Van der laafs GENERATOR
Existential angst? Epics about death? Sure. But in the flesh, VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, prog’s most intense band, can be a chuckle and totally (Lady) Gaga, discovers Toby Manning
Peter Hammill shouldn’t be entering a hotel lobby wearing a fleece, of all things, and discussing the sports results and – worst of all – chortling. Peter Hammill should be wearing, oh, that cloak he’s swirling on the cover of 1974’s In Camera. He should be casually discussing Camus. And he should be looking, really, very serious indeed.
Because Peter Hammill isn’t your regular guy rock musician. His songs begin with lines like, “They say we are endowed with free will…” (The Comet, The Course, The Tail, 1974) or “Here be numbers, transcendental,” (Mathematics, 2011). They’re often in complicated time signatures. His music, both solo and with his prog band Van Der Graaf Generator, is philosophical, even intellectual, complex… at times, terrifying. And he’s been doing it for 44 years. Producing on average rather more than an album a year. Now that’s just not normal.
Van Der Graaf are rehearsing when Record Collector meets them at a London hotel. Organist Hugh Banton and drummer Guy Evans hover at the bar while RC and Hammill find a table. Hammill has something of a look of Michael Palin these days: both are twinkly, and boast a bobbing, wiggling gait. You half expect him to say, “Spare a talent for an old ex-leper, …
by Toby Manning
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