Dave Stafford, September 2010: “all things being equal” had a long and difficult
genesis, it was created in two sections – one pre-illness, where I created and completed
the bulk of the songs plus the basic structure of “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”
but did not complete the overdubs for it, and then, six to twelve months later, it
was finally completed, while I was recovering from being very ill indeed. Most of
the album, the first seven tracks, certainly, was complete by the end of 2003. Then
I had to sort of…disappear for a year, and eventually, when I did came back to do
the final overdubs for the “long piece”, it was like coming back to a record that
I didn’t even recognise – because I myself had changed so, so much.
There is so very much that is good here, and I don’t have any negative feelings about
the music due to my illness, the only problem is it’s a memory, for me, of a very
dark time. Musically, though, it is a huge departure for me in so many ways – first
and foremost, it’s NOT a looping album, if anything, it’s a progressive rock album
– my first, after many years of aspiring to do something in full “prog” style – and,
“all things being equal” is just that, my first “prog record”.
So that in itself is a shock, it takes some getting used to, as it were, if you consider
the sound of all the Dave Stafford and Bindlestiff albums that preceded it. Beyond
that, though, we start out, on our very first piece, using a brand new tool that
my friend and colleague Ken Mistove very kindly introduced me to, which is a music
software called “SONAR” – originally developed as a Windows competitor to the Mac’s
famous “Pro Tools”, “SONAR” over time, has now been developed into a world class
music application that truly rivals what Pro Tools can do.
But even back in 2003, using SONAR Version 4 - that opened up a whole new world of
instrumentation that I had never been able to reliably access in any form before
- DRUMS, OK, they are MIDI drums, not real drums…but drums nonetheless. Then there
are “soft synths” – software synthesizers – I felt very drawn into that world of
brilliant new technologies, turning your PC into a multitude of instruments, turning
it into a state-of-the-art recording studio…having all this, all at once, was very
overwhelming but also very exciting, and I loved learning what this new software
could do for me and my music.
For one example, I still quite haven’t got over the idea that I can take a 35-year
old synthesizer, and by using it as a MIDI source, I can play ANY software synthesizer
in existence – limitless sounds – on a PC. Amazing technology – and it was already
very good back then – now, it’s positively mind-blowing. On an ANCIENT synthesizer.
Fast forward to 2010, the now – I am now using SONAR Version 8.5, which gives me
access to literally THOUSANDS of synth voices, and many, many synthesizer and other
keyboard modules. Not to mention a suite of post-processing tools that will absolutely
blow your mind. But back in 2003, even back in Version 4 - there was A LOT of cool
stuff I could use to make this album a success.
So I could learn, I could experiment – and I could make a record unlike any I ever
had. It should have been a masterpiece, but becoming ill right in the middle of making
it really took the wind out of my sails, knocked me for six, so in some ways, maybe
the record suffered, it certainly might have come out differently had I not become
That comment pertains to “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”, the “long piece”, more so
than to the rest of the material – which was, blessedly, complete BEFORE I fell ill,
but overall, to be honest, I think things would have been better without the crippling
But – I did come back - I came back fighting, and I finished the record – a double
CD, with a 51-minute closing piece that still needed almost all of it’s overdubs
done - a real challenge.
Disc 1 is the actual album, with the last piece, “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34” clocking
in at exactly 51:00 minutes – all part of my obsession with my lucky number, 17.
Disc 2 was at the time, a bonus disc, which simply consists a set of “single mixes”
of “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”, so there are silences between each piece, so you
can actually hear where they start and finish, which is not always easy to determine
when listening to the continuous version at the end of Disc 1.
So you get the full 51-minute version at the end of the album, and then you get,
on what was Disc 2, seventeen individual mixes of the 17 parts of that final piece.
I spent days making those alternate versions, so I could make the disc a double
but sell it at the price of a single CD.
But that is getting ahead of myself, what I did to begin with, was create seven brand
new pieces using SONAR, and that was an eye-opening, learning experience – completely
different from working exclusively in the world of audio multi-tracking only – which,
up to that point in time, was all I had known.
For some reason, possibly because of the illness that followed immediately, I didn’t
really retain all of what I learned, but it formed the basis in my head for understanding
the version I have now, so for that alone, I am very thankful – my experiences, in
2002/2003, with SONAR 4, made it possible for me to quickly learn and understand
SONAR 8.5 now, in 2010, so God bless Mr. Mistove for starting me out in the world
of MIDI / Audio applications way back in 2002. What a difference it has made to
When it came to “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34” however, I adopted a different approach,
using real drums (courtesy of Mr. Michael Bowman, drummer extraordinaire of “Drone
Forest”, “Velveeta Heartbreak” and many others) and going back to the familiar world
of audio-only multi-track recording. Also, I am playing a lot of energy bow and
lead guitars, and, for the first time on record, I am also playing real bass guitars.
I’d never played bass on record before because for many years, I did not own a bass.
I’ve always wanted to play bass (and in fact ended up doing so in several bands in
my teens and early 20s), and I admire many of the great bassists of the 60s and 70s,
and even a few, such as Tony Levin, Trey Gunn and others, from the 80s and beyond.
By sheer coincidence, a bass playing friend of mine was paring down the number of
instruments he had, and he GAVE me a perfectly good Washburn bass – which I’ve used
ever since, and is heavily featured on my in-progress “rock” record, “Gone Native”.
Waste not, want not, and if he was going to discard it, I was going to pick it up
and USE it. So I re-learned how to play bass on this record, and spent quite some
time developing bass parts for the songs.
So, finally, this album ends up being seven pieces composed, mixed and completed
using SONAR, and one long piece created in good old Cool Edit Pro. I think it’s
a good blend – but if you listen, you can absolutely hear the difference in style
once you get into track 8! The live drums do make a huge difference.
The title for this album came easily – it’s based on the first song that I completed
for the project, which was “pastel = doubt” – I have no idea where that title came
from, but that is what the song SOUNDED like to me at the time. So I had just that,
“pastel = doubt”, which got me to thinking about a concept, of word or phrase pairs…
And then an idea struck me, what if, I created each song to have two concepts that
“equalled” each other, and every title would have an “equals” sign (=) between the
two concepts – no matter WHAT they were! That of course led to the obvious conclusion,
that…all thing being equal…that should be the name of the album. Obviously.
ANNUNCIATION = DAY
I have always loved the word “Annunciation” and had long wanted to use it in a song
title. When this very involved piece, a complex mix of MIDI and audio tracks, was
nearing completion and I needed a title, I very suddenly “got” this title, it just
came to me first time – “annunciation = day” - two very positive concepts joined
together by the omnipresent “equals sign”.
Later on, once I had created an alternate version of this piece, I decided to create
a linkage in the titles of related pieces, so as this song’s title ENDS in the word
“Day”, later, the alternate version of this exact piece of music, BEGINS with the
word “Day” and this, in my mind at least, provides an additional continuity between
tracks. Then, in this case, since it’s a trio of songs, the track “day = twilight”
finally leads us to the third piece of the trio, “twilight = night”. A conceptual
progression based on shared terms.
So “annunciation = day” leads to and relates to “day = twilight”, which in turn,
leads to and relates to “twilight = night”.
The first two pieces, then, being alternative MIDI maps of the same track, the third
and final part of the trio of songs, an unadorned energy bow loop taken from the
ending of the first one in the series – full circle then.
This was the first track on which I learned how to use SONAR properly, and I definitely
did put the power of SONAR to work. First, I tackled the MIDI portion, which was
slow going, learning as I went, but it was very exciting, figuring out how to get
the bass sounds, finding the “right” theremin for the mad solo, and so on - and then,
gradually, I added in layers of audio to complete the composition.
So this started with a bare drum track – a very odd drum track, with a sort of kitchen
sink approach, but the interesting thing here is, I was able, via the magic of MIDI,
to “pick” the drum kit I wanted – so this kit had lots of natural sounding drums,
congas, toms, bass drum, snare – a normal drum kit for the most part.
Later, when I created the alternate version of this track, which is “day = twilight”,
I was able to take that same drum pattern, and re-assign it to a completely DIFFERENT
drum kit – a very electronic kit, which absolutely transformed the piece, you almost
didn’t realise it was the same track. In fact, I was able to “swop out” almost all
of the MIDI instruments used when I created that alternate versions, which is one
of the very flexible and wonderful things about MIDI – the same pattern can be played
with ANY voice or any drum kit – brilliant!
So I started with the drum track, and built the acoustic Crafty guitar/distorted
electric guitar section first – this was fairly straightforward – just playing along
to drums only.
The acoustic section absolutely is a nod to African “High Life” music, I wanted to
play something that was bright and this melody reminded me of some of the great Soukous
bands from the Congo – I don’t know why – sort of…African with a Crafty harmonic
The distorted guitars are purely influenced by the work of Robert Fripp, who I believe
may have been influenced in turn by Jimi Hendrix – I’ve heard these dissonant, high
pitched body-slam sounds/glissandos on both gentlemen’s records more than once –
and I am just the latest in line to give it a go – a nice contrast to the clean,
happy acoustic part. From happy to neurotic, from joyful to anxious – then – quiet.
