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05 novembre 2005

Peter Gabriel Plugs In

New studio effort will deal with "birth and death, with sex in the middle"

Peter Gabriel tends to take a long time between projects. His last release, 2002's Up, took nearly a decade to record. "A mere lightning flash for a snail," quips Gabriel. With a wide array of projects in the works nowadays -- from a live DVD and documentary to the new studio album, I/O -- Gabriel seems to be picking up that pace.

First up is the second DVD to document his 2002-2003 Growing Up World Tour. This new release features an entirely different track listing than the first, 2003's Growing Up Live, including rarities such as "San Jacinto" and the new track "Burn You Up, Burn You Down."

The set also features the documentary Still Growing Up Unwrapped, filmed by his daughter Anna, about Gabriel's life on the road with his two daughters and then-newborn son Isaac. "It took a few weeks for him to get used to having a camera in his face all the time," Anna says of shooting some twenty-eight hours of footage of her father. "
It was a very easygoing tour -- I wanted more drama!"

Also in the works is a new album called I/O, which stands for input/output. "At the moment, I'm trying to write principally about birth and death, with the sex in the middle," Gabriel says.

He has been working steadily over the last few months on the new songs with a minimal crew, including longtime engineer Richard Chappel and percussionist Ged Lynch. This time around he's chosen to produce the sessions himself. "My mental process is so slow," he says, "that it's not really fair to take that time out of anyone else's life."

Among the 150 tracks Gabriel has in various stages of gestation is a reworking of the 1986 B side "Curtains," which he decided to revisit after the song received thousands of votes on an online poll to determine his last tour's set list. "I had pretty much forgotten about it," he explains.
"So I pulled it out, found stuff I liked and did it again."

In a break from tradition, Gabriel is contemplating taking the new songs on the road before laying down their final versions. "What I've always wanted to do is finish the songs, get them arranged for the band, tour for a month or so, then record them," he says.
"That would give me a different type of immediacy -- because sometimes when I work and work on stuff, people feel that it loses some of its flair."

His next tour may be a significantly more stripped-down affair than prior ones:
"I would like to try maybe just me and a percussionist, or a percussionist and bass. It's good sometimes to let go of your crutches."

Andy Greene (Posted nov. 03, 2005)

31 octobre 2005

All the world’s a stage show

Pop: All the world’s a stage show

Musician, multimedia magician and family guy
, Peter Gabriel is a man without frontiers, says Robin Eggar (The Sunday Times)

How does one describe Peter Gabriel? In Japan, they would probably declare him a national treasure, which would make him curl up in embarrassment.

For ever curious, he is a polymath with the ability to communicate ideas in a musical and visual way that few other artists either try or succeed in doing. There is the musician, whose work evolves in traditional rockbiz cycles: a piece of music (the album Up, released in 2002), followed by a spectacular live show (Growing Up), packed with cutting-edge theatricals such as singing upside down or wearing a suit of lights, is followed by a smaller-scale tour with simpler effects and the emphasis firmly on the music. A DVD of these tours, Still Growing Up, complete with an insightful documentary by his eldest daughter, Anna, is released tomorrow.

For the many who have never got beyond the storming soul-funk of Sledgehammer, Gabriel is an unacquired taste, too clever by half. Popular musicians are supposed to react viscerally, not intellectually. Gabriel can be emotional — Biko, his tribute to the murdered black South African activist, remains powerful 25 years later — and personal. The testosterone-laced Digging in the Dirt was inspired by his journey into therapy, while Come Talk to Me was a plea to his younger daughter Melanie, who sings backing vocals on tour.

“When I got interested in working on myself,” he explains, “
I realised that it was part of what I was looking for in the music. With I Grieve (on Up), I was trying to build an emotional tool that could be useful in times of grief. Everybody has tracks that fulfil certain emotional criteria, but while those it resonates with can get to a deeper place, this element of my work probably turns off as many people as it attracts.”

Then there is the other Gabriel, the one beneath the celebrity radar, the composer of film soundtracks, the creator of interactive CD-Roms, the record company boss and cyber-entrepreneur. He employs 70 people, most at the residential studio complex outside Bath that is home to Real World Records, a world-music label, and the administrative hub of the Womad festival, which has been going for more than 20 years.

