Log for The Artist Shop/Talk City IRC Chat with Peter Hammill on Sunday, November 15, 1998

WotanCCC:    Todays Featured Artist conference is with Peter Hammill.   We will be talking about the past present, future and the "This" CD.   Get your questions in early using the following format;  Type /msg AskPeter Your question here.

WotanCCC:    Until the late Seventies he was singer, principal writer and sometime guitarist/pianist in the group Van der Graaf Generator. Their complex music was as often brutal as it was lyrical; barely-controlled chaos and a sense of sonic adventure were the primary characteristics of the band's chequered nine-album career (...as much Aggressive as Progressive).  By the time the group finally folded Peter had already recorded seven solo albums of restless inventiveness and experimentation.

Peter's work has never lent itself readily to categorization; nor has it ever been generally noted as either easy or fashionable (except among fellow writers and musicians, a bewildering variety and number of whom have cited him as a major influence).  In his career Peter has collaborated with such notable artists as Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel, Alice, Kronos Quartet and many others.

WotanCCC:    We're getting ready to start folks.  Make yourself comfortable, and get those questions in.

GaryArtistShop:    Hi, folks, Peter just popped in briefly to try out the software. Everything worked great and he'll be back with us in a short while.

GaryArtistShop:    The lights dim. The crowd roars!!!

WotanCCC:    ******************************
WotanCCC:    .
WotanCCC:    . Welcome to todays
WotanCCC:    . Artist Shop
WotanCCC:    . Featured Artist Conference
WotanCCC:    .
WotanCCC:    . An afternoon with
WotanCCC:    . Peter Hammill
WotanCCC:    .
WotanCCC:    . Presented by
WotanCCC:    . @Music and TalkCity
WotanCCC:    .
WotanCCC:    ******************************

WotanCCC:    Peter joins us on the release of his newest album, 'This,' on his independent Fie! label. Including band work and collaborations 'This' is the fortieth album project for which Peter has been responsible.  Peter's work has never lent itself readily to categorization; nor has it ever been generally noted as either easy or fashionable (except among fellow writers and musicians, a bewildering variety and number of whom have cited him as a major influence).  Peter, thank you for joining us today.

GaryArtistShop:    Peter Hammill joins us today under the pseudonym 'derbydazzler' which may ring bells for many of the fans out there.

derbydazzler:    it's my pleasure to be here

AskPeter:    nomelite says: what would it be an early influence about your rough style of vocals.Maybe Cpt Beefheart?

derbydazzler:    It's been stated before but I was trying to do something with thevoice...  equivalent to what Hendrix did with guitar.... or Coltrane with sax.

AskPeter:    lesteves says: is it possible an album Peter hammill/Robert Fripp?

derbydazzler:    anything is possible! I suspect, though, that we're both people who like to have control over our own projects so shared ones are potentially problematic!  Certainly, though, I hope to work with Robert again in some capacity or another in the near future.

AskPeter:    marco65 says: What has become of the "BeCalm" and "ALoud" series after "Fireships" and "The Noise"? (Marco)

derbydazzler:    hi marco. I think that these have become (both of them) series of 1.  The original idea was to delineate (some) of the divisions in my music.   But since then I've preferred to present a mish-mash (as per usual!)

GaryArtistShop:    Wotan, I think we should mention that we could consider this event an internet birthday party as well as an IRC chat. Peter celebrates his 50th birthday this month!!!

derbydazzler:    already celebrated, on the 5th. A week of Peter-fest...

AskPeter:    badgerman says: Did you ever imagine back in the 70's that you'd still be in the rock bussiness at 50? When did it first strike you it wasn't anymore just a young persons game?

derbydazzler:    1. It was absolutely beyond imagining in the 70s that, even if you were lucky you'd be able to do something for more than five years or so.   I'm talking, obviously, about the attempt to do something serious.  So back then I imagined that I/we might have a decent run for five years or so and then I'd somehow transmute, thirty years later into an acclaimed novelist on some Pacific isle didn't quite work out!