A theremin-like synth bass completes the section, overlaid on top of the guitar overdubs
– section done.
After that section, there is a short acoustic guitar loop in a big reverb, a very
strangely constructed loop, almost like falling rain, like a mini-circulation with
an unusual rhythmic pattern. On top of this loop, are strangely persistent claves,
tapping away frantically in total opposition to the gently tinkling acoustics - a
very odd juxtaposition indeed.
Following that, is one of the most action-packed musical sequences I have ever created,
and it’s all down to the absolute genius of SONAR – allowing me to mix MIDI and audio
instruments in any combination – and I did.
The acoustic guitar loop and claves disappear suddenly, and then, a conga-assisted,
very wild theremin solo, along with a very strange synth bass, which leads to...
A burst of distorted lead guitar drops us, along with an unusual tempo change following
a slow drum fill - into a lovely, long, sinuous energy bow guitar solo, with a pulsing,
happy rhythm – followed by a very fast reverse electric guitar and grand piano duet,
and then – finally, a chance to use that whammy - up it comes, roaring up, and we
get the Strat onto a record outside the world of loops at last, playing a lovely,
bending rockin’ high-speed, almost bluesy, solo ending in a flurry of deep whammys…frantic
synth bass jamming madly along the entire time, a crazy bass part – which mutates
eventually into another claves-lead duet – this time, instead of acoustic guitar
loop, it’s with a dense, beautiful energy bow guitar loop – then the drums return,
heralding another lovely grand piano solo – that lilts away, trills down to a perfect
end – three slow, slow tom beats leave us, at last, in a massive, beautiful, sombre,
ebow loop – which had actually been growing since the end of the piano solo, gradually
increasing in volume until we actually reach this point - a very fragile composition,
quiet, atmospheric, I guess this proves that the looper in me wasn’t totally gone!
You will note too, that this “ebow end section” returns again later on the record,
as the penultimate track – “twilight = night”, in pure loop form.
I don’t know what made me create this piece in such a strange way, but I love the
idea – all that frenzied activity, so much happening so, so incredibly quickly –
and then a few minutes of pure peace. Perhaps “annunciation” is the first part,
and “day” is the long, contemplative ebow loop at the end – who knows?
I was absolutely thrilled with this composition, especially the interplay of live
lead, reverse lead, and ebow guitars with various synths and synth basses and the
impossible piano solos. And then – that mysterious, calming end section. I really
don’t know how on earth I was able to envision and process all that musical data,
cramming an enormous amount of information into a very short time span.
If this process interests you, you really need to read the entry for the song “day
= twilight” next, because that is an alternate version of this track, but with a
creation so strange – a really remarkable alternate version, and I learned an enormous
amount about MIDI, and SONAR, from working on both of these pieces. So please have
a look at the entry for “day = twilight” to hear what happens to this track - next.
PASTEL = DOUBT
This was actually the first piece recorded for the new album, and it took a long
time to take shape, it’s also the first piece I ever made with SONAR (I believe).
A sitar-like voice and other mysterious synth and piano-like sounds start the piece,
and then the strangest loop I’ve ever heard begins, I have no idea how this was done,
but I believe I created it in SONAR, so I worked out all those parts, using various
synth voices, and then manually copied and pasted the result so that they would “repeat”
– like a manually constructed “loop”. Only I would do such a strange, strange thing.
The lovely slow, descending melody that starts out is interrupted by this odd, mechanised
loop, which then proceeds to play right over the top of the descending melody, ignoring
but somehow enhancing it.
Sounding like machines working, or walking, on top of the loop, almost a clanking
sound, an eerie pseudo-mechanical presence - it’s just one of the weirdest loops
I’ve ever heard. And the descending melody continues unabated, determined, in the
This piece took a long time to make, many sessions, many erased parts, much trial
and error – I kept coming back to it and coming back to it, making it stranger and
stranger and stranger with each pass – but, I am glad I did – it’s utterly unique
within my canon, I don’t know of any other track quite like it – perhaps, at a real
stretch, “The Road To Pondicherry” from the “Pay Your Respects” album – vaguely,
in mood anyway.
So the word “Doubt” certainly overcomes and erases any remaining feelings of “Pastel”
– as I mentioned, not a title I can explain, but I love it’s brash, strange uniqueness
– and I do like the “word = other word” concept behind all the titles – most unusual.
I think in this case, “pastel” is the lovely, descending melody with the sitar sound
heralding it, and “doubt” is the square-wheeled, mechanised loop that threatens to
overcome it – but in the end, does not.
“pastel = doubt” is a piece full of mystery, a strange rhythmic device, and a loop,
well, I wish I knew how I made that loop! It’s so dense, yet still fairly simplistic
– and it just oozes mood, mystery and the promise of mayhem too – and doubt.
IMPROV = MINCER
This piece is somewhat obviously, because of the title, influenced by the King Crimson
song “The Mincer”, but not by the most well-known version, the version of the “Starless
And Bible Black” album, but instead, a version from the famous 1974 concert at the
Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Holland. However….
…as it turns out, it’s not actually “The Mincer” at all, I only called it that because
at the time, Fripp hadn’t yet released all the archival live concerts, so this concert
was only available on bootleg albums – and I had it on a bootleg vinyl LP, and it
was incorrectly titled “The Mincer” – when what it was, was an improv, which now
(now that Fripp has finally released this amazing concert properly, in the form of
“The Night Watch” – the entire Amsterdam show on CD at last) – it now actually bears
the correct title “The Fright Watch” – so by rights, this track should really be
called “improv = fright”
The live Crimson track was an improv so terrifying that it just stuck in my mind
for years, it starts out with a funny little “shaker” noise from an unknown percussion
instrument, it’s Bill Bruford being most mysterious, and the piece develops into
a somewhat uncomfortable battle of mad bass, dual and duelling and clashing mellotrons,
distorted electric pianos, plucked violins, slapped bass, distorted bass – a very
weird and wonderful improv.
I took from that just a feeling – the shuffling beginning, and beyond that, it bears
no resemblance whatsoever to any King Crimson song by any name – it just becomes
an improv of my own. A complicated influence, but it sparked creativity, and I took
that shuffling “shaker” noise and built up a very nice piece of music from it.
But it’s all about mood, and the Crimson piece had created a mood in my head, that
I had loved for so many years, so this “nod” to it seemed appropriate, that concert
is one of the most remarkable that the 1973-74 band ever did – and, on the official
CD, at last, we can hear “The Fright Watch” lead it’s way up to the power packed
double punch of “The Talking Drum” and “Larks Tongues In Aspic Part II” – what a
trio of tunes!
My piece begins with a remarkably similar percussive sound, and contains the classic
instrumentation of a 1974 King Crimson live improvisation – drums/percussion, bass,
mellotron, and guitar. But beyond that – the similarity ends. So long, distorted
guitars float atop a layer of deep, deep bass and beautiful, lush mellotron strings.
MIDI percussion, followed by a short piece of MIDI drums – forms the basis of the
I did the percussion and drum track first, and then slowly added the other parts
– starting with that incredibly DEEP bass – which amazingly, is NOT a bass, but a
very clean “sine wave” synth bass. With the amount of reverb being used (to simulate
my own “Concertgebouw ambience”) that deep bass sounded like a bass guitar, you could
hardly tell that it isn’t one). I played the bass in response to the drum parts,
and then worked from there, adding the mellotrons next, the guitars, last.
So, mellotrons – which would have been a very quick task now, since I have a dedicated
mellotron soft synth, the M-Tron Mellotron – a brilliant tool – but, I did not have
it back in 2003. So what I had to do – well – it’s absolutely astonishing to me,
it shows you just how badly I wanted REAL mellotrons in this piece.
I went onto the Internet and downloaded INDIVIDUAL MELLOTRON notes, strings, flutes,
voices from a web page offering free mellotron samples. Including preceding optional
key clicks. (Can you imagine?).
I then, using Cool Edit Pro to edit and store the notes, created “chords” in multi-track
sessions, using the individual notes, repeating them over and over, by copying and
pasting, to achieve a “chord” effect, and then mixing down the “chords” to finished
So I had “mini-tracks” with names like “Strings - A Minor Chord.wav” and “Strings
- C Major Chord.wav” and “Strings - E Minor Chord.wav”, and the “Flute – A Minor
Chord.wav” and so on.
Then, I simply inserted the finished “chords” where needed, I only had two, maybe
three, “string chords”, and I think three “flute chords” created (after a couple
of DAYS of painstaking work!) and voila! At last, I had REAL mellotrons in a Dave
Stafford composition. Made from individual NOTE samples. Astonishing. I had wanted
to have mellotrons in my music since about 1976, so the fact that it did not happen
until 2002 was very, very frustrating – but, in the end, it finally did happen!
