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Shineback - Simon Godfrey Interview

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    Posted: July 20 2013 at 12:48
After many months of negotiations involving secret midnight meetings at Newport Pagnell Services, furtive exchanges of brown envelopes at Kings Cross station and numerous bribes, I have finally managed to obtain an exclusive interview with Tinyfish and now Shineback main man, Mr Simon Godfrey (known as Sigod on the forums) in which he discusses the making of the new Shineback album "Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed". The interview includes a short description of the concept behind the album and a world exclusive about the title. And ducks.

So here it is in its full unedited and unexpurgated glory, enjoy.
Big thanks to Simon for sparing the time in his busy schedule to answer my often searching and occasionally stupid questions.


 1) Why did you decide to "go solo" at this time?

I can’t in all good conscience call the Shineback a solo album because it features so many great guest musicians and indeed my long time lyricist and writing partner Robert Ramsay. This is however a very different beast to Tinyfish and that was down to a couple of factors:

The first was an encounter I had with Tinyfish’s drummer Leon Camfield. I had begun to write some material for the follow up to our last album The Big Red Spark and had invited Leon over to record some demos. When I asked him what he thought, he said that he liked what he’d heard but felt that songs sounded very much like those on The Big Red Spark. This rang warning bells in my mind and so I resolved to do a little music research and development, much in the same way Robert Fripp put together The ProjeKts in order to test out some new ideas and musical directions.

The second was dealing with the hearing condition called tinnitus which many people will probably be familiar with. I had to give up playing full electric gigs for fear of losing what hearing I have left. Rather than let the situation get to me, I found myself in an emotional place where I felt totally free from the constraints of style and genre. I figured that if my hearing could give out at any moment, I wanted to write an album which came from the heart and chose to ignore the boundaries of genre and not give a damn if it was commercially or critically viable.

 2) In true prog tradition, it's a concept album. What's the story behind it (briefly)?

You know, I was talking to Robert Ramsay about this a short while back and I agree with him that taken out of context of the music, almost any musical concept sounds utterly bonkers. I mean, look at how hard it is to explain the central idea behind The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway without two people coming to blows over what it really means. :)

The best way I can describe the story behind Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed is that it centers on an insomniac called Dora who takes a video camera into one of her very rare sleeping dreams and blogs about what she sees while in that dream-world in order to help understand and maybe cure her sleep disorder. What Dora finds however is much more than she expected.

I’ve suffered from insomnia all my life and some of the scenes and creatures in the story are taken from my own childhood experiences where I would make up stuff to keep myself amused during the night. For example, the song Here Come The Envoys features three faceless individuals called ‘the Envoys’ who I imagined organized, ran and policed all the dreams people had when they were asleep.

Another track called Crush Culture is based upon a place called The Memory House, where again as a child, I thought all the people I had forgotten about lived until I remembered them again. For the album however, I turned it into a hellish dance club, where all the people Dora has forgotten about are forced to dance endlessly until she remembers them. Naturally when The Envoys lead her there, everybody is delighted to see her because it means she’ll set them all free, simply by recalling their faces.

 3) Where did the title come from?

I've never told anyone this before but the album title Rise Up Forgotten, Return Destroyed was inspired partly from an experience I had travelling to the Summers End Prog festival in the UK with Bad Elephant Music (BEM) label boss David Elliot. He played me a track from an album called Rise Up Like The Sun from folk proggers The Albion Band that I loved to bits. The title stuck in my mind and when I began formulating the story for the album, I used it as inspiration for the Shineback release.

In this context, the title reflects the fortunes of our protagonist. Dora’s subconscious has hidden memories from her childhood which eventually lead her down an incredibly dark path.

 4) Did Rob Ramsay write all the lyrics?

No he didn’t but that doesn’t take anything away from the massive contribution he made to develop the characters, the story and the recurring lyrical themes behind the album. I don’t think the album would have existed in the form it is without his contribution.

 5) You played most of the instruments yourself, does this make things easier or do you prefer recording with a band?

That’s an interesting question. I certainly enjoy writing on my own as I work a lot faster and cheaper. One of the worst aspects of working in a band is that it takes FOREVER co-ordinate people. Cat herding is a very apt phrase.

I’d always intended for Shineback to be a one man show but somewhere along the way, I thought that getting other people to guest would be preferable as it helps to add unexpected stuff which you would never have thought of by yourself. It’s a compromise on but I think ultimately it’s a positive one.

