From Charles in Japan
Friday March 15 2002:

As promised a few details re last night`s [march 15] party at La Boheme, a restaurant in the same building as the Tribute to the Love Generation where the weekend gigs will be.

It was very well attended I would guess around 40 people, maybe more. Every seat was taken. Peter was joined by Stuart and Paul Ridout (I think).

In all it lasted a couple of hours or so. It began, as all parties do in Japan, with a formal greeting or `kanpai` which is just a big `cheers`....everyone says `kanpai`, raises their glass and then gets on with eating and drinking. The food was good, kind of Mediterranean style, a fair bit of octopus in there for good measure too !

Once the food was over the questions began, the interpreter Osawa-san did a fantastic job translating some pretty dense material in both directions.

The questions posed were (not exhaustive as I did not take notes.....anyone else remembering more please add to this) :

1) Please explain about how you record your voice, what mike do you use and how do you create backing vocals ?

PH explained that recording alone was important since it is different from performing and even having someone else in the studio, such as Stuart, makes it a performance. So these days he records the voice parts alone. He also said that when Stuart records violin parts then he will typically turn his back when in the studio to minimise the personal interaction so making it a pure recording, not influenced in any way by the presence of anyone else.

PH gave us a few details re his mike, which I did not write down. However he said that he always has the mike in exactly the same position, he uses no compression or equalisation, it is very pure.

Backing vocals could take a day of work just to create one dimension, and could be recorded over a lengthy period. Backing vocals are very important for him because the voices may well be introducing different thoughts, themes or textures compared with the lead vocal.

2) How do you write songs ?

This is an old theme....PH explained that he is not sure, that there is an element of mystery to it. That as song is not complete until the final semi-colon is in place and there is then a defining moment when it is finished and crystalized, after that point there will never be any change made.

He also said that he did not fully understand all of his songs, .....very emphatically.

3) Can you tell us about Chris Judge Smith ?

PH paid a big tribute to CJS, as they had started VDGG together, he thinks CJS is a very talented songwriter, mentioned Four Pails specifically. PH thought CJS could have been much more successful as a writer of pure pop songs if he had collaborated with someone more succesful than himself. PH also mentioned that CJS is somewhat eccentric (this was not an insult) but he was unlikely to have had a success within the established music industry as a result.

4) Has living in Bath affected your music and is this why the music has become calmer recently ?

PH said that this was not an influence since the studio is isolated in every sense and this was where he worked. Nevertheless he appreciated the location and the quality of life this provided. He referred to younger days and how everyone wanted to live in London, but getting older had really driven to seek a quieter, gentler location.

5) Do you see Peter Gabriel at all ?

PH said that PG lives close by and they do meet occasionally socially and generally know each other, but they have no musical connection or collaboration now.

6) Will VDGG reform ?

PH said that the question would be - would it be right for them to reform from their own individual and collective perspective. This was very important since they had always worked on the basis of agreeing only to do things that were `right` in this sense.

PH concluded by saying that they had on three occasions - Union Chapel, Sue Jackson`s 40th birthday and the Jaxon`s (25th ?) wedding anniversary. No there are NO recordings....he chuckled at this point.

They had done it for themselves and to prove to themselves that thay could still do it. Union Chapel was an important occasion where they had been very careful not to allow this to be seen as a VDGG reunion.

He said that the only way this would ever happen would be if there were new work to be done and they all agreed it was the right thing to do. Since they all have dramatically different lives these days he very much doubted that this could happen.

7) You recently recorded in French for the tribute album (sorry I can`t recall the details here), how did that come about. Why did you choose the song you chose and were there others ?

PH said he had a choice of several songs, the unchosen songs he could not recall since they were to all intent and purpose `dead`. He had enjoyed the recording and appreciated the opportunity....this led on to....

8) What languages can you speak (topical question given recent list activity )

Best is Italian, then French and then German

Some extra information....I asked Peter about new projects and he said that The Margin will definitely be released soon and he is also working on a new project which he called "The Ballads", which will be piano-based, he did not elaborate further on this.

Then we had the signing session and photo opportunities. Amazing to see so much fine vinyl and rare material being pulled out for signature, there were at least three Least We Can Do inner inserts on show, People You Were Going To singles, books galore. Peter seemed very impressed with it all.

Finally he announced that all three sets were going to be different and so they would only play one encore on each occasion.

That was it.....I think everyone enjoyed it !

Thanks Charles, other comments are welcome