If I needed a LONG chord, I would create yet another multi-track session, layer several
of the same chord overlapping each other slightly, and mix that down to become a
“long chord”. The lengths that I went to to create this song – were astonishing.
I had waited a long, long time to have a mellotron in one of my songs – and now,
it was FINALLY really happening! I’ve always loved the sound of the mellotron, and
had never had one or a software version of one, until 2009. So back in 2002, I had
to do it “the hard way” – note by painful note. But it was well worth it – they
ended up sounding completely natural and beautiful – the A minor chord or E minor
chord from heaven.
So first, percussion and drums, then, bass, then, mellotrons of both the string and
flute variety (I’d created “voice” chords as well, but in the end, did not use them
on the track), HAND-MADE mellotrons, no less – and finally – lead guitar.
The guitar was perhaps the hardest thing to do, especially finding a way to “kick
off” when the drums proper come in. But in the end, I got a nice feeling, I experimented
with several different possibilities for the beginning of the guitar solo, wanting
it to seem as if the guitar and the drums had “come in together” by an intuitive
leap of improvisational forethought. I settled at last on a chord fradment, slammed
and slid down the neck, followed immediately by the solo proper. The guitars went
well with the mellotrons and bass, and I like the snappy ending.
I like the little flute mellotron additions near the end, they really set up that
last high speed guitar riff – while “Bruford” (the “machine” version of Bruford,
rather) is back there just smashing the hell out of “his cymbals” at the very end!!
I added in extra crash cymbals to really create some percussive excitement during
the ending – and I believe I succeeded.
That is all there is to this – four “players” – envisioned as a virtual live “band”,
set up, played very quickly to try to keep it “sounding improvised” - it builds its
mood very quickly, and when the drums kick off, and the guitar gets started – it’s
a rocking little piece of music. And then, it’s all over, suddenly, far, far too
I am very proud of this piece – and it was a lot of work, not just for the way I
had to create the mellotron parts, but the whole thing – I so, so wanted it to sound
like a King Crimson improv, to play all the parts myself – and in the end, I did
just that. I do think it has a brilliant mood, regardless of whether it’s similar
to King Crimson or not – it still rocks, it’s very “progressive rock”, it’s very
dark, – it’s just a cool little piece of music and I think it is one of the finest
pieces, in the rock idiom, that I’ve done to date.
DAY = TWILIGHT
This track was planned all along, before I started work on “annunciation = day” I
had decided I would create TWO versions of the same song, but try to make them as
DIFFERENT as possible. So I set up two sessions, and once the basic form of “annunciation
= day” was completed, I literally just copied the whole session into a new session
that became “day = twilight”.
So. The form is identical. The same rhythms, the same events, the same MIDI sequences
But – in both the MIDI world, and, as much as possible in the audio world, EVERYTHING
sounds very, very different indeed to the “annunciation = day” version.
Gone are the normal sounding, real drums – they’ve now been completely replaced by
a totally electronic drum kit. The basses have been swapped out with much different
sounding basses – very squelchy, super “wah” basses in the first section. The synths
have been completely changed, what was a grand piano is now a marimba, what was a
thermin is now an accordion, and so on. All change.
I was very excited with this concept, that I could “change” entire parts, and some
of the choices of voices (rhyme intended) on this version are inspired. The drum
kit in particular, changing the drum track made THIS version so very, very different.
From the start, it’s like a different animal, with that screaming percussion instrument
that is part of the electronic kit sending the opening section into a much more techno/trash
direction, with all that clanging and banging, until the section ends and we get
a huge change - when we get to the acoustic guitar loop, what was a clave solo, is
now something that sounds more like an automobile idling, I have NO idea what sound
or voice that is, it just automatically replaced the claves with a certain voice
from the electronic kit – and I accepted the defaults.
So instead of those odd, insistent claves from “annunciation = day”, this version
has that bright, amiable acoustic guitar loop…with a strange, almost automotive/rumbling
sound accompanying it. I really like that little break, and the later one where the
rumbling underpins the ebow loop as well – what a brilliant, chance event – I cannot
take credit, it’s just the brilliant MIDI drum kit I chose, all I did was select
it – the kit did the rest!
Then, for the theremin solo, it’s been exchanged with a synthesizer with a voice
so strange, I can’t really describe it, except to say that it’s even cooler than
the theremin voice is. Those squelchy basses really get a workout in that section,
and during the long ebow solo/high-speed reverse and forwards Stratocaster solos
– those basses underpin all the guitars brilliantly. They “squelch” their way through
a busy, complex, tricky bass part – beautifully pushing the whole track along.
What was a grand piano and reverse guitar duet, is now a marimba and reverse guitar,
and the marimba then takes us onto the next section.
What was a clave and energy bow guitar loop, is now that amazing automobile idling
sound, blending beautifully with the ebow loop…setting up a brief mood before we
move into the “madcap” part of the piece.
Starting with our amazing sounding electronic drum kit, which comes in rocking and
does not relent – then, it’s joined by a marimba solo that used to be a grand piano
solo, taking us briefly into a total jazz world – then, dumped down into the strangest
and final mutation, I took what was that incredibly ambient, peaceful ending, in
“annunciation = day” (which of course is ALSO “twilight = night”), and I ran it through
a flanger on a setting called “Martians”.
So instead of a relaxing, beautiful sound – you get the opposite. It’s the same
loop – just treated slightly differently. I love the way it plays out, the amazing
stereo effect, and the variations, however slight, as the loop changes. It turned
massed ebows into something resembling a crazy phone ringing that no one ever picks
For me, this was just such an eye-opening and amazing experience – to be able to
take a finished track, change a few settings, run a few guitars through a few different
effects – and you have a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT (yet – the same) song.
I learned a lot that week. A most satisfying pair of compositions, and a fantastic
experience for me – I had finally “conquered” the world of MIDI and soft synths.
Well, at least to the standards of SONAR 4.
TRIO = POWER
This track is exactly what the title indicates, a little power trio of MIDI drums,
synth bass and energy bow guitar.
“trio = power” came together very quickly. I think I did two takes of the guitar,
and used take two. It was very “live” – it’s a continuous solo, there are no edits
or messing about – that’s what I played.
We start with the drums, again, I am just learning, but, I managed, somehow, with
the very primitive drum capability of SONAR 4, to create a lovely little drum part,
very short and to the point.
So next came the synth bass, I wanted this to be pure, just “three people” playing,
to keep it simple, and also to play an ebow solo in a “rock” context again, which
I was missing – with Bindlestiff out of action now for seven years at this point,
I had no outlet to “let go” and just solo with the ebow. I could loop, and occasionally
solo, but I wanted to play something free and flowing and beautiful.
So after the bass, I then sat down with the ebow, and just went for it. The track
was finished so quickly, and I think it benefits from that. It ends up with somewhat
of a live feel, at least from the guitar solo, so I believe I made good choices in
the song’s construction.
A quick mix, a nice reverb atmosphere to increase the feeling of it being “live”
and “trio = power” was finished.
I think the ebow melody is really lovely, really positive, it just floats gently
over the top, and it doesn’t crowd the drums and bass – who get to carry whole sections
on their own, that lovely, formless, sine wave synth bass sound is so unobtrusive,
more “suggesting” a bass than being one!
I really like the way the ebow works as it progresses through the song, and I like
the ending too, I really like nice, clean endings, and I think this one is brilliant
– I also like how very SHORT this piece is – it’s very understated, it comes along,
says what it wants to – has a little high-speed riff on the ebow, just a few seconds
of quasi-exhibitionism – and then, stop on a steady note. Done.
I performed this song live once, at a Borders Bookstore show in San Diego, California,
playing ebow along with a stored “backing track” of just the bass and drums from
the track master take. I almost missed the ending, it came so quickly!
Once again, I feel very proud indeed of this little piece of music. It has such
a happy feel to it.
DOUBT = CERTAINTY
As “day = twilight” is the child of “annunciation = day”, “doubt = certainty” is
the child and natural progression of “pastel = doubt”. In this case, “doubt” is
the linking characteristic, and oddly, both tracks have that feeling about them.
So “pastel = doubt” leads to and is related to “doubt = certainty” – this time, a
pair of related tracks rather than a trio.
Based on a very similar rhythmic device to the one used in “pastel = doubt”, this
very layered and very mysterious piece enters slowly, with that mechanistic, clanking
loop, but this time it’s bathed in swaths of whooshing flangers, I love all the effects
in use on this track – it’s very moody indeed.
This piece is so…formless, even though that rhythmic loop is there, it’s very soon
swallowed up by timeless, nebulous waves of swooshing, ultra-flanged synthesizers.
I don’t believe there are any guitars at all on this piece, I think it’s created
entirely in SONAR, and you can hear that I have mastered the art of adding effects
to tracks! From the amount of flanging on some of the synth parts, I would say I
added more than one flanger to some of the tracks, to get the thickest, most amazing
flanger sound possible. Pile them on! The more the better.