 6) There are quite a few prog luminaries on the album, tell us a bit about how that came about and how much you had to bribe them to take part?

I was very lucky in that so many excellent musicians such as Dec Burke (Frost, Dec Burke Band, Darwin’s Radio, Brave New Sky), Matt Stevens (The Fierce And The Dead), Hen Rogers (Touchstone, DeeExpus), And Ditchfield (DeeExpus), Hywell Bennet (Dec Burke Band), Paul Worwood (Tinyfish) all gave their time and effort to contribute to the record.

As to how they came to be on the album, it was purely down to the fact that that I love them as players and that we all get on as people. The prog scene in the UK is unique as we are all squashed together on this tiny little island and so there is a lot of contact between fellow players. That naturally promotes integration and collaboration. They are also all musicians who go out of their way to ignore genre boundaries and just make the best music they can. I can totally respect that.

 7) I've heard of them all except for Danny Claire. How/where did you find her?

Danny is a crucial exception to the musicians above as she works almost exclusively in the electronic and dance world. She is based in Eastern Europe and how she came to be on the album was one of those happy accidents, which I don’t think could ever be repeated.

I was about three quarters of the way into the recording of the album when I realized the main character of Dora simply didn’t feel present on the album. To remedy this situation, I resolved to audition a number of female singers for the part of Dora and wrote a number of linking pieces (or blogs), which featured her ‘talking to camera’ so to speak.

To flesh out these blogs prior to a singer adding their vocals, I used a sample CD which featured Danny’s work and fully intended to remove them once I’d found a singer I could use in the studio. To my surprise (and in a similar way to Phil Collins getting the vocalist gig with Genesis after Gabriel left), every time I auditioned a singer, I ended up preferring Danny’s voice. Soon after I realized that I had already found my Dora and used Danny’s exclusively on the record. This is something I am immensely proud of, as I love what she has done for the character Dora.

 8) What's the future for Tinyfish?

I very much hope there will be another Tinyfish album. The only problem is that since making the career move to that of a professional musician, I have to actually earn money from my musical endeavors now. Tinyfish always has been and I hope always will be, a band of friends. Everything we earn goes into a central band fund to finance future projects. As such, none of us makes any money personally from the albums we sell and this naturally complicates matters for the professionals in the band (myself and drummer Leon Camfield). Fingers crossed though because I believe Tinyfish has more gas in the tank yet.

 9) Will there be any more Shineback?

The answer is yes I’d like to do another album but it would have to be for the right reasons. The project is something very dear to my heart as there are few situations or bands where I can comfortably fuse progressive, electronic, experimental, cinematic and pop elements into one sound without anyone blowing a creative gasket. For that reason alone, it would be worth returning to Shineback at some point in the future.

 10) Will there be a film to accompany the album?

I would love that. When I first began to speak with BEM boss David Elliot about Shineback, I had wanted to record a video for each track but sadly, there wasn’t the budget to do so. Maybe somewhere down the line, we might sneak out a full production video for one of the tracks. That would be nice.

 11) Can we have some techie stuff about the recording? What software and instruments did you use?

The album was recorded deliberately ‘in the box’ i.e. inside a PC environment. I put my guitar to one side and used keyboards, loops and soft synths to write the material in order to break some musically bad or lazy habits. When you’ve played and written on guitar for as long as I, your fingers begin to unconsciously find familiar chords, rhythms and structures. I wanted to short circuit that familiarity much like Peter Gabriel did on PG3 (Melt) when he decided there should be no cymbals used at all (even hi-hats). It forces you to work differently and therefore creatively to get to your desired destination.

I recorded using Sony ACID Pro to flesh out arrangements and then flew the results into Pro Tools, replacing a lot of the loops and samples with real playing.

Two of the most used soft synths were Xpand!2, which is a Pro Tools workhorse and is an astoundingly flexible tool (the combination of the Jupiter 8 and Moog Tarus pedal patches were used to create some real bowel churning low notes which I love). The other is Spectrasonics bass synth Trilian, which can be subverted into an amazing lead instrument if you tweak it correctly.

For me, the idea is always to take a traditional sound and do something with it you wouldn’t expect. For example, I recorded and reversed a lot of the harmony vocals so they sounded like the Beach Boys meets Twin Peaks. The track Myowndreamland is a great example of that technique. You know they are human voices but they sound odd and unsettling.

