Peter Hammill onstage at NEARfest, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, June 2008
|Birth name||Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill|
|Born||5 November 1948|
Ealing, London, England
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, record producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards|
|Labels||Charisma, S-Type, Virgin, Naive, Foundry, Enigma, Fie!|
|Associated acts||Van der Graaf Generator|
Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill (born 5 November 1948) is an English singer-songwriter. He is a founder member of the progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. Best known as a singer/songwriter, he also plays guitar and piano and acts as a record producer for his own recordings and occasionally for other artists. In 2012, he was recognised with the Visionary award at the first Progressive Music Awards.
Peter Hammill was born in Ealing, west London, and moved with his family to Derby when he was 12.He attended Beaumont College and Manchester University, where he studied Liberal Studies in Science. Hammill has stated that his grandfather was originally from Pakistan.
Hammill's solo career has coexisted with Van der Graaf Generator's activities. The band was offered a contract by Mercury Records in 1968, that only Hammill signed. When Van der Graaf Generator broke up in 1969 he wanted to record his first solo album. In the summer of 1969 Hammill had a residency at The Lyceum and played weekly solo concerts there.Eventually the intended solo album was released under the Van der Graaf Generator banner as their first album ( The Aerosol Grey Machine ). Hammill's first real solo album was Fool's Mate (1971), containing songs from the early (1967/68) Van der Graaf Generator days.
When Van der Graaf Generator broke up again in August 1972, Hammill resumed his solo career. Songs that were intended for Van der Graaf Generator now ended up on his solo albums, notably "Black Room" (on Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night ) and "A Louse Is Not a Home" (on The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage ). For the majority of both his solo songs and the band's songs he is credited as the sole songwriter, and some of his solo albums feature all the members of Van der Graaf Generator. In general, Hammill's solo work is thematically concerned with more personal matters, while the band's songs deal with broader themes.
Nadir's Big Chance (1975) was a major change from the preceding In Camera . Whilst In Camera is characterised by extremely intense and complex songs and even has some musique concrète on it, Nadir's Big Chance contains anticipations of punk rock. In a 1977 radio interview, John Lydon of the Sex Pistols played two tracks from the album and expressed his admiration for Hammill in glowing terms: "Peter Hammill's great. A true original. I've just liked him for years. If you listen to him, his solo albums, I'm damn sure Bowie copied a lot out of that geezer. The credit he deserves, just has not been given to him. I love all his stuff".
Over (1977) contains very personal songs about the break-up of a long-term relationship.
Hammill's first solo album after the 1978 break-up of Van der Graaf was The Future Now . He provided vocals on three tracks for Robert Fripp's solo debut Exposure , released in June of 1979.
With the next solo albums, pH7 and A Black Box , the sound became more compact, more new wave. On those albums, Hammill played the drums himself. What followed was the "K group". In later years Hammill would sometimes refer to the band as a "beat group".The K group consisted of Hammill himself on guitars and piano, with John Ellis on lead guitar, Nic Potter on bass, and Guy Evans on drums and percussion. This group recorded the albums Enter K and Patience .
Live concerts by Peter Hammill are characterised by a degree of unpredictability, in terms of the songs played, the arrangements and the players involved. Hammill generally does not undertake live tours to promote albums. Whenever he plays with a certain predominant line-up, almost always there will also be concerts interspersed with different permutations of musicians, so the word "tour" is not always very applicable.
From September 1981 until September 1985 Hammill played with the K group, playing raw, energetic, new-wave rock. A live recording of a number of these concerts was released as The Margin . In March and April 1983, Hammill with John Ellis was the support act for Marillion on their UK tour in support of their debut album Script for a Jester's Tear .
From February until October 1990 he played with Nic Potter on bass and Stuart Gordon on violin. A live recording of these shows was released as Room Temperature . From April 1993 until August 1996 they were joined by Manny Elias on drums. A live recording of these shows was released as There Goes The Daylight. From October 1994 until August 1996 Hammill played with David Jackson on flutes and saxophones, Stuart Gordon on violin and Manny Elias on drums (this line-up is sometimes informally referred to as the Peter Hammill Quartet).
From January 1998 until November 2006 Hammill played with just Stuart Gordon on violin. Of these shows the live recording Veracious was released.
From 1969 on, Hammill has also performed solo concerts, with just guitar and keyboards.
Hammill's early records, like the Van der Graaf Generator albums, were released on Charisma Records. He parted company with them after pH7 (1979), and then released albums on a number of small labels. A Black Box came out on S-Type, a label run by Hammill and his manager Gail Colson. Enter K and Patience appeared on Naive, Skin and The Margin on Foundry and In A Foreign Town , Out of Water and Room Temperature on Enigma Records. In 1992 he formed his own label, Fie! Records, on which all his albums since Fireships have been released. The label's logo is the Greek letter phi (Φ), a pun on PH-I. Ever since the 1970s he has also had his own home recording studio, called Sofa Sound. His website was later named after the studio.
