planet gong archives

tim blake

1973 March-May : Paragong
Didier Malherbe, Mike Howlett, Didier Tibault, Pierre Moerlen, Steve Hillage, Tim Blake : Live '73

born Hammersmith, London 1952-02-06

Tim is one of the great electronic innovators of our time, alongside Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, Isao Tomita and Tangerine Dream. He mapped the territory now mined (plundered?) by the techno-bods of the 80's and 90's.

His experimentation fathered a whole new era of synth music. Little of it really matches the depth, sonic scope and psycho-acoustic bliss of Tim's original creations; intuitively arriving at the kind of sound fields and textures that composers like Xenakis had previously achieved through randomised complex mathematical formulae. And let's not forget that his Crystal Machine concept, developed with Patrice Warrener was the first ever synthesisers, laser show in the world.

Tim's fascination with sound began at the age of 15, his first musical involvement was as a guitarist with bands such as Trees, Skin Alley and Hawkwind. It was amongst these bands that he was first introduced to electronic music and subsequently put down the guitar and took up PA engineering, sitting at home making strange sounds with signal generators (synthesisers as we know them having yet to be fully developed).

In 1971, after meeting Daevid Allen during the recording of the 'Bananamoon' LP Tim was asked to join Gong. However Gong's drummer, Pip Pyle's jazz sensibilities had problems with early synths sounds and was driven to distraction by "the constant tweeting and chirping of those bloody psychedelic chaffinchs!". It was obviously not time yet for that particular development within Gong. It was agreed that Tim should go off and get his music together on his own, with a view to becoming involved at a later date.

Tim actually bought the 7th EMS Synthi A ever built, had the machine revamped and sophisticated and gave birth to the first Crystal Machine at the same time as demonstrating EMS synths in Paris for his own and public benefit.

With the eventual change in Gong's line up (Pip was off), and suitably impressed with the first privately circulated Crystal Machine tapes, Daevid invited Tim to rejoin the band in December '72. The music of the Crystal Machine then developed alongside and within Gong and the concept of a musical style allied to a light show was born.

Steve Hillage had known Tim for a while before Steve joined Gong. This relationship developed while jamming together in 'Paragong' in early '73, alongside Didier, Pierre Moerlen and Mike Howlett (Daevid and Gilli leaving them all to it for a couple of months). It laid the foundations for whole sections of both the 'Angel's Egg' and 'You' L Ps?. And by the latter album, Tim had reached a real high in his synth playing within a band setting. It had become an integral part of the sound scape of the 'classic' Virgin Gong.

However, as often seems to happen, when you reach the highs, the lows are lurking just around the corner. Among other developing relationship problems within the band, Tim was unhappy with Daevid's decision to end the Radio Gnome Story with Zero and the band blowing it completely. All in all it was time for the separating of the ways - Moonweed was out of Gong and Gong was out of Moonweed.

The Tim/Steve collaboration continued in Steve's solo album 'Fish Rising' (Virgin) but petered out after Tim's disillusionment with Virgin's refusal to release any of his own solo offerings. He and partner Brigitte returned to France to rekindle the Crystal Machine. There they met up with builder/inventor Patrice Warrener and logistical expert Bernard Szajner. The three then formed a new Crystal Machine, controlling lasers with music. They did a few shows together, but the complexity of the light show made the ventures financially very difficult - they were ahead of their time and lacking in funds.

During this time, Tim worked with Christian Boulé and Cyrille Verdeaux of 'Clearlight' as well as Basil Brooks (ex Zorch). Some of Crystal Machine's UK tour gigs were recorded and edited to become the 'Crystal Machine' LP , although that had not been the intention at the outset.

After the Paris Hippodrome Gong re-union gig in May '77, Tim went into the studios to make his first deliberate recordings towards an LP release. The technology allowed Tim to do many things he'd not previously been able to do on his own. Part of the expansion of musical ideas involved teaming up with a young blind French synth player named Jean Phillipe Rykiel. This partnership gave the resulting album, 'Blake's New Jerusalem' a rockier edge which grew throughout 1978 with tours of Japan, France and Spain and the legendary but now long lost collaboration 'Waterfalls in Space' which Tim did not feel was good enough quality to release.

Tim teamed up with Hawkwind again in the Autumn of 1979 - their 'Live '79' LP featuring a Hawkwind style version of his New Jerusalem track 'Lighthouse' and Tim went on to become involved with their next studio LP 'Levitation' (Bronze) and subsequent tour. Tim's involvement with the band ended abruptly mid tour and he returned to his windmill in Brittany to continue conducting his sonic experiments alone.

In recent years Tim has made quite a comeback which has resulted in the release of new albums 'Magick' (Mantra 069) '92 CD - a collection of very personal songs and music recorded live and direct to stereo using just a sequencer, keyboard and one microphone; and 'Tide of the Century' (Blueprint BP 340 CD?) '00 - a more electronic affair with echoes of his earlier albums. He now also often plays as a member of Hawkwind once more, sometimes providing a solo set as support act into the bargain.