The Floating City Game begins!

June 22nd, 2011

With immense pride I can announce that The Floating City Game is launching at this moment!


It’s been a huge undertaking, and I’m deeply indebted to the game designers, programmers, artists, and writers who built it for me and made a vision come to life. This is a grand scheme and will set the tone for my new album, which will follow the conclusion of the game.


Watch the video below then go play the game!


And if you don’t consider yourself a gamer, you can just subscribe to the Floating City Gazette here and be a passive observer!


All the best,





Two (and a half?) gigs in July

June 12th, 2011

I will be making a couple of concert appearances at the end of July along with my friends The Pirate Twins. It’ll be a short electronic set featuring some 80s classics and (possibly!) a sneak preview of a brand new track from my upcoming album A Map of the Floating City. The lineup will be:

TMDR — keyboards and vocals

Andrew Down — keyboards

Darren Goldsmith — bass, synth

Mat Hector — electronic drums and samples

Here are the dates:

July 27th or 28th — Possible ‘secret’ public dress rehearsal at a venue in or near London. The other two are quite expensive so if you prefer, you can attend our last rehearsal in an intimate setting. I’ll probably be stopping and starting as I did at the Union Chapel.

July 29th — Vintage at the Southbank, Royal Festival Hall, London

This is part of a 3-day festival encompassing several different eras of music and culture. It’ll be hosted by Martyn Ware of Human League/Heaven 17, and also features Alan Wilder (ex-Depeche Mode)’s band Recoil.

July 30th — Green Gathering 2011, at Chepstow, Monmouthsire

Formerly known as BGG, this is a long-standing summer festival event that celebrates alternative energy and lifestyles. We’ll be playing on a stage powered entirely by renewable energy, and the following day (July 31st around 1pm) I’ll also be giving a short talk about my solar-powered lifeboat studio. I’m looking forward to camping with a couple of my kids for the weekend and checking out the cool innovations and wacky outfits!

Feels like it’s time to warm up my gig chops and start thinking about a full scale tour! I expect to be doing around 20 shows in  the US and a half dozen in the UK before the end of the year. I’d love to also visit Australia, Japan and Europe, but this depends on a number of factors.



The Prince of Crim Tartary

June 5th, 2011

I loved this childhood reminiscence from my sister Lucy. We were never big on photography in my family, but though a photo of this (circa late 1940s–early 1950s) would have been fascinating, the image that her words conjure up is almost as good; especially for my older siblings, who remember the magic of it all.

“Re: The Prince of Crim Tartary’s costume

“At Iken there was a big double sitting room which could be divided into two by curtains. A table was put on the ‘audience’ side, with a stool on top of it. Two adults stood behind the centre of the curtain, one behind the other. The front adult made the prince’s feet with his/her hands, and the prince’s head and body. The back adult put his/her arms through under the armpits of the front adult, to make the prince’s arms and hands. He sat cross-legged on the stool, and at the end of the performance one of the children in the audience took the stool away and the prince remained miraculously seated on thin air. It was lovely , as I remember, and it took me a long time to realise that the fact that two adults were always unexpectedly called away on the day the prince was due to come had something to do with it!”

Two Webby Award nominations today!

April 12th, 2011

My video for ‘Toad Lickers’ received two Webby(tm) Award nominations today, in the Music category!

If you’ve got a minute, go here and look at the 5 contenders, and vote the whichever you consider to be the most worthy. I’m serious, if you don’t think mine is the best, no pressure. (But if you don’t vote for ‘Toad Lickers’ I will PERSONALLY come over to your house and sprinkle anthrax on your windowboxes.)

Webby Award voting

Floating Hotel

January 17th, 2011

I blogged about the massive wind farm that is being constructed in the North Sea within (occasional) view of my wheelhouse. There are currently 56 turbines up out of a planned 141 – making this the biggest offshore windfarm in Britain.