This was new territory for me, creating nearly ambient works using SYNTHESIZERS instead
of energy bow guitars, but as time goes on, I become more and more familiar and comfortable
with using keyboards instead of guitar to create ambience. In 2009, I recorded an
entire album of ambient work using ONLY a synthesizer, so finally I have come full
circle – from “all ebow” to “all synthesizer” albums – but to me, it’s not what instruments
you use to create, but the resulting tracks.
The all-synthesizer album, which is actually all Mellotrons, is tentatively entitled
“sky full of stars” with an expected release date of late 2010/early 2011. I’m very
pleased with it, I wish it were available now, but mixing has not even begun so it
will be some time before it’s mixed, mastered, and available for download.
This piece, and a very, very few others, are the precursors, the first ambient pieces
made with keys rather than strings – of that forthcoming album. It’s from tracks
like these that an all keyboard approach has finally become a reality – and it’s
very strange indeed to me – an entire album with absolutely NO GUITAR or EBOW on
it??? Unheard of! Until now.
“doubt = certainty” is a piece with no real rhythm then, that appears slowly and
disappears quickly, but in passing, leaves you with an almost uneasy feeling, it
actually SOUNDS like “doubt” – for certain.
TWILIGHT = NIGHT
Conceptually, if you look at at the tracks on this album, as we’ve seen, there is
a musical linkage between track 2 (“pastel = doubt”) and track 6 (“doubt = certainty”)
and also, between track 1 (“annunciation = day”) and track 4 (“day = twilight”) but
in the latter case, it’s actually a set of three:
“annunciation = day” leads to and relates to “day = twilight”; which then leads to
and relates to “twilight = night”.
In each case, the last word in the title pair becomes the first word in the next
iteration of the series.
Beyond that, there are three “stand-alone” tracks that have no conceptual partner
– track 3 “improve = mincer”, track 5 “trio = power” and finally track 8, “blint’s
tune = parts 18 – 34”. Although I would say that actually, because they both emulate
very stylised live performances, that you COULD say that tracks 3 and 5 are yet another
“pair” – unofficially.
Track 8, on the other hand, is absolutely standalone, without a doubt.
So this piece is actually the last of a set of three songs, I’ve described above
how the first two tracks came to be, but this piece is a little different – what
it is, simply, is an enhanced version of a “loop alone” that originally appears as
the ENDING of “annunciation = day”.
When I created that loop, I liked it so much, that I made other recordings of it,
by itself, and stored them OUTSIDE the “annunciation = day” session. When it came
time to create the album, I had always planned to pull one of those out, and add
it in near the end of the record.
It became then, the penultimate track on the album, just before the absolutely massive
final track, comes this beautiful loop – including a rare occurrence, something I
would NEVER normally do - I had actually added a three-note synth bass part TO the
ebow loop. Unheard of – but I did it anyway.
So it’s 90% ebows/loop, 10% added synth bass part because I wanted to emphasis the
chord progression, and draw attention to that bass line – so the added part just
enhances the loop EVER so slightly – but it was VERY unusual for me to alter, touch
up, or add ANYTHING to ANY loop, EVER, that was already basically, pristine and perfect
– in this case, although controversial – I just decided to do it anyway, and now,
I am very glad of it, I think it improves the loop, and makes this piece unique and
different from the original end section of “annunciation = day”.
I cannot believe how very slowly this loop changes, and I think that’s why it seemed
appropriate to add the bass, to delineate those moments where it changed more precisely,
to make it seem like a “chord progression” – which of course, it actually IS, albeit
a chord progression made up of many, many, many individual ebow “notes”.
It’s also a really nice bonus that this version is so much longer than the original,
and we can get to know, a little bit better, the stately beauty of this loop, hear
it for what it is on it’s own as a unique piece of loop music.
So: edited down to a precise four minutes; cleaned up a little bit; a very simple
bass part added; then processed through some reverb – and the track is done.
It’s gentler still than the original, a little darker because it is “in” a larger
reverb “room”, but the slow, beautiful build of this loop – it was such a work of
quality, that I very much wanted it to be seen and heard and experienced OUTSIDE
the confines of “annunciation = day” – yes, it was originally part of that song,
it’s beautiful, sad, ending – but now, alone, so engaging, so stately, and so very
twilight = night is a fitting end to a trio of most remarkable songs, and a totally
eye-opening experience for me.
BLINT’S TUNE = PARTS 18-34
This track probably needs a bit of explaining, I’ll do the best I can but it is a
very, very long and complex piece of music. I was determined to make something that
had elements of rock, progressive rock, with bits of Crafty guitar and loops thrown
in for good measure, and to hark back to my “normal” catalogue of looping and ambient
But I never dreamed that this piece would evolve the way it did, nor would I believe
just how long it TAKES to complete and mix a fifty-one minute piece of music that
is created in seventeen movements.
The original “Blint’s Tune (Movements 1 – 17)” appears on the 1977 album “Consequences”
by Godley & Crème. That is an album that influenced and influences me heavily to
this day, an amazing record of such complexity and depth that I still hear something
new every time I listen to it some 33 years after it was originally made.
“Consequences” was originally meant to be a three-minute demonstration of a device
that Godley & Crème had invented during their time in pop group 10cc, called the
“Gizmo” (or “Gizmotron”) and when they left 10cc in 1976, they went off to make this
The Gizmo was a device that you clamped onto the bridge of your guitar, and then
a set of rotary plectrums would play any, or all, of your six strings, leaving BOTH
of your hands free to play on the fretboard.
It sounded a bit like six ebows going at once, one on each string. The way they use
the instrument on Consequences is absolutely astounding, making it sound like anything
from violins to an opera singer by using a bottleneck slide up high on the neck of
Several months and many, many hundreds of thousands of pounds later – the three minute
demo had become a triple album set – six sides of sound effects, amazing Gizmo sounds,
and a bizarre dialogue from the late, great Peter Cook – Peter playing almost all
the parts himself, in a strange story about the end of the world, which involves
the number 17, and a piano concerto that “Blint” (one of the main characters in the
story) is writing for the (approaching) end of the world.
So as the end of the world approaches, the characters bicker in very petty ways,
but only Blint’s masterwork can save them (somehow).
Godley & Crème are viewed more as video directors, as the group that did strange
pop songs like “Wedding Bells” and “Cry” but what most people may not realise is
that they were absolutely genius during their tenure within 10cc, and when they left
10cc, that group quite quickly deteriorated into something very ordinary, whereas
previously, while Godley & Crème were still in the band, they had been doing cutting
edge pop masterpieces and awesome live performances, which featured the use of the
Gizmo live on stage.
In any case, the last song, which comprised “Side Six” of the original vinyl album,
is “Blint’s Tune (Parts 1 – 17”) a piano concerto for “piano, wind and orchestra”
written in an attempt to quell the elements at the end of the world.
The piece plays out the record, and it’s just astonishing, who knew what a brilliant
pianist Lol Crème is, and the way they used Gizmos, and orchestras of Gizmos, and
massed Gizmos disguised as the wind – is absolutely extraordinary. It’s my sincere
belief that this track, “Blint’s Tune (Parts 1 – 17)” is one of the absolute masterworks
of progressive rock, and I would put it right there next to the very finest works
of any “prog rock” group from Genesis to Van Der Graaf Generator to King Crimson
– it’s an extraordinary, beautiful and very creative piece of music.
Not only is it full of beautiful piano and amazing Gizmos, Kevin Godley also gets
a chance to demonstrate, not for the first time, that he is a world-class drummer
and percussionist, and his contributions to not just this track but on the whole
album – which includes Kevin singing a duet with the late, great Sarah Vaughn – are
just astonishing. True quality and demonic creativity – controlled madness.
A concerto that can quell the elements – that’s a tall order, but it really does,
during it, the wind threatens, madness is rampant, wild percussion breaks with insanely
difficult, complex and beautiful piano and guitar and Gizmo work all blend together
seamlessly – also, bringing in other unresolved themes from other parts of the album
– and then the ending, a long, quiet fade out, with only the birds left alive…it’s
So my very poor descriptions above will at least give some indication of the respect
in which I hold this piece, so there I was, in 2003, wanting to make some tribute
to this piece of music – which became, bizarrely, the missing parts, parts 18 – 34,
parts that Godley & Crème never envisioned, but I took the liberty to create anyway.
My work is NOTHING like theirs, and it shares nothing except a title. But it is
meant by me to be a tribute to and a testament of the quality of “Consequences” and
particularly, it’s remarkable musical finale – “Blint’s Tune”. Which of course,
is in seventeen movements.
So it is with the utmost of respect for Godley & Crème that I foraged forward and
created this very large piece of music – and with an incredible nerve, titled it
as if it were a collection of recently-discovered “missing pieces” of the original
concerto, a new edition, a new set of 17 MORE movements, to be imaginarily “appended”
to the end of the original 17...
Note: the following section will serve a dual purpose, as description of the seventeen
individual pieces on Disc 2 – and in describing that, it then automatically describes
the creation of the “full version” that is track 8 on Disc 1 – the 51:00 version
with no breaks between the pieces as on Disc 2.
