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It was a strange experience walking out onto a stage again after such a long lay off and I was glad I’d had a wake up call at rehearsals the previous week as I was rusty to say the least. The flight down to Southampton had me on edge especially as we had an aborted landing due to high winds. I had an hour or so drive to Sturminster Newton and couldn’t have picked better company for the drive. Nick was a retired master mariner and ex commander in the Royal Navy with a catalogue of tales to tell while our driver Martin had worked all over the world with all the top perfume companies as a display designer. Nick and I jumped straight into diving stories as he had been a deep diver with the navy. Tales of treasure hunts, sunken u boats, diving accidents to chill your bones and a host of other related incidents wiped the journey time and we ended up having lunch in the afternoon soaking away the hours before soundcheck. They were both fascinating and lovely gentlemen and I could have spent days listening to their yarns. In fact all the staff at the venue were so friendly and helpful and the day drifted by effortlessly. The ‘Exchange’ is a wee jewel of a place. and will definitely be in my plans when I take the next Fishheads Club tour out as the acoustics, staging and seating are perfect.
I was scheduled for 5 songs in the set, Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’, Lowell George’s ‘What do you want the girl to do?’, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, Dean Martin’s ‘Amore’ and ‘Kayleigh’ with a joint vocal on ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’. I’d originally intended to record the tracks for the ‘Songs from the Mirror’ third CD but had blown out the idea when costs started to mount and it became infeasible. I was glad I’d made that decision as my voice wasn’t anywhere near ready and the long travel day hadn’t helped. Soundcheck went well and I ran through all my songs with no hitches.I was nervous and uptight about the performance and discovering I was last on meant I had a long wait until my slot. Spike never gets a setlist time right and marks every song down as being ‘4 minutes’. He never allows for the gabbing of which he is as guilty as everyone else. At 1 hour 40 minutes into the set I was backstage being very frugal with the wine on the rider and very aware that Toyah still had her 4 songs and Tom Robinson had 5 songs to sing.There was a curfew at 10.30 and it was already 9.40 and as I didn’t know how strict it was I was worried I might not even get on.
Toyah was wonderful as always and then Tom followed up with a strong set including a powerful version of Leonard Cohen’s’ First we take Manhattan’. And then it was my turn. ‘Sledgehammer’ was a test and I clung onto the vocal as the band stormed away, horn section ablaze. ‘What do you want’ was an understatement as hardly anyone in the crowd appeared to know the song. I leaned heavily on backing vocals of the ‘Fabba Girls’, Suzie and Zoe and was stretching myself in the choruses. ‘Kayleigh’ had me back on familiar territory and my confidence was raised. I blew out ‘Alabama’ on stage with Spike’s consent as time was our enemy and then launched into ‘Amore’, a song I’d never thought I’d sing on a stage and one of my favourites. I remember singing it on stage at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh with the band and my dad in the audience smiling with disbelief on hearing his laddie perform one of the songs of an artist he’d force fed me on the 8 track player in his car when I was a kid. The audience in Sturminster lapped it up and I had them on their feet singing along as Spike, Jamie Moses and the 2 Fabbas and I performed an extremely dodgy step dance routine.Last up was ‘Friends’ which I shared with Ryan Molloy, a talented singer who was one of the leads in the ‘Jersey Boys’ musical. It brought the curtain down. The band had been on stage for over 2hours and 20 minutes! The musicians were exhausted especially Steve Stroud on bass and drummer John Marter. Steve had a bout food poisoning and John was down with the lurgy that he’d caught from guitarist Jamie Moses who was also well under the weather.Despite all it was big smiles backstage and the staff at ‘The Exchange’ were overjoyed at the show.
Back at the hotel there were a couple of glasses of wine and then the batteries fell out of this particular Duracell Bunny.Next morning Tom Robinson had his smartphone out and was filming Spike, Toyah, Suzie and myself for his video blog on his Radio 6 show site to promote the Portsmouth show later that night. I drove with Suzie to Portsmouth and with Spike stopped off at Costcos in Southampton to pick up the drinks rider for the Guildhall backstage. I resisted buying the 2.5 metre ‘Halloween Frankenstein Butler’ that growled out his recorded greetings which had I been on a tour bus might have joined the circus.Suzie filled a trolley full of scented candles and various articles of clothing and Spike, who lives most of his time in the US these days waxed eternally lyrical about the great offers on display and admitted he never went into his store in Palm Springs without emptying at least 500 quid on a visit.The knowledge I was flying with hand luggage next day tempered my consumer frenzy but I noted there was a store in Edinburgh I should maybe visit one day when I’m over flush!