This section needs to be updated.July 2015)(
In 1991, Hammill released the long-awaited opera The Fall of the House of Usher . He had written the music and Van der Graaf Generator co-founder Judge Smith the libretto, and the two of them had been working on it since 1973. In 1999 he released a reworked version, The Fall Of The House Of Usher (Deconstructed & Rebuilt).
Hammill survived a heart attack in December 2003,less than 48 hours after having finished the recording of Incoherence . He was awarded the Italian 'Tenco Prize' for songwriting at the end of 2004.
In 2005, Hammill announced the reformation of Van der Graaf Generator. In 2004 they had recorded a new album, Present , which was released in April 2005, and from May until November 2005 played a series of well received concerts. Between 2005 and 2007 Hammill oversaw the remastering of almost all of his pre-Fie! releases, and also carried out similar work on his more recent catalogue. The last of the Charisma remasters was released in September 2007. Hammill's solo career did not end because of the Van der Graaf Generator reunion. He released an album Singularity in December 2006.[ citation needed ] It was the first solo album he completed after his heart attack, and for a large part it deals with matters of life and (sudden) death. In 2007 several gigs by Van der Graaf Generator as a trio (minus David Jackson) took place in Britain and Europe; their new album Trisector was released in March 2008. In the summer and autumn of 2008, Hammill did a tour of solo dates in the U.S. and Canada which included a performance at the progressive rock festival NEARfest. He also played his only ever professional "parlour gig" at a private residence in Holland, Michigan.[ citation needed ]
In the summer of 2009 Van der Graaf Generator toured the U.S. and Canada, which occasioned Hammill's triumphant return to NEARfest. Thin Air was released on 8 June 2009. This was followed in October 2011 by a live double CD Pno, Gtr, Vox, recorded at performances in Japan and the UK in 2010. An extended 7-CD box set, Pno, Gtr, Vox Box was released in a limited edition of 2000 in February 2012.[ citation needed ]
Consequences , a solo studio album was released in May 2012. Again Hammill played all the instruments. The lyrics deal with conflicted characters in various scenarios. Other World , a collaborative album with guitarist Gary Lucas, was released in February 2014. The album features Hammill's vocals, Hammill and Lucas on guitars, and Hammill's sound treatments, and is a mixture of conventional songs with extended avant-garde instrumentals. In 2019 In Amazonia was released, a collaboration album with progressive rock group Isildurs Bane.
Musically, Hammill's work ranges from short simple riff-based songs to highly complex lengthy pieces. Mainly because of the diversity of his compositions there is much debate amongst his admirers whether Hammill is to be considered a part of the progressive rock scene. In many interviews, however, Hammill has stated that he does not want to be put in the progressive rock music label, or any music label at all.Despite this, he has received recognition as a visionary artist from the progressive music world.
Hammill's output is prolific. Many different styles of music appear in his work, among them artful complexity (for instance Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night), avant garde electronic experiments ( Loops and Reels , Unsung), opera (The Fall of the House of Usher), solo keyboard accompaniment ( And Close As This ), solo guitar accompaniment ( Clutch ), improvisation ( Spur of the Moment ), film music (Sonix), band recordings ( Enter K ), and slow, melancholic balladry ( None of the Above ).[ citation needed ]
Hammill exerted significant influences on punk rock and new wave music.[ citation needed ] Over the years he collaborated with musicians and song-writers such as Le Orme, Robert Fripp, Peter Gabriel, Ayuo, Herbert Grönemeyer, Judge Smith, The Stranglers, David Cross, Moondog, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Tim Bowness, Jakko Jakszyk and The Amorphous Androgynous.
Hammill's voice is a very distinctive element of his music. He sings in an emotional, often even dramatic way. As a former Jesuit chorister, his delivery is usually Received Pronunciation British English — notable exceptions are his Afrikaner accent on "A Motor-bike in Afrika" and his Cockney accent on "Polaroid" — and ranges in tone from peacefully celestial to screaming rants (which are nevertheless highly controlled). Singing in registers from baritone to high falsetto, he growls, croons, shrieks and shouts in ways that have drawn comparison with the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix.
Hammill's lyrics are another distinctive feature of his work. He has visited a number of recurring themes including love and human relationships, ageing and death, human folly, self-awareness and introspection, politics, and religion. His lyrics often include scientific, literary or historical references. For example, the Norse names mentioned in the song "Viking" on Fool's Mate (co-written with Judge Smith) are characters in the Icelandic Saga of Eric the Red.
The science fiction themes of Van der Graaf Generator's lyrics are mostly absent in his later work, but there still are many science references, especially to physics (for instance in the song "Patient"). In 1974 Hammill published a book, Killers, Angels, Refugees (Charisma Books, London), a collection of lyrics, poems and short stories. This was later reissued by Hammill himself (Sofa Sound, Bath) and was followed by a sequel Mirrors, Dreams, Miracles (1982).
In 2000 Dagmar Klein published Shouting down the passage of time: The Spaces & Times of Peter Hammill, an analysis and interpretation of Hammill's lyrics along the lines of his dealings with "Space", "Time" and "Journeys".
