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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.
I’ve also managed to find another 500 ‘Misplaced’ deluxe CD’s,available to buy now with delivery here on the 21st August. Parlophone agreed to make one more production run of which these units are my last allocation.As with the new order of vinyl’s we are getting these will be signed. We still have a few CD’s we kept back from the first run and anyone who orders the ‘Misplaced’ Deluxe CD together with any other album will be sent their package out now while we have stock.The rest will be sent when we get new MC stock here on the 21st August.
Also available ‘Farewell to Childhood – Live in Europe 2015-16’
I have managed to get another 350 ‘Misplaced Childhood’ limited edition vinyl’s from Parlophone. These are the last in the run and won’t be reproduced. Once again I will be signing these albums. They are up for sale now and I expect them here in the next week.
I’ll be playing a warm up show for the UK tour at the Stirling Tolbooth on Wednesday 6th December. Tickets are available now at http://culturestirling.org/events/fish/ £20 standing. It’s a 200 capacity venue so if you can make it book now to avoid any disappointment
Shot taken when we filmed the interview session for the documentary footage on the ‘Misplaced Childhood’ CD deluxe. A fun day was had as some of you will already have seen on the DVD.
Although it’s registered as being ‘out of stock’ at the moment I managed to get another 500 CD albums from Parlophone that will be with me end of August. I’ll put them up for sale in the next couple of weeks.
I’m working this week on the sleevenotes for ‘Songs from the Mirror’ and ‘Suits’ and starting to collect the photos for the 2 projects.I finally managed to work out a structure to deal with the notes as they are by far the most complicated because of the 2 albums being worked almost simultaneously between 92 and 94. I forgot just how much actually happened back then so it’s becoming an extensive piece of writing that I expect to be over 18000 words between the 2 albums! ‘Suits’ will be finished by October and ‘Songs from the Mirror’, once the SAS gigs in September and the studio sessions in October are completed will be ready to go in November to be released together with ‘Suits’ just before the UK tour.
With the Glasgow show on the December tour virtually sold out already my promoter has green lighted a small warm up show in Scotland on the 6th December which I am presently negotiating and hope to announce next week. The other dates are selling really well with the first 2 London gigs and Manchester also nearly sold out apart from a couple of tickets.
‘Weltschmerz’ is also coming to the fore of my thoughts and in between sleeve notes for the remasters I’ll be working on the ideas that John Beck and Steve Vantsis brought to the Studio last week.
It’s all coming together nicely
Steve Vantsis and John Beck now driving South after a productive week here at the studio. The seeds of around 4 songs have been sown and although a long way off they are an inspiring start. We also did some work on the 6 proposed new cover versions for the ‘Songs From the Mirror’ remaster. Keys worked out and ideas for arrangements are in place.
Nearly all the packages have left the building with only around 150 Deluxe CD’s left to sign and pack tonight.It looks like we got our timing right and a huge thanks to Simone, Elspeth, Rab and Emma for turning this all around so quickly. Steve himself jumped in to pack and sticker albums this morning! 🙂
A great piece of organisation turning around 2500 CD deluxe sets and 600 vinyl boxes in a week.Well done chaps! 🙂
The Studio is now nearly free of cardboard and Simone and I have a weekend on our own for a change. I hope the weather holds as it’s the airshow at East Fortune and I’m looking forward to parking myself in a deckchair at the front of the house and taking in the parade of classic airplanes that come up the valley for their fly past over the showground.Particularly looking forward to the ‘Super fortress’ in the sky above the Studio. I better get the Nikon out with the big lens