The Guildhall was familiar but I couldn’t place when I’d last been there. A beautiful old venue with a cavernous backstage area I walked out onto the stage and felt ready for the show. Soundcheck was delayed and there were many mutterings about the set list which had to be axed into reasonable shape. We weren’t going to get leeway on a curfew and overruns were expensive. Ryan was off the bill and replaced by none other than my old mate Tony Hadley who I hadn’t seen since he came to the ‘Childhood’ show in Aylesbury last year when we had a long natter about all things ‘Spandau Ballet’ as he had just come back from tour and he was not sure if he was going out again. I hadn’t realised he’d left the band a few months before and it became patently obvious that his exit hadn’t been well received by fans and the rest of the band. There was a press conference in London that night with his old band mates who were announcing they were looking for a new singer and carrying on without him. Tony was with his manager on the night and I could tell he was really wound up with what was said as he listened to the live press conference online backstage. It wasn’t the best way to line up a performance. I have to be honest and say I was sad to hear about the continuing confrontations having been there when Tony and John Keeble, the Spandau’s drummer and also a dear friend, went though the original bitter court cases back in the early 90’s. I’d got to know the boys well in the 80’s and even gave away John’s wife Flea at their wedding. The Spandau’s divorce was an ugly time for all concerned and very expensive for everyone. The settlement back then meant that Tony was not allowed to reference ‘Spandau Ballet’ in any shape or form in any solo engagements and his recent US tour was plagued with legal problems. Obviously when he was back with the band this didn’t matter but now he’s broken ranks the restrictions are back in place. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like for me if I’d been legally shackled when I left ‘Marillion’ as sometimes promoters without my knowledge have advertised shows as ‘the voice of Marillion’ or ‘former ‘Marillion’ singer. To be in a position where I could be taken to court for contempt if a promoter or press officer inadvertently used my previous band’s name to sell solo shows is a scary thought. For Tony who is known worldwide as the voice of ‘Spandau Ballet’ and yet not allowed to acknowledge it without risk of prosecution, in my opinion seems excessive. Obviously I have only heard one side of the story but it remains truly sad that the animosity and bitterness remains among people who were once great friends. I understand more than anyone how brutal and ugly a ‘band divorce’ can be and I spent quite a few years in a dark place harbouring grudges and grievances with people who I was once close with. I’m glad the rest of the ‘Marillos’ and I sorted out our differences, rekindled our friendships.and managed to move on.
I met up with John Reid, who looks after the Fishheads Club site, in a pub opposite the Guildhall. It was a rare chance for a good natter away from backstage areas. Later on we would be joined by Stuart James and David Richardson who’d been at the previous nights show and taken some great photos.Before they arrived I’d gone to the bar and came across this story that I’ve already posted to the Face Book timeline and which reached over 300 000 people!
“As is my want and custom around straggling soundchecks I often have a wee wander for some soothing nectar for the ‘thrapple’. At first I thought the till was tied into the jukebox and then realised the lovely young lady behind the bar had just logged on.
I said to her ” I gave you that name” to which she looked a bit bemused. “So your dad is a ‘Marillion fan’. The penny dropped and she was quite taken aback when she realised who I was. We had a photo taken together to show her Dad who she called later. He was blown away as was Kayleigh who gave me a pint of ‘Doom Bar’ on the house.
