets us back on course. It’s like 90’s grunge brought bang up to date and, to my ears anyway, works extremely well.
Yellow Wings is the song that got me interested in this band in the first place, I love its heartfelt lyrics and Ray’s voice delivers perfectly. An ardent track that bleeds sincerity, especially on the fervent and moving chorus. There’s a staccato backbeat running throughout, delivered by guitar and drums to give the song and edgy feel at times before the emotionally poignant chorus delivers its knockout blow and Marc hits us with a solo utterly infused with pathos and sentiment. Listening to the track while I’m writing this review just brings back the goosebumps I felt on first listen, a truly powerful and emotive song typified by the expressive guitar and vocals.
Let’s take a more mellow and benign route with In The Wake Of My Own, a laid back and chilled song that still has a lot of meaning and poignance underneath the surface. There is wistful feel to the music and Ray’s vocal has sentimentality at the core. Think of hazy summer days and sepia tinged nostalgia, a superbly calming influence runs throughout this amiable track and as it comes to a close you feel like a weight has been lifted from your whole being.
The album segues straight into Along The Shore, an intricate drum-led introduction leaves a haunting impression on my mind, the distant voices and vibrating guitars give a persistant edginess and disturbed aura to everything. It’s a restless and uneasy instrumental that leaves questions in your mind.
Where the previous track left an uneasy feeling, When The Tide Carries The Lotus is an utterly relaxing three minutes of instrumental bliss. Piano led, it is like a gently flowing stream finding its own course through your mind. I felt a feeling of beatific serenity fall over me as each note played out and, as it faded out, I was left with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.
Hallowed opens with a subtle guitar tone and the continuously impressive drums leading the way. Ray’s earnest vocals have something of a hazy feel to them. The track continues to meander gently along, tranquil and somewhat bucolic, an elegant piece of music with lasting emotion at its centre. A more serious tone seeps in as the guitar is unleashed with more ferocity and Ray’s vocal soars to join it before Marc let’s loose a powerful, stirring solo that leads to an impassioned close.
Yellow Wings (Reprise) is a more circumspect version of the track, opening in a judicious manner with a staccato riff and Ray’s almost indistinct vocals. The pace is turned down a notch and the sentiment increased to give it a pared back yet stylish feel. The powerful emotion of the original is replaced with something more subtle and considerate without losing any of the intent. There’s a dynamic instrumental section which, though short, injects some authority into proceedings and Ray’s excellent vocal is present and correct as ever. A refined and suggestive version that stands comparison in its own right and I love the way it closes out.
A pensive and somber guitar opens The Mirror Stares Back and Ray’s ominous vocal joins in to give a quite oppressive solemness to the track. It creeps along in a reflective and preoccupied manner leaving you almost mesmerised with the suspense. A clever use of music to affect your mood and immerse you in the storyline. As the volume increases so does the apprehension and tension, almost becoming unbearable before the song comes to a close and the shackles are unlocked.
And we segue straight into the heavy riffing opening to Shadows, the Soothsayer. A quite hypnotic guitar and drums leave you in a trance like state as the short instrumental gets under your skin, insinuating itself into your very being. A high energy, almost manic close-out leaves you breathless.
Alternative and grunge combine to good effect on Echo In The Water. A low key opening very reminiscent of Porcupine Tree in the early days catches your attention with its subtle complexities. There is some great bass playing and the guitar and drums combine to lead the story on as Ray adds nuances to his vocal delivery. A perceptive and probing track that scores on many levels. There’s a great guitar solo full of meaning and significance and the song breaks out into a hard rocking finish that leaves you properly sated.
There’s no break before we rush headlong into Wind Through The Bodhi Leaves, a potently compelling two minutes that just blows you away as it increases in force and demeanour before blowing out like an almighty backdraft and leading in the composed and sedate Mer De Lumieres, the antithesis of the chaos that came before. It calms your fevered brow and lowers your heart rate before we come to the last track on the album.