PART 18 = TECHNICALLY, YOUR ATTIC
I think I started out by blocking out some drum parts, I just started with the first
piece (of seventeen – naturally) and took it from there.
During Drone Forest’s busiest periods, 2003 and 2006, our typical way of working
was to provide and pool many samples of music, live or otherwise, into an online
pool of audio files, and then download and use them to create our “drones”. One
of my very favourite of those samples was provided, from the 2003 Drone Forest sessions,
by our drummer (and guitarist) Mike Bowman – he sat down at the drum kit, and played
a long piece, 20 or 30 minutes, called “Fever Drums”.
It was pure improv, he just played grooves, and atmospheric cymbal parts, and driving
beats – it was really a nice piece of music. I found myself turning to it over and
over again, first, I used it in Drone Forest pieces. Then, later, since I had no
drum machine and no other drummer available, I ended up using it for many pieces
of music, sometimes as-is, sometimes altered, treated, edited – and in the end, Mike’s
drumming has ended up on several of the pieces within “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 –
34” as well as on a much later piece, recorded in 2008, called “Thanks, Frank” –
a tribute to Frank Zappa. How that piece was created, again using drums taken from
the “Fever Drums” disc - will be covered later, in the information for the forthcoming
album “Gone Native”.
So in blocking out a fifty-one minute piece of music, having Mike’s drum parts was
an essential ingredient, I could use them in different places for different purposes,
and I think that they add an enormous amount of real quality to the piece.
Here, they serve as introduction to the first movement, gentle cymbals, treated with
flangers by myself, ease us into the piece. A mysterious vocal sound is heard briefly,
followed by a piece of very distorted, very wild whammy bar guitar – that comes and
goes so, so quickly - this was from a previous unused improv that was “in the can”,
I had done it at some point some weeks previously, I remembered how much I liked
it’s Hendrix-like quality, and I literally just dropped it in at that point in the
piece – maybe as an indication that despite the otherwise low-key introduction, that
in the end, this piece IS going to rock.
My thought was, that it would be similar in tone to the way “EXP” starts out the
second Jimi Hendrix Experience album, “Axis: Bold As Love”. It’s squealing, mad,
wildly slamming whammy guitars feeling recalling that strange Hendrix album-opening
But in this instance, it VERY quickly disappears and is replaced by a very sad, very
deliberate ebow melody, in a huge reverb well, and I don’t know how or why, but this
is, unintentionally, one of the saddest solos I have ever, ever recorded. It’s just
heartbroken, and that may well reflect how I was feeling as in my life, I was just
trying to learn to cope with being very ill. So some unintentional sadness is perhaps
understandable. What I was feeling internally, just kinda “came out” in my playing.
I also acknowledge that this massive reverb sound, and distorted solo with long,
long bends, is inspired in part by a short piece of music near the end of the title
track of the King Crimson album “Lizard”, where the music stops, there is a constant
cymbal beat, and Robert Fripp plays this heavenly, long bend-filled guitar solo –
literally solo, with no accompaniment save the cymbal - in a MASSIVE amount of reverb,
so it sounds like he’s playing from a faraway hilltop – that was in part, the inspiration
for this piece.
Then – the ambient cymbals stop, and the mournful energy bow solo continues, mysterious,
It too comes to a stop, and then…
PART 19 = GLOMPERS
A crashing guitar chord, stereo right, and a sampled drum/bass/guitar loop that ISN’T
Mike Bowman playing (I think this is the only drum part “not” played by Mike in the
entire piece) begins Part 19, and I get the chance to play both a very wild rhythm
guitar (that meshes with the looped rhythm) – and that is oriented more on the left
side of the stereo field, as well as getting the chance to play my first nice long,
distorted lead solo since the material on Bindlestiff’s album “LOUD”.
So this song is just a really an excuse for a lead solo! But a worthy one, and I
love the rhythmic backing, and the solo just flies along nicely, sort of like being
back in the saddle again, playing rock guitar, with REAL drums – a heavenly feeling.
And here on a Dave Stafford record at last, I am playing “reverse guitar” live, courtesy
of the Line 6 DL4 Delay – a remarkable device that had just recently become available,
so I had to have one – and I love that device, it gave me the opportunity to play
backwards, while I was playing live – and that’s just a wonderful thing to be able
Ever since I was a child, I had been absolutely fascinated by the intense, beautiful
sound of reverse guitars (or any instrument for that matter) starting with George
Harrison’s two guitar reverse guitar solos on “I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles,
on up through the use of reverse guitar by many, many of my favourite players from
Jimi Hendrix to Roy Wood to Adrian Belew. And even Robert Fripp.
So having a device that allowed me to play backwards live – wow. I think this is
the first recorded use of the DL-4 by myself, I certainly didn’t have it back in
the Bindlestiff days, and I wouldn’t have used it on looping albums – unless as an
additional delay perhaps, but I am not aware of any uses of the DL-4 on my previous
The two guitar parts in this piece are both live, full takes, there was no editing
at all, so I played the strange, almost chord-less “rhythm guitar” first. Then,
the lead guitar, and, some 0:41 seconds in, I go into reverse mode for a few bars,
and then back to forwards – and I really like the effect that has on the piece –
it makes you stop and think, wait a minute, what is that guitar doing?
And then – there is that ending. One of the strangest I’ve ever, ever done and it
just struck me – that’s what I should do – just “stick” on that note – and there
it was, the perfect ending. I love the way it just hangs in space there, as if it
carried on while the piece didn’t.
PART 20 – I REALISE
A long, slow fade in, and one of the secret treasures of this album emerges. A piece
that, at the time, I didn’t think a lot about, I just made it, slotted it into the
larger structure, and moved on. But now, when I step back and listen…
This is a bespoke loop, created especially for “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”. Obviously,
most of the content is very quickly picked, single guitar notes, in a very large
reverb, and overdubbed extensively in the looping process - but there is also a strange,
synth-like melody that hangs around the periphery of the piece – and I am not quite
sure what that is! It could be a guitar, it could be a synth – I absolutely don’t
know – I think the basic loop is really lovely, but that little melody is really
nice – adds a mystique that I could never have created intentionally.
In mapping out the larger piece, I decided to use loops and circulations, and other
ambient content to create “bridges” between the more active sections, so I would
say that “I Realise” is a “bridging piece”, because it leads us from one active,
rock piece, to another. In this case, I could not have asked for a better loop,
I think it has just the right mood, and you really start to get caught up in it’s
repetitions, and then after you’ve been lulled into a quiet place – you are ready
for the next sonic assault!
PART 21 = EMPTY YOUR MIND
This is a case of making do – I wanted another active section, and I didn’t know
what to do. I’d been commissioned, I think by Ian C. Stewart, to create a piece
for one of his many musical projects, I was accustomed to being asked for a loop
or a piece fairly often, by different people, so several weeks before I began working
on “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”, I remember working on this piece on it’s own,
doing a few different mixes of it, and then choosing one and sending it off to Ian
as the piece for his project.
Then, pretty much forgetting all about it - the other mixes of “Empty Your Mind“
sat there, unused, so I picked one I liked as much or perhaps slightly more than
the one I had sent to Ian, and did some additional work on it, and turned it into
“Part 21 = Empty Your Mind”.
The piece is based on a rhythmic pattern, of very deliberately strummed guitar chords
all having the same tonal base, that is driving a very strong phaser voice, and the
sound of the effect is what makes the rhythmic pattern so successful – it works WITH
the effect, and the two together give “Part 21 = Empty Your Mind” a unique and lovely
The occasional burst of descending lead guitar on top of the rhythm loop adds to
it’s ambience, and then at 1:31, a very strange thing occurs – I borrow a guitar
solo from another piece and DROP IT IN one time. I wanted something that would break
up the rhythm of the piece briefly, near the end, but I didn’t know what.
I thought about playing a solo, but could not “get” anything suitable to appear.
Then it struck me, that within another piece, in “Part 27”, which at the time was
also a work in progress, in which I had a guitar solo that might work beautifully
in THIS song, “Part 21”.
I went to the working multitrack mix of “Part 27”, borrowed the solo in question,
and dropped it, as-is, untried, into the mix of “Part 21 = Empty Your Mind” at 1:31.
It fit perfectly, it plays out, the whammy driving the last note down, down, and
then the piece starts to break up naturally anyway, with it’s final flurries of embedded
lead guitar driving the piece frantically across the stereo field, a slowing, low
pitched lead guitar taking us all the way out, right down to the final phaser tails.
So this was just a strange creation from start to finish, borrowing an entire track
from an unrelated project, dropping it in, and then, on top of that, re-using a solo
from another part of this piece, taken from “Part 27” – adding that in, and that
ending up being the entire piece – I’ve never before used a technique like that before
or since. A very unusual genesis indeed, for “Part 21 = Empty Your Mind” – but I
love how it fits in to the overall scheme. It has a nice, major scale, positive
feel to it, within the larger piece that does have areas of extreme darkness.