A definite first for me and a lovely coincidence. She told me she knew loads of ‘Kayleighs’ in the Portsmouth area and she even knew a guy with that name. As I said on stage later I hope it doesn’t end up like the story line in Johnny Cash’s ‘A Boy Named Sue’
The gig was fast approaching and with Tony on the bill tonight to replace Ryan Molloy I was on earlier. The set list had been thinned down and ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ was dropped again. I followed a sparkling set from Toyah and another powerful performance from Tom Robinson. They had got the crowd buzzing and I was better prepared than at Sturminster with a voice that had the cobwebs blown away. Again ‘Sledgehammer’, ‘What do you Want’, ‘Kayleigh’ and ‘Amore’ made up my contribution to proceedings and I was a lot more confident in my delivery than the night before. The ‘Kayleigh’ story from the pub went down well and I got a few chuckles on my intros from both band and audience. I sung a decent set and left the stage for Tony Hadley. Being the same height I didn’t need to adjust the mike stand which is always a problem when following or being followed by Toyah 🙂
Tony , in my opinion is one of the finest and most distinctive singers in the UK and as I listened to his set I couldn’t but help admire his professionalism and be reminded that ‘Spandau Ballet’ are going to have a tough job finding his replacement. I got the chance to sing with him as we were to share ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ and standing next to that voice and taking in the sheer power and projection really made me feel slightly inadequate. We left the stage to a great ovation and as we took our bows I was reminded about just what a great bunch of musicians I get the chance to work with.
There was an aftershow party upstairs in the venue and as this was Spike’s hometown it was a family affair. I took the chance to have a look round the music exhibition upstairs where there were a couple of rooms dedicated to Spike.It’s incredible seeing just who he has played with during his career and the photos of him with heroes and dignitaries from all over the world is hugely impressive.
I headed back to the hotel on the seafront just as ‘Storm Aileen’ was picking up. I hoped it would be blown over by morning as I had a flight home at midday. It was an early night for me and I slept with the window open listening to the sea raging and the wind howling around the pier.
After fond farewells to Spike and his lovely lady Kyle I taxied to the airport and a flawless flight home to my own lady. It had been a fine couple of days and it whetted my appetite for my own December shows.I only had a few days to clear the control room before Steve Vantsis arrived to carry on searching for new writing ideas. It’s going to be a while until I see the SAS band again and with Spike out with ‘Queen’ soon there won’t be any traditional Christmas shows this year.Simone, Liam and I are invited along to their Glasgow show in December and with it being the night before the rehearsals and gig in Stirling it’s a perfect fuse to fire up my own stage sparks and send me back out on the road again.
Mark Wilkinson has finished the artwork for both ‘Suits’ and ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and I think they are the best yet. The sleevenotes are immense and the ‘Suits’ booklet runs to 60 pages with 15000 words and photos. ‘SFTM’ runs in at 12000 words and is a 48 page booklet. Between the 2 the entire period of 92-95 is covered and takes in my first steps as an independent artist and all the trials and tribulations involved.Even I was amazed at just how much happened in such a relatively short space of time.
The audio is now with Calum Malcolm for mastering and I’m waiting to see the first edit on the DVD from ‘SFTM’. It’s all on line and I should have finished copies by the end of November.I’m glad these remasters are now finished and I can now fully concentrate on writing and building up to the tour.It’s not all completely stress free but then that’s the way I like it.Nothing like a bit of pressure to fuel the creative juices!
With ‘Suits’ and ‘Songs from the Mirror’ now virtually completed apart from the mastering I can switch my sights onto the last 2 albums in the remaster schedule, ‘Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors’ and ‘Internal Exile’. I don’t plan to get into these compilations until early next year but I’ll be collecting material as I go along. I already have a whole suite of demos from ‘Vigil’ and ‘Exile’ that have been transferred from old Akai 12 track recordings and I’m looking forward to hearing what we have to play with.There’s a lot of material available for both titles that has to be sifted through and I still have to determine how it will all be packaged.It’ll provide a nice break in the ‘Weltschmerz’ writing sessions as I have allocated the first 6 months of next year to the new album. Interesting times.
The word ‘overwhelming’ springs to mind as the satellites feed us seemingly never ending images and soundbites from all over the planet’s surface.
Someone sent me my own video clip to ‘Blind to the Beautiful’ and I was reminded that although the song was written in 2012 the relevance hasn’t diminished and it seems even more ‘current’ than back then.
With hurricane ‘Jose’ following up along the destructive path of ‘Irma’, typhoons raging across Asia, devastating flooding in India and wildfires lighting up the skies in America, Europe and everywhere else I think even the most skeptical of us have to admit ‘The times they are a changing’. This isn’t the place nor the time to examine that argument because it sure won’t help those citizens of the world out there that are just trying survive and recover at the moment.
