Bill Nelson on DS, MK etc

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Bill Nelson on DS, MK etc

Postby Blemished on Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:45 am

Very interesting thread over on Bill Nelson's discussion forum discussing David, Japan, differences with Mick etc. Particularly interesting as Bill - who worked with them all - actually contributes to his own forum! We should be so lucky...

http://www.billnelson.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22689

Bill's postings are really interesting, first-hand insights into things. Asked about Mick's take on things, as expressed in his book, Bill says:


I haven't read Mick's book, I'm afraid, so it wouldn't be fair for me to comment on this. And of course, Mick himself is sadly no longer with us to clarify or retract his statements.

All I can say is that when Mick worked with me on the 'Chimera' tracks all those years ago, I don't recall him ever saying anything bad about, or critical of, David. In my own experience of working with David in the past, he has always been kind, courteous and respectful towards me.

At one time, David and I exchanged letters fairly regularly and I would recommend various musics and books to him. I still have those letters somewhere. I remember alerting him to the work of Jon Hassell, John Fahey and Derek Bailey. Also to the esoteric/occult stream of the Western Magical/Alchemical/Hermetic/Mystery tradition, (Rosicrucianism, Martinism and so on.) He was keen to follow up those leads, which I personally was pleased about.

Actually, it was David who helped to fix me up with Opium (Arts) Ltd when I was having terrible problems with my own management. So what I'm reading in the above post doesn't really seem to fit the person I knew back then.

However, band dynamics are often fraught with ego clashes and so on. Unless one is intimately privy to the in-group mind games and attempts at one-upmanship that inevitably go on, it's difficult to know what the real situation might have been. Being in a band is a bit like being married to three or four wives at the same time...it can be ecstatic but it can also be h*ll. ;-)

All I can say is that Mick was a very talented guy, a genuine artist as well as a gifted musician. But, maybe he felt some resentment at the amount of attention and adulation David received from fans and press? I do think it's sad when such resentments sour friendships and musical partnerships.



Then, expanding on some familiar debates about composition versus arrangement...


I think it's fair to say, (at least from my own experience,) that David's approach depended on the input and contributions of other musicians to some degree. The tracks I played on for David were, (in their raw form,) bare skeletons. But David's talent lay in his choice of musicians to flesh these skeletons out. My own recollection is that I was given free rein...I played several different versions or ideas over the rudimentary rhythm track, as did, I think, other musicians. David then later picked through the ideas we'd offered and carefully chose a certain selection of them...it was kind of composing by editing, making the best of the input of the musicians he'd invited to play on the recordings. He afterwards came up with lyrics and vocal lines to suit the tracks. I thought this was an interesting approach and didn't ever think that he was putting songs together purely from other people's creativity. I just saw it as a kind of post-modern assemblage process and perhaps all the more fascinating for it.

He also has some interesting thoughts on the nature of pop fame and the dangers of being put on a pedestal etc...
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Re: Bill Nelson on DS, MK etc

Postby Quiet Visitor on Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:24 am

Thanks for sharing. Interesting thoughts on a level I hope the Japan-biography will also be.
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Re: Bill Nelson on DS, MK etc

Postby Chad on Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:40 am

What a difference between the Steve Nye years and what we have now. You left out all the good silver platter gossip later on in the thread. :)
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Re: Bill Nelson on DS, MK etc

Postby karnsculpture on Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:57 am

Bill's telling the truth, when MK was working with him it was during a period when DS and himself were on good terms - they were from late '83 onwards until after Rain Tree Crow - so Bill won't have heard anything bad from Mick at that time. It's only since RTC that MK's resentment grew.

As for DS' solo material, it's strongest in my view when he has a collaborator or collaborators who have the strength to challenge him both in terms of decisions and also to suggest new things. I was lucky to read a friend's copy of the Japanese Perspectives the other night and in one of the letters Sakamoto tries to explain why the plan for them to do a joint album together in '84/'85 wasn't going to work out. Simply, they are both too controlling to have an equal partnership, so one or the other would dominate e.g. Sakamoto on Forbidden Colours, Sylvian on Steel Cathedrals. However they recognise that they work well together with one supporting the other, as borne out later with "Secrets Of The Beehive". However, although he was working with DS on his projects, with DS taking the lead, Sakamoto has the strength to suggest string or keyboard parts to make David's compositions better. With Nine Horses Steve was the key collaborator, able to influence the sound with confidence (and Steve is a great perfectionist in that regard). This isn't to say that DS is untalented - far from it - but others have always brought out the best in him and taken him in new directions. Just in terms of sound design, the feel of the music, there's something missing now (with the exception of Where's Your Gravity, which is genuinely exciting) I don't know if some of his recent collaborators have any willingness to challenge him.
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Re: Bill Nelson on DS, MK etc

Postby Blemished on Sat Nov 23, 2013 11:14 am

karnsculpture wrote:With Nine Horses Steve was the key collaborator, able to influence the sound with confidence (and Steve is a great perfectionist in that regard). This isn't to say that DS is untalented - far from it - but others have always brought out the best in him and taken him in new directions. Just in terms of sound design, the feel of the music, there's something missing now (with the exception of Where's Your Gravity, which is genuinely exciting) I don't know if some of his recent collaborators have any willingness to challenge him.


I've spent a lot of time listening to Nine Horses in the last six months. On first release, I wasn't that keen as it seemed a bit pedestrian. But, after spending a lot of time with it, I have to say it is one of the best recorded, most beautifully produced 'modern' albums I know (as in, digitally recorded). Just exquisite detail and textures. It's a persuasive idea that this might owe a lot to Steve's influence and perfectionism.

Clearly, DS has also gained huge amounts from working with Nye, Sakamoto, Czukay, Fripp and - recently - the AMM/Polwechsel set. It's also notable that his recent collaborators are those that have been influenced BY David's older work (Jan Bang etc). Maybe that's an issue.

I definitely think he is looking for a new direction. I've no idea if and when we'll find out whether he finds it, given all the personal issues - moving house, health etc.
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