Hammill is fluent in Italian.He has been married since 1978 to Hilary, who is credited with taking the picture for the cover of In a Foreign Town . They have three children, Holly, Beatrice and Phoebe. Holly and Beatrice Hammill sing soprano vocals on one track of Everyone You Hold and on two tracks of None of the Above. Holly Hammill wrote the song "Eyebrows" (on Unsung) and co-wrote "Personality" (on Everyone You Hold).
The Jesuits' blandishments were balanced by the equally fierce pull of pop, playing nightly in the clubs of 1960s Derby, where Hammill's family moved when he was 12.
When Peter Hammill collapsed in the street with a sudden heart attack last year, it didn't make the papers.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Peter Hammill .|
Godbluff is the fifth album released by English progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. It was the first album after the band reformed in 1975 and was recorded after a European tour.
Pawn Hearts is the fourth album by English progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator, released in October 1971 on Charisma Records. The original album features just three tracks, including the side-long suite "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". The album was not commercially successful in the UK, but reached number one in Italy. It has since seen retrospective critical praise and was reissued on CD in 2005 with extra material.
H to He, Who Am the Only One is the third album by the British progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. It was released in 1970 on Charisma Records.
The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is the third album by British singer-songwriter Peter Hammill. It was released on Charisma Records in 1974, during a hiatus in the activities of Hammill's progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. Other ex-members of Van der Graaf Generator also perform on the recording.
The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other is the second album by the British progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator, released in February 1970 on Charisma Records. It was the group's first album to be released in the UK and the only one to chart in the top 50 in that country.
Christopher John Judge Smith, is an English songwriter, author, composer and performer, and a founder member of progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. Initially working under the name Chris Judge Smith, he has been known simply as Judge Smith since 1994. After Van der Graaf Generator, he has written songs, stage musicals and operas, and from the early 1990s on he has released a number of solo CDs, including three "Songstories".
Tony Stratton-Smith was an English rock music manager, and entrepreneur. He founded the London-based record label Charisma Records in 1969 and managed rock groups such as the Nice, Van der Graaf Generator and Genesis.
The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome is the eighth album by British progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. Released in 1977, it was their last studio album before their 2005 reunion. The album features a more energetic, new wave sound than its three immediate predecessors, anticipating singer and songwriter Peter Hammill's late 1970s solo work.
Vital: Van der Graaf Live is the first live album by English progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. It was recorded 16 January 1978 at the Marquee Club in London and was released in July, one month after the band's 1978 break-up. The album was credited under the abbreviated name Van der Graaf, like the previous year's The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome (1977), and featured the same line-up plus newcomer cellist/keyboardist Charles Dickie, who had officially joined the band in August 1977, and original saxophonist and flautist David Jackson, who re-joined the band for this recording.
Hugh Robert Banton is a British organist and electronic organ builder, most widely known for his work with the group Van der Graaf Generator.
The Aerosol Grey Machine is the debut studio album by English progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. It was first released in the United States in 1969 by Mercury Records.
Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night is the second solo album by British singer-songwriter Peter Hammill. It followed in the aftermath of the breakup of Hammill's band Van der Graaf Generator, and other ex-members of Van der Graaf Generator perform on the album.
The Future Now is the seventh studio album by Peter Hammill, released on Charisma Records in 1978. It was the first solo album Hammill released following the 1978 breakup of his band Van der Graaf Generator, although he had released numerous solo albums while VdGG were active. The album contains twelve short songs, several in the new wave style of VdGG's last studio album, The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome.
pH7 is an album by Peter Hammill, originally released on Charisma Records in September 1979. It was Hammill's eighth solo album and his last release on the Charisma label.
Van der Graaf Generator are an English progressive rock band, formed in 1967 in Manchester by singer-songwriters Peter Hammill and Chris Judge Smith and the first act signed by Charisma Records. They did not experience much commercial success in the UK, but became popular in Italy during the 1970s. In 2005 the band reformed, and are still musically active with a line-up of Hammill, organist Hugh Banton and drummer Guy Evans.
Keith Ian Ellis, was an English bass player. He was born in Matlock, Derbyshire. He is known for his associations with The Koobas, The Misunderstood and Juicy Lucy. He was also a member of Van der Graaf Generator from 1968 to 1969. Ellis worked with Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall's band Boxer from 1975 until late 1976 when the original line-up split.
Trisector is the tenth studio album by the British rock group Van der Graaf Generator. It was released on Virgin/EMI Records in March 2008. It is an important release for Van der Graaf Generator because it is the first album the band recorded as a trio. Saxophonist David Jackson departed the band following the 2005 tour.
Nic Potter was a British bassist, composer and painter, best known for his work with the group Van der Graaf Generator in the 1970s.
"A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" is a song by the English rock band Van der Graaf Generator, from their fourth album Pawn Hearts (1971). It is a concept piece over 23 minutes long, which comprises the whole B-side of the album. "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" evolved in the studio, recorded in small sections and pieced together during mixing. The song has many changes in time signature and key signature, and even incorporates some musique concrète.
Merlin Atmos: Live Performances 2013 is a live album by English progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator, released in February 2015. The album was recorded during the band's European tour in June 2013 and includes a full onstage performance of the suite "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers", originally recorded for Pawn Hearts in 1971.