Wistful and winsome, Diaspora, Under A Red Sky is a sea of calm serenity that just washes over your tortured soul. From the sublime guitars and gentle drums to Ray’s ethereal like vocals, it has an almost ghost-like and intangible feel, like something just out of reach, a musical mirage that teases you with its benign and soothing tranquility. Graceful music and vocals combine to deliver just under five minutes of music that restores and invigorates your very being.
‘Istology’ is a musical drama and journey that ebbs and flows over it’s sixty minutes to leave the listener completely sated. There’s a subtle intelligence at the core of this release and it is delivered by four musicians at the height of their powers. It should be taken in one complete listen to get the full experience and you will come out of the other end an altogether better and happier person for it.
Tony Levin is currently on tour with his progressive avant-rock band STICK MEN (heading in a few days to the Cruise To The Edge, followed by the trip to Japan), and in March and April, his jazz band, featuring his brother PETE LEVIN, will hit the road, performing in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, El Salvador and the USA.
Here are all confirmed dates:
March 4 – Rosendale, NY, USA (Rosendale Cafe)
March 10 – Santiago, Chile (Teatro Teletón)**
March 13 – Montevideo, Uruguay (Las Trastienda)**
March 15 – Mar del Plata, Argentina (Teatro Colón)**
March 16 – La Plata, Argentina (El Teatro Sala Opera)**
March 17 – Rosario, Argentina (Teatro Sala Lavardén)**
March 18 – Buenos Aires, Argentina (ND Teatro)**
March 21 – La Paz, Bolivia (Teatro Municipal)**
March 24 – San Salvador, El Salvador (Scenarium)**
March 29 – Pawling, NY, USA (Daryl’s House)**
March 30 – Natick, MA, USA (Natick Center For Arts)**
March 31 – Schenectady, NY, USA (The Van Dyck Lounge)
April 1 – Rochester, NY, USA (The Lovin’ Cup)
April 2 – New Hope, PA, USA (Havana)**
April 3 – Piermont, NY, USA (The Turning Point)
April 4 – New York, NY, USA (The Iridium)**
TONY LEVIN – upright bass, cello
PETE LEVIN – piano, organ
ERIK LAWRENCE sax, flute
JEF SIEGEL – drums
** Dates with Leonardo/MoonJune..
On this tour, Levin Brothers will perform as well several specially arranged tunes for the Latin American market, in addition to the material recorded on the debut album.
F2 Music have announced that they are the exclusive worldwide distributor of the second solo CD by Citizen Cain’s keyboard player Stewart Bell. The album, called “The Antechamber Of Being (Part 2) – Stories From The Antechamber” is released on 27/02/2017 and is a Prog Rock opera featuring contributions from five vocalists; Simone Rossetti (of The Watch), Arjen Anthony Lucassen (of Ayreon), Phil Allen (of Citizen Cain), Bekah Mhairi Comrie and Stewart Bell himself. Each of the vocalists play a different character in the story.
In this second part of Stewart Bell’s epic trilogy of concept albums we are once again taken on a journey through the inner realms alongside the main character, The Dreamer and his mentor, The Teacher. Taking place during the same time period as ‘The Antechamber Of Being (Part 1)’, which was released in 2014, the story follows the main characters as they continue to explore the amazing experiences made possible through lucid dreaming; the weird phenomena inherent with this type of conscious exploration of one’s mind; the questions that arise through encounters with seemingly independent dream beings and; the realisations and conclusions that are ultimately reached after a lifetime of dreaming awake.
Stewart has been the main composer/ keys player in long running progressive rock band Citizen Cain since the early 90s, and in 2012 he decided to pursue a solo career, starting work on a trilogy of concept albums entitled The Antechamber Of Being. The story is autobiographical and is based on Stewart’s lifelong experiences with lucid dreaming – which is something he learned at 6 years old, when his older brother taught him how to be aware while he was asleep and dreaming in order to help him overcome recurring nightmares.
