By Jim Christopulos

The recently released Amorphous Androgynous & Peter Hammill album We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal has been garnering almost universally positive (in some cases ecstatic) critical and fan reaction since it came out. I thought it would be interesting to ask one of AA's two guiding lights, Garry "Gaz" Cobain, how the collaboration with Peter came about and what it was like working with him. Gaz covered working with Peter but also delved into the history of AA (which is actually the psychedelic off-shoot of Gaz's other outfit, Future Sound Of London) as well as several other interesting topics (working with Paul Weller, the heartbreak and disappointment of AA's experience with Oasis' Noel Gallagher, the creative process behind writing & recording the track "We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal", etc). Really fascinating stuff. I sent him a series of questions and these are his responses (in edited form).

1) As 'Future Sound of London,' you and Brian (Dougans) have garnered widespread acclaim and achieved much success with releases delving into the electronic music worlds of ambient, trip hop, house, etc. What's the difference between FSOL and Amorphous Androgynous, which is also steered by you and Brian?

When Brian and I first met in Manchester circa 1985 we identified sampling very much as the sonic revolution we wanted to immerse ourselves in so we sold bass guitars, amps and drum machines in exchange for our first ever sampler in 1987. Sampling was the doorway into a whole new sonic world & by 1990 we'd formed The Future Sound Of London, which was the sound of 2 guys going as far as possible into that sonic world. Though we'd both been in bands we had no interest in being a band once we started experimenting with that! It felt like we'd entered totally exciting new alien sonic territory requiring a completely new headset & presentation. After we'd had a top 20 hit with "Papua New Guinea" from the album Accelerator we signed to Virgin and Sony to really focus on becoming album artists (our real interest). Lifeforms, our first album, was the result - what we termed 'brutal reality', a kind of organic ambient soundscape and we gradually developed this new presentation touring the world without leaving the studio broadcasting via ISDN (digital phone lines) live to radio stations plus audio visual films to TV and galleries .Years later we received 3 Guinness World Records for this period: first band to play live and tour live globally from the studio and first ever commercially available download, Lifeforms.

We rarely worked with musicians in this period (at least without sampling them!). There were a few notable exceptions: Robert Fripp, live for an hour from our studio via ISDN to Radio 1 in 1993 to a million people, and Liz Frazer (the Cocteau Twins) on our album length single 'Lifeforms' - they both naturally had that visceral non-linear transcendental brilliance which really worked with our music. We were mostly interested in instrumental collage and exotic otherworldly immersive soundscapes combining organic sound with all manner of electronically manipulated sound.

After a handful of hit singles and top 10/ top 20 albums - Lifeforms and Dead Cities - I found myself listening more to songs and lyrics in private and started to be fascinated by the prospect of how to bring what I'd learnt into rock music against lyrics and songs, liberating the sampling beyond repetition and looping into more free flowing musicianship but keeping the experimentation of both sound but also lyric and philosophy too. Psychedelia, in particular, began to fascinate me and various key tracks from my childhood reappeared like "Tomorrow Never Knows" (my family used to sit down and listen to Beatles records as entertainment in the late 70s/early 80s) plus "White Noise", and Brian and I became obsessed with how timeless and experimental these tracks still sounded using the studio as instrument, pre sampling and computers. This period coincided with major health and spiritual issues coming to a head for me personally, meaning I no longer wanted to simply work with technology, so gradually I picked up guitar and bass and started writing songs expressing this change. I ended up travelling, attempting to heal, studying health and naturopathy, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, yoga and meditation all round the world - writing songs as I travelled on a loose concept of us both as producers directing a psychedelic supergroup of sorts. I fed these tracks back to Brian to work on as I travelled and gradually we brought in countless great musicians from Gary Lucas (Beefheart/ Buckley guitarist), Max Richter (orchestrator/ pianist), and scores of others over several years as we further developed trying to balance great liberated performance with the best of what Brian and I could offer using the studio as an instrument, plus our sampling and collage skills. We termed it 'samplerdelia'. The moment I realized we'd spent 16 hours collaging a guitar solo circa '97 it crossed my mind, "Who the hell would be doing this right now, hybridizing psych rock and sampling to this degree?" There was such snobbery between rock and computers/sampling at the time but it really excited me having grown up with rock music like the Misunderstood, Hendrix, Cream, Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, etc, in the 80s alongside a load of indie post punk synth stuff, so sampling was never electronic or dance for me but simply a great instrument, an opportunity and doorway into a vast exotic soundfield. To suddenly be able to play any instrument under the sun beyond any band format was complete liberation and more befitting of the eclecticism of all the music I'd loved as a teenager!