This weekend I’ll be’ soul brother’ linked in to my former guitarist and great buddy John Wesley who lives in Brandon on the west coast of Florida. I called him last night to see how he and the family were coping and what their arrangements were for the oncoming storm. He was pretty chirpy as I’d expect and when I called he had the power tools out boarding up his daughter’s house. It kind of threw things in a diamond edged perspective as did this e mail from him this afternoon.
Blind to the Beautiful
The stars are fading, ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
The bread we have broken, the wine we drank from tarnished cups,
And I stopped believing in miracles a long long time ago,
I lost my faith and I sacrificed my soul,
I worshipped fallen idols, chased false prophets to an end,
To where I just can’t see the beautiful anymore
The ice retreating, mountains exposed in the sun,
The earth is baking, raindrops precede the floods
And hurricanes with children’s names write our history
Signatures tracked by satellites on high,
We should have talked about the weather a bit more seriously,
More than stocks and shares and corporate wares,
We were blinded by the skeptics and their greed
I just can’t see the beautiful anymore; I just can’t see the beautiful anymore
I howled and I cried when the melody died, the song was finally over, There was nothing to say, words stole away, their meaning lost in the ether, What there was left stopped making sense, a broken up alphabet, language dispersed
I just can’t hear the beautiful anymore
The oceans are rising, islands in time disappear,
The canyons burning, forests consumed by the flames,
Wildfires rage across the plains to be starved by barren soil,
Deserted farms where seeds refuse to grow,
I close my eyes to cloudless skies I dream of what we had before,
I just can’t see the beautiful anymore
I just can’t see the beautiful anymore I want to see the beautiful once more copyright DDICK 2013
as a big PS : maybe I completely misunderstand how it all works but I hope the corporates, companies and individuals that use some of the Caribbean islands and benefit hugely from them as tax havens will be contributing way over a fair share to help the islanders recover. It’s only fair but does fairness really still exist?
Just back from a tiring but fun London trip.Sas rehearsals in Putney went well after a long train ride that nearly never happened after I misjudged the time and ended up breaking the Studio to Longniddry station record in my Dad’s old Corsa.
The 4 hours or so on the train chilled me out then it was a slog on the underground to Putney and a long walk to the studio from the station.I hadn’t realised how rusty my voice was as I hadn’t sung down a microphone since May 2016.
It was great to see all the guys and gals again and catching up at lunch was more like being in a doctor’s surgery as we all went through our various ailments 🙂
Getting my head round singing again was a challenge and I felt a bit awkward for the first hour as I had to really concentrate on the songs.All went well in the end and although I could have done with another run through my voice needs to rest up before I do some needed warm ups over the weekend.I’m glad I have these SAS gigs as I would have had problems at our own rehearsals in November if I’d been going straight in.It’ll be fine come Monday night.
Back over the water and north to Kings Cross where I checked in the hotel, showered and got suited and booted for the evening’s on stage interview at the Islington.
Wonderful to catch up with Steve Blacknell who was celebrating his 65th birthday. The Peter Pan of interviewers we managed to get a good chin wag and open the story boxes over a couple of ciders pre show. We were joined by none other than Aylesbury legend and good mate , John Otway, who I hadn’t seen for over 10 years.He was as always in fine and fun spirits and that smile never wavers.Coincidentally the last time Steve , John and I were together was on the set for the ‘Heart of Lothian’ video shoot.
I had another lovely surprise when Judy Totten my former press officer showed up as she is working with John and came along for the gathering. Again great catching up with lost time and stories a go go played out.
As well as personal friends there were a lot of faces I recognised from over the years in the audience and the night was so informal it was easy to pose for selfies and sign items as well as have one on one conversations over pints outside before and after the event.
The evening was a great success and I intend to repeat it in other venues in more towns and cities next year when I release ‘Weltschmerz’. Steve as expected only asked about 4 questions as I bounced and circled stories and anecdotes as well as explaining the state of affairs with the new album. We did a quick hour and then a 20 minute break before the next 40 minute session. I could have gone on but Steve pulled it in and called it a night. I hung around talking to people for another hour before heading back to the hotel with very sore back and legs from a full days engagement across the city.