PART 22 = ONLY CONSEQUENCES
Now, intentionally, I have “borrowed” and intentionally re-used the eerie energy
bow solo from “Part 18 = Technically, Your Attic”, to bring that sad, sad heartbreaking
theme back around, added a mysteriously pulsing bass guitar (1, 2 – 1, 2, 3 – 1)
– that Washburn bass again – then, suddenly, the “Lizard” solo and bass are joined
by some freeform Mike Bowman cymbals to introduce this unusual piece.
Suddenly, stereo right, some live reverse ebows begin, I recognise their strange
tonality, reverse ebows have a beautiful sound to them; then a moment later, stereo
left, mad distorted Stratocaster guitar start to spin and bend – I would often use
this approach in this song, have two “lead guitars”, one full stereo left, one full
stereo right, each doing something very different – and just let them play TOGETHER.
Just as soon as this strange pair of “lead guitars” gets going the bass changes from
pulsing/mysterious to bouncing, almost funky – and then, as quickly as it appeared,
this odd section disappears, and we are back to the opening theme of energy bow solo
and pulsing bass guitar – all the while, Mike Bowman is sprinkling ambient magic
cymbals atop this musical mayhem, which gives it a lovely live feel.
Next time, the bass changes but the ebow doesn’t – now, it’s playing over the funky
part, and again, back to the pulsing – then the cymbals grow in volume, and a mysterious
reverse guitar starts just in time for the third funky bass part – which barely gets
started and suddenly ends in a flurry of reverse guitar and cymbal fade. “Part 22
= Only Consequences” is over.
PART 23 = THERE ARE
I am not sure this was intentional, or if I noticed it later, but this loop bears
a resemblance to but is distinctly different from, nonetheless, a piece of music
by Roy Harper, the title track to his 1990 album “Once”. My piece is in a different
key; it’s slower; it’s played with an ebow as opposed to an acoustic guitar; it’s
a loop as opposed to a song; it’s much shorter than Roy’s piece; and so on. But
- by coincidence as I note above, this piece is similar to Roy’s piece in mood and
feel even though it’s done quite, quite differently.
Long steady tones were first introduced and looped, drones, single note, to establish
an imaginary energy bow guitar chord, composed of many, many notes, and then, a live
ebow melody was played atop that chordal “base”.
I could not help but notice the similarity though, the energy bow, in my head, seeming
to “sing” the words of Roy’s song, but with many melodic twists and turns that do
not sound like “Once”. I really did not set out to make this sound like “Once”,
it really was unintentional, accidental, I wanted a slow, descending loop (having
worked extensively with descending loops in the past) and this is what came out,
as I built the loop, this was the result.
It’s very odd though, what the subconscious can do, and it’s impossible to say, how
it came to be that in 2003, whilst creating a new ebow loop for my long piece of
music, that I would semi-consciously play a melody that I recognised from a thirteen-year
old CD that I happen to own. I would also say, if you are going to be influenced
by someone, or an accidental adaptation of or similar loop to their work is going
to occur – you could do far worse than to have your piece “sound like” a Roy Harper
A very, very slight slide down of the ebow into the reverb brings the piece to an
end after less than two minutes, but I love the mood it creates, I feel it’s an essential
part of “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34” – and it could be said to be another “bridging
piece” between two active pieces.
PART 24 = SEXY LEXIE
A very snappy and excellent Mike Bowman drum part powers this track. I started out
by isolating a section of “Fever Drums” that I really liked, and then began overdubbing
First, in the very beginning of the recording process, when this was just a blocked
out section of drums, I laid down a very classical, very slow and deliberate, harpsichord
duet. This was done in stereo, so one part stereo left, one part stereo right, two
harpsichord voices – starting at 1:01, and playing out their mysterious little tune
Then, the piece sat, for many, many months – with JUST drums, and a 27-second long
harpsichord duet. I would listen to it and think to myself, how on earth am I going
to overdub that?
Eventually, once I had dealt with the health issues, and I had returned to trying
to finish “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”, I turned back again, at last, to Part 24.
What should I do with it?
I thought to begin with, I should play a bass part, before and after the harpsichords,
leaving them “alone” for the moment - with absolutely no plan of what might end up
being overdubbed on top of it. I tried a few different things, and eventually ended
up with the little four-note figure that you now hear.
Introduced by a descending bass phrase, you then hear the four-note figure, followed
by droning basses hanging around the single note centre, then returning to the figure
– then silence, as the harpsichord duet plays out.
I had always meant to overdub on TOP of the harpsichords, but each time I approached
it, there was nothing suitable. At this point, though, with only bass and harpsichord,
I did not know that! I left a long silence after the harpsichords faded away, then
came in with another descending bass riff, but the bass parts in the second half
are few and far between, with long silences.
Then the bass returns with a furious, powerful segment – more strange silences –
then the four-note figure, and back to the root note…the descending figure, the four-note
figure yet again, a throbbing version of the same figure and a strange, harmonic
to end on – one of the strangest bass parts ever recorded I should think – if only
for the massive silences in the second half of the song.
Maybe I had some plan, I don’t know, but I just find it to be strange when I listen
to it now – like a part that is full of holes. And it was very odd the way it “surrounds”
the harpsichord solo, as if that solo is an inviolate piece of music that Shall Not
In the end – that’s exactly what it became, because I could find no bass, guitar
or any instrument that it made any sense to overdub on top of that perfect little
duet. So – I left it alone! I intentionally made sure that both bass, and guitars
would work “up to it” – then be silent while it played – and then return a respectful
distance after it finished!
A very odd and fragmented approach, but it actually “works” – somehow. So, to that
strange drum and harpsichord piece – a fragmented bass part was added. And once
again, I had to face the issue of “what next”?
So eventually, I just set up the Strat – and played along with the bass and drums.
Some of it is good, some of it is strange, it was certainly a lot of fun, especially
trying to come up with something spectacular yet semi-final for the false “ending”
before the harpsichords came in.
Eventually, I ended up with some very wild and strange whammy-down guitar, followed
by a shrieking, wailing, blues riff that just falls into the reverb – when, out of
nowhere, comes that harpsichord.
Followed by a few fantastic bars of JUST Mike Bowman’s drum kit, and even though
once again, I had intended to overdub that section – I never did. The more I listened,
the more I felt that those unadorned drums were the perfect way to “end” the harpsichord
duet – so I just let it be.
The bass comes back in, and more live, lead whammy guitars are added – some of them
having to fly solo over sections with no bass – what you get are bits of drum solo,
bits of guitar and drum duet, and occasionally, the entire three-piece “band” all
playing at once.
The ending is very together, the bass and guitar working really well together at
last, guitar following bass, bass supporting melody – and then, whip quick, both
guitar and bass suddenly divert to a strange note – and the piece is over.
PART 25 = IN NATURE
Another bridging piece, “Part 25 = In Nature” is made up almost entirely of samples,
in this case, of grand piano, just fragments, and bird song. Added to that, is the
world’s shortest, but very effective, energy bow guitar solo.
This is the shortest piece out of the seventeen sections, again serving to bridge
two pieces together, but for the first time, not two active pieces, but, a short,
melodic bridge between an active piece and a very, very ambient piece indeed.
PART 26 = ANOTHER BLUE WORLD
This is a bespoke loop, beginning with a single ebow, joined immediately by another,
a live loop, built up slowly, one that I would call a “chord egg” style loop, in
that it has a moment when each individual voice or note “peaks”, creating the musical
equivalent of the crest of a wave. These are quick waves, lapping an invisible shoreline,
but waves that begin to grow on you almost immediately – warm, soothing, slightly
sad – tentative, uncertain – but hopeful.
I love how quickly this piece develops, it’s a very short loop, perhaps six seconds
in length, but just long enough to quite quickly develop a lovely, dreamy quality.
A few iterations, and then some lower tones are added in, and once that occurs, beginning
around 1:40 or so, “Part 26 = Another Blue World” really takes off, I just think
it has such a nice mood to it, a little melancholy, but also positive, hopeful –
and it’s that sense of hope that gives the piece it’s secret appeal.
If I could go back in time, I might add in several really, really LOW notes to really
give it some rumble, but I think it’s lovely as it stands, too. It’s just like waves,
washing up on an endless shore, and even though it’s a short loop, it has the atmosphere
of a much longer loop.
And I think that there is just the tiniest moment, when ALL the voices fall silent,
a moment so short that you can’t really tell if it’s there or not, a pause, an intake
of breath, but, before you can even detect it, another “wave” of ebows arrives, washing
all chance of silence away.
The title is obviously a reference to “Another Green World” by Brian Eno, and it’s
only named what it’s named not because I feel it’s anything like any song from that
album, it’s more that it has a…feeling, about it, that reminds me of a feeling I
get when I hear the last few tracks on the Eno album. I couldn’t say what track,
if any, I am talking about, it’s more an “album mood” that I am dreaming of here,
and “Part 26 = Another Blue World” was the only way I could describe the feeling
I get when I hear this song.
