It’s been all quiet on the Northern front so far this year. After a traditional Hogmanay with great friends and neighbours we fell into the doldrums of that post partying/ pre work zone malaise and both Simone and I were clobbered with a virus. I honestly thought I had avian flu that I’d picked up as bad karma from plucking pheasants or from the bird feeders. Extreme swinging temperatures, tight chest, shallow breathing and sleeping over 16 hours a day kiboshed me for nearly a week. Getting back into the office groove was difficult and I wasn’t operating on all cylinders until last Monday. Liam returned from holidays in Poland snowboarding with his Dad and I was back to early morning school runs in mild shock trying to get my bearings on the year ahead.
2016 had completely thrown me and plans that should have been initiated and moving forward had all stalled. The replacement dates for the ‘Childhood’ tour closely followed by my father’s passing and then seriously deteriorating back issues in the summer that resulted in the operation late in the year meant my heid was full of chocolate frogs for long periods and I just couldn’t focus on anything creative. I should have been halfway through writing ‘Weltschmerz’ but I’m sitting here in January in a slight panic realising there’s a mountain to be moved.
My shoulder has worsened since the back operation as muscle groups realign and my body adjusts to its new upright position. Sleep is broken and I toss and turn like a live prawn on a Japanese hot plate in the night. I’m still waiting on the date for the operation and have been told there are delays on my hospital appointment which was pencilled in for February. I’d already cancelled all open air work this summer and first week of January I had to phone my new agent in Hamburg and tell him to postpone all work in Europe until 2018. With my right arm completely immobilised for 4 weeks and then 6 weeks painful physio as part of a 6 month recovery that requires a lot of careful attention I decided that to deal with writing and recording the album and aiming at an Autumn tour was too much to take on.
The good news is that I have been given the all clear on my spine and tomorrow I head to the gym in Edinburgh to start work with a personal trainer. The idea is to use the window between the operations to get some semblance of fitness in my back and legs and set myself up for the shoulder recovery. With all that’s happened in the last year there’s been a definitive wake up on my approach to health and lifestyle and having lost so much time in 2016 the original idea of a 2018 retirement from music has to be moved slightly back.
This year I will be concentrating on writing and recording which hopefully won’t be too much affected by the shoulder recovery. Calum Malcolm is mixing the live material recorded in Warsaw from the ‘Farewell to Childhood’ tour and is mastering the Berlin show for a DVD which will be part of the package scheduled for release in early March. I’ll also be working on the remasters for ‘Vigil’, ‘Internal Exile’, ‘Suits’ and ‘Songs from the Mirror’ throughout the year during the writing sessions for ‘Weltschmerz’ in order to fund the project as obviously without the expected live income from the summer there’s a shortfall. I won’t be able to invest in any vinyl releases on the remasters this year as the outlay is too expensive.
The UK tour in December will be the only live dates this year. With a fair wind and a bit of luck I’ll have the ‘Weltschmerz’ album in hand by then. If for some reason not I’ll follow the same tack as with ‘Feast’ and will be playing tracks prior to recording but in all honesty it should be in the can.
As with the ‘Misplaced Childhood’ farewell shows I plan this to be the first and last time I’ll be playing ‘Clutching at Straws’ in its entirety and that means a first time out the box for ‘Tux On’, ‘Going Under’ and ‘Just for the Record’ all of which will be rearranged for the tour.
The European tour will be set up for March 2018 onwards and there will be a few UK dates added to that section. At the moment there are no plans for North and South America but I am open to offers that make sense. With another £100 added to the cost of US work visas in recent months and the new administration tightening controls I’m sad to say a North American tour is highly improbable.
The most important project this year is the ‘Weltschmerz’ album. Mark Wilkinson already has images in mind; I have the seeds of a couple of lyrics, Steve Vantsis is primed and there are a couple of musicians in the wings that could play influential roles. I now have to start bringing it all together. I’m sure this is going to be an interesting year and the time is right for the subject matter. It has to be special and as you know well from my history this album won’t be released until I am sure it is.