From '97 the Amorphous Androgynous was well and truly alive as an FSOL-produced psychedelic samplerdelic rock band project! We began to collect any music sonically pushing the envelope from '66-ish onward. There was a glorious 4-year period indulging in being devotees and being inspired learning our craft again pursuing this new samplerdelia directive - it was immense fun and a period of huge liberation for us both personally and musically. The DJ collection would eventually become A MONSTROUS PSYCHEDELIC BUBBLE (EXPLODING IN YOUR MIND), a DJ compilation/radio broadcast series where we charted and redefined what 'psychedelic' meant to us in the present day - as much the tracks themselves as what we could do with them 'in the mix' mashing the most diverse music together from soundtracks to easy listening to mantras, spoken word, fuzz psych, pagan folk, prog and cosmic jazz. 'Everything allowed, nothing forbidden' was the mantra as long as it created this sonic liberation - 'anything goes as long as it blows in the juxtapose'.

Finally around 2002, this period consolidated from FSOL into being the Amorphous Androgynous album The Isness. We'd morphed from organic electronic soundscaping to a fully-fledged psychedelic rock supergroup of sorts and a name change was required. After The Isness, Harvest released Alice In Ultraland in 2005. That's the short version! It was a long eventful 5 years!

2) Peter Hammill presented you and Brian (as Amorphous Androgynous) with the 'Compilation of the Year' award a few years back at a Mojo Awards ceremony. Was that the first time you met him? Were you aware of him or Van der Graaf Generator at that time, and had you heard much of his music?

Yes the MOJO award was for the second installment of our DJ curated mix album series "A MONSTROUS PSYCHEDELIC BUBBLE (Exploding In Your Mind)" - subtitled 'Pagan Love Vibrations' and was the first time I'd met him and I'm not ashamed (well I am a little, ha ha) to say I hadn't heard his music before but knew the Van der Graaf Generator name. I'm really surprised in hindsight we'd never picked up albums in the 10 years or so (1990-2000) where both Brian and myself literally bought thousands of second hand records from London street markets and second hand stores! It was pre-internet, though, so simply anything that looked interesting, experimental, progressive or psychedelic, or that had exotic combinations of instrumentation or unusual philosophical, religious edicts attracted us! Probably people don't sell VdGG albums which is why I don't ever recall seeing any on the streets! I'd certainly have picked up Aerosol Grey Machine and many others just on the covers and track titles alone! Either way, I didn't know anything and felt a little embarrassed about that when I met him. I must say, though, in our defense that we purposefully adopt a very loose non-expert approach in finding & compiling music. If it works, it works without pretense or historical status which was essential in a way for 'Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble' to offer something new to the thousands of Psych rehash perspectives. We both find loads of great obscure music by chance by unknowns and purposefully avoid being experts so we can concentrate on what's working for us in the present day, thus avoiding snobbery or historical consensus.

We had a brief interview together with Peter [conducted by a Mojo interviewer immediately after the award ceremony - jc] & I took his number after the event (2010) but moved to France and lost it. Then, years later, "We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal" began to form and I heard his voice on friend Gary Lucas' album [Other World by Peter Hammill & Gary Lucas - jc] and the penny dropped. It was exactly what I was looking for and would work perfectly. I still didn't feel the need to delve too deeply into his career simply because from the one track I could hear his voice would work perfectly and, in a way, I didn't want to muddy that. I just needed to find his damned number!!