Without warning, the loop quick fades into reverb and is gone.
PART 27 = 2003…A MERMAN I HAVE TURNED TO BE
In honour of Jimi Hendrix, extending a concept of Jimi’s - just as “Blint’s Tune
= Parts 18 – 34” is an extension of the last piece on the Godley & Crème album “Consequences”
– this piece is an unconscious, unintentional tribute and extension of “1983 (A Merman
I Will Turn To Be)” from the “Electric Ladyland” album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Again, not because it’s ANYTHING like that record, it’s more, once again, about the
feeling of the Hendrix piece, one of my very favourite from what is very probably
my favourite Hendrix album anyway. I spent a lot of time listening to “Electric
Ladyland” during the making of “All Things Being Equal” and it’s in this piece that
it finally came to the fore.
Beginning with a constructed drum track, carefully taking two or three really excellent
parts from “Fever Drums”, and weaving them into a backing track that would make Mitch
Mitchell proud, over which I intended to play my “Hendrix piece”. Now, I would never,
as most guitarists would say, even pretend to be able to play a piece even remotely
as good as a Jimi Hendrix piece, and this is not my attempt to do so.
It’s a tribute, to the best guitarist there ever was, and, at last, owning a really
nice Stratocaster, and having the tools to get really good guitar sounds, at last,
I could set out to try and capture a piece of music that has a mood, a feel, not
unlike a Hendrix ballad or “quiet piece”.
Many people just think Hendrix was that LOUD, LOUD guitarist, but he really loved
quiet, beautiful music, and my feeling is, that if he had stayed around long enough
to really hear it, he would have liked ambient music too.
So when I think of Hendrix, I don’t necessarily think of “Purple Haze” or “Foxey
Lady” or screaming feedback and whammy madness. I think of…”Drifting”, or of “Angel”
or of “1983 (A Merman I Will Turn To Be)”.
Those were the pieces that I was thinking about when it came time to work this piece
out. I spent a long time on this piece, and I consider it to be the “heart” of “Blint’s
Tune = Parts 18 – 34” – the centrepiece as it were, even though it’s a little past
centre being the 10th piece in the sequence.
So I construct a drum track, with a few sections, a rim shot and snare start us off,
gently tapping away, which then moves to cymbals and then back again, a perfect backdrop
– first, tentative intro, then, the piece proper begins – and I’ve taken a long uninterrupted
drum sequence, and added flangers to it, in varying degrees, to make it more dreamlike.
Some brilliant rolls and fills, more lovely cymbals – this backing was just so perfect
for the task at hand, and it’s the brilliance of Mike’s playing that really made
ME play so well.
And near the end, that amazing drum roll that sparks my final guitar solo, the snare
just flying and driving the stereo flangers into heavenly overdrive – I just love
the way he plays on this piece – then, I added a few Mike Bowman cymbals at the end,
so I could end the piece on a quieter note.
But that is just the drum track, which I did spend a lot of time setting up, organising
the beginning and end sections, and adding beautiful stereo flangers, and getting
just right as the perfect backing track for a Hendrixian melodic romp.
I started out with a clean rhythm guitar, in the key of D major, one of the happiest
keys, and just gradually worked out a part that “fit” the drum part well. A few
spare chords, strummed very, very carefully – interspersed with slow downward whammy
bars; single notes, short melodic lead guitar breaks – and more very carefully picked
Melodic scales, drifting upwards in a cloud of reverb. I was so happy with this
“rhythm guitar” – which was really not just rhythm, but was rhythm guitar, strummed
guitar, picked guitar, lead guitar, melodic guitar, single notes – a lovely pastiche
of beautiful, clean sounds. It happened very naturally, I am pretty sure it’s just
one take, and that was that – done.
Next – clean reverse guitars. Only of course those reverse guitars are DL-4 live
reverse guitars, so it was just that uncanny feeling again, of “playing” backwards
guitar. Again – this was a single take, there was no fuss, no editing – I just played.
Sometimes, those reverse guitars are whole chords or chord fragments being whammy’d,
so it’s not just the beautiful, single-note style of reverse guitar, but again, a
combination of reversed notes, lines and chords – and it just sounds breathtakingly
beautiful, especially when combined with the existing “rhythm guitar” – the first
That first track, the one I am calling “rhythm guitar”, is oriented mostly stereo
left, while the reverse guitar is oriented mostly stereo right, I like having the
separation and that’s more what might have been found on a record in 1969 than what
you might get nowadays.
The next and nearly final addition was live bass guitar, I just basically played
a droning D note, and then played along with it on the G string, various notes that
harmonise well with a D major chord. Again this was probably done in one take, or
in very few, and this is bass style that I’ve been using for many, many years – I
love this idea for the bass, I probably originally got it in 1977, when I saw Kasim
Sultan’s amazing bass solo in “Singring And The Glass Guitar” at my very first Utopia
concert – I never forgot that, and have done my own variation of that solo many times
– a very simple but very effective technique.
So with a “be-all-things-to-all-people” rhythm/picked/strummed guitar part done,
my lovely, wispy clean reverse guitars, and drone bass all now added to the drum
track, I needed to figure out what else was needed.
I wanted a solo, but not a long solo, just something to create a single, additional
musical climax, and I remember I had to do this several times before I got one that
wasn’t too long, too indulgent, a solo that fits the piece – and in the end, I think
it works well.
You can feel the excitement building, the drums, at 2:05, take off in an awesome
tight, super flanged roll, and then the guitar dives in, this time it’s live, distorted
DL-4 reverse guitar, which has a very different quality from the clean guitar.
Also, because of the reverse effect (courtesy of the Line 6 DL-4), when I end the
distorted guitar solo, by slowly pushing down the whammy bar, the sound of the guitar
pulses down, it’s such a cool sound – and then it’s gone, leaving that lovely clean,
dual guitar heaven (which has been patiently, calmly defining the song from the very
beginning) alone, left to finish what it began at the start of the piece..
A moment later – and “Merman” is over - with a couple of awesome Bowman cymbal crashes
- that have a beautiful, mysterious finality about them.
PART 28 = ELECTRIC SKY CHURCH
Well, in title, at least, this piece continues our Hendrix connection, I loved this
concept of Jimi’s, after feeling a bit constrained with the “power trio” configuration
of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he was wanting to work with a larger, more flexible
group, with different players coming and going, different instrumentations besides
He set this group up, and they jammed at Jimi’s house in New York, and a modified
version of that group played at Woodstock. But it was just the idea, of an “electric
sky church” – suggesting in turn, power, nature and reverence…all in one short beautiful
So when I finished this track, still with Jimi on my mind from the LAST track, I
thought – this loop SOUNDS like what an “electric sky church” might sound like.
The hard crash of a cymbal begins an odd, almost interlude-like section, just a few
moments of samples, which suddenly, like a door opening, suddenly become this amazing,
sweeping, awe-inspiring loop. This is a hidden gem, this track, a loop that is simultaneously
joyous, sorrowful, happy, sad, wistful, cheerful, moody, serene…and all of those
things at once. A long, slow, languorous energy bow winds down across a field of
beautifully chorused ebows, this is clearly a “Strat loop”, because of the bright
sound, and the tiny bits of bending that can be detected here and there…I really
like the tone of the ebows, I like the way the stereo chorus, with it’s lovely, lingering
multi-tap delays, that make the ebow slides trail away has enriched the loop – and
I like the way it suddenly appears, you have this moment of mystery and then the
loop is THERE, running free, and it just takes you away with it.
So “Part 28 = Electric Sky Church” while not in the style of Hendrix, is certainly
in tribute and offered with reverence to his memory. I like to think that if he
had heard it, and heard the title, that he would have smiled and said that he really
dug it. I want to think that anyway…
For me, this loop has a unique and unusual and atypical serenity that is sometimes
lacking from other loops. It’s not just good – it also has spirit.
PART 29 = NEITHER REWARDS NOR PUNISHMENTS
This is an unusual transition, because basically, the loop that is “Part 28 = Electric
Sky Church” continues to run, unabated, through the majority of this track, so a
minute, a minute thirty into this track, you can STILL hear “Part 28 = Electric Sky
Church” playing valiantly in the background as the track unfolds.
That is totally intentional, and in fact, “Part 29 = Neither Rewards Nor Punishments”
is a piece that is all about musical uncertainty. It’s basically a trio of drums,
bass and mellotron, but, the aforementioned loop from the previous track runs through
most of it, which provides some very odd moments of hazard, and then even in the
interplay of bass and mellotron there are moments of discomfort, where the bass SEEMS
to be heading in one melodic direction, while a slightly uncomfortable mellotron
chord begins but eventually resolves itself with the bass…
It seems almost like a track with different parts pulling in different directions…a
track full of contradictions and uncertainties, but I LIKE the uncomfortable feeling
it can sometimes give you, and in the end, it always DOES resolve to something that
makes musical sense, so the very short trips into the realms of hazard are not really
an issue, just a momentary lapse of normality, which is restored quickly enough.