Gabriel’s latest project is as musical director for the opening ceremony of the 2006 World Cup in Berlin. He will contribute songs, but whether these will include an anthem is undecided. He is working with the multimedia artist Andre Heller and Philippe Decouflé, the French choreographer who masterminded the 1992 Winter Olympics shows in Albertville and, before that, the French revolution bicentennial. “That was fantastic. The government trusted artists,” he says. Having been responsible himself for the Millennium Dome’s musical entertainments, he won’t be drawn into a swipe at our government.

Gabriel is a man of dry wit and old-world charm, overlaid with shyness. He is a collector of arcane knowledge and holds liberal, humanitarian views that he supports with both hard cash and actions. He has spent the past 20 years on a personal search to understand himself. He eschews praise and hates the hard sell. He prefers to talk about the ideas that orbit his head — of individual transport pods, of art hotels and of how, 15 years ago, he predicted that, one day, we would buy music over the telephone. His music and file-sharing service, OD2, which attracted clients such as BT and Microsoft, was sold last year after he and his partners recognised Apple now ruled the industry.

The slush pile of abandoned projects Gabriel has accumulated is huge. His friends include futurologists such as Peter Schwartz, who predicted Al-Qaeda might use an airliner as a living bomb, technologists and philosophers. British to the core, Gabriel gets extremely embarrassed at the mention of the g-word. “I don’t totally reject the term genius — just insofar as it refers to me,” he says.

“I bring stuff to the party, but when I work with Robert Lepage, who designs my live shows, or Stephen Johnson
(the video director on Sledgehammer), I think there is a superior intelligence at work.”

Gabriel believes that technology will free society, not bind it, a belief he inherited from his father, Ralph, an electronics engineer. He has always been an early and enthusiastic adopter of new technology, whether it was the Fairlight music computer in the 1980s, or CD-Roms that mixed art and sound in new, interactive paths.

A visual man, who somehow found music as his medium, Gabriel insists that everybody is an artist, and that we can learn creativity like a language. “There is this reverence for talent, this perpetual search for star quality. I hate the term: it’s bullshit. Sure, some people have a facility to do things, but nobody need feel excluded. The other day, I was kicking a ball around in Sardinia (he has a house there) with a few locals, and Gianfranco Zola
(the former Chelsea and Italy star) joined in. It was quite clear that he had a totally different level of ability, but it didn’t exclude the rest of us from getting pleasure.”

On the Still Growing Up Tour, Gabriel loved surrounding himself with his family. As well as his grown-up daughters, he has a four-year-old son, Isaac, from his second marriage to the Irish sound engineer Meabh Flynn. He was always a devoted father, but his first marriage was turbulent.

Second time around, he is relaxed and content, with less to prove and more time to do it in. There is always a laptop at the breakfast table, so when Isaac asks where kiwis come from or how space rockets fly, the answer can be Googled, along with pictures, in seconds. “It certainly deals with that parental moment when you have to admit, ‘I don’t really know that one,’” Gabriel says.

Then he adds: “I was talking to the Google guys, and they said the person in my house who knows most about me and my buying habits is my search engine.”

The man is a cult figure, a reluctant star who, despite seven-figure sales, would invest his money in a new DVD (which is why he understands the medium better than most) rather than the more obvious trappings of success.
“I’ve been quite shy, the introvert with an extrovert side. I think the entertainment world is full of characters who need to be noticed, who need to project this other thing in order to get some balance internally. I don’t need to take as much succour from fame as I once did. If it was all gone, I’m sure I’d get pissed off if there were restaurants I couldn’t eat at any more.

“I always liked Joseph Campbell’s ‘Follow your bliss’ idea — if people follow what makes them happy, they’ll often find the right way of making a living and being happy. I think it works for me,” he says, smiling.
“I’ve been very lucky. I’ve never had to do a proper job in my life.”

With that, he retreats upstairs to work on some music. It is 7pm. In his hand is a carrier bag, from which protrude the ears of a stuffed animal. Best not to ask.

Still Growing Up — Live and Unwrapped is released on Warner Music Vision tomorrow