I had an interview the next morning before I headed back on the train. Steve Rothery was supposed to be there as it was an interview with Swedish writers who are putting together a book on Hansa studios. Sadly Steve was tied up with ‘Marillion’ rehearsals and had to call off so I was left on my own to reminisce about Berlin back in 1985 until I diddly bopped over to Kings Cross station for the long trek back home.
I arrived aching at the Studio around 7 and spent the night catching up with e mails and news. I put a call into my big buddy John Wesley to check up on how he was doing to find him boarding up his daughters house in preparation for the arrival of hurricane Irma. As expected he was staying and hunkering down with his family and I’ll be thinking of him in the coming days.
Today is a day on the PC dealing with work demands and this weekend I’ll be practicing my vocal exercises and learning lyrics for Monday and Tuesday’s SAS shows. This is the last few days I have to clear the desks and prepare for the next writing sessions when Steve arrives the following week. There’s a lot to do and time is my enemy just now.
One major project is the launch of the new web site which is being created by Rob Skarin. His brother Miles filmed the event at the Islington and we hope to have the entire night’s ‘interview’ up on the web site as it’s a pretty good overview on where things are at just now and I think there were some pretty funny and entertaining moments that will make you chuckle.
And boy in the middle of all this ‘Weltschmerz’ do we need a chuckle just now.
The photo was taken by Stuart James and features 2 of the music business’s great optimists and survivors.
I was reminded of just how far we are into this year when I started planting out Winter brassica and preparing the beds for Autumn onions.It’s been a trying summer with some of the fruit and veg really disappointing while others have been bountiful.
Greatest disappointment was the complete non performance of the tomatoes I planted straight into the soil in the old beds next to the wall. I’d covered them against rain to avoid blight but after high winds the Heath Robinson structure was shredded and I took my chances. The fruit just didn’t take and I was left with clusters of non pollinated flowers even though there were plenty of bees and other insects flying round the area and landing on adjacent flowers.Did the tomatoes flower too late and end up not as attractive as others on the pollen menu? There was lots of green growth; maybe there was too much nitrogen; but nevertheless I ended up with no fruit and eventually the plants, with all the alternating extreme wet and sunny weather, were whacked by blight. One solitary ‘Latah’ , an early tomato, gave us quite a few really sweet fruits but I think that was down to the pot position. Otherwise all the outdoor varieties were a waste of time with the few growbags I had positioned on the sunny kitchen wall all regularly flooded out as they were held in trays and emptying them regularly became a forgotten task..
The greenhouse tomatoes were a mixed bunch. A lot were lost to ‘blossom end rot’ ,which was down to my erratic watering and a bad uptake of calcium, but we did manage a decent crop from the rest. Cucumber tailed off after a prolific burst, again due to bad watering, but the ‘shooting star’ yellow courgettes came on late in big crowds and all the peppers and chillis have been producing well. The greenhouse is becoming sad and dilapidated with the vents needing attention. The doors are hanging off now and beyond being saved by a sanding and a lick of paint. It’s lasted well, over 12 years, but we have to take a long hard look at what we are going to do as we desperately need a bigger space that is easier to work. With the weather prospects in the coming years expected to be similar to recent years I can see us relying a lot more on indoor or undercover spaces to grown things where we can control the environment to some degree. The heavy rains interspersed with sunny blasts from blue skies are confusing the plants and we’ve had a lot of vegetables go straight to seed as they are stressed out. Carrots were patchy with some varieties such as ‘Solo’ and ‘Bangor’ doing well while ‘Amsterdam’s’ were stunted and went to seed.
Best by far were the onions which delivered big time this year across different soils and beds. Trying to dry them off was the problem and we have them stacked in the cold frames and hanging on the beams in the studio as we’re running out of storage space..’Shakespeares’ and ‘Red Barons’ took the prizes.
The garlics were ok but not as great as we had hoped and the sweetcorn so far despite the ‘ 3 sisters’ planting experiment haven’t performed. The squashes in the experiment seem to be doing well but we lost all the pumpkins. Beans were hit by rabbits as were the first sowing of peas. We sowed more behind a rabbit proof fence and had some luck but they were a bit late and ended up fighting against an ocean of nasturtiums and knot weed.
