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