21. September 2016

Van Der Graaf Generator


Contrary to his gloomy image and his often melancholic compositions, Peter Hammill is a good-humoured and always joking interlocutor. His joy to record further records with his innovative, always experimental fellow musicians - keyboardist Hugh Banton (67) and drummer Guy Evans (69) - even at the advanced age of 67 is clearly noticeable in the interview. And even though he has increasingly complained about the pitfalls of old age in recent years, his creativity remains unbroken.

eclipsed: Like its predecessors, the new album explores new possibilities for your trio playing. It sounds completely different than the rather compact predecessor "A Grounding In Numbers"..

Peter Hammill: It is by no means our big goal to have to reinvent ourselves completely with every album and to sound different than before. However, what we do strive for is to approach things a little differently each time and thus look for new directions in which our sound and interaction can develop. For "Do Not Disturb", unlike its predecessors, there was a very long phase in which we composed exclusively. I sent a lot of demos to Guy and Hugh and they worked with them again until we agreed on the songs on the album. When the time came for the songs to stand, we took a whole week to rehearse intensively together before recording a single note. And it was, at least that's how I feel, this rather old-fashioned way of recording that produced an album that is quite different from its predecessors.

eclipsed: I hear on the album first and foremost a resurgence of your old love for beautiful melodies..

Hammill: That's quite true, yes. On the other hand, there are of course a lot of riffs that are of different complexity and intensity, I'd say. But in the end we often feel comfortable in the role of a melodic piano/bass/drum/vocal trio.

eclipsed: On the other hand, "Do Not Disturb" is the album since your comeback in 2005 that is most deeply rooted in progressive rock - even though I know you hate that expression..

Hammill: Yes, I do, I just can't do much with labels. But there's some truth to it. And yet I attach great importance to the fact that we always get to the point quickly and don't let any song get out of hand. The songs are all pretty short. You won't find a piece on the album that scratches the ten-minute line.

eclipsed: Let's take "Alfa Berlina" as an example of a song in which what has just been addressed - a beautiful melody and a harsh, complex structure - comes together. To my mind, it's the most poppy thing you've written since your 1993 solo album "The Noise".

Hammill: Even as a young band in the late 60s we were not afraid to venture into the realms of concrete music. And so even today we still don't have the feeling that the transition from the rushing noise to the elegant piano melody is too big a leap, which should definitely be avoided. You can combine these things with each other without it appearing artificial or intentional. It is extremely important to us that things sound authentic. The piece "Brought To Book" also works with this contrast: It's a really nice song, but at the same time it also has incredibly complex moments.

Lest mehr im eclipsed Nr. 184 (Oktober 2016).