The workers on the windfarm stay on a huge ‘floating hotel’ called the M/V Wind Ambition, moored several miles offshore. It accomodates hundreds of people, and has restaurants, a cinema and a gym. They must have a great time out there. I ought to play a gig on board! At night it is lit up like a Christmas tree. It reminds me of the beautiful ocean liner seen from the shore at the end of Fellini’s ‘Amarcord’.

lossless formats

December 10th, 2010

A lot of people have been asking me whether I plan to release my new material in ‘lossless’ formats such as WAV or FLAC. The answer is that when the new album comes out, it will be available in higher-quality formats than MP3. Along with the physical CD (16 bit stereo 44.1khz) I plan to offer the album as a high-quality digital download (24 bit stereo 96khz AIFF/WAV) as well as FLAC. I will not however be offering 5.1 or similar formats, as I feel stereo is my medium. I could fool myself into thinking surround sound would offer me a new canvas to paint on, but that fact is, the majority of listeners would never hear surround mixes as they were intended, due to the discrepancy between speaker systems and listening environments.

The digital EPs ‘Amerikana’ and ‘Oceanea’ are intended for hardcore fans to get an early peek into the recording of the album in progress. They’re available in 320 kbps MP3 only because (a) it keeps the download time and hosting requirements small (b) I don’t want to encourage piracy, torrents and illegal CD replication (c) I want the eventual album release to feel like a major step up, in addition to the added value of its previously unreleased  songs.

So that’s my personal choice. I’m grateful to everyone for wanting to hear the music in its full glory, but you’ll have to wait a little longer! I hope this brings the matter to a close.

And so ends the Amerikana era….

November 24th, 2010

The ‘Toadlickers’ music video came out, made a lot of noise,  reached #18 in the YouTube ‘most viewed’ chart, got a lot more views, then rapidly vanished from the chart altogether! I think this was a YouTube admin move because of its ‘explicit’ content (puppets having sex; and an offensive word meaning ‘born out of wedlock.’) C’mon YouTube, cut me some slack. Even the Pope is lightening up these days!

This reminds me a little of the year I got to #2 in the Guatemalan singles chart… and the following week there was a military coup and the chart was not published.

Shotgun pop music. Most appropriate for ‘Toadlickers’, I think. And so ends the Amerikana era… except for one small detail: I never released the 17 Hills ‘dissection’ vlogs. So here they are, parts 1-3! And, if you can sit still right till the very end, there’s some exciting and definitive news about the Oceanea EP.

Part 1 looks at how we recorded the 17 Hills backing track, and overdubbed fretless bass and pedal steel.
Part 2 focuses on the day I spent with Mark Knopfler doing the guitar parts, and how to give direction to a demigod.
Part 3 talks about Ethel, Natalie MacMaster, and how I came up with the song in the first place.

Hope you enjoy these!

Here come the Toadlickers

November 21st, 2010

I just released my first music video of the 21st century! The Toadlickers is now live on YouTube. I’m expecting millions of new fans (is that a good thing? many of them probably found the video because they were searching for ‘naughty barnyard animals’) and I expect I’ll have to duck a barrage of rotten vegetables from the Puritans. But though it’s a little edgy, it’s not fun at anyone else’s expense, and no puppets were harmed in the making of the video.

I’m very grateful to all the volunteers who showed up at Maverick in the Summer and helped us out. Paul D directed and edited the clip, and did a terrific job on a rock-bottom budget.Paul and Barbara Ann of the Maverick Festival for slipping us in to the back barn, where we got the clip in the can before anyone was able to call Health and Safety. To the top UK Parkour crew Urban Freeflow for fabulous stunts. Also to the amazing Mike Quinn, long-time friend and fan who’s one of the top puppeteers in the business. To Darren Goldsmith, who made a neat ‘behind the scenes’ video that you can also see on YouTube. And to Sophie St Villier and Millie Dollar our lovely lingerie-clad cowgirls, and to my band for their patience and good humour.

This kicks off an exciting week for me. Mid-week I’ll be releasing the final vlog of the ‘Amerikana’ era, dissecting 17 Hills, and that wraps up Part 1 of the album. Next week I’ll be putting out the Oceanea EP which — believe me — is a whole new ballgame. And next weekend I’m going into Real World Studios to record a couple of backing tracks for new songs that will be included in the Urbanoia section of the album.

