"Lost and Found"


INTERVIEW

Van Der Graaf Generator
Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton
and The Crew
to "Lost and Found" Février 2011

Version française

"A Grounding in Numbers" next Van Der Graaf Generator album will be release  on 14th march 2011 and the band is going to launch into a new tour.

"Lost and Found" would like to celebrate this moment, Peter Hammill and Hugh Banton for the band, as Will Hitchings and Carl Wilson from the crew, have kindly answered some of our questions.

Many thanks to them!

About "A Grounding in Numbers":

How would you describe your mindset while working on it?

PH: Highly concentrated!

Did you choose specific music or themes early on in your project?

   PH: We had a number of pieces prepared on which we were intent on working.

Regarding your working style for this album, did the music come before the lyrics or vice versa? Did you work on the music and lyrics simultaneously?

PH: Only a couple of pieces had any words connected to them at all when we recorded the backing tracks, though some others had the germs of ideas around them. After the backing tracks words, vocals and overdubs continued side by side.


Why did you choose to work out of an actual studio from the beginning?

PH: It meant that we could concentrate exclusively on making the music rather than on any of the technical aspects of recording. Since our time was limited this seemed a very good idea and so it proved.


It seems that a great deal of importance was placed on the acoustic aspect of your project since you hired an outside person to do the mixing. Was it for this reason?

PH: We were keen this time to have an outside pair of ears, an outside pair of hands involved in the mixing process. The fact that Hugh Padgham was interested and did such an outstanding job was a fantastic bonus.

About the songs VdGG chooses to perform live:

Since 2007, the trio appears to have pre-selected the set lists for their stage shows. The band regularly plays five songs taken from “Trisector” and at least three from “A grounding in Numbers” ...

PH: Well, we don't know about that yet, do we? As I answer, for instance, I've no idea exactly what we'll play at the next show....


Can you please explain when and how you decide which songs to play (or not) when you’re on tour. What are your criteria for choosing which  music to play live?

PH: We still try to change things around for our interest and for the audience. On any tour we have a group of songs which are the current selection. Some of these will be more challenging than others for us and we always like to include some challenging ones.
Obviously newer stuff will be more challenging. Also, ever since we started the trio we've been keen to develop a repertoire which has more to do with the present and the future than the past.

All this, though, does not mean that we won't go back and revisit songs we've played before in this line-up at some point in the future. Or even songs that we haven't yet played.
In other words, we don't like to be constrained.



About  Metropolis gig :

The Metropolis concert took place in highly unusual circumstances: a tiny venue with a stage very close to the audience, new songs to be played, stress due to bad weather perhaps, etc. Would you say that that was a difficult gig? An enjoyable one ?


PH: Yes, difficult, enjoyable, intense, al of these things. It's quite something to play together for the first time in more than a year, doing new material as well. A good challenge.




How did you prepare and did you rehearse?

PH: Lots of visualisation, quite a lot of solo rehearsal for each of us, then very intense rehearsals together in the two days before the show.





Hugh Banton, In concerts, you play with your hands & your feet, it's quite spectacular for the audience, and seems to be no mean feat, I mean from physical point of view, not to mention the intense concentration involved.  Yet you look so relaxed and cheerful on stage.


HB: I switched from piano to pipe organ lessons at about the age of twelve, so playing with hands and feet is something I’ve now done for nearly 50 years! So the truth is I actually find it very natural and quite easy … and I’m actually more confortable musically when I can choose the bass line as well.


How do you feel during a concert – and after ?  HB: Ummm…




At the Metropolis gig, there were three guitars on stage. We recognized two of them. The third one looked like a Fender Telecaster Squier...

PH: It is, indeed, a Telecaster Squier, but somewhat adapted.

How is it different from the others and how does it enhance the effect?

PH: I put a Hipshot tuning tailpiece on, which means there are three positions for each string and tunings can be changed instantly.
This means that I can trick myself into not knowing exactly what I'm playing on the guitar, (some might say quelle change!) which is useful in terms of writing new stuff.
I needed a very specific tele to do this, with a through-bridge rather than through-body tailpiece.

As you may have gathered, I like messing around with this kind of stuff and a new instrument will often produce a new tune (at least).



 Does it have a special history?
 Was it used to record the new album?

PH: I found this one on Ebay and in its prewvious life it had played in a Ska band. I also replaced the white scratchplate with a black one.

And in the end I played the tele quite a bit on the new album.....



