New David Sylvian Biography

From Brilliant Trees through Died In The Wool...

Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby ChrisEYoung on Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:54 am

Thanks Simon,

I put this book out there in the hope that it will add to the critical mass of information and insight into David and his work, and appreciate that people will have different views as to the value of writing a book about someone who — as you said — has written off the idea of an autobiography, and famously spends little time looking back, mostly looking forward to next endeavours. However, David himself nailed it for me in an interview he gave with John Walters in the Independent a few years back.

He said, “I read the Miles Davis autobiography and will occasionally read about other jazz musicians, or maybe Glen Gould. There is a complex character behind the work, and you want to know more.”

For me, the complex character behind the work is David Sylvian, and my hope is that I unravel some of this complexity so that people can see what makes the artist tick, and where his inspiration comes from.

Best wishes

Chris
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby Quiet Visitor on Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:21 am

Funny the amount of words in the book have raised 10.000 words in just a few posts :wink:

My main point of concern is that this book will be a very personal view from Chris on David's solo-years. To show what I mean, I've choosen one phrase from the opening chapters:

"However, while doing so, he was loosening the linkage between himself and his former cohort of fans. The hard-core Sylvian fans were about to gird their loins and be taken on the journey. The die-hard Japan fans were about to leave the fold, and seek their musical grazing fields elsewhere."

As a fan of Japan from the early days I never have sensed any kind of split in the lovers of the music of Japan and David. But maybe this was a big issue in the U.K., I don't know. For me, "Brilliant Trees" was a logical step after "Tin Drum", with partly the same instrumental signatures, like a prominent bass and those typical drum-patterns.

Well, maybe when I find the book in a bookstore and can look in it more intensive I might change my mind.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby Chad on Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:08 pm

Quiet Visitor wrote:As a fan of Japan from the early days I never have sensed any kind of split in the lovers of the music of Japan and David. But maybe this was a big issue in the U.K., I don't know. For me, "Brilliant Trees" was a logical step after "Tin Drum"...


The 'split' didn't happen back then, its happening now. All of the faithful that have been around for 35 years have read the same interviews, listened to the same lyrics, followed all the supporting casts throughout the years. Maybe I'm wrong but from what I can tell, this book does nothing to fill in the blanks.

Its been what... 8 years since Nine Horses? frankly I'm tired of girding loins. wtf is David doing next? where is his headspace at? is he back in London now? are there plans to ever work w Steve again?

If its more grey skies as Chris calls it, then I've had enough.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby karnsculpture on Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:19 pm

Something to debate later perhaps, but the fan base really took a hit when Alchemy came out, and the hardcore fans were the ones who carried on to Gone To Earth, hence the sharp drop in sales for that album.

The thing to remember though is that in '81 - '84 Japan and David solo were selling to the general public as well as "fans"; they had reached that tipping point with "Tin Drum" and "Ghosts". It was their "imperial phase" and following that for most acts is impossible, so it's inevitable that the sales would drop off. The fan base to look at is the audience for the Shamans tour in '88 - a lot of Japan fans who were approaching their 20s, older music fans who had got to know David's solo work - that demographic has remained with him, with in recent years Japan often being the gateway drug to all things Sylvian for younger people (usually Ghosts or weirdly Adolescent Sex judging by the emails I get, and a lot are Porcupine Tree fans following Richard's work).

I'm looking forward to reading the book (I've ordered one), but I reserve the right to have a good old rant if I don't agree with parts of it. Just like I don't agree with most of the work written on the Amarna period of Ancient Egyptian history, it's all fascinating and even if I have my own views, it doesn't mean that someone else's work is invalid. And no, I don't want another Martin Power book thankyouverymuch!
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby silentwings on Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:40 pm

I'm certainly looking forward to this. I've been leafing through my own collection of DS interviews recently - and I've been surprised by how many things I'd forgotten, and sometimes you read something in a new light when you know what path was taken in the coming years.

For me it's great that someone has taken the considerable time and trouble to document David's career in this way, and I shall read the author's perspective with interest.
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” att to Jack Kerouac
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby ChrisEYoung on Wed Dec 04, 2013 1:05 pm

I take on board all your points, especially the fact that everyone is entitled to rant and disagree. Yes please. I guess the role of anything like this is to hopefully inform on one level, open up thought processes on another, and get people debating.