The nasturtiums exploded in the last weeks and are taking over some areas. Great for the white butterflies which are leaving the cabbages alone under the nets. The rabbits however are devious wee bastards and took 16 cauliflowers in a night when they found an unpinned area of netting on the front bed which we thought they’d never go for as there was a low wall only on one side that we hoped was inaccessible. It may sound cruel but I was glad the myxomatosis arrived on the farm and in a few days it seemed the orchard became rabbit ghost town. However they are back and we know there are residents under the wooden shed in the front garden as every morning I catch them staring in the bedroom window from
beneath the lavender bushes. There’s a hare out there too but so far the nets around everything green seem to be doing their job. Pigeons are one of the main problems and we awake in the morning to a Hitckcockian chorus. I’d hoped that after seeing a recipe for pigeon breasts on a ‘River Cottage garden’ programme Simone might relent and let me get the air rifle out but they are still off limits. The only positive is that sometimes when I lay in bed I make up rhythms from their cooing and try and build melodies around the endless racket from next doors roof. Anything left uncovered is raided and an entire bed of spinach and radishes disappeared in a day before we got round to netting it.
I couldn’t find time to summer prune the orchard and had really hoped I’d get a week to get it into better shape and prepare for the winter prune that should have been a mere tidy up. There are a lot of apples despite last winter’s savaging and this year we had the best cherries to date and which made it to our kitchen thanks to the huge nets we draped over the trees. The grey aphid that hit the apple hedge was sprayed with organic pesticide at least 3 times and we managed to save a good number of stems that have fruited well. I was told by ‘old hands’ that when a pest arrives its predator arrives soon after to redress the balance. I was so pleased to see swarms of hoverflies appear a month ago and feast on the aphids that have been a headache this year. The insect population in the garden has been amazing but I have notices a lack of black bees and general honey bees. Bumblebees and wild bees are prolific and there’s been a decent smattering of butterflies outwith the dreaded cabbage whites. There’s enough food out there for them all and the planting plan for flowers and shrubs to attract our wee flying and crawling friends is paying dividends.
If the rain gives us a break for a few days I can get into the orchard with the Stihl strimmer and get back on the tractor. It’s all a bit unkempt just now and the downpours have battered the dahlias and perennials into submission in some cases. I have to uplift all the diseased tomato plants and burn them on the bonfire which keeps growing on the wasteland next to the studio and general clear a lot of the beds , some of which are being sown with mustard seed to give me a green manure. One thing I have to get more into is measuring the Ph’s of the various beds as they are out of balance judging by some returns.It’s a lot of work but we are just managing to stay on top of it all. The big question is what to do with the greenhouse and when. That provides great meditation and doodles galore at night as we both dream about the space and what we can do with it. I have a fantasy to install a solar powered unit that can heat it relatively cheaply throughout the winter months and carry on growing using LED lights. Whether that can be achieved is at the moment doubtful as there’s too many other things including an album recording that have to be paid for. Maybe it’s time to brush up on my dubious carpentry skills!
The water tinkles in the Japanese garden and I keep my eye on the maple outside the office window. There are slight touches of flame in the leaves to remind me autumn is not far away and that winter is coming. Now a dragon to torch the damp bonfire, get rid of the knotweed and clear the garden paths would be something ! 🙂
I’m sorry to say that I received some really sad news last week. Thomas Stiehler who was sound engineer on ‘Misplaced Childhood’ and on ‘Internal Exile’ died in Leipzig. He had suffered a serious heart attack that left him in a coma and from which he never recovered.
I had been incredibly fortunate to have spent some time with him recently in Berlin when Steve Rothery , Chris Kimsey and I went over to film the documentary at Hansa studios for Sky Arts.Thomas had joined us in a bar later in the afternoon and we continued on to dinner and an entertaining night round the ‘story box’.
Thomas was one of Life’s great eccentrics and even turned up to the Berlin meeting wearing Harris Tweed plus 4’s! He was a fabulous character and a great sound engineer who contributed greatly to the 2 albums I worked with him on. I have fond and riotously wild memories of our days together both in Berlin and here at the Farm when he was the first engineer to use the new studio in the summer of 1991 .He hadn’t changed a bit when I last saw him and he seemed really happy with his lot in life. He still had the crazy glint in his eye and remained a highly intelligent man with great ideas and a beautiful focus.