3) With "We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal," did you have Peter in mind from the word go, or was it pretty much written and then decided that PH would be good for it? How did the collaboration with Peter come about?

Initially the track was composed of samples collaged from previous sessions and my guitar playing (bits of which still exist on the underbelly of the track) and I had my vocals. I particularly liked the bridge 'physically I'm here, mentally far, far away' and the chorus. I had verses too but wasn't precious, and during a 3 day recording session with Paul Weller at his studio Black Barn in Surrey, working on the next Amorphous Androgynous single "Mantra (Crossing Over)", Paul started playing beautiful grand piano to it and the track really began to take shape as a more sumptuous production beyond my sampling. I went straight from there to a mutual friend of fellow Canterbury scenesters Syd Arthur (who we were working with, remixing our favorite tracks by them) to Brian Hopper's (Caravan / Soft Machine) house to record baritone sax also for "We Persuade". As we started colouring in the 12 minute sketch of mine with real performances, I began to realize I wanted a voice beyond mine and I started looking at who would deliver it. Initially I really wanted Gilmour and Waters, ha ha, but it seemed unlikely I'd be able to reunite them (I had been obsessed with "Comfortably Numb" and key 70s Floyd tunes for about ten years). So I sat on it, immersing myself in the production, trusting it would happen somehow of its own accord. After 30+ years of producing, let's just say I've learnt to trust the process! Finally, Peter's number landed in my lap courtesy of Jim Christopulos [moi - jc] running the VdGG Facebook page and, voila, we started discussing it. Peter reacted very favorably to the track and tentatively the creative process began.

4) Peter receives a writing credit on the track. What was the nature of the collaboration - did Peter contribute lyrics, was there much back & forth, exchange of ideas, etc?

The track was pretty crude at the time of contacting Peter - samples, my guitar and vocals lifted by Paul Weller's beautifully recorded piano. I could hear the possibilities clearly, though, the architecture was there. It was like a sketch that required lavish painting to realize but it had great promise as a template of something I'd wanted to attempt for years - an epic prog 70s kinda song. When it came to sending it to Peter, I stripped it initially of all vocals to give him as free reign as possible. Without the vocals (and since the drums, bass, guitars, strings and choir had yet to be recorded) the 12 min backing track was something of an incoherent sprawl, however. The verse/bridge/chorus structure was there but not sufficiently developed musically so I was concerned he wouldn't hear it without the vocals. This gave me something of a dilemma - how to inspire without imposing my song? So I sent 2 versions: an instrumental and a second version leaving various vocal parts on, namely the bridge ('physically I'm here, mentally far, far away') and the chorus ('We Persuade Ourselves, cajole ourselves, reassure ourselves we are Immortal'). This gave it structure but also left lots of space. I suggested, if needed, that he listen to the second version to hear how vocals might give form to the instrumental and to see if there was anything useful there. For some vocalists, it's understandably such a deeply personal process that you don't want to impose lyrical ideas, so I'm always wary of that... plus, I thought I'd probably continue pursuing my version anyway, so a completely different song would be cool too. Either way, I hadn't worked with Peter before and this seemed like a good starting place, a middle ground to inspire and collaborate but also to represent where I was with the track without imposing.

Prior to working with Peter, we'd come out of an 18-month period producing Noel Gallagher's first (since Oasis split) solo album which, after 18 months intense work, had promised to be a really bold adventurous record. It just needed final mixing decisions by him (of which we'd left many options purposefully since it was HIS record, NOT OURS). I think in hindsight, he'd simply expected us to finish everything on a plate (which, if we'd known we could have easily done!). Either way, Noel ended up speaking more through the press about how 'far out' it was and how it sounded like Dark Side of The Moon than collaborating directly with us to actually finish it. Instead, he fucked off on tour promoting another album of straight versions we knew nothing about, which bizarrely seemed heavily inspired by ours, maintaining to the press that ours was the "furthest out I've ever gone!" and that he was gonna look at the final mixing options in tour breaks. But then he gradually shifted his stance through the media until unceremoniously sacking it off using the Sun as his mouthpiece about a year later without any communication with us. Then, over several years and subsequent albums, he proceeded to cherry pick the 3 co-written tracks we'd been at pains to create for him (largely embarrassed by the Floyd comparisons knowing we'd have to create more radical music to meet that kind of comparison). It was by turn infuriating, heartbreaking, embarrassing (fielding the constant speculation) and insulting on so many levels, but mostly on an artistic level. Just a massive shame when the album was literally within touching (final mixing) distance. Here was somebody who really had very different ideas about commitment to artistic process. I must confess it sucked the life out of me for several years afterwards watching it all unfold. I was kinda frozen, traumatized, the most debilitating thing was the powerlessness to even communicate on so many levels whether to him, or to respond to the simplistic (untrue) stories drip fed to the press as we watched on.

