We are delighted to be releasing ‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’, our 7th Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate album on 9/9/2023 on our label Glass Castle Recordings (GC4163 / UPC 198025 438707).
The centrepiece of the album is ‘Walking To Aldebaran’, inspired by the science fiction novella of the same name by Adrian Tchaikovsky. The tracks ‘Avrana Kern Is Made Of Ants’, ‘The Requisitioner and the Wonder’ and ‘Gothi and Gethli’ are references to a character, two spaceships and a pair of crow-like creatures which insistently deny they are sentient in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s ‘Children of Time’ series.
Science fiction author Iain M Banks’ novel ‘Look To Windward’ is the inspiration of the title track. The track ‘The Man Who Japed’ is named after the Philip K Dick novel.
The childhood experiences of David Cornwell, who wrote as John le Carré are the inspiration behind ‘Sixteen Hugless Years’.
‘The Glamour Boys’ was inspired by Labour MP Chris Byrant’s book of the same name about the experiences of a group of mostly homosexual or bisexual Conservative MPs who argued against appeasement, despite the threats from Chamberlain’s government to expose their secrets. Many went on to risk, and in some cases lose their lives in the Second World War.
The album also features ‘The Anxiety Machine’, a three part instrumental interspersed within the album, ‘Goodbye Cassini’, a flute led tribute to the space probe, and ‘imtiredandeverythinghurts’, which is about Malcolm’s experiences with invisible disability due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and the difficulty knowing how to respond to the well-intentioned question ‘how are you’?
The album ends with the climate change inspired ‘Burn The World’.
The album is available to pre-order on Bandcamp https://hatsoffgentlemen.bandcamp.com/album/the-light-of-ancient-mistakes
Those who pre-order the album via Bandcamp will get immediate access to the title track, and the instrumental ‘Avrana Kern Is Made Of Ants’, and the full album as soon as it is released.
It is also via Just For Kicks (which may be cheaper if you are ordering within the EU) - https://justforkicks.de/en/detail/index/sArticle/15464
1) Sold The Peace
2) The Light Of Ancient Mistakes
3) Avrana Kern Is Made Of Ants
4) The Anxiety Machine Part 1
5) Sixteen Hugless Years
6) The Requisitioner And The Wonder
7) The Glamour Boys
8) Gothi And Gethli
10) The Anxiety Machine Part 2
11) Walking To Aldebaran
12) Goodbye Cassini
13) The Anxiety Machine Part 3
14) The Man Who Japed
15) Burn The World
Written and performed by Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland (1,3,5-9,14,15), Malcolm Galloway, Mark Gatland and Kathryn Thomas (2,11,12), and Malcolm Galloway (4,10,13).
(c) Glass Castle Recordings 2023, Malcolm Galloway, Mark Gatland, Kathryn Thomas
Malcolm Galloway - lead/backing vocals, guitars, keyboards, synths, additional drums/percussion, programming, producer, mixing/mastering.
Mark Gatland - bass guitar, Chapman stick, keyboards, additional guitars, additional drums/percussion, backing vocals, co-producer, vocal/flute engineer.
Kathryn Thomas - flute
Lyrics by Malcolm Galloway
Recorded in Belsize Park, South Woodford, and Enfield, UK, 2022-3.
Cover art - 'The Light Of Ancient Mistakes' by Malcolm Galloway (Photoshop and AI assisted art)
Booklet art and design - Malcolm Galloway and Mark Gatland
Walking To Aldebaran was inspired by, and includes quotations from Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella of the same name. Used with the kind permission of the author.
The Requisitioner and The Wonder and Gethli and Gothi are named after spaceships and character/s from Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novels.
16 Hugless years was inspired by the childhood experiences of David Cornwell (who wrote as John Le Carre).
The Glamour Boys was inspired by Chris Bryant's historical book of the same name.
Tracks 3,4,5,8,10,12-14 are instrumentals.
With grateful thanks to our pre-order supporters, including - Adrian Carder, Alan Novia, Andreas Blohm, Andrew Thompson, Andy Stoddart, Bob Mason, Boris Keylwerth, Boris Stalf, Charlie Bramald, Colin White, Daniel Metcalf, Darran Kellett, David Carter, David Entwistle, David Hedgcombe, David Kennedy, David Rickinson, Dom Mooney, Fabio Razzo Galuppo, Geoffrey Parks, Godfrey York, Ian Percival, James Knight, Jamie Thomson, Jason Maddocks, Jasper Maudsley, John Cook, John Croasdale, Jose Zegarra Holder, Keith Pound, Keith Waye, Kevin Thompson, Lee Mellows, Matthew Lumb, Michael Shvartsman, Mike Yeadon, Neil Daly, Neil Stevens, Paul Turner, Pawel Ruszkowski, Pete Dodimead, Peter Chapman, Piki Revuelta, Raymond Deaton, Richard Summerbell, Rick Easton, Rob Gurney, Robert Golby, Robert Mason, Shuji Madama, Stein Johansen, Stephen Dunn, Steve Beastie, Steve Davidson, Steve Rosendale, Tim Cresswell, Tim Ellis, Tony Colvill, Will Porter.