He could be insanely serious and humorous both at the same time none more so when he was convinced there were ghosts in the studio. He wouldn’t go into the main room at night to switch the lights off and hated being alone in the control room where equipment would malfunction for no known reason.
During the recording of ‘Exile’ he took a short holiday to Italy where he bumped into a medium. He related the story of the studio ghosts and was told to waft some sage smoke in the rooms that concerned him. When he came back he set about his task with typical fervor after explaining to us in immense details what was wrong. Lo and behold all the mysterious technical problems we had disappeared and the vibe changed.
The weird thing was that the old building that was virtually torn apart during the studio construction was used to house German and Italian prisoners of war who worked on the farm. It was thought that all the energies and spirits of the area were disrupted and they were making their dissatisfaction known.
The sage smoke was attributed to calming them down and we haven’t had a major problem since Thomas’s intervention.
There’s a part of him that will always be here in the studio and anytime I ever smell burning sage I’ll know he is there.
Thomas, despite always having been a city boy loved the ocean and on September 16th his ashes, as he’d wished for, are being scattered from a boat in the North Sea .I’m not able to get to the funeral in North Germany but I’ll be raising a glass on the day on the beach where Chris and he went on long drunken walks on days off from recording.
Slainthe Thomas thanks for all your contributions to my career and for all the laughter that went with it.
He’ll be missed by many and my heart goes out to family and friends who are all shocked and saddened by his loss.
Thomas Stiehler RIP
Photo of Fish, Thomas and Chris Kimsey taken by Steven Rothery in Berlin 19th April 2017 thanks for that Steve x
Apologies for being out of touch recently but my typing finger has been rather overworked as I concentrated on finishing the sleeve notes for ‘Songs From the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’. I’ve collected all the various slides and photos and they are now in possession of Mark Wilkinson who is now scanning like a madman converting all the images to digital for the artwork design.
I spent days combing through old fanzines and documents piecing the elaborate history of 1992- 1995 together and to be honest I had to leave out so much, especially from the ‘Suits’ era, as there wasn’t the space.
James Cassidy sent me up his ‘memoirs’ from the period which amounted to around 7000 words. These had to be whittled down and spread between the album sleeve notes as they were an important addition and another great perspective.
In total ‘Mirror’ comes in at around 12 000 words and ‘Suits’ is a particularly hefty 15 000! Basically in the last fortnight I have written a novel!
I’ve sent them out to the usual suspects for review and they got glowing reports. The photos I found really compliment them and I found some fascinating long forgotten images some of which had to be shredded. 🙂
I wouldn’t have believed that so much could have happened during that period and that so many stories were generated.
The documentary for ‘Mirror’ is now being edited by David Barras and Scott MacKay and they are going through reams of footage from my personal video collection and from my friend Henk Tempelman in Holland who filmed a lot of shows over the years.We have, thanks to Henk, a full show from the 1993 Vredenberg Utrecht show that was recorded for the ‘Sushi’ album and we will be incorporating the relevant songs into the documentary. The DVD will take the longest to complete as all the songs for the CDs are now with Steve Vantsis for compilation before going to Calum Malcolm for mastering in early October. Both titles are on line and will be ready for the first week of December.
The T shirt I’m wearing in the photo I had forgotten about till the other day. This was the design given to me by ‘Viz’ magazine after they included me in a ‘Billy the Fish’ strip in one edition. After having already published a photo of me walking naked and carrying a bottle of Jack Daniels outside a venue where the band and crew buses were parked together . It had been sent to them by my ex sound engineer ‘Privet’ Hedge after a particularly drunken night in France playing ‘strip jack’ ‘Trivial Pursuit’ with a couple of local ladies who couldn’t speak English. Needless to say they lost heavily and I decided to strip off in sympathy before heading over to the other bus to get more alcohol.Young, foolish and too drunk to care at the time I hadn’t envisaged the future ‘betrayal’. For the record the young ladies got home safe and unharmed. The band and crew however were badly damaged! 🙂
It was really cool of the ‘Viz’ guys to let me use the image on the shirt and it’s still a favourite.
