In Part 1 of Tim Bowness’ latest Progarchy interview, Tim discussed his previous solo albums, working again with his first band Plenty, reuniting with Steven Wilson for fresh No-Man music, and how it all feeds into his new album Flowers At The Scene (released March 1 on Inside Out Music). Part 2 was an in-depth look at the new album’s music and players. To finish up, the conversation branches off into the process of writing, the genesis of Tim’s label/online shop Burning Shed, the state of the music business and more! Note that [brackets] below indicate editorial insertions.
I’ve always found your lyrics very, again, distinctive and appealing. The words for your songs, if you read them on the page, they look very sparse; they’re epigrammatic, or they’re almost like a hymn text. But they convey a lot of emotion and meaning when you sing them – It’s like you hear what’s behind them, kind of like a minimalist take on lyrics. Was there anyone who particularly influenced how you write lyrics – or melodies, for that matter? Where do the words come from for you?
I think the words in some ways came before the singing, because I used to like poetry, before I ever really was in a band. So I’d always loved reading, and still am a fairly avid reader of novels and poetry. There were a lot of lyricists I adore, so, I think … Joni Mitchell is an absolutely fantastic lyricist. But I can’t say there’s any lyricists I’ve been particularly influenced by.
I think that, in terms of that pared down style, I guess I always quite liked people like Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter and Raymond Carver. Certain writers like that. And, although I don’t think I’m anything like them, that might be the core influence. And there’s also, there’s an English poet called Ian Hamilton, who has a very sparse approach, and I always used to like his work.
And so in some ways, it’s kind of closer to that; it’s closer to the poetry that I grew up reading, without being particularly like it. And as I said, I’m a fan of many singers, many lyricists. Again, Roger Waters, fantastic lyricist, fantastic concepts, but I can’t say it’s particularly influenced me. So maybe it comes from outside of music, the lyrical element of what I do.
Plus, I also think it comes, of course, from my own experiences, my own obsessions, my own emotions. So that’s thrown into the mix.
Would Philip Larkin be in the mix? It just occurred to me that was another person that kind of worked in that epigrammatic, lyric style?
Yeah, very much so, yes indeed! The Collected Works of Philip Larkin are on my shelf.
Well, it’s amazing how busy you are, because along with all of what you do – your solo work, No-Man — you also co-direct one of my very favorite online shops! And it’s certainly a favorite of all of us at Progarchy. Burning Shed is just a wonderful place to buy music from, even across the pond. You’re listed as a co-director; what does your role there involve?
Well, I still – the newsletters you receive, I write them.
The text that goes on the site, I write it. So I suppose, in a sense, Burning Shed was my idea of a company. So I started burningshed.com as an idea of doing cost-effective, experimental solo albums. And so initially, we released three CD-Rs. So the idea was originally in 2001, online, on demand, cost-effective solo albums that labels wouldn’t be interested in. So Steven [Wilson] gave us a Bass Communion album; I gave a Samuel Smiles live album; Roger Eno gave an ambient album. And almost from the off, it did better than we thought it would do.