 12) The album is quite "disco-y" (for want of a better word). What/who were your influences in the writing of the album?

Disco Prog? Cool! Nile Rogers look out. :)

Everything within earshot that’s interesting is an influence. I grew up being told that I wasn’t a proper fan of a genre if listened to other styles of music. I remember being ostracized by my heavy metal mates for buying and openly enjoying a Japan album. It all sounded a bit childish to me me but hey, it was the 1980s!

Along side the prog albums, my collection is deliberately eclectic. I hate the idea that there are parts of the sonic garden I am not allowed to visit. As such, for every Gentle Giant album I buy, there was one by Massive Attack, for every Twelfth Night bootleg, there was one by XTC live in New York. My Upsetters or Chase And Status records sit very comfortably next to my Lazuli and King Crimson.

In the words of Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher, Don’t Fence Me In.

 13) Do you foresee any arguments on the PA forum as to whether the album is really prog or not?

Well prog is a very broad church. Any genre that can encompass Renaissance at one end or Opeth at the other goes to show that the vast majority of prog fans are both broadminded and as interested in pushing the boundaries of music as the bands who make the sounds. There will always be people who disagree but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

On a slightly broader level however, your question reminds me of an experience I once had visiting my dad. He is a huge cricket fan so we decided to meet one afternoon at his cricket club. We were having a drink in the club bar and I noticed that the bowls club next door had closed. I asked what happened and my dad said the members had all gown old and died. I remarked that surely all they needed to do to keep things going was to recruit some new members. My dad said they didn’t want any new folk in because they liked things they way they were and so the club died with them.

It would be a shame to see progressive music suffer a similar fate.

 14) Where any ducks harmed in the making of the album?

Not at all, ducks are brilliant. I bloody love ducks and shame on you for suggesting otherwise! :)

 15) Where was Leon Camfield?

Leon Camfield was with Colonel Plum, in the study with the candleholder.



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Blacksword Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 09 2013 at 11:39
Nice work, Alan. A very good interview and a very interesting read. I look forward to hearing the Shineback album. The snippets I've heard sound right up my street. Very different to Tinyfish mind, who were pretty much also my cup of tea.

We must get Mr Shineback and co out for another beer/curry etc v.soon
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Post Options Post Options   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 12 2013 at 09:25
Originally posted by Blacksword

Nice work, Alan. A very good interview and a very interesting read. I look forward to hearing the Shineback album. The snippets I've heard sound right up my street. Very different to Tinyfish mind, who were pretty much also my cup of tea.

We must get Mr Shineback and co out for another beer/curry etc v.soon


Thank you Andy. Next prog curry pencilled in for October when the aforementioned Mr Godfrey returns from the US.

Shineback is very different to the Tinyfish stuff but definitely worth checking out.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote johnobvious Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 13 2013 at 14:29
My copy showed up yesterday.  Now I need to get to listening to it among the other 11 cd's that I just got as well. Will check back with first impressions.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote johnobvious Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: August 27 2013 at 22:14
Been through it twice now. First time it didn't really hit me but sunk in much better the second.  Combines dashes of house with a little electronica, a lot of heavy stuff. A bunch of really good riffs that knock your socks off and then are gone maybe a little too soon,  never to see the light of day again. 18 total songs, some are short and sedate so hurts the flow a bit but good stuff overall. Need to get through it another time or two but an easy 4 stars.
Biggles was in rehab last Saturday
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Spiral Ken Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 29 2014 at 12:03
Love this album. It's stuch in my car stereo and I can't bring myself to swao it out. The title track alone is worth the cost of admission.
 
Also, I can now say that I've met one of my musical heroes as I managed a few quick words with SIGOD at Riffs Bar a few weeks back at Mike Coltons birthday bash.
 
 
Don't be fooled, this isn't maturity
A Greek 3 thousand years ago
already told your tale
The trail you're blazing, it's already ash
4 chords now tired and old
With 5, 6 and 7 on your bill of sale
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Post Options Post Options   Quote chopper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: April 29 2014 at 16:25
Originally posted by Spiral Ken

Love this album. It's stuch in my car stereo and I can't bring myself to swao it out. The title track alone is worth the cost of admission.
 
Also, I can now say that I've met one of my musical heroes as I managed a few quick words with SIGOD at Riffs Bar a few weeks back at Mike Coltons birthday bash.
 
 
Woo hoo. Someone has Simon Godfrey as a musical hero. And well deserved too.
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