This is based on a great piece of Mike Bowman drumming, with clean Washburn bass
and mellotron – and yes, you maybe guessed it, those mellotron chords are the SAME
chords that I so painstakingly downloaded individual notes for and created to use
in “Improv = Mincer”.
But I used them in a completely different way here, they are just to provide some
mystery, and also some conflict and hazard, against a fairly ordinary drum and bass
part, meaning really, that the mellotron in this case is taking the part of the “lead
instrument” – even though they are playing only chords. On this album more than
most, I did do some musical recycling, but unless I had ever mentioned it, you might
never have noticed that those are the “same” mellotrons as on “Improv = Mincer”.
It was a lot of work to create those virtual mellotron “chords”, so why not get
maximum musical value out of them?
This piece has some really odd juxtapositions in it which I really enjoy, I also
REALLY like Mike’s drum parts, and my somewhat tentative attempts at playing an almost
funky bass line along with him. But it’s those creepy, ever-present mellotrons that
really make this succeed. A most unusual track.
PART 30 = DAYBREAK
The turning of a page, a mournful, beautiful grand piano sample – and then, a moment
of musical hope, as the piano takes us up to…
PART 31 = CIRCULATION
I wanted to move from that piano fragment to a circulation, in an unbroken transition,
as if the piano had started circulating…and it had been my original intention to
create one for this part of the piece. And I tried to, several times, but I am afraid
to report that due to my illness, that I just could not manage it. The discipline
required, and my skill level and stamina when I was that ill, well, I just could
not PLAY a circulation then.
So for a long time, this piece was just a silence in the running order. And then
I thought, well, normally, again, I would not do this, but – what if, what if…I tried
a piece, a short piece, from my best selection of circulations? I tried different
candidates, and finally settled on this very lovely, fragile circulation, “Circulation
Movement No. 5”, taken from my 1998 solo album “circulation”.
I inserted the circulation at just the right place in the upward piano scale, and
also, I believe I re-treated it with additional reverb, as well as shortening it
from 7:42 in length to 6:31, so in those small ways, it’s a little different from
the original, but not much.
It saddened me to have to do that, and if I had endless time, I would go back and
replace this with a “new” piece as I should have been able to do, but literally could
not do, at the time.
PART 32 = UNGRATEFUL DECEIVER
Once again, we have a piece that begins with the loop (or in this case, the circulation)
from the previous piece still running when it begins. This piece then starts with
some cymbal beats, and then Mike Bowman just DIVES into a very fast, almost jazzy
drum part, with little rolls and a lot of excitement.
Starting with just the drum track, I first played clean Washburn bass, at different
tempos – sometimes constant, at other times, randomly, leaving spaces for an unknown
So I had this drum and bass part, and just could not decide what the guitars should
be. In the end, I got a really thick distorted, flanged, sort of “House Burning
Down” (Hendrix) kind of guitar sound, and I was just doing run-throughs, and I did
this funny high-speed picking that was just chromatic picking, but with the strings
muted – it was never meant to be a take.
It was just filler, trying to see how I could “play along” with the very tricky bass
part that I had invented. So I played the muted, chromatic scales, and in the slower
parts, played totally improvised lead guitar – and in fact, I am pretty sure this
is one whole take, that was never, ever meant to BE a take…but then I listened back
to it, and it began to grow on me!
I liked the fact that the first part was a lead guitar without being a lead guitar,
which just “ticked” along to the bass line, following it, staying with it, but not
having a real melody! Some of the other lead playing is anguished, painful, with
long, tentative bends and a lot of angst and frustration. But I decided, on reflection,
that this should BE the take.
So a practice run, that I never meant to use as a take – became the take. Unedited,
unaltered, warts and all – certainly one of the strangest “lead solos” I have ever,
But sometimes that’s the right thing to choose – what you have, not what you WISH
Later, I decided to add in the odd vocal sample that appears near the beginning of
the track. The piece falls briefly into a strange musical doldrums, fragments of
drums, fragments of bass, fragments of strange lead guitar – and I thought, why not,
into this odd sequence, which occurs roughly between 1:30 and 2:30, add in a vocal
sample to distract the listener from just how very weird the piece was getting at
So that too, adds to the overall strangeness and uniqueness, of this piece.
The title is obviously a very bad pun on “The Great Deceiver” a track (and later
album) by King Crimson, but there is no similarity to that track – just a pun on
The highlight of this track must certainly be, though, Mike Bowman on drums, and
that eager bass player too, churning along, trying desperately and usually succeeding,
to keep up with the drummer.
PART 33 = BACK TO THE CIRKUS
The penultimate track on the record is not a comfortable one in terms of having a
happy, major key melodic feel to it. At this point in my life, I was starting to
get into some really complex waveforms for guitar, and sometimes I would spend a
lot of time seeing just how weird of a “guitar sound” I could get. This would be
one of those times.
I got this amazing, lush, overwhelming sound, and was just playing with it, when
I wondered if I could use it to create a solo for Part 33. So I just cued it up,
and at the end of Part 32, just started playing the riff you hear on the record.
I love the mad, chromatic run down that it starts with, which makes the occasional
but abortive attempt to…climb back up, and I like how the chromatic approach ties
in with and compliments the arrangement of “Part 32 = Back To The Cirkus”. Also,
as the record draws to a close, I was wanting to add an element of wildness, of madness,
of musical disarray, and using dissonance in these two pieces certainly provides
In the case of “Part 33 = Back To The Cirkus” it’s not just the use of the chromatic
scales, it’s also texture, texture, and more texture – achieving a most unique guitar
tone to say the least.
The multiplicity of processors used is almost unimaginable, I don’t have any idea
how I got this sound, but it’s a monster! It definitely has components of flangers,
delays, echo – I would imagine it was made with a combination of my Line 6 Pod Pro,
run into, finally, the Line 6 DL-4 Delay Processor on one of the stranger echo settings…and
maybe the odd fuzz box or other stomp box in the signal chain just for fun.
Whatever it was that I did, it made a single guitar note sound like a thick, powerful
instrument…and I was away.
I just played this riff, as you hear it, and then ended on a low E just a few seconds
after the one minute mark (this was done on the Strat, so it’s in old standard tuning)
– the low E fades away, and we return to another version of the same loop that’s
contained in “Part 28 = Electric Sky Church”.
I felt that after one piece that is wholly dissonant, and then this piece which begins
with a very heavy one minute of further dissonance, that it might be good to RETURN
to something familiar, something that is light, something that is happy and melodic
– the last few minutes are just a reprise of “Part 28 = Electric Sky Church” which
is also a way of returning momentarily to that particular musical theme.
This time, the loop fades, and suddenly, an angelic female voice sings a single,
beautiful note - which leads us, at last, to the final track…
PART 34 = THE END OF ALL THINGS
Cymbals slide mysteriously from right to left, and then a vigorous, constant cymbal
solo begins, with a droning ebow loop underpinned it, not unlike the one used on
the very first part of “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”. We’ve come full circle now;
we are about 47 minutes in to our 51-minute long piece now, so it’s certainly a good
time to remind us of the first part of the track! Some snare rolls, a roll on a
tom, then - more cymbal workouts, and still, that lovely, low drone, waiting, waiting
for the end of all things.
Since in Godley & Creme’s version, the piece ends with the end of the world, I felt
it was only meet and proper that I do the same thing with my piece. I think I was
going, however, for something that sounded more like musical purgatory than musical
Now, it starts to get stranger – that eerie vocal sample appears briefly, full stereo
right. The drums stop. The ebows…continue. Then…they fade.
And just as the drone disappears, a slow-downed, reverb-drenched drone of another
type completely appears – contrasting in almost every way. This drone is different,
deeper, older, more resonant – slower, quieter. Distant birds call incessantly,
while muted heavenly voices murmur constantly and then - begin to fade.
Eventually, the drone gradually, slowly, disappears, leaving just the reverb birds,
alone, wondering what on earth man has done to their planet…
Creating this 51-minute opus was a real eye-opener for me. I never thought it would
be easy, but I never DREAMED it would be as difficult as it eventually turned out
And then, on top of that, I got it finished; I then had to MIX it. That in itself
was a daunting, difficult task. But again, I got there in the end.
Once finished, I undertook the decision that I would create a bonus disc of “individual”
mixes of the 17 tracks that make up “Blint’s Tune = Parts 18 – 34”; another decision
that ended up eating up days of time, in making sure I had good, high quality “standalone”
versions of the tracks.
I think, had I not fallen ill in the middle of the project, that it would have turned
out brighter, more complete – some of this feels a little unfinished to me, a little
rough around the edges. Conversely, though – some of it feels just right, and I
don’t believe I could do a better job.
So to say I have slightly mixed feelings about the record, well, that might be the
fairest evaluation. I truly believe, though, that there is a lot of great music
here, and I want to especially thank my special guest, Mike Bowman, on “Fever Drums”
without whom, this record would never have been made.