It wasn't a good time mentally. Brian and I both withdrew into studio project. 'A Monstrous Psychefelic Bubble' album of remixes of Syd Arthur - a great Canterbury band - took over a year and was welcome solace. An Australian devoted 'A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble - the Wizards of Oz' psych compilation and various FSOL albums followed but I avoided AA songs altogether. I couldn't hack either the responsibility emotionally of writing them or the production struggles and challenges to realize them with all the contingent communication and collaboration involved. Life suddenly wasn't very psychedelic, let's just say.

After controlling the budgets on Noel sessions and doing practically what we wanted for 18 months to get it so close bar artistic strategy and a final roll up of sleeves, it was hard to motivate from scratch again and to avoid the feeling it was impossible to realize big dreams now that we were completely self-funding! It felt like the psychedelic dream was over.

It took the further tragic news of the death of Virgil Howe (AA drummer) and attending his funeral to really snap me out of a kind of in-limbo depression. Time and mortality, eh? Tends to galvanize life, too. Virge's death was a sharp shock that time wasn't in endless supply and that despite all the disappointment, the vision that had been birthed could be carried forward directly into our own music, free of all the artistic and final communication compromise. It was too good a vision to waste and Noel, in a way, had done us a favour by leaving it with us!

It was a nice surprise, therefore, to return post-funeral to my French studio to receive Peter Hammill's first vocal takes. They arrived without ceremony, fanfare or comment. He'd sung from the opening bars and since I'd always intended (but not specified) a long intro, and being a huge fan of the long intros of Floyd, I further developed the atmospheric intro and, rather than keeping Peter's vocals at the beginning, I reintroduced the space and brought them in at a dropdown section several minutes later where his vocal delivery was breathy and more contemplative, which sounded majestic to my ears. I then moved beginning sections of his vocal to flow from that point onward. Large sections of the initial vocal were delivered in what I termed Peter's 'operatic dramatic' voice which, I felt, was too aggressive a step up from the hushed contemplative tones of the new beginning. For the song's 12 min structure to work (as I was determined it would) the vocal needed to build smoothly through varying intensifying dynamics. I wondered how best to relay all of this alongside the quite radical re-structure and collaging of his first takes. I sat on it to appraise.

In that period I started listening to Peters work extensively for the first time to really get to know the full spectrum of his vocals. Enrico Berto was now on board to help mix at this point and, being a huge VdGG fan (a pivotal factor, along with his own mixes, in convincing me he could do the job) he played me "A House With No Door", which I loved. This, along with other songs, gave me a clearer directive to be able to direct Peter a little toward the more breathy melodic realms of his voice that I felt, more suited to the dynamic, would work. I sent the new structure and collage of his vocal with some thoughts. Within days he'd redone the vocals. Disquietingly, there was no discussion or indication whether he liked the restructuring or not. Come to think of it, I don't think Peter ever gave an opinion beyond "It's coming along!" Either way, after several subtle suggested adjustments in delivery of certain lines and syllables, the vocal sounded superb. In hindsight, I was definitely suffering a little post-Noel trauma. I think I'd gotten used to very vocal enthusiastic collaborators over the years but suddenly as co-producer with Noel, Paul Weller, and now Peter, I was experiencing very different musical personalities actively collaborating on co-writing songs which was very new terrain and a wholly different experience.