This isn’t a traditional concept album in the sense of having a single narrative, however we intended it to follow a musical and emotional journey exploring a range of themes that have felt relevant to us over the past few turbulent years.
At the heart of this album is ‘Walking To Aldebaran’ (WTA), the longest and most complex of the tracks. Inspired by Adrian Tchaikovsky’s stunning novella, it explores the transformation of a scared and lost man into a monster. The protagonist’s unflinching but partial understanding of what he is becoming is amusing but haunting. In order to keep the focus on the human rather than the monster, the song leaves the narrative of WTA before the protagonist engages in some activities of which we are unlikely to approve.
In reality monsters don’t usually come with the helpful signalling of claws and fangs. They are the people some of us become, and some of us tacitly allow to take power, when we fail to control the worst aspects of human nature.
The dehumanisation of our enemies allows seemingly normal people to commit atrocities. The day before I wrote this, I saw two photos. One was of children holding hands on their way to be murdered in a Nazi concentration camp. Adjacent to this was a picture of the smiling, playful Auschwitz camp staff on a day off. These people didn’t look like monsters. They looked like us. They had been trained for years to see the people they were killing as the monsters, starting with language designed to make us empathise less with those who are deemed different.
For those of us who live in times and places where people don’t face criminal sanctions for their sexuality, it is easy to forget how recently this became the case, and how in many parts of the world their sexual orientation still puts their lives at risk. I was greatly moved by Chris Bryant’s book "The Glamour Boys" about how a group of Tory MPs, despite threats to reveal their sexuality by Chamberlain’s government, stood up against appeasement. The song inspired by the book is sung from the perspective of one of these MPs (an amalgamation of several of the historical figures featured in the book).
There are several overlapping and recurrent themes in the album. Several songs explore historical and current threats, whether in terms of real life (‘Sold The Peace’, ‘The Glamour Boys’, ‘Burn The World’), or in the context of fiction (‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’). There is a parallel theme of failure of communication.
The album opens with ‘Sold The Peace’. After the Second World War, we entered the Cold War, a tense period in which nuclear-armed states balanced on the edge of potentially civilisation destroying conflict. 'Sold The Peace' explores how so much was risked to win the Cold War, only for some politicians to appear to sell out their principles so cheaply. Who would have imagined when billions were being spent on apocalyptic weapons, that so much influence could now be bought for so relatively little?
Apocalyptic weapons, and the long overhang of conflict and failure of communication also feature in the second track, ‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’. In his novel ‘Look To Windward’, Iain M Banks explores the long-lived consequences of an atrocity. In his book, the light from a sun-destroying explosion has travelled for 800 years before reaching an orbital where a commemoration for the tragedy is due to take place. The protagonist of the song is an artificial intelligence trying to show the futility of cycles of hatred to someone planning an act of mass destruction.
We explore the historical overhang of past mistakes on a more personal level in Sixteen Hugless Years, which was inspired by the author John Le Carre’s experiences of emotional neglect in childhood.
’imtiredandeverythinghurts' is a more personal track, relating to the difficulties I find in communicating about a chronic invisible disability. In my case this relates to my experiences with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic collagen disorder which causes, amongst many other problems, chronic pain. The title of the song was inspired by the logo on a Newsthump T-shirt (and used with their permission).
We tend to have standard semi-scripted outlines of acceptable conversations, and one of the typical opening lines is ‘how are you?’. This well intentioned piece of social interaction is potentially difficult to manage for someone who spends much of their time in pain. Is the phrase a social convention, to which I am supposed to say "fine", which is rarely true? Or is it an actual enquiry about my current health? I don’t want to be dishonest with people by pretending to be fine when I’m not, but I also don’t want to drag people into a conversation about chronic pain that they may not be comfortable with. On the other hand, for those of us with conditions that vary from day to day (or hour to hour), it may be important to communicate what our current level of functionality is. I am also aware that there is no negative intention behind the question, and the last thing I want to do is to discourage people from communicating. The song doesn't offer any answers, but I hope illustrates an aspect of living with an invisible disability.
Awkward communications, although in this case between different parts of the shattering self of the protagonist, continue with the next song, ‘Walking To Aldebaran’. This song was inspired by Adrian Tchaikovsky’s novella of the same name, and includes quotes used with the kind permission of the author. In the story, the space-ship pilot Garry Rendell, (a name that might appeal to Marillion enthusiasts... G.Rendel...), is exploring an ancient maze-like space object. Due to a miscommunication between himself and an old, possibly malfunctioning but well intentioned machine, he is transformed into a monster. This song aims to jump between different styles, from prog metal to musical theatre and contemporary classical music, to reflect the different shards of the shattered mind of poor Gary, and is sung from his perspective.
