So there I was, sitting with my friend and producer Boo Hewerdine, on the morning of my last GESTATION show, Wednesday May 26th.
We were discussing studios and money, and I was realising that I was going to need quite a bit more of the latter to pay for the former in order to re-record the songs I’d worked on during GESTATION for the studio album we’d always planned to make once the process was finished. And while we were worrying away at the budgets and practicalities, the freshly delivered “Nine Lives” was playing in the background.
Then Boo looked at me in a funny way (even funnier than usual, I mean). And he said: “I don’t mean to be funny… but isn’t this the album?” So we listened back to those nine live recordings once more, this time turned up loud and without interruption, from start to finish. And I realised that, of course, he was right.
“Nine Lives” captures not just the process, but the intended end result too. What I’d been thinking of as a minor detour – a limited edition bonus live album – was actually the obvious destination. These are the best versions of the songs we got the best handle on over the nine months of shows. As Boo pointed out, we could spend weeks – and a whole heap of money that I don’t have – trying to recapture the atmosphere and urgency of those live recordings, and we wouldn’t get anything quite as good.
So “Nine Lives” is going to be my new album.
I’m aware that releasing a live album of new songs is a fairly unusual move. In fact, I can’t think of anyone apart from Michelle Shocked who’s done this in recent times.
But it’s truer to the GESTATION project’s core ethos – to find a more interactive way of making records which draws upon the energy and inspiration of both fans and a wide range of talented guest musicians.
It’s short – which I love about it (all my favourite classic albums are of necessity under 40 minutes in length – you couldn’t fit any more on two sides of vinyl).
It also has a built-in quality control: having tried each of my 20-odd new songs multiple times with different line-ups over the course of GESTATION, these were the nine versions that just sounded the best. I’m really proud of the other songs I road-tested (and indeed of some of the alternative versions of the songs that did make the album), and hope to put them into the world later somehow, but if I only have nine to go with I’m proud and happy with these ones.
Most importantly of all, “Nine Lives” captures something that was present on the nights when these songs were recorded which is impossible to exactly recreate in a studio – the urgency of putting across what you’re feeling to a room full of live, listening human beings.
I’m adding some more artwork for the official release – lyrics, credits plus some of the amazing images that so many brilliant artists have submitted for consideration via the GESTATION site.
Very soon, I’ll be offering my fans, followers and friends the opportunity to sponsor the official release by buying the album in advance – anybody who shells out for the record within a (necessarily fairly short) time frame will not only get their album way ahead of the record shops but also will be credited on the album artwork as a sponsor (if you’re too shy to have your own name in print, you can of course nominate somebody else – one credit per album purchased, feel free to buy as many as you want!).
And then I’ll be looking to release “Nine Lives” into the world at large in the early Autumn, with as big a PR campaign as I can afford coupled with some live dates in Ireland and (I hope) beyond.
I’m very excited about this development, and very grateful to all the people who’ve helped it come about, especially my mate Boo who so helpfully pointed out the bleeding obvious, thereby talking himself out of a job.
And I’m also really grateful to all you amazing musicians, technicians, live fans and online contributors to GESTATION who’ve made the process that’s made the record so great.
I’ll be in touch very soon about the stages to come. In the meantime, thank you for helping me make a record I believe we can all be very proud of. I’ll be hoping for your further help in spreading the word.
P.S. “Nine Lives” will be released as ALIEN ENVOY rather than under my own name. I’ll talk more about who, what and why Alien Envoy is very soon.