I'd had a similar challenge in communication when we'd transformed a few of Noel's songs into epic production pieces. After six months working on them in isolation we rejoined him in the studio for a few weeks excited to lay down new vocals only to find he stripped away all the epic layers and vocalized them identically to his guitar demos whereas they needed greater dynamic now to meet the backing. One particular afternoon while struggling with "Everybody's On The Run", I asked him to view himself as a 'voice actor'. Clearly this was the wrong approach since after a moment's consideration he spat back, "Don't ever f***ing ask me to be a voice actor again". So I was probably a little hypervigilant about adopting the wrong tact of communication with Peter! After 10 years or so writing AA songs, I instinctively knew, though, what (roughly speaking) philosophical, lyrical and vocal delivery would kinda work and therefore had plenty of ideas. Peter was always very receptive to my input so I soon relaxed from this PTND (post-traumatic Noel disorder). Interestingly, once the mist had cleared, all the work and vision we'd put into our unreleased version of "Everybody's On The Run" was directly appropriate to "We Persuade Ourselves" since that had been the first attempt at this 70s epic Floyd-like prog vision. In essence that became a template and spiritual partner for "We Persuade".

A really pleasant and productive working relationship evolved with Peter over the next few months. He would send little notes - "less dramatic operatic for you I trust ? :-)" - as he reacted to my requests for a change of dynamic while I'd ask "some wailing ad libs of an emotional persuasion perhaps?" The 'Physically I'm here' bridge and 'We persuade' chorus had now been re-sung by Peter with my vocal sitting nicely as backing vocal. I'd already recorded female backing vocals for that, too, with the wonderful Leonie Evans very early on, so Peter's new verses really worked flowing into this work. This was taking shape really nicely now!

Once we'd finally nailed the song we had possibly the greatest legal sample library we'd ever created and were free to experiment! I could already hear there was an album in this and had begun to plot around specific individual performances and identified where the concept would allow us to go further. I asked Peter to try a solo piano and vocal version, free of the backing, but having attempted it he felt it didn't work. I'd have loved a few moments of that in the album journey I must admit (I imagine it ghosting as a coda in a huge reverb as a segue somewhere) but maybe I asked him too early in the proceedings and should instead have presented it at the end, who knows? It's all rock n roll and ideas at the end of the day, and there's simply no rules to any of it... maybe just maybe, I simply needed to ask him to be a 'voice actor', eh?)

5) What's it all about? The meaning of "We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal"?

I think initially when the "We persuade ourselves, cajole ourselves, reassure ourselves we are immortal" lyric was conceived, it was on a vague theme that 'only by facing and acknowledging our mortality do we fully live'… or that 'In fear and avoidance of it we only partially live' kinda thing. I'd watched a documentary about Philippe Petit walking a highwire in the 70s (without a safety net) between the twin towers and thought, "I'd never bloody do that!" But then it occurred that being barely an inch away from death like that must project you into the ultimate realization... that life is so precious, fragile and transitory, and being so fully present & intensely aware of this, in every moment, is, in essence, the magic too? Watching the meditative mastery of fear required to be able to walk on that highwire acquired over months of disciplined practice beforehand really transfixed me, especially imagining the massive dynamics emotionally before and after, and how comparatively it felt to be alive after. How many of us ever experience that level of intensity of living in our whole life, let alone in a few short moments?

I almost envied him that intensity in a sense. Certainly, I'd like to feel the aftermath without the rest, ha ha... Indirectly it made me realize how essential it is to face our worst fears and to metaphorically walk the tightrope with a little more mastery every day! I like that "We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal" obliquely refers to manifold big themes without being explicit, so even my answering just becomes a form of questioning. What could it mean or suggest?

