Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Dave Ball – his book, his album, his fine art
His letter to fans, November 2012

Firstly, let me thank you for allowing me this opportunity to publicise my little book and my album again. For anybody listening out there, who wonders why they would bother buying either of these items from a person they may not know much about, let me bend your ears for just a few moments: then you can decide whether or not it is worth it.

The Book

I didn’t originally set out to write an autobiography. Frankly, the thought that anybody might be the slightest bit interested in reading a book about me had never crossed my mind (Perhaps with good reason. Ed.)

The whole project just started out as a few humble little articles for a magazine issued by the Megamob branch of the Hash House Harriers (a running club with a drinking problem, or a drinking club with a running problem – I never did find out which). This club was situated in Riyadh, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and I wrote the first article camped out in the back of a four-wheel drive on the edge of the Empty Quarter (Rub’ al Khali) on or about 26 January 1998. (“I’m the Sheikh of Arabee – with ’is boots on kickin’ up a dust – the Sheikh of Ar-aaaa-beee”)

The editor of this magazine (well, more of a newsletter really) suggested that I keep on writing my little anecdotal stories until I had enough for a book. This chap – and I want to place the blame fairly on his shoulders – was a Mr Trevor de la Motte out of Perth, Western Australia. So, I followed his advice and started churning out random tales from my life, until last week … when I stopped.

So, if you bother to check the dates, you will be aware that some fifteen years elapsed before I declared the thing completed. The book has ended up at 119,035 words which, if you care to do the arithmetic, works out to an average of 21.74 words written per day (perhaps the .74 is just personal pronouns?). Of course, the reality is that I have writing spasmodically over all of those years, usually in bursts of a few weeks before getting distracted by other, more exciting things.

So what you get – for the price of a cup of coffee – is stories from 62 years of my life written over a fifteen -year period. The chapters have been scribbled into notebooks in many different countries including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, UK, New Zealand, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, France, USA, Canada, China and probably a few airports in between!

All that effort – for just 1.54, $2.46 USD, €2.68, 300, Rs 171.60 (Rupee). Really – how can you resist?

The Album

So you might now wonder what the elapsed time was for the inaugural Dave Ball solo album? Well, it took about a year to pull all the threads together though, like the book, that is understating the actual effort that went into it, and how complex it all became. I would say the total time from writing the first tune must be around twelve years. Read on:

Code Blue – the opening track – was started in about 2005 during my lunch-break from work, in a suit, with a Les Paul Classic, in a bedroom, with a hip-hop musician, in Auckland. I had been trying out a few things with a top NZ band member from ‘Fast Crew’. He was known as Jerome Fortune (real name Jeremy Kent-Johnston) and I had gone round to his little house where we squeezed into a tiny room that had his MAC, some keyboards and various audio bits and pieces installed. I said I wanted something like this {I played the Code Blue chords exactly as they are on the record}. Jeremy whizzed around his millions of drum files and spat out the drum pattern you can hear. He then got the hook / turnaround done, plus a clap and a bit of bass, and we were done. Took about half an hour, and I took a copy away on CD, went home that evening, wrote the song around the same repeating pattern, and that was that. Easy-peasy. We finished it off in an Auckland studio, layering tracks over that original home recording.

Five of the tracks started life as quick demos recorded on to 16-track analogue tape machines between 1998 and about 2003 in London and Sydney. The original taped recordings had to be baked in my brother Den’s oven (where they emerged smelling faintly of chicken), and then transferred to digital recording software (the emulsion on the tape surface flakes off, but can be baked and restored on the reel).

We could then work on them, mp3 files being sent over to Sydney to be merged in (typically bits of vocal) and with Denny laying out extras like live drum tracks, and generally sprinkling fairy dust on them while I shouted at him on Skype.

Five tracks were recorded relatively recently (2010/2011) in Darmstadt, Germany with Kiwi Mike Brosnan – in his cellar/studio, with a MAC, a handful of assorted instruments and a well-stocked beer fridge. These tracks got done in a fairly ordered fashion I would say – except for the amount of beer we drank, which was exceptional.

The little love song, called Simply This, was done originally with just acoustic, fretless bass and vocal. I decided to call on my old friend Sev Lewkowicz in Brighton to record it properly, but wanted Denny’s bass line kept, as it was just perfect. Sev built a drum track and played keyboards to my guitars and it was working well. I had Den send us a .wav file of his bass, which we attempted to slot straight into the track; but unfortunately, because it had originally been recorded on analogue equipment, the fluctuations of timing would not sit into new the track. So we (well, Sev) had to break it down into about fifty tiny segments, which could be quantised individually and then brought back together to fit the metronomic new version. That was a great feat of jiggling about with stuff.

The bonus track The January Sales was recorded in my front room in South Auckland and was copied directly from the Sony cassette-recorder on to digital. As such, it represents the most straightforward track on the album – but then you probably guessed that already.

The Pictures and Tee-Shirts

Oh, and I have these things for sale also:

Artist Proof – Limited Edition Prints. This is just one example from hundreds (well, about two hundred) works available: all are professionally framed, with highest quality materials and signed by the artist (me).

Self-Portrait by Dave Ball, 2011

Tee-Shirts of Dave Ball designs: Worldslump Logo
and Dave Ball Signature embroidered on the shirt.

The Summation

I suppose the point I’m trying to get across to you here is that these projects take a great deal of work and inventiveness – they are very personal. There were no large corporations involved: just me and a collection of fine friends and colleagues working with the kit we had available at the time. Even the album artwork has a story: I had the idea for a photograph to be done with me with a tuxedo and guitar, a Deco-styled girl sipping a Martini, and an alligator on a lead, all atmospherically shot under lamplight on the banks of La Seine Paris. I had sourced a stuffed alligator; found a great photographer (willing to do it); found a studio in London with a green room and found a model for the proposed shoot (I also costed this out – Oooh la la!!!).

I sent my Worldslump graphic designer Cocomo a small pencil drawing of my idea and within an hour she sent back what you see on the finished CD release. It was perfect, so we kept it like that and saved a wheelbarrow-load of money into the bargain! She did the rest of the CD Booklet, etc. with me shouting out pointless suggestions on Skype (again). I think it is a fabulous piece of work.

The record company, Angel Air Records, is a small but well-established independent company run by an honest man. Could you ask for more? We do not have the squillions of dollar-pounds available to hoist this up the charts and on to the radio like the big corporates do, so whatever push we get from the regular listeners out there is extremely gratefully received.

By purchasing any of these things you are helping this old fart realise his long-held ambitions and hopefully getting some real old-fashioned enjoyment out of it. It has been a labour of love and you should treat it as such. (Of course, you don’t actually have to like it – all a question of taste really!). 

Buy Dave Ball's Don't Forget your Alligator CD from Amazon UK or pre-order from Amazon USA | Click here for Dave's autobiography

Dave Ball's page at BtP 

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home