As far as 2. (not a young person's game) goes that was never a problem for me, once I'd realised that I was definitely hooked on and fulfilled by music.  After all my ear had first been sparked by blues players who keep going until they drop (as I hope to do).   In my view problems only come if you start trying to do work or write from a perspective or age which is false for you... Geddit?

AskPeter:    aboxofrogs says: How do you like working with DGM? Is it a change over your past experiences with record companies? 

derbydazzler:    This kind of relates to the previous question.  It was an odd momnet for both Robert and myself to meet up again after several years as, effectively, record company moguls (albiet of singularly small & mobilely intelligent natures!) who would have imagined that?  A natural development, though. Anyway, my, or rather Fie's relationship with Discipline is tranpsarent and honourable. They release in the US and Fie releases most other places and of course the artistic decisions and copyright ownership are Artist's Own as it should be. This is not the way of the world with other record cos. even some comparatively benign independent ones!

AskPeter:    phinoz says: Peter, would you consider perhaps a regular fan release of live concert material ala Robert Fripp/King Crimson?

GaryArtistShop:    I believe he's referring to the DGM Collector's Club

derbydazzler:    Just before I reply I'd like to apologise for some of the typos, but I'm trying to get these answers out as quickly as poss!

WotanCCC:    You're doing great Peter.

GaryArtistShop:    No problem, I'll clean 'em up in the transcript! LOL!!!

WotanCCC:    We'll fix it in the mix....   B-{)}

derbydazzler:    Well, there's the Collector's Club, but also Robert has a great fund of tapes from here and there, I belive, across the years.  I don't have an archive like that. So no such releases although something may emerge over the next years.  I guess everyone here knows that I favour brutal representations of   That Which Once Happened onstage anyway!

AskPeter:    bernhards says: If you compare "This" to your works from the 70s, how would you say has your music changed?

derbydazzler:    A truism, but I'm obviously older!  Since I've always had a horror of repetition and a fear of boredom (of myslef, first of all!). That means that I've always tried to do something new. At times, this means faltering steps.   "Bad" albums. But without being too dam' Auterish about it, I have to say that the story (aural & otherwise) graudally accumulates.  So I don't reject stuff from the 70s (or earlier); nor think that was The Best work.  I try always to do the best work, but from the perspective and with the experiences of exactly how old I am now including all the past stuff.

GaryArtistShop:    To me 'This' feels like a celebration of all that has come before.

derbydazzler:    I would also say that "this" is some kind of statement of continued intent.  Since I was recording it in the 50th year , after 30 yrs of doing this (-ish), it being the 40th album (according to my own, perhaps suspect numerology) I wanted to get some element of all the things in music which still interest me in there, rather than making a "coherent" piece per se - as in "Everyone", the last.  I think that's enough on that?

GaryArtistShop:    A nod towards the past as you walk to the future, so to speak.

derbydazzler:    In the now, absolutely!

AskPeter:    randomtask says: Who are some of your main influences and who do you listen to when you have the time just to listen to music?

derbydazzler:    Second part first. I guess in common with other musicians one of the things which one relinquishes upon realising that this (music-making) is not just a passing fad but a career and a life is the ability to "listen" pure and simple. Anything which remotely approaches one's own area will be subject to a critical analysis of a somewhat dubious nature.  So, for instance, I rarely listen to anything in the neo-rock arena as a"punter."  In fact, it can't serve me in that way, because, after all, I usually spend at least 8 hours a day working on the Stuff that *I* think this kind of music should contain. So to listen to it as a listener would not be exactly relaxing to me.  I also have to point out that as a family man and i guess there are a few family people out there?

GaryArtistShop:    definitely

derbydazzler:    grabbing 45 minutes of aboslutely undivided attention of an evening would be a task worthy of Hercules!