Peter Hammill then introduced the Lutine Bell lyric and verses into the song when he took up the vocal duties. Initially I assumed he was singing 'the routine bell' but wasn't sure, so I'm glad I finally asked cos it opened up a rich vein artistically and thematically when I searched to find what it is. Turns out it's a giant bell at the Lloyd's bank building in London, rung when ships carrying gold (as bail out loans to countries before digital transfers) sunk en route over a hundred years ago. Its ringing would almost certainly signal a collapse of the bank and markets courtesy of the loss of the gold involved. In fact, the bell is still there but only rung if markets crash like on 'Black Monday', etc. It would be interesting to hear Peter's personal interpretation and feelings behind his lyrics, which we've never discussed.

Somehow it doesn't feel like a coincidence to finish the record during possibly some of the most challenging circumstances we've ever personally & collectively experienced over the last ten months. The themes of "We Persuade" rather prophetically coincided and amplified, which was initially rather disconcerting and, I have to admit, just a little traumatizing too at points so that initially I steered well clear of the track but gradually, in need of a kind of emotional regulator, I faced it and the various trigger emotions provided the necessary impetus to finally complete it. There had been so many stops and starts over 4 years it felt like it almost needed 'some greater coalescing force and purpose' to finally birth it... With our own individual and collective traumas with regard our mortality brought very much into sharp focus, and the financial markets too now perilously close to crashing with the same old capitalist structures and powers threatening collapse and advising of the necessity of Great Resets and the like, The Lutine Bell stands ominously by.

6) Paul Weller, famous as a solo artist but also for his legendary work with The Jam and Style Council, is also on the album. How did he come to be involved in the project?

When Noel Gallagher fell in love with our Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble DJ compilation albums, we'd first been asked to remix Oasis' "Falling Down", which we turned into a 22 minute odyssey with Alisha Sufit, of 70s psych eastern folk raag band Magic Carpet, on vocals. This ended up being their last release as Noel began to get excited about his solo album. Simultaneously I attended Wembley Stadium to watch them and Liam suggested we produce the next Oasis album - "I just wanna make music that stops the world for just one moment". Paul heard that Oasis remix and while we were discussing Noel's solo album in his management office, Paul called asking for a remix. We ended up doing several and then used his studio for the Noel album sessions, too. Before that started, there were months of delays in starting as he dealt with the fallout from the Oasis split and, following on from the remixes, Paul invited us down to work together for several days at his studio. We bought loads of demo backing tracks over which he played and sang. One of those tracks, "Mantra (Crossing Over)", Noel actually dropped in for and played bass and drums on, which will be the next AA single after "We Persuade…" - another long one in the making and quite a story behind that one too! Through another convoluted web, Paul used several of those co-written tracks on his albums over the ensuing years and he called me up several years later in the fallout of the Noel album to discuss one of these, so initially I visited him at the studio to hear. But after a late-night curry in the village, I inadvertently became the cabbie driving everyone. My car stereo had Eric Satie on rotation playing during the drive there and back, and Paul had fallen very silent, absorbed in the melancholic tones. Once back at the studio, he immediately went to the gorgeous grand piano he has and requested we strike up "Persuade", which I'd played to him briefly for the first time the night before - he'd taken a phone recording home overnight. Paul is one of my fave piano players - highly intuitive and accomplished, a great feel across a huge range of styles of playing. One wonderful piano performance and a 12-string guitar solo later, we then worked on vocals for a while. Paul had the beginnings lyrically of what ended up being "The Ballad Of Jimmy McCabe" which ended up being on the film about the boxer. I knew in my heart I was wanting to go fully 70s prog rock devotional and that's where the track needed to go to work. So, we didn't really progress the initial demo vocal any further and about a year later, Peter Hammill finally came into the fold as detailed earlier, where I was able to fully indulge the vision I'd held for years. I've learnt personally to be very patient in my producing, sometimes waiting years for the right person to complete the jigsaw. It can be highly frustrating, though, and the antithesis of spontaneity at points but then the performances can be entirely spontaneous once the right person is sourced. Rather than one band being on hand to perform everything, the AA are Brian and myself and, increasingly, co producer / mixing engineer Enrico Berto at the core, assembling a different band virtually every song! It's a long-winded jigsaw to piece at points, which is probably why - amid pandemics and producing other artists, the Monstrous Bubble DJ compilations, countless FSOL related music, plus setting up our own label and Monstrous Bubble Records - it's taken so long!

