“Notes from the old house” - Anthony talks to Alan and Jonathan about the sixth album in the series. (originally published in #15 of The Pavilion).
INT: How does Soiree (PP & P X) compare to Ivory Moon?
AP: It is very hard for me to make direct comparisons. The principal thing about the material on Ivory Moon is that it would have been very much early days when I had had piano lessons and was transferring to a much more conventional way of playing from the plodding right hand with the left hand crossing over, playing octaves. I was discovering all sorts of things through having piano lessons and I won’t quite say it was first experiments, that would be demeaning it a bit, but a lot of it was first attempts at certain genres. Maybe it sounds a little naïve because of that but it was very exciting.
I think the pieces were generally, and there were a couple of pieces from Masquerade that were shorter and more tuneful, slightly ballady in fact. There are a number of long pieces which were almost Victorian one fan said, in their mood. I was perhaps going too much the other way having come through the rock band and having discovered classical. I certainly didn’t set out to try and de-emotionalise things and make them austere at all. It is just that perhaps I was being influenced by certain types of things and that was the way it was expressing itself in that sort of austerity.
But all those long pieces did come across like that and I think it was perhaps a little but lumpy in places as well, some of it. I’m not saying that the new one doesn’t have its odd “wooden “ moment but the pieces are generally a bit shorter and a bit lighter. There are obviously melancholy pieces but it is not quite as austere and as Victorian and sort of slightly doom-laden as the first one was.
I think I would have to admit to the influence of TV music or thematic music affecting the new album. There might be one or two people who say: “Oh, that sounds like a TV theme” here and there. There is one called Cantilena on the new album that is slightly Italian and I was probably going to call it Siciliana. It has got a tune in the middle that could be from an Italian film with the Mafiosi and I used to call it the Mafiosi Suite. I wouldn’t have included that one on the first one because I was much more influenced by the straight sort of classical composers. It wouldn’t have been that kind of tune and some people might like that and some might not.
Hopefully there is a better balance of shorter pieces and long ones on the new album. There are two quite long ones of six to eight minutes, one called The Rain Suite and the other is going to be called Summer’s Journey which finishes it. They are very much impressionistic voyages and although they are long, they are not that austere, they are more sort of Debussy-esque rather than heavy Victoriana. There will be those who still prefer the first album and think that that was a bit more ours and that the new album is a bit more thematical and TV orientated. But with the first one that was very much the expressions of an adolescent. I was eighteen to twenty when I wrote that and now I am one hundred and twenty! (laughs). I think on the first album I couldn’t play half of what I meant because I wanted to play faster and I couldn’t get there and so in terms of comparison between the two, I would hope that this one is lighter and more varied.
On a technical level, one or two people might be interested to know that the microphones are a lot better. On the first album it was what are called AKG 451’s of which I purchased four in 1972 for £70 each and that was very, very cheap and I am now using two AKG 414’s which in today’s prices cost me about ten times that. Some people in terms of recording sometimes regard them as being a bit too bright. The 414’s are an all-purpose microphone and I think that Phil Collins used to use them as a vocal microphone although I might be wrong about that. So, microphone technology, on paper, is better and should make the top end and the bottom end of the piano more responsive. Whereas I definitely felt that the bass was a bit richer and the top has more sort of pure listening quality and so it should do.
INT: Tell us a little bit about some of the tracks on Ivory Moon…
AP: Well, there were just lots of pieces I wrote at the time, short pieces or “bits” as one calls them and I did, in truth, just string a lot of them together in a hopefully kind of seamless texture but they weren’t all necessarily written with one concept in mind. The one called The Old Dark House was a long one and that had a lot of different sections which were put together but I think it had a nice quality.
I think it was a sense of discovery if you like, of playing in a more technical way. That was quite along piece. Winter’s Thaw was quite an impressionistic piece. The house at Send was very, very cold and I used to get chill blains every winter. Although it was quite a big house I never had hot water in my bedroom to wash. The piano room was desperately cold and the heating didn’t work in there and I used to wear mittens and I used to get chill blains every winter and hence Winter’s Thaw! (laughs). I was inspired! The winters were rougher then and now that I live in London we don’t notice the winters but it was cold and that was a very descriptive, gentle winter’s piece. There were lots of subtleties which I didn’t use for that piece that were quite nice and quite sweet, sort of snowy kind of things but I dispensed with those.
