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Tim Bowness: Ghost Lights and Life Sentences

John Kelman By

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"Streaming may be offering a future for major music corporations, but it's potentially harming professional musicians and may mean massive record company personnel layoffs in the longterm," Bowness continues. "My feeling is that some of the big companies are wanting to move on from physical formats altogether. At the moment, there are still strong sales for physical formats and some companies/artists are actually selling more than they were a few years ago (others aren't, of course). However, as happened with vinyl in the late 1980s/early 1990s, I believe that the major music companies are forcing the issue and want to make streams the future of the industry (as CDs once were). I suspect that it's all about warehouse space, production costs, staff numbers and shareholders. In other words, I don't think it has much to do with music, art, or fans. As someone who prefers physical formats, I find it a sad development."

"I don't feel streams encourage detailed listening or an engagement with music/'the album' as an art form, and, on a personal level, the move towards streams (and 'single' streams at that) pushes me even more towards making detailed artwork and sonically rich 'album experiences.'

"Spotify is great for discovering things,"Bowness continues, "but it's frequently poor in terms of visual representation and accuracy of information. I'd say that half of the albums I have on the service have incorrect dates and that's true of much back catalogue on the service. History seems to be getting mangled and the mechanics of recording seem missing altogether (detailed credits and so on). It is possible that 'the album as app' could make something more substantial and visually appealing, but at the moment that requires a lot of money to develop and a degree of expertise that isn't common.

"Vinyl has come back from the dead and has had an unexpected resurgence over the last decade (which is continuing apace) and I think that's a reaction to the dominance of seemingly valueless streams and ubiquitous talent show culture," Bowness concludes. "As such, I don't think it is all is over yet for physical formats or non-mainstream music. The future isn't always what big companies want it to be."

With Lost in The Ghost Light on the cusp of release, Bowness is looking forward to the near-future and some exciting possibilities. "Hopefully, there will be a tour," says Bowness. I did short tours with my band in 2014 and 2015, and also did a couple of shows with Russian band iamthemorning at the end of 2016. At the moment, I'm due to be a special guest at the UK version of the Marillion Weekend and I'm hoping to add more dates to that soon.

"More so than the majority of what I do, Ghost Light would need a very disciplined, accurate and, possibly, theatrical approach," Bowness concludes. "As such, more organization than ever before. If there's an interest in it happening, I'd love to play the album live."

A sentiment that Bowness fans no doubt share. But there's another exciting possibility on the horizon as well. "Steven and I have both talked about doing some No-Man dates and making a new album," says Bowness. "Additionally, we did write something new a few years back that was very promising. I'm excited to see where No-Man goes next and I'm also sure that whatever happens won't be like the work we've done before. At least in the sense of us not making Schoolyard Ghosts 2 or Together We're Stranger 2, anyway.

"When working with Steven in 2013, we developed a new No-Man piece out of something the band had been working on since 1994. The new piece was at once very different from the composition it developed from and was immediately, definitively No-Man. There was something in the harmonies, textures and mood that wouldn't have worked on any of the other projects Steven Wilson and I are involved with."

But most important, perhaps—and not something that all people share as they get older— Bowness continues to be a pathological music addict, always on the lookout for the next discovery, whether it's contemporary or an older group that yet to be experienced. "I was obsessed about music from my early teens onward," Bowness explains. "Along with books and films, music provided a great escape from a pretty miserable adolescence. Beyond the usual teenage tribulations, I was surrounded by chaos for a while (deaths, nervous breakdowns and more) and being able to immerse myself in music and also to sing the heartache away (a cliché, but a true one for me) was important.

"I really don't regret what I did. I properly pursued making music my life from the age of 18. I know it's not common these days, but I've managed to make a living out of music. Financially there were precarious times in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when every contract I had was lost; but aside from that, from 1991 to the present day I've managed to survive doing something I love.

"I'm still an avid music listener and purchaser and I constantly listen to music old and new," Bowness concludes. "I love discovering back catalogs I didn't know (over the last few years that's included Max Richter, The Strawbs, Judee Sill, Michael Chapman and Labi Siffre). I'm still excited by how some favorites are continually evolving (Kate Bush, Peter Hammill, Elbow, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen before their deaths) and it's great to make new discoveries (like Ryley Walker, Troyka and Keaton Henson). I also still play albums I loved a long time ago, of course."

On the strength of his work with No-Man, Henry Fool, Peter Chilvers, Centrozoon, Opium Cartel, White Willow and others, but most notably in his recent solo efforts Abandoned Dancehall Dreams, Stupid Things That Mean the World and now Lost in the Ghost Light, it's a sure thing that Bowness' own superlative work will also continue to be loved and played well into the future by his growing fan base.

Photo Credit: David Owens
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