The quote you pulled does perhaps overstate the point that I was making when I see it there standing on its own (you can only imagine how hard it was when I was asked to select excerpts that give a flavour of the book!!) However, a thread running through the book is that as David focused on producing music that he felt had merit artistically, not purely for audience appeal, he did begin to drive a wedge between himself and his devoted Japan fans. No news there really, but I think the process did begin at around the time post Brilliant Trees and moving to Alchemy (which was an extension of the more "experimental" songs on Brilliant Trees.) What I try to understand are the motivations behind this single-mindedness. It is a very brave thing to do, to hold onto ideals that may alienate you from the audience you ultimately want to reach.

As to whether this is just my personal view of David's career. It would be impossible if trying to interpret not to have a flavour of this, but I keep it grounded. This is not "the world of David Sylvian" according to me. What I am at pains to do if I have a thought process or a theory is to seek out facts, messages in songs, quotes from the man himself that support my reasoning. In this way, I think it is justifiable, and gets quite close to analysing some issues in his own words.

Although David is quite shy of giving interviews and insight, when you dive as deep as I did for information, there is a lot. Looking back on early works with the benefit of 2013 hindsight does give you an ability to view previously held beliefs and ideas about David's work differently. Threads that knit seemingly totally unconnected works and processes are there if you take the time to find them, and it is easy to miss especially in early interviews just how close David's thought processes were in the 1980s to the way they are now.

I am sure there will be a lot of interpretation that people will argue with. It is the nature of the beast that when David's music is written to resonate with his audience on a personal level, and lyrics are written to mean something to everyone in a personal way, that differences will occur. However, as I say, trying to support my lines of reasoning with facts means I don't slip anchor.

Thanks again for your interest.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby karnsculpture on Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:22 pm

ChrisEYoung wrote: No news there really, but I think the process did begin at around the time post Brilliant Trees and moving to Alchemy (which was an extension of the more "experimental" songs on Brilliant Trees.) What I try to understand are the motivations behind this single-mindedness. It is a very brave thing to do, to hold onto ideals that may alienate you from the audience you ultimately want to reach.


That period between Brilliant Trees and Gone To Earth is really intriguing, some of the songs written then ended up being saved for Secrets, some never came out, and there was the joint album with Sakamoto that was cancelled some way into the recording process. This is documented to some extent in their letters published in the Japanese Perspectives book, Sakamoto somewhat awkward about it, wanting to keep the musical and personal relationship strong while saying "this project is doomed unless one or the other of us takes charge".

Yes, it's going to be fun to look back through the prism of this book and consider his career in a different way.

I was told today that an official announcement about the Chris Bigg & Sylvian book is happening soon and to keep an eye on the official site.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby Chad on Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:24 pm

I seem to remember both BT & GTE getting gold record status but I could be wrong. Also didn't David and Ryu try recording an album circa '97 ...before the self produced protools deadbees record? Perspectives predates that by at least a decade.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby javier on Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:56 pm

Great to see this debate beginning!

I'm really looking forward to reading the biography, and all respect to you Chris for investing so much time and effort.

Regardless of some others complaining because they think it'll all be stuff they've read before, this nevertheless promises, even at it's basic level, to be the most comprehensive collection of biographical details on Sylvian available. For that alone I think it will be a very worthwhile document.

But what I really look forward to is that you, a long-term fan and experienced/talented writer, are putting your own framework around the whole thing. When you say:
"This is not "the world of David Sylvian" according to me. What I am at pains to do if I have a thought process or a theory is to seek out facts, messages in songs, quotes from the man himself that support my reasoning….threads that knit seemingly totally unconnected works and processes are there if you take the time to find them.

you have me extremely interested in what you have written.

Two other things:

1. Chris, what about a digital version of the book? Of course I prefer to hold a "real" book than swiping pages on a screen, but living in Tokyo I simply don't have enough space to keep buying physical objects. In recent years I've tried to avoid accumulating any more "stuff", so I would find a digital version more useful (light/versatile/transportable etc) than a physical book.