It’s been busy as heck around here but life couldn’t be better. I’m surrounded by a wonderfully supportive family, a team with exceptional showbiz chops, and the most tasteful, discerning, and loyal audience I could possibly ask for. Hooray!

‘Oceanea’ EP update

November 3rd, 2010

My new EP is currently being mastered by Simon Heyworth, in Devon. For those ‘in the know’ he’s not expecting to re-EQ it much, just looking at the peakiness. When there are occasional spikes in volume level–eg a high piano note that jumps out on ‘Oceanea’–it means the overall level has to come down, so it all ends up quieter. Not a problem quality-wise, but if folks put it in their playlist alongside other modern recordings, or when it’s played on the radio, it will sound very quiet and perhaps less impressive. So you deal with that using ‘limiting’ to reduce the peaks — either with a machine or by hand-tweaking the waveforms — so the overall levels can come up again. When machines or software plugins take this to the extreme you get the ‘sugar cube’ look of waveforms that have all the peaks taken out, so their density is increased to the point that everything ‘feels’ much louder and in-your-face; but when you do that, you sacrifice dynamics, and the music often ends up lifeless. (Don’t worry, we won’t go there!)

Whereas the last EP was mixed in a pro studio LA with Bill Bottrell engineering, this one I did all myself right here on the Nutmeg of Consolation. I don’t have a lot of gear, but the songs stand up by themselves without lots of effects, and the atmosphere felt more intimate. I’ve been blessed with lots of sun and wind this month so there was plenty of power on offer from the turbine and solar panels to do an entirely renewable energy-powered mix. My priority for the Nutmeg’s antique timber wheelhouse was not ‘reference quality’ sound, or isolation from the outside world, so don’t be surprised to hear a little North Sea ambience creeping into the mix.

I shot a beautiful cover with photographer Catherine Lindsay-Davies, and the graphic design being completed by Paul Sizer — yes the same chap that won the t-shirt design competition earlier this year, who went on to design the ‘Amerikana’ artwork. Once again the whole package will be downloadable in a format where if you choose to you can burn your own physical copy and print out the cover booklet.

I’m happy to say it looks like the EP will be out THIS MONTH! Look out for a release date announcement in the next couple of weeks. For registered Flat Earth Society members only, of course.

And how is the music? Well, personally I think this EP is the best work I’ve ever done. And I’d say that even if I was objective!


October 17th, 2010

For months, I’ve been seeing the strangest vessels heading out across the North Sea from a nearby port. Giant semi-immersible cranes, tugs towing impossible structures. I knew there was a wind farm going up somewhere out there. A few weeks ago I thought I glimpsed something through the mist on the horizon. But today I woke up to a line of low dark clouds to the East, and below them a strip of bright sunlight, framing perfectly a line of maybe 15 windmills, visible to the naked eye.

I love that they’re out there. And that I can only see them when atmospheric conditions are just right. I even love that people all over the world are dissing wind farms, saying they are not efficient, slaughter wildlife, and eventually smash themselves to pieces. Those people are just shoing their ignorance and lack of imagination. Because we’re just at the beginning of the renewable energy era. Of course out first efforts are not all going to be perfect. That’s the way things evolve. In Detroit in 1920 there were 1500 automobile firms; some of them made cars will a tiller instead of a steering wheel.

We’re living on a planet that has perpetual sunshine from the massive star we’re orbitting. We have daily tides that the moon will never stop driving. Winds generated from weather systems, from temperature differentials, and even from the spinning of the Earth at the Equator where it spins fastest. We’re on a planet with a molten core. We have clueless politicians yes, but we also have brilliant scientists who will think up unheard-of ways to bend this natural energy to serve us, without depleting our resources; and wonderful artists, musicians and poets, who will dream big, imagining a beautiful future for our children, despite all the evidence that says they’re doomed.