Inspirations for this song included the wonderful rhythmic patterns inherent in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s writing and Peter Maxwell Davies’ ‘Eight Songs For A Mad King’.
The album ends with ‘Burn The World’, in which a regretful future human looks back on the choices we could have made if we didn’t want to ruin the world. We have amazing potential, but risk making terrible decisions because we assume that someone else will sort things out.
“All the things we could have done, and we chose to burn the world”.
Although my aesthetic may tend towards the bleak, I think I am neither an optimist or a pessimist overall, but somewhere in the middle. As individuals, humans are often lovely, but as a group, particularly if surrounded by an echo-chamber, we can be appalling. I don't think we are inherently bad, but we do have evolutionary hangovers in our psychology than can be hacked by those with malicious intentions.
Some people prefer their music to be apolitical, and of course I believe that people should be able to listen to what they like. But as someone writing songs, I find it very difficult not to be inspired or affected by what is going on around me.
We are very concerned about what appears to be an increased normalisation of the othering of minority groups in society in recent years, in a way that appears to be designed to channel anger at the vulnerable, rather than at those taking advantage of their power.
Garry Rendell had some insight into what he was becoming, but wasn’t able to control his actions. Maybe we could do better. We’ll see.
We risked it all
To set the world free
Dead or free
The opportunity cost of the unused bombs
So much invested
We stormed the citadel
Then bought the lease
We won the war
We sold the peace
The laundromat and the golden visas
The superyachts off stunning beaches
The bot farms steer the will of the people
Auctioned lunches with your chosen leaders
We spent you to your knees
We won the war and sold the peace
Kensington flats via Cayman shells
Tax is a choice for unearned wealth
Power sucked to phallic towers
Money oils and oil powers
Unpublished reports, nothing to see
Privacy trumps transparency
Secret courts and missing reporters
We beat you first but then you bought us
We spent you to your knees
We won the war and sold the peace
The song starts with floating, but increasingly ominous textures made from manipulated guitar and flute. The sound of the flute is increasingly stretched and the vibrato exaggerated.
The song then brings in a Rhodes-style keyboard, drums and bass.
One of Mark and Malcolm's favourite moments in the album is when the right hand guitar comes in on 'I brought you here to show you'.
The track features two short guitar solos. The first Malcolm plays on a Fender Stratocaster and the second on a PRS Custom 24.
'Avrana Kern Is Made Of Ants' is a frantic instrumental. The title refers to an Adrian Tchaikovsky character who is originally a human scientist, then an AI, and eventually becomes an emergent property of a colony of ants.
The Anxiety Machine is a three part instrumental, split within the album.
It is the least tonal and most experimental/contemporary classical/music concrete sounding of the pieces on this album.
There is a very long continuous version of this track that will be released on one of Malcolm's solo albums - 19 minutes of disturbing burbling is probably a bit long to fit on a Hats Off Gentlemen It's Adequate CD.
You packed your Harrod’s suitcase and left
You didn’t even slam the door
I was left
With a hole
I didn’t grow up, I just got older
I was only five years old
Sixteen hugless years
Sixteen long, long years
I’ve grown old and I’m cold and hard but I’m told
I’m the life and soul but it feels so hollow
After 16 hugless years
You never said goodbye
You never sent a birthday card
No apology or tears
You didn’t call
You’re gone, you’re ill, you’re bad or dead
The story keeps on changing
If or when you’re mentioned at all
This song was written after listening to Adam Sisman's biography of John Le Carré. It was heart-rending to realise how his childhood experiences affected the rest of his life, and how many of these experiences were transformed into scenes in his novels.
I was very fortunate to have a loving, supportive family during my childhood, for which I am very grateful, but sadly this is far from universal. The song is sung from the perspective of Le Carré, someone from the outside so seemingly in control, but inside so traumatised by emotional neglect.
In an early draft of the lyrics, I had put a line in which the protagonist explicitly states that nobody will hear this emotional outburst as it is only internal and never expressed, but I removed it as a bit too 'on the nose'.
I was reading an academic book on animal cognition, and was delighted to see they had recommended Adrian Tchaikovsky's writing as an interesting perspective on imagining consciousness from a non-human perspective. This track was inspired by a couple of his spaceships.
These ships were piloted by highly advanced octopuses. He describes the mother-ship as being like a huge ball of dark water. The introduction to this instrumental tries to capture a sense of dark watery depth.
This track features the first use of the base of a broken floor-standing lamp as a gong.