2. A few people speaking of the "hard-core fans" departing, and the timing thereof. Funny, as I've considered myself a hard-core Sylvian fan for almost 30 years, yet I have no interest whatsoever in what he did prior to Alchemy/Gone To Earth. Don't like it, never listen to it. From my perspective, his musical maturity was on the cusp with Brilliant Trees, but properly arrived with Gone to Earth.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby Chad on Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:36 pm

I was wrong about GTE, it actually went silver. You can search the BPI certifications online now, scroll down for the search interface -

http://www.bpi.co.uk/certified-awards.aspx

I'm kind of surprised that SOTBH didn't do better. Thats the record most people rate the highest.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby karnsculpture on Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:48 pm

Chad wrote:I seem to remember both BT & GTE getting gold record status but I could be wrong. Also didn't David and Ryu try recording an album circa '97 ...before the self produced protools deadbees record? Perspectives predates that by at least a decade.


The first time they tried to record a joint album was in late 1984 and the only material released was "Showing The Wound (A Will To Health)" and "The Woman At The Well" from the VHS "Preparations For A Journey". "Showing The Wound (A Will To Health)" was later extended and overdubbed by David and became "Steel Cathedrals".

"Brilliant Trees" charted at No4 in the UK and was on the chart for over 3 months, whereas "Gone To Earth" reached 24 and was only in the chart for 5 weeks.
http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/david%20sylvian/

I don't know about David and Ryuichi attempting an album together circa 1997.
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby Quiet Visitor on Thu Dec 05, 2013 3:09 pm

Haven't seen any information on this, but will this be a text-only book or will it contain pictures, album-sleeves etc.? Apart from the 260.000 words... :wink:
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby billster on Thu Dec 05, 2013 4:08 pm

Who was interviewed for the book...and any photos?
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby inkinthewell on Thu Dec 05, 2013 6:47 pm

Ordered my copy. :D

I had never heard of Chris E Young (sorry mate), so, to me, his name is not a guarantee. Yet, from what he's written on here, I have conjured a personal idea of what this book is, and it is an intriguing one. For me. I see it as a sort of mystery novel based on true facts, like the books on Jack The Ripper, but this is an investigation of an artist's world. It will not solve the mystery, but I'm sure it will turn out to be an enjoyable journey. At worst it will be like reading this forum. :lol:

Anyway, whoever is in doubt whether to buy this book or not should ask him/herself just one simple question: "do I care?" If you do, go for it; if you don't, keep away!
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans - JL 1940-1980
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Re: New David Sylvian Biography

Postby ChrisEYoung on Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:08 am

InkintheWell, that pretty much hits the nail on the head, and thanks for the order.

"A mystery novel based on true facts." Yep, unravelling the mystery, getting to grip with the complexity, deciphering message and nuance, all with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Wish I'd thought of that way of explaining it!

Not surprised you haven't heard of me, this is my first writing project focused on Sylvian/Japan. I am a career writer, for a time a journalist with the Sunday Times in East Africa, and then all sorts of stuff on all sorts of subjects the world over. Also a media and publishing consultant.

The pictures issue has been asked a few times on other forums, and the answer is no, there are no pictures IN the book. A recurrent theme throughout David's career (again as we all know) is his attempt to detach image from work. Would have seemed a bit odd to then litter it with pictures that anyone can access in seconds on-line if they wish. In the end, all decided that "the mystery novel based on true facts" (I do like that!) didn't need them.

Having said that, on my travels while researching the book, did come across some interesting stuff which I photographed. Over time, these images are being dripped out on facebook and twitter (probably other places too). Send a friend request to New Sylvian Biography or follow in twitter @NewSylvianBook and you will see these from time to time.

I spoke and liaised with loads of people while pulling the book together.

On a final point, while some comments on this forum are extremely thoughtful and well informed, a few comments seem quite loaded, almost as if I have unwittingly got under someone's skin. My intention is not and never has been to get on the wrong side of anyone. It is my hope that this book will be a touch-stone for anyone with a profound or passing interest in David and his work. That is my only goal.

The book is not a tittle tattle filled exposé of aspects of David's life that really should be of no interest to anyone, but does delve into areas of his personal life that need to be analysed as they reflect in his work. This is done sensitively and not sensationally. It would be entirely wrong in my mind to just pick away at the gossip factory-led surmising that goes on everywhere, and which is no doubt fed by the "lack" of instantly available information.

This is a book about an artist and his life, spiritualism, and music, how they knit together, and how each aspect of his life informs the other.

If you are looking for something else, it is not for you.
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