This will appeal not only to existing Citizen Cain fans but also to a much wider audience as Stewart continues to delve into elements of Prog metal, experiments with new soundscapes and brings his unique storytelling gift to the lyrics, in which he also shares his extensive knowledge of lucid dreaming. It will be sure to please any lover of progressive music while the intriguing, amusing and, at times, touching storyline may even inspire the listener to take control of their own subconscious mind and experience lucid dreaming for themselves…
There’s a limited special edition artbook version of the album and digital download also available from the Citzen Cain website here:
After my review of Tim Bowness’ excellent latest release i got together with the man himself to ask him some probing, journalistic type questions…
1. Your new album ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is due to be released 17th February, how would you say this differs from your three previous solo releases?
I think the main difference is that I was working towards fully realising the story, rather than making a Tim Bowness (or No-Man) album.
‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ emerged out of demos I’d written and compiled for a follow-up to ‘Schoolyard Ghosts’. Steven (Wilson) was too busy to commit to a No-Man album so he offered to mix what I came up with. I was forced to make a solo album (or my idea of what a No-Man album could sound like). The reaction to the album was very positive, so I embarked upon making an album that came out of ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’, but accentuated the extremes and what it was I thought was ‘Tim Bowness’. I see ADD and Stupid Things as strongly linked, whereas my debut solo album (‘My Hotel Year’ from 2004) always felt like a patchwork compromise as it comprised offcuts from several separate projects I was working on.
‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ is as much a themed and coherent album as ADD and Stupid Things are, but it sprung entirely from the concept and the music was written to enhance the lyrical themes. In some ways, it’s my version of a Moonshot album!
Because the album deals with someone who made classic ‘Progressive’ music, it gave me an excuse to take the bits of that music that I still love and integrate them into my own music.
2. The album was mixed and mastered by Steven Wilson, how involved were you in the process and who makes the final call on when the album is considered finished?
I make the final call. Basically, I give Steven the material and some instructions and he weaves his audio magic. All creative decisions regarding arrangements and how the album should sound and flow are mine though. Steven’s great to work with in that he’s very quick, very good and knows what I like / want.
3. We have both agreed that there is a definitive ‘Tim Bowness’ sound, would you say this has been there from the start or developed over the years and the different releases?
I think that my ‘signature’ vocal approach and sound has been there since the early days of No-Man. It’s a blessing and a curse in that it’s an instant identifier, but one that’s strong in a way that people either love or hate.
I would say that vocally and lyrically I’ve subtly developed over the years, while the contexts I sing over have often frequently changed.
4. Where did the ideas for the album come from and how do you go about writing the songs?
As I say in the Album Notes for the album, I’ve always been fascinated by the iron grip holds over fans and musicians alike, and how supposedly adolescent obsession can become a lifetime’s prison sentence for some of us.
It‘s a requiem for a type of music, a type of musician and a particular form of music production (the album).
I was interested to know how the fact that people don’t financially or culturally value music as much as they did in earlier eras impacts on musicians who grew out of the 1960s revolution (where music was vitally important on so many levels and in so many sectors of society). Also, I’m interested to know how playing to an older audience just wanting ‘the hits’ affects a musician who once believed they could change the world with their music. Of course, some of my own fears are wrapped up in the story.
5. Do you have a personal favourite track on the album (mine is ‘Worlds of Yesterday’) or is that like asking a parent which of their children is the favourite?
In this case, it’s more difficult than most, because I think it works as a whole album as much as anything else. I suppose my favourites would be Worlds Of Yesterday because of the solos by Bruce Soord and Kit Watkins, and You Wanted To Be Seen because of its unpredictable shift. I also really like Bruce’s solo at the end of You’ll Be The Silence and Ian Anderson’s stunning contribution to Distant Summers.
6. When you finish an album is it consigned to the past as you move on to the next project or are they more than just musical compositions to you?
They are more in that I’m completely obsessive and immersed in my albums when making them and some of those albums remain very close to me. That said, I do tend to immerse myself in a project, and once it’s out listen to the official release all the way through on headphones and then move on to the next obsession/album.
7. Do you prefer the process of making a solo album to collaborations like No-Man?
I enjoy both. I really like seeing where I can take my music as a solo artist, but I also like the collaborative aspects of No-Man, Memories Of Machines, Bowness/Chilvers and other projects. Alternating between both works because it means there’s a sense of constant movement, rather being stuck in the same groove.