7) I've heard it several times now, it's a fantastic piece of music that can at times be beautiful and almost melancholic, then switch gears into psych freakout territory, with other points in between, and Hammill sounds fantastic on it… it has all the makings of a modern psych masterpiece, which I think it is. Is there any chance of it being performed live in the future… and might you invite Peter Hammill to perform it with you if so?

Thank you. Perhaps more than any album I've been involved personally in, I find it really pleasing to finally let people hear it and hopefully enjoy it! Especially after such a protracted labour of love and all the circumstances around it, as detailed! It's been one helluva journey from the vine to the cellar to acquire the correct vintage, let's say! AA has really enabled me to develop my collaborative producer skills, massively. Directing a vision and realizing it from a fairly undynamic collage of samples and my playing is very rewarding and satisfying on so many personal levels. I must admit there were many points where I doubted it would actually ever come together. Co-producer Enrico Berto has become pivotal in handling some of the final mixing with us and handling some of the vast technical responsibilities involved. As the song developed, it was a little like a film in that it developed its own storytelling pace and narrative and, in that situation, you have to become its servant, highly respectful and inhabiting its world - able to hear what it suggests rather than simply imposing unwanted ideas. It kinda starts writing itself and you have to obey, in part! Yes, you're certainly always trying to direct and impose ideas on it but loads of those hit the editing room floor. Now, imagine for two guys who'd initially made a career stealing 2 second loops and solos from vinyl back in the 80s with their first 2 sec memory sampler, what it meant to have a 13 minute track of live instrumentation of this scale: from a 50 piece choir to a 25 piece string section, with all these incredible musicians and often countless takes! To cut a long story short, as collagists, remixers, and producers, there were a multitude of studies, avenues, and approaches we still wanted to continue pursuing after we'd finally landed the 13-minute epic. It was, in effect, the greatest legal sample library we'd ever assembled, so we just kept going, focusing on different studies and reimagining sections, adding new instrumentation and performances like harp, new drums, and alternative guitar parts from the extensive three days with Ray Fenwick. A whole 40-minute trip gradually emerged, and the final piece was kind of doing our trademark thing of turning it all into the most startling sonic samples and twisting it radically up by ratcheting up the tempo and abstracting everything into a radical psych out ("Psych Recap"). That sealed it in terms of having all the dynamics necessary to be a mini album in its own right, an exploration of all the sonic and philosophical themes of the song.

Live performance-wise - the AA had finally become (at points, certainly on a few occasions!) a pretty good live 9-piece band just before Noel came along, though we'd only done about ten gigs (mostly in Russia, courtesy of a gig promoter who fell in love with the band so that our first performance was to a crowd of 100,000 in Kazan, then supporting Kasabian and also curating a 12 hour Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble experience at Green Man 2010 in our only ever 2 UK gigs, where we supported Hawkwind. Weirdly, cos the Monstrous bubble DJ compilation album had been released years after the bands own albums The Isness and Alice In Ultraland, we'd found ourselves gigging on the back of the reinvigorated interest caused by the Monstrous Psych Bubble albums. Therefore, we found ourselves playing mostly 7 year old material which was a bit surreal since our 2005 Alice in Ultraland on Harvest Records had also been compiled and finished from left-overs from that really productive '97-'02 Isness album period. We'd both had children, then a run of 4 Monstrous Psych compilations, then the Noel period, and had spent a year developing it as a live band which meant the years had literally zipped, delaying new material even more! The point being this is the moment I've been waiting for! To play live with new material coursing through my veins. The answer is YES!! I'm really excited about it... I picture my staple AA great players at the core and a panoply of rock's finest entering and exiting stages left and right! Enticing when you consider the musicians we've collaborated with on the album 'LISTENING BEYOND THE HEAD CHAKRA', Peter most definitely! But shhhh, he doesn't know yet! It would after all be only the second time I've ever met him... now that'd be a fitting end or next stage of the story, wouldn't it??

Jim Christopulos, 14th April 2021.