“Slow waves & new ages” - Ant takes a retrospective look at Private Parts & Pieces VII. (originally published in #17 of The Pavilion).

INT: Can you tell us about how the various recordings included on the album came about?

AP: It was my New Age album. The New Age boom had apparently started a couple of years before and nobody that I was in contact with seemed particularly interested in it and I was plodding along doing the same kind of things. I had done the guitar album (Twelve) and the piano album (Ivory Moon) and a free slot came up where there was no TV work.

I think at the same time I didn’t have the resources to do a large scale album and I still only had a small set up with just the eight track and a small mixing desk so there was no question of doing anything big. There were quite a few tracks that I thought would be nice to put together and try to make a complete thing out of them in the same way that I did with A Catch At The Tables, instead of the solo ones where people had asked for a collection of solo instrumental pieces. It was time for something with a more interesting and wider canvas.

There were some guitar pieces that had been recorded but it was a mixture between specifically recorded things which were simple and some older things which were in a fragmentary state which I then put together and overdubbed extra parts. There were also one or two keyboard improvisations which were done, I guess, a year or two before. One or two things came from TV. Some of the earliest stuff that was actually written came from the incredibly prolific period around 1979-81 when I used to write so many guitar pieces and half manuscript them. Some of those ended up on PP & P IV but others didn’t appear until PP & P IX, like Quango which was an old bit of fun from back then. Bubble & Squeak and Goodbye Serenade were from that era in 1980.
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In fact, I remember going in and serenading a friend’s wife in hospital - I took the classical guitar in with me and played that to her and she very rapidly deteriorated! (Laughs). Vanishing Streets and Slow Waves Soft Stars themselves were keyboard improvisations on the Casio CZ5000 which isn’t a fantastic synth but it does have some special qualities and I still use it for certain sounds. It had a wonderful thing where you could programme waveforms and envelopes to overlap each other so you had a constant series of rising and falling envelopes and the characteristics of those pieces was that you got long, sustained notes dipping and before they dip, another one comes in and so you got overlapping. I was very taken by this. I think Vanishing Streets was quite sad and doomy and Slow Waves Soft Stars was more restful.

Ice Flight was all stuff that was either too long or too fragmentary or too nebulous perhaps for a 1983 Atmosphere album. They hired me a Jupiter 8 which I didn’t have in those days and I just threw music from it at the tape machine for thee or four weeks which was wonderful. I didn’t write down any settings, I just used to find sounds and record them. A lot of stuff in Ice Flight was that kind of prototype material, which I then added things to. It was quite fun to do that, but of course, with computers and digital editing it would have been so much easier so it was quite a challenge, but one which I think came out quite well.

Things like Cathedral Of Ice, the basis of that was pretty much there and I just added a few overdubs. Beachrunner and End Of The Affair were very kulich of their time. Quique had come over in early 1986 and we jammed around a bit although I remember the mood wasn’t incredibly positive as neither of us was really sure if there would be an outlet for the music. End Of The Affair was certainly written long before the film of the same name came out.

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Golden Pathway was from the TV programme, God’s Chosen Car Park which I had done the previous summer so I think the material was assembled for the album in late ’86 or early ’87. I did record Chinese Walls then in about September or October and that was going to be on the album but at the time I didn’t have the equipment to ameliorate the wilder imperfections so that bit the dust. Behind The Waterfall was not done for a TV programme although you might think that it was, as it’s a bit jingle-like in its own way but I suppose that that’s the piece which together with the last two tracks on the album, that became thought of as New Age. They have drifting textures wit not a lot of change on top which is kind of the principle of New Age music being more of a background stimulus than something that held your attention or changed and took you with it.

I guess that’s why this album was picked up belatedly by the people in the States who thought, “Aaah, this is his New Age album so we’ll do some promotion for it…” It wasn’t done like that at all, it was just me being me and it was just a random collection of stuff. I didn’t listen to any other New Age music to be influenced by it - I had my influences but they weren’t New Age ones! Overall it was a mixture of adapted improvisations, Library music and guitar pieces into a long, boring and rather unimaginative whole!
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I think Sospirando was written earlier but it was certainly demoed when I was pitching for the film The Honorary Consul in 1983, although that was a real long shot. I recorded that with overdubs. I think it may well have been written in the early 1980’s along with Bubble & Squeak and Goodbye Serenade which is much more elegiac and was originally a solo but was done with a quartet of guitars. Carnival is the one that I can’t remember when it was written, although it’s in partial G tuning which wasn’t used much by me or the other Genesis guys in the early days.

There was no vocal track on this album. I had broken the tradition, if you like, of always having a song on a Private Parts & Pieces album a while back and I think it would have been out of place on here. There just wasn’t a song that seemed to fit at the time. Denis Quinn’s album, Open Secret was done in the middle of all this. I think I recorded some of the pieces around September/October 1986 then did Dennis’ album over Christmas and then I finished off Slow Waves Soft Stars.

The photo on the back was taken with a fisheye lens on a boat on the way to France in 1981 for a friend’s stag party. We had lunch in a restaurant and then played cricket somewhere near Boulogne and the French stood by in complete disbelief! We pretended we were the Australian touring team on the way over and signed autographs, That length of beard I’ve got in that photo went in 1982 when Hit & Run said “Move out of the Sixties” during the promotion for the Invisible Men album. That was taken by a very good photographer called Tif Hunter who used to live around the corner. He was not much of a cricketer but a better photographer.

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The photo on the front was taken in Portugal and I actually got the exposure wrong but that shows that sometimes good tings can come out of mistakes. It was not my idea to have this on the front, it was my idea to have this on the back but as soon as they saw the New Age angle, it seemed more obvious to have it on the front. The title was not obvious either , although now it seems self-evident and seems to fit the mood. I remember reading some prospective titles out to Peter Cross and his wife together with some other friends and there were two titles - Flights Of Fancy and Slow Waves Soft Stars and they thought Flights Of Fancy was better!

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