The two Masquerade pieces were pieces which I felt were wasted because nothing happened to those and one pf them, the Tara one, was a nice tune and friends of mine always liked that one and I always found myself teaching that tune to one or two people. In the original Masquerade had that gone through with Rupert Hine, and Jeanette, I don’t think they really liked that. It was only when I started to work on that with Richard Scott that he approved of that and we turned it into a song which never really came off although we got close. That’s probably why the chorus part of it is slightly more “poppy” in a way because actually that bit did change over the years. I think when we came to record it I did record pretty much the song version. It started of by being called Riddles. And the big ballad, Moonfall was something we were always fond of. We thought it might be something that someone like Shirley Bassey might have done. When we were working on it, Rupert and Jeanette did approve of that piece and indeed there is a section of Rupert’s in that.
So, those were two pieces which I just thought that I shouldn’t waste these, I mist use them. That was the explanation for those two. I also did Rapids that was a newer one so that represented my technique, such as it was, in 1983/84 in terms of writing and in fact it was probably not written much before 1984/85 actually, I think, yes, that was a newer one. There was a lot of cross handed work.
The Sea Dogs Motoring Suite, yes I worked quite hard on that. That was quite new, here were some pieces in it from the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Sunrise Over Siena I remember that being influenced by Respighi who I love, and the other three pieces in the suite were written between then and 1985, quite difficult pieces as I recall, especially the one with all the moving octaves and the left hand. The last piece of that is almost a short almost chorale type piece. The title for that suite came from when we used to go on these Sunday walks which were alluded to on A Catch At The Tables on the Arboretum Suite. Sometimes we couldn’t get to the arboretum for various reasons and so we went to different places and we used to go to Leith Hill Tower. Peter Cross remembers a very specific incident with this chap who really did look like an old sea dog, and he was striding around, or as we would call it “motoring” in good form. He put his hand out and a dog had a go at him hence on the cover! (laughter).There were always these slightly eccentric people.
That shot there came from when we used to try and throw the football up to the top when people weren’t looking and that is actually a depiction of a friend if mine called “Hurricane “ Hyam. The depiction of me running down here was because people would always throw the Frisbees and it was a long hill down there so if you missed the hill you were down in Dingley Dell for quite a while!
I can’t remember if the original piano suite was called that but I did write the original music for this first piece in 1979/80 and it was a suite and I think the majority of it was written then and then updated and revised and played properly. Safe Havens is the piece which is a short, slow chorale piece that I always meant to transcribe for strings because it sounded so nice. Of course, we forgot earlier to mention Let Us Now Make Love which is the first time that was released officially in any form, wasn’t it? The Genesis version had been on various bootlegs but the version here uses the slightly changed chorus from the Ronnie Gunn/David Thomas demo version of 1973 as opposed to the original Genesis chorus which was done in 1969, and which has subsequently been released on the boxed set. I think that covers it really.
INT: The actual recording, hat would have been done on two track Revox?
AP: Good question. Yes, it was done direct to Revox, yeah. Some of it was written when during a short period when my parents were in between moving from Send to where they ended up in Merrow, and they briefly had a place in East Horsley and I did write some of it there, Latimer House, it was called. I think I wrote Rapids there and I used to practice it there quite a lot in the summer of 1985. There was a lot of time to practice because it rained the whole summer and we had a cricket tour wholly devoid of cricket! The photo on the back cover was actually taken at Hambledon and we didn’t play them anymore. Peter Cross took the picture and Hambledon is the ancient home of cricket, it is the place that claims to be where cricket was first played . Peter would have taken that on one of the few fine days that summer. I have a feeling that Peter’s wife, Kim was involved in the title.
INT: Was there anything that was up for inclusion on the album that wasn’t recorded and are there any out-takes from it?
AP: Lost of piano from the early era: 1971/72. There are many, many more scores but again, time was such that I couldn’t take on anything that was too difficult. There were some that just got past me and in fact I have given two of them to Michael Donkel (a Pavilion reader) and they must have been so frightful that I haven’t heard anything from him since! (laughs). That was two years ago, There is one called C Minor Suite which just gets more and more difficult and probably it was a bit impractical because it was one of the first essays for the piano but I would have liked to have done that because it was quite exciting actually, but it was just too difficult.
There were a number of other pieces and I tried a few and they never got any further but there would be lots of out-takes. There would be hundreds of out-takes inevitably. Of those other pieces, Egypt actually became an Atmosphere library piece from 1980, which I transcribed. Windmill we actually an improvisation that I did on the “pin” piano at Send in 1971, just straight on to Revox and I remember Peter Gabriel liked it but it had too many mistakes.