OK, part 1. Influences at the start were (strangely enough) R'nB; Chicago Blues; Hendrix; British groups, esp Animals, Who, Kinks; Beatles to an extent; Soul Music.   Then I got exposed to jazz & classical in all their manifestations and since I believe that the absolute virtue of rock music is that one can bang all of these things together and produce something new I/we did!  But this is a long time ago.. and I refer you back to my previous answer m'lud.  Once you're actually doing something influences become more like perfumes in the air than themes you follow.

AskPeter:    richardsw15 says: Do you have any particular favourites among those 40 albums - and any you'd rather sweep under the carpet?

derbydazzler:    For me every one of the albums is not only a collection of writing, music & performance but also a period of time, both of recording/writing and fo life. So they're strange diaries for me, in a way.  "Oh, *that's* the stuff that interested me then?"  As I said before, the process is cumulative.   So I couldn't knock out any one album and have the others remain as they are!   F'rinstance, a lot of people don't "get" "In a Foreign Town" and I admit some of it sounds prettty clunky to me now, too, but if I hadn't done that there's no way I could have advanced into the worlds of Fireshhips or Everyone You Hold.

GaryArtistShop:    Peter, you talked about your musical influences, but I suspect there are significant literary influences that have in impact in your work. Can you share some of those with us as well?

derbydazzler:    I'm a bit of a scattergun reader these days.  I was very keen on Norse Sagas/anglo saxon stuff in my teens... Njal's saga, Beoweulf & so on.  Then Sci-Fi evidently came into it.  And Shakespeare's obviously been around all my life!!!  But I also have an affinity for the odd world of Pynchon & Borges and many others.

GaryArtistShop:    And perhaps Poe?

derbydazzler:    But, again, "influence" is funny stuff when it comes to what actually goes into the work. I've managed to preserve literature as an area in which I can simply be a consumer, although I often argue back with the page, surprise, surprise!

AskPeter:    yellowfever says: How do you regard experiments like "Fall of House of Usher" today?

derbydazzler:    as a chapter of accidents which deserves a second look

AskPeter:    richardsw15 says: Taking up the 'family man' topic - and please forgive me if this is too personal - what do your family make of your work?

GaryArtistShop:    Yes, how do the kids feel about 'Since the Kids' ;-)

derbydazzler:    do you want me to make this an all-round family show?    LoL   For them the fact that I am "who" I am and do what I do is absolutely normal of course.  Holly(daughter no 1)'s first week at home was accompanied by my percussive efforts on pH7. After that *anything's* normal.

AskPeter:    xtarkus says: Peter, are you still in contact with the other members of VDGG and will there be a project in the future with this guys?

derbydazzler:    well we had a drink or fourteen together over the Peterfest last week.  I can't imagine that we *won't* do work of some kind or another with each other in various combinations over the next years...derbydazzler:    but I very much doubt that it would be under the aegis of VdGG!!!!  But I think there might well be some good combinations to come even though this wasn't the question (we're hovering around an ocean of worms here...)   I think it's evidence of our sense in packing up when we did that we *do* actually remain good if intermittent friends and the old days and the old music are unsullied by rancour.  We never copped out.  That's why we had to stop.

AskPeter:    balaf says: Frozen place sounds like Eno's Music for Airports, will the next 'experimental' album be in that direction?

derbydazzler:    If (whatever it's going to be) it's going to be experimental, it'll obviously have to be new to me as well.  Although I'm amazed to find that combining things in different quantities and perspectives seems to, produce new reults each time.  If we're struggling for analogous world here I guess it"s cuisine!  I seriously hope to get acquainted with the next experiments only in the thick of them and still attempt to come at things without too many preconceptions.

AskPeter:    kilngoddes says: What was the inspiration for the piece called, Safehouse?

derbydazzler:    It's one of the "cinematic" songs.   That's not to say that it's intended as a soundtrack for an imagined movie, but as an encapsulation of "the" movie itself.  Just Good Friends & Don't tell me also fall into this category, among others, btw.  So I just had this cinematic feeling of The Last Survivors of The Resistance in a city being overrun, sending out messages to no-one.  I guess it's somewhere between Graham Green & Sarajevo...