It's easy to spot a new guitar, but do you keep working on the organ to change it and develop it? I mean, since the Reunion and then with the trio, and about your new songs …

HB: Yes, constantly. As an electronic organ builder by profession I am never short of ideas on how to improve the setup. (Although some might describe the process differently ;-) It’s an assembly of keyboards, pedals & electronics rather than an actual organ, although we certainly think of it as The Organ. The main changes since the 2005 reunion concert are : the substitution of the lower keyboard – was a Roland VK7 - with a Hammond XK-3C, which is generally a superior instrument; the addition of a PC, which I have loaded with various additional organ sounds; and a MIDI controller & coupler system. Much of this, and also the amplification, I’ve designed and built myself. Doubtless more changes to come!

Hugh, on stage you play bass with the organ's pedals, yet on some recordings we can hear you play bass guitar. When does this work on the bass guitar occur? Is it just an overdub or is it part of the early creative process?

HB: It depends; the majority of our numbers start out on organ and on recordings I sometimes overdub bass guitar. Others, most recently Highly Strung and Embarrassing Kid, start out as Bass Guitar numbers - that is to say I play bass guitar rather than organ on the backing track. Highly Strung is a 10-string bass guitar number, I’m another guitar collector! Curiously I generally don’t overdub organ onto these although there are a couple of exceptions over the years.


About the upcoming tour and a french gig:

How did you choose the upcoming dates and places to play?
PH: Our agent, Andy, arranges the routing in a way which makes sense logistically and, of course, financially.


French VdGG fans wonder why the band never performed any concerts in France after 2005...

PH: In this case I don't think the routing made a French show a likely candidate. Personally I'd like to come back to France both with VdGG and solo. But who knows what the future holds?



About the future:

In an interview given one year ago, PH said it was possible that another musician might join VdGG. Was this just a fleeting idea or are you seriously considering this?

PH: JI think I only said it was possible, as opposed to impossible. When we started the triop this was something which we discussed, obviously, but immediately came to the concllusion that first of all we should explore what we could do as a trio, on record and live. Amazingly, I think we're still in the process of doing that and so the question of having a guest/guests doesn't yet arise. And I think, incidentally, that if anyone else were to play with us it would be as a guest rather than a full-on member...


What are VdGG’s plans for the future beyond the spring tour? Maybe a summer concert tour?

PH: We'll continue to take it one day, one tour at a time. Very pleased and privileged still to be doing it!

About the crew:

The VdGG tour crew has shown its loyalty and accompanied the band since 2005. Can you talk a little about the crew and how they have helped you?


PH: They're a fantastic, professional and fun team who make touring a pleasure and a thoroughly civilised experience. Couldn't do it without them!


The VdGG crew :

VdGG is going to begin a new touring trip through Europe in a few weeks. It is certainly a teamwork which makes it runs fine. We noticed that a great part of the band’s crew has been the same since 2005 and we wish to present its members, make their job better known, by publishing a short interview of some of them who agreed as a tribute to their work.
So we have asked them to present themselves, talk about their job in a tour, and some great memories..




      Will Hitchings

Sound Ingineer, mixing either Stage Monitors or Front Of House. This is my daily job and has been for over 25 years .

I also work with PH on his Solo tours, Mixing and Driving.

I had seen Van Der Graaf Generator in Bristol in 76 when I was 14 years old. I was already working for PH on his Solo tours, and when they announced the Reunion, I naturally wanted to mix the mighty VdGG!


I always try to make myself available to join the tour, and have VdGG as top priority, but there are rare occasions when I cannot arrange things how I would like, and I arrange for a replacement.


My best VdGG tour memory?...I think that has to be the Reunion gig at the Royal Festival Hall - being part of such an occasion. I have done bigger gigs, and more famous gigs, but the RFH gig was very important.

The worst one...Either food poisoning in Russia (the worst I've ever had!), or being bitten by a Customs dog at the airport on the way to Trieste, which caused a bad very reaction.




Carl Wilson

It' my name, even though I've never been in the Beach Boys. I am the backline/instrument technicianApart from rehearsals I only work the tours.
In Spring 2005 I was on tour with someone else who got a call but was unavailable to join VDGG. He passed the phone to me and I said yes.

There is no reason "why" apart from it's the job I do. I had never heard of the band prior to then. As I mentioned this is what I do as a career and work for many different artists.

Its hard to choose the best memory but my favourite memory would have to be of the 2005 Womad festival in Taormina, Sicily, playing the Teatro Greco with a smoking volcano as the the back drop.

The worst memory would have to be of the hangover I mysteriously acquired after a meal and a couple of carafes of  vodka on an overnight journey on the St. Petersburg to Moscow train. Who would of thought Russian vodka would be so potent?


                                                          To be continued... maybe
.




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