Mark Wilkinson and Sandy Fearful are working on the t shirt designs for the December tour. I’m keeping this simple and we most probably will have an ivory grey T with the ‘glass with flowers’ image and a black polo with a ‘glass’ embroidery design.
I’m back into clearing the decks again and with the SAS shows in the coming weeks I really need to prepare for some serious ‘Weltschmerz’ application once they are out the way. It’s been an extraordinary busy period this last month and my “heid has been birling” on occasion as there have been some heavy demands from outside the normal day to day circle of routine problems. Dealing with them and keeping focused on the ‘day job’ has been difficult but I’m getting rebalanced again.With the remasters moving into assembly and production 2 massive logs in the jam have been sent off downstream and I have a huge sense of relief.
My young niece Ellie Gibbs is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in a couple of weeks to raise money for cancer research. She decided on this journey shortly after my father died last year from cancer related illness.
My dad served with the REME and was attached to the Kings Rifles in Tanzania during his national service in the 50’s. He was stationed for a while close to the mountain and once made an attempt on the slopes making it half way up till he and his friends were turned back by bad weather. It was a dream of his to climb the mountain.
I’m giving Ellie his masonic ring to place on the summit in his memory so we will always know there’s a token from his life that made the top of the mountain and that every time we see an image of Kilimanjaro we can think of him.
Ellie, the family and I would be sincerely grateful if you could donate a small amount to Cancer research UK and support her climb for this admirable cause.Your help on this is greatly appreciated.
take care, stay alive
In the last few days I’ve made an executive decision regarding the proposed recordings for the 3rd CD on the ‘Songs From The Mirror’ remaster.
I’ve decided to blow out the SAS band live recordings and the new recordings that were intended to happen in early October in favour of putting together a documentary DVD with David Barras.
The writing for ‘Weltschmerz’ is taking a lot longer than anticipated for a number of reasons one being that my creative time has been whittled away by a host of other demands.With Robin Boult in the USA gigging with Howard Jones for most of the Summer and both Steve Vantsis and John Beck involved in their own projects it’s been difficult to get all the players together. I felt that to allocate so much studio time and resources to recordings for a ‘historical’ project was not going to be as beneficial as focusing on the new writing. After discussions with various trusted consigliere I decided on another approach to the 3rd disc.
The sleeve notes for SFTM are complicated and demanding and I am already up to 6000 words out of a 9000 target and haven’t yet dealt with the recording, the reasons behind the choice of songs, the album and single release or the tour yet. Simone has read what I’ve written so far and she considers the sleeve notes the best yet.
So far they take in the loss of Andy Field, the change in band and management , the confrontation with Polydor, the ‘Toile tour’, the arrival of producer James Cassidy and the set up of the idea for ‘Songs from the Mirror’. The writing is concise and lean with no waffle and there are a lot of stories, mainly the funny ones, that have been omitted due to lack of space.
To add to that James Cassidy offered to write up his take on both SFTM and ‘Suits’ and has delivered 20 000 words on the period. He’s reminded me of a lot of elements that I missed out on especially regarding the studio time.There’s no way I can incorporate them in the sleeve notes.
David Barras is already primed for the documentary for the ‘Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors’ remaster and has accumulated a lot of 8mm footage from that period from my own libraries.We’ve also found material from 92 and the tour in 93 and after discussion with David we have decided to go for a documentary on SFTM and James Cassidy has agreed to come up here to take part in a joint filmed interview where we can cover James’s take on the period and cover all the information that I can’t write up in the sleeve notes. Between the footage and the interviews there is more than enough to pack a DVD that will now be the third disc on the remaster.
This can be done in the coming weeks which frees me up for ‘Weltschmerz’ writing when I have my co writers in the country and available.It also means Calum Malcolm has enough time to work on the remasters and we can get both ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’ out on schedule for early December.
I know some of you were looking forward to new recordings but I think that this new plan makes a lot more sense in the long run and that the documentary will more than make up for any disappointment.
I’m sorry to say that the warm up show in Stirling Tolbooth has sold out in less than 24 hours. There are no other warm up shows planned.