AskPeter:    davnu says: Peter, have you ever played with Robert Wyatt?

derbydazzler:    no, never. Same stage, but not simultaneously.  A man to whom I doff my hat.  There aren't many of us left.

AskPeter:    jkochel says: Why have you moved toward more layered vocals on your recent albums as opposed to the strong single lead vocals in VDGG?

derbydazzler:    first of all they're difficult and secondly they're fun!  Also, in Vdgg (see the VERY FIRST q/a) my function as vocalist was to cut through like a guitar or horn.  So in that envrion one alone is best.  Also, that was more-or-less a representation of what it sounded like live, so "real."   I do have to say, though, that the multi-layered vocal thing is something that's been going on for a good many years, right back to the early 70s.

GaryArtistShop:    Peter, you've got some dates coming up in Europe in December. I've had lots of inquiries about your next tour of the states.  Anything you can tell us about that or any other tour plans? And which musicians might be accompanying you?

derbydazzler:    In Europe in December I'll be accompanied by the impeccably unspeakable Stuart Gordon on violin and Noise.  It's a combination with a lot of continuing possibilities.  Well, they all, are, frankly!!!

GaryArtistShop:    BTW, for our European fans out there, you'll find those dates listed at http://www.artist-shop.com/fie.

derbydazzler:    As far as the States goes, I beat my breats in humble apologies for not having given any of that stage-welly over there for so many years.   I can only tell you that it is an absolute Priority One for me to do so, somehow, somewhere, whatever, in 1999!

GaryArtistShop:    yahooo!

AskPeter:    garyl1 says: What is your opinion of the state of rock music in general at present?

derbydazzler:    interesting  -  as in the Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times"

WotanCCC:    Is there anything else you would like to mention before we conclude today?

derbydazzler:    Actually that last answer was a bit too flip.   There remain people who believe that rock music is a form which is the equal of any other artistic one.  I don't mean in being worthy of museum-isation, but of Statement.  So it's possible to DO Stuff.  But I have a lot of sympathy for people NOW coming in & trying to do stuff because the Industry (which it now is) is inimically set against Actual Work.  I mean to say... Interesting!  Nothing more to add for now.  It's been a pleasure to neo-chat with you all!

GaryArtistShop:    A reminder to anyone wanting to check out Peter's Fie catalog, you'll find it with graphics and soundbites at http://www.artist-shop.com/fie, including his latest, 'This.'

WotanCCC:    Looks like our time is up...  I'd like to thank everyone for joining us tonight. Peter, we appreciate your taking the time to come and chat with us today, and hope you'll come back to Talk City again soon!

To purchase Peter Hammil's "This", or for information on other Artist offerings, please visit The Artist Shop Online at:


Finally, thanks to the Artist Shop for working with us on this conference. We especially appreciate the efforts of Gary Davis in giving us the opportunity to speak with Peter Hammill. 

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GaryArtistShop:    Yes, definitely tell them how much you want more Progressive Music chats!

WotanCCC:    Tonight's show has come to an end.  We thank you, our great audience, and extend a very special Thank You to our guest   ....... PETER HAMMILL .......... We look forward to seeing you again soon.

WotanCCC:    @Music Featured Artists is produced in conjunction
WotanCCC:    with @Music & Talk City (tm),
WotanCCC:    a production of Talk City, Inc.
WotanCCC:    Copyright 1998, All Rights Reserved
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WotanCCC:    And thank you all for coming today.  By all means.

GaryArtistShop:    Thanks for joining us, Peter.

derbydazzler:    Bye   It's back to the dressing room for me...

WotanCCC:    The transcript of this event will be posted within a few days on the @Music discussion boards on Talk City http://www.talkcity.com/atmusic and on the Artist Shop web site http://www.artist-shop.com.  For more information on "This" and other Peter Hammill Recordings, please visit the Artist Shop web site at: http://www.artist-shop.com


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