8. How did you come to sign with InsideOut for your solo releases?
I was really lucky that a few labels liked the album and wanted to release it. I went with Inside Out because the core people at the company were so enthusiastic. Kscope were very positive about the album, but admitted they wouldn’t do much with it in terms of promotion and that they’d just market it as a No-Man offshoot. By comparison, Inside Out (who have a slightly different audience from Kscope) said they’d put it out, do their best and see what happens. In other words, it was less predetermined. They’re really easy to work with as well as being proactive, so I don’t regret the decision.
9. Your career started in the 1990’s, did you always want to be a musician, how did you get started and who were your early influences?
I was obsessed with music from my early teens onward. Along with books and films, it was a great escape from a pretty miserable adolescence.
I started singing at 18 with a band of friends and by 19 I’d moved on to a band of older musicians in Manchester and was making music of a more ambitious nature.
One of the most influential albums for me when I stated out was Peter Hammill’s Over. It gave me the belief that an audience could get something out of the music I wanted to make. For a couple of years, the Peter Hammill influence was strong, particularly on my singing style.
Outside of that I loved Kate Bush, Gabriel/Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, David Bowie, The Beatles, Roy Harper,10cc, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Gentle Giant, Yes, Al Stewart and some of the more fashionable bands of my youth such as Associates and Joy Division.
10. What’s different about being an artist now compared to then? Is it harder to get started in the music business nowadays?
Much, much harder (and it was never easy). When I started I could walk up to major DJs (Mark Radcliffe being one) and get my demos played on the likes of Piccadilly Radio. It did take a few years to get a decent deal and a foothold in the industry though.
11. What one piece of advice would you give to up and coming musicians?
Truthfully, I wouldn’t know where to begin as the industry has changed so much over the last two decades.
12. Which other musicians do you listen to now?
Too many to mention. I’m still an avid music listener and purchaser, so over the last few months even, I’d have listened to music old and new from George Gershwin to Arvo Part, Michael Chapman to Leonard Cohen, Opeth to Big Big Train, Elbow to Mark Eitzel, The Strawbs to Labi Siffre and so on.
13. The advent of the internet, streaming downloads etc. Do you think this is a good or a bad thing and why?
It’s both. I still buy physical items and love the intricacy and possibilities of album artwork, but I also use streams to discover music that I may want to buy.
I don’t feel streams encourage detailed listening or an engagement with music / ’the album’ as an art form. On a personal level, the move towards streams (and ‘single’ streams at that) pushes me even more towards making detailed artwork and sonically rich ‘album experiences’.
14. Your specialist online label/store Burning Shed that you run with Pete Morgan is considered a success story, how did you come to set it up?
It developed out of two things, No-Man’s Mail Order company (we sold exclusive releases to a mailing list and it operated from Steven’s and then my house), and an idea I had for a label (to make cost-effective, idealistic side project albums). It evolved into hosting No-Man’s and Porcupine Tree’s online stores and grew via word of mouth from there.
15. Is there one artist you would love to have on your label?
Lots! Elbow, Sigur Ros, Brian Eno, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Mark Eitzel, Arvo Part, Camel and dozens of others.
16. Will there be a tour to support the new album?
So far, I have a support slot to Marillion at the UK Marillion Weekend, but nothing else planned . As it worked so well in 2016, I might do some more co-headlines with iamthemorning. Outside of that, it would be great to do a full theatrical production of ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ if there was interest in it.
17. Which do you prefer, making records or playing those records live?
I enjoy both experiences, but probably prefer the control of the studio environment and the thrill of coming up with something unexpected that inspires me.
18. Finally, what lies ahead for Tim Bowness?
There’s going to be a second Bowness/Chilvers album, which is a continuation of ‘California, Norfolk’ (from 2002) and quite different from ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’. There’ll also be an album with pre-No-Man band Plenty; an arty Electro Pop confection!
I’ve also written material with Kit Watkins and would very much like to follow on from ‘Lost In The Ghost Light’ on a solo level and see if I can take some of the sounds and ideas on the album further.