Malcolm making the base of a broken lamp make unlikely noises - photograph by Mark Gatland
The city has changed
The sparkle faded
The colour drained by red and black
It used to be somewhere where we could
Could live be without fear
The party’s almost over,
My friends are disappearing
So many gaps
The empty spaces left
Behind the barbed wire fences
It opened my eyes
They call us the glamour boys
The punishment for speaking out
The leaks and smears and telephone taps
The hints the threat the veiled attacks
They call us the glamour boys
To force us into shadows
To warn us off from speaking out
But it’s gone too far
We were taken to a camp
Where everyone I spoke to gave the same reply
Word for word, while avoiding my eyes
Gothi and Gethli are two intellectually upgraded crow-like birds. They see their self as being the product of the interaction of them as a pair, like a simplified version of how a brain is made of neurons (or Avrana Kern is, at times, made of ants). They passionately and somewhat pompously argue against their own individual sentience, in what appears to be a rebuttal of Descartes. I'm not sure that I believe them.
This instrumental features Mark Gatland on the many-stringed Chapman Stick (see pic below). I (Malcolm) find keeping just 6-strings in tune enough of a struggle, and am very happy to leave anything guitar-like with more than 6 or few than 5 to Mark.
The same face at every angle
That tempted me into this long cold exile
(My amateur Minotaur cosplay maze)
The traps, the drops and the gravity changes
The unpredictable air that I’ve learned to breathe
(I’m quite an atmospheric connoisseur these days)
I can’t take more of the the scritchy scratchy whispery whine
Of the voices in my head
I’ve become what the monsters are scared of
I’ve been changed by the mother machine
I am the thing that used to be me
I was the pilot
They didn’t mention getting lost, and eating corpses,
When I was at astronaut school
If 7 year old me was told
He’d be huddled in the cold
Trying to digest
Long dead explorers
Maybe I’d have said train driver instead
Let’s pretend we’re having a conversation
I used to talk to myself to keep me sane
But I think we’ve moved a bit beyond that, don’t you?
As I’m the only human here
I get to pick the names
Maybe I’m too sentimental
But the caterpillar men are now Clive
Telling jokes to monkey insect cyborg things
I only want to talk
Let’s engage like civilised monsters
"What’s for tea?"
Air dried flank of Clive again
The mother machine
Takes me apart
And builds me back cell by cell
I’d say don’t go
If I could go back again
And talk to the little me
The one with astronaut dreams
Don’t send me
I’m so hungry
I’m so lonely
I think there’s been a misunderstanding
By the light of my Clive leg torch
I keep searching
Keep looking for someone
Someone, that looks just a bit like me
Walking To Aldebaran is the most complex song on this album. It combines elements of metal, prog, rock, contemporary classical, and musical theatre in an attempt to reflect the shattering mind of the protagonist. There is a brief flute solo early on in the track, which combines the natural sounding flute with a manipulated, pitch-shifting version of itself. The end guitar solo is played on a PRS Custom 24.
AI art by Malcolm Galloway / DALLE-2
The Man Who Japed is a novel by Philip K Dick, in which a previously unquestioningly obedient official who had been a government censor, is surprised to find that he has severed the head of a statue of their dictator.
There’s unbroken sea
Where an island used to be
The coral bleached
The sandbags breached, long ago
The desert is winning
The forest is thinning
The rain that used to fall
Now floods or none at all
And not much in between
We could have made
But it’s easier to break
We could have tried
But it’s easier to fake
We could have taken care
We could have cared
Just enough to give ourselves a chance
But it’s easier to fail
We never learned to change
All the things we could have done, and we chose to burn the world
So many chances slip
And so many of us wait
For someone else to blink
For someone else to make the change
While we drift
So much life to live
And so much life to save
From ourselves, but we threw it all away
What have we left for you?
The solo for this track was recorded on a Squier Stratocaster. I had originally intended to play a placeholder solo (one that we put in the track to show where a solo will go, but which we don't expect to end up on the final recording), and just used the nearest guitar to hand, which I'd recently got from Ebay for about £80.
Listening back, we liked the solo, and kept it as it was. I wonder if thinking at the time that nobody other than Mark and I would hear the placeholder solo might have been quite liberating, and led to a better solo than if I'd been overthinking it?
Well, if you've made it this far, thanks very much. That's the end of the album. Unless you got a download/streaming version, in which case there are also some radio edits. Admittedly those aren't hugely radio-friendly tracks, but they don't have the cross fades with the track before or after, which wouldn't make sense if played in isolation on radio, or on shuffle in a playlist.
Many thanks to everyone who helps us keep going - our families, all the supporters who listen to our music and come to our gigs, and all those writers/broadcasters/playlisters featuring our music. A big thank you also to all the people who support live music by putting on or attending grass-roots events, and to Chris Parkins (London Prog Gigs) for all his support.
I suppose if this was a gig, we'd now milk the applause